On Friday, the U.S. women’s national soccer team (USWNT) will take on the Netherlands (12:30 ET on ESPN2 & TUDN). It will mark the USWNT’s first game since March (and final game of 2020).
“I think the biggest hurdle is… a 90-minute international game is a pretty intense load,” two-time World Cup champion Kelley O’Hara told reporters on Wednesday. “People are in different places, training environments. Some people played 90-minute games a week ago, some people haven’t played in a couple months.”
Of the 23 players participating in this week’s camp, 14 players have been playing in the NWSL, seven have been playing in Europe, and two are in college. Eighteen athletes will ultimately be named to Friday’s game-day roster.
O’Hara, a member of the Utah Royals in the NWSL, played just two games in this summer’s Challenge Cup and then opted out of the league’s fall series. “It has been a bit, but I feel really good,” O’Hara told reporters. “I’m kind of chomping at the bit to get out there.”
Sam Mewis, who has been playing for Manchester City in the WSL this fall, said on Monday that she feels her American teammates have chosen what works best for them during the pandemic. “It really is a team of professionals. And I feel like everybody knows what they need to to prepare for a world tournament next summer.”
Christen Press, who has also been playing in England as a member of Manchester United, echoed that sentiment. “If you had asked me a few months ago, I never would have expected to be playing in England, but I’m very happy with that decision,” Press said on Wednesday. “It’s been a lot of waiting just to get back to this moment where [I have] consistency of play. I think for me and my personality, I need to be consistently scoring, and the more that I score, the more that I can score.”
Several Olympic hopefuls are noticeably absent from this week’s camp, including Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, and Mallory Pugh. In a press conference last week, U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski pointed to injuries as having kept Lloyd and Pugh from being included, while a lack of play impacted Rapinoe (she opted out of both NWSL tournaments this summer and fall). Andonovski says he expects that Lloyd, Rapinoe, and Pugh will be back in the mix for January’s U.S. team camp.
In the meantime, the U.S. is focused on Friday’s game against the Netherlands.
“I feel like we look pretty good at practice,” O’Hara noted. “I’ve been pleased with where we are at as a team. But to get from here to Olympic ready, there’s so much more we need to do.”