Red Stars’ Ertz, Naeher and Davidson named to SheBelieves Cup roster; Pugh a training player
Coach Vlatko Andonovski advises that the USWNT roster is still “experimental” and not close to being finalized ahead of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
The Red Stars are once again well-represented on the U.S. Women’s National Team, with three players named to the 23-player roster for the 2021 SheBelieves Cup.
The USWNT will face Argentina, Brazil and Canada in the sixth annual tournament, and Julie Ertz, Alyssa Naeher and Tierna Davidson will be on hand for coach Vlatko Andonovski.
Those three names weren’t surprising in the least, but Mallory Pugh being named to Andonovski’s list of training players with Jaelin Howell and Emily Fox brought up a few questions, specifically:
Where is she at in terms of injury?
Does this hurt her chances of making the 18-player Olympic roster?
“It’s not necessarily rehabilitation,” Andonovski said. “It’s more so getting her back up to speed. Looking back on 2020, Mal missed a camp. She was injured in October, she was injured in November and she came in January and was injured on the second or third day [of camp]. So we were not able to see Mal.”
Pugh has been advancing within the USWNT ranks since she made her senior team debut at 17. Last year, though, her upward trajectory with the team hit a slight pause when she was left off the 2020 Olympic qualifying roster.
Since then, injury has been the biggest factor in Pugh being omitted, but Andonovski was unwavering in his stance that Pugh’s potential is unlimited and getting her back to peak performance is a priority.
Keeping her around the team’s training environment will do that.
It would be unwise to make assumptions on what the 18-player roster for Tokyo will look like based on this one or any previous roster over the last few months. Andonovski specifically warned against it, saying if 2020 had been different, they might be closer to finalizing the roster.
“I don’t think we should read into it at all,” Andonovski said. “It’s still experimental.”
Davidson, who also was left off the qualifying roster, has rejoined the fold after recovering from an ankle injury she suffered ahead of the 2019 NWSL championship game.
She has been at every USWNT camp since October and completed her first 90-minute match since her injury, starting in the team’s 6-0 victory against Colombia on Jan. 22. As far as her ankle injury goes, Davidson said she feels healthy for the first time in a long time.
Even though Davidson knows the Olympics are right around the corner, which means the roster announcement is even closer, she is approaching camp with the same demeanor as every other one.
“It can get a little bit daunting if you start to draw lines or make things up in your head about where it could lead,” Davidson said. “Or what a roster might look like and what you might play. I’ve found that it’s usually best to keep it as simple as possible and keep it as focused as possible.”
All four Red Stars players reporting to USWNT camp Monday in Orlando spent last week in NWSL preseason training with coach Rory Dames. The Red Stars announced their 33-player preseason roster, and noticeably missing was defender Hannah Davison, who was waived Thursday.
The first week of training has included a lot of energy during the team’s daily, two-hour practices. This is one of the deepest rosters the Red Stars have put together, and players have vocalized the importance of everyone buying into their role.
“In the last two years, we’ve gotten a taste of what it’s like to be close to the top,” Davidson said. “We want to accomplish the whole nine yards this year.”