The United States women's national team are just five months out from the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup. The group is coming off a SheBelieves Cup title win, sixth all-time and fourth-consecutive, where they faced top-ranked sides Brazil, Canada, and Japan. The Americans undefeated in 2023, and now that the February window is over, many USWNT players are returning to their club markets to continue the NWSL preseason.
Over the three SheBelieves Cup games, head coach Vlatko Andonovski expressed the importance of facing different challenges, especially after lopsided victories against New Zealand in January camp. A minor muscle injury to Rose Lavelle forced some player rotations in the midfield, while pressure from Japan and Brazil offered a closer look at the defensive organization. Still, the undefeated streak presented some question marks around how the team performs over a full 90 minutes, and there are only two international windows before the World Cup in July.
U.S. Soccer has already announced Ireland as the next opponent for the USWNT during the April window, and The games will be the final match before Andonovski selects his final World Cup roster. Let's take a look at some players who bumped up their stock for the World Cup roster based on the SheBelieves Cup performances:
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Lynn Williams: The winger is still building up her minutes after an 11-month absence due to a hamstring injury but made her return with off-the-bench appearances against New Zealand in January camp. Williams played in each game of the SheBelieves Cup including a start against Japan. Despite not appearing on the scoresheet, she provided reminders of why she is going to crack Andonovski's World Cup roster -- her relentless ability to press and force turnovers. Check out her contribution to this turnover on Mallory Swanson's game-winner against Brazil:
¡No podía irse sin su gol😎 !— Telemundo Deportes (@TelemundoSports) February 23, 2023
🤩 @MalPugh marca por quinto partido consecutivo con @USWNT y tercero en la #SheBelievesCup.
🇺🇸 Estados Unidos 2-0 Brasil 🇧🇷
📺 @NBCUniverso y @peacock ➡️ https://t.co/QKa8DqH7CZ#SheBelievesEnUniverso #USWNTtelemundo #SheBelievesCup pic.twitter.com/5AmwnXCo9v
Emily Fox: The outside back has become a rising star for the team in a position that has been affected by either injury or players out on maternity leave. While Fox has dealt with upper-body injuries of her own, her ability to play lights out against big teams has been an asset. The defender flexed her versatility, putting in shifts on both the left and right flanks, and she was one of four players to start every SheBelieves Cup match. She was the only U.S. player to play all 270 minutes of the tournament.
Kristie Mewis: Mewis featured in all three games of the tournament, but her start against Japan was where she flexed her soccer IQ. With no Lavelle for a second consecutive game, and giving Andi Sullivan a match off, Mewis slotted into defensive mid and provided a bit of calmness against a very active Japan side. If the early phase of 2023 is to iron out who will be the depth for Andi Sullivan at the World Cup, Mewis has locked up that role through SheBelieves Cup performances.
Casey Murphy: While it's typical for World Cup rosters to feature three goalkeepers, Andonovski has made it clear Murphy will be the backup to Alyssa Naeher. The lopsided scoreline against New Zealand didn't present much danger to Murphy, but facing 15 shots and making two big saves against Japan in the final phases of the game gives Murphy more experience heading into April.
Ashley Hatch: She featured in two matches as a substitute for Alex Morgan but saw those minutes diminish over the tournament. A 30-minute shift turned into 20 -- that eventually evaporated into zero -- and a big missed chance against Canada inside the box with only the keeper to beat are factors to consider when looking at depth options for forwards heading to the World Cup.
Midge Purce: A member of the January camp rosters, Purce was hardly utilized as an attacking option for the team. Throughout the three matches, Purce played a whole two minutes, only two more than third goalkeeper Adriana Franch who saw zero time on the pitch.
Ashley Sanchez: The attacking mid got extended timein light of Lavelle's muscle strain. She put in a solid shift against Canada slotted alongside Lindsey Horan and Sullivan. However, she seemed to get frustrated a bit in her start against Japan when the opposition presented a bit of organized chaos.
Sofia Huerta: Huerta has been with the USWNT for an extended period during Andonovski's reign, but she is another player whose minutes have been limited with the return of Emily Sonnett and the now versatile play of Fox. Her one 45-minute shift against Japan had some shaky defensive moments and turnovers, but Huerta's strengths lie in her play-making ability and distribution. Huerta initiated Swanson's goal-scoring sequence with a long pass to Morgan.
⚽️ ¡GOOOL DE MALLORY SWANSON! 💥— Telemundo Deportes (@TelemundoSports) February 19, 2023
😎 Adelantó a @USWNT tras un pase filtrado y llegó a 6 goles en 4 juegos del año.
Estados Unidos 🇺🇸 1-0 Japón 🇯🇵
EN VIVO por 📺 @NBCUniverso y📱 @peacock ➡️ https://t.co/JfQrNNKAxe#SheBelievesEnUniverso #USWNTtelemundo #SheBelievesCup pic.twitter.com/v95xd32YX5
Taylor Korneick: After everyone and their momma decided to present their think pieces around Kornieck's inclusion as an option for the No. 6 role, Andonovski ultimately shifted the 6-foot-1 player higher up the pitch. Similar to Purce, her minutes were few, a quarter of an hour, but after subbing into games for Horan in the previous two games, Kornieck ended the tournament as a target striker against Brazil when she came on for Morgan. Stay tuned for the next development in April.