USWNT looks towards the Olympics with Sept. friendlies

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Julie Ertz and Megan Rapinoe will play their last games for the United States. As they are honored, the national team will be looking ahead to the 2024 Olympics.

LOS ANGELES — The United States’ Sept. friendlies against South Africa will be the last national team games for two legends, Julie Ertz and Megan Rapinoe; Ertz will play her final game on Sept. 21, while Rapinoe will play hers on Sept. 24. While much of the focus will be on honoring Ertz and Rapinoe as they head into retirement, preparing for the Paris 2024 Olympics is a priority for the team. 

At the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, the United States finished with a bronze medal, short of their hopes for gold. And at the 2023 Women’s World Cup, they lost in the Round of 16. After head coach Vlatko Andonovski resigned, the team will start their preparations under interim head coach Twila Kilgore. 

“Dual priorities is a really good way to describe it,” Kilgore said. “It’s really important that we honor both of these players for who they are in our environment, but also who they are as people and what they’ve given to this program. It’s part of the legacy that they leave is being integrated into this group and kind of passing the torch, but then it’s not a mutually exclusive task to also get minutes for players that have been in the program or are new to the program.”

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The Sept. squad includes the players from the recent World Cup squad “who are fit to play,” which is everyone except injured midfielder Kristie Mewis and forward Sofia Smith. 

“As we continue the search for our new head coach, we felt it was best to call up all of World Cup players who are fit to play, while also bringing in some players that we believe can help us moving forward as we start our preparations for the Olympics next year,” said U.S. Soccer Sporting Director Matt Crocker. “We’re looking forward to having the opportunity to honor the players who have decided to retire but also know these games are valuable as the first steps towards Paris. Once the new head coach comes in, that individual will assess the player pool and make roster decisions that will be focused on building a team for the future.”

The 27-player team also includes potential call-ups for the Olympics who were not on the World Cup squad. This includes San Diego Wave forward Jaedyn Shaw and Chelsea forward Mia Fishel; both players are uncapped but could make their national team debuts in late Sept. 

The plan for them is to give them experience in a national team camp as they prepare for the future. Both are young players, as Shaw is 18 years old and Fishel is 22 years old.

“They have a lot of talent. We view them as high potentials. But the idea with bringing them into the environment, Mia [Fishel] for her just her second camp and Jaedyn [Shaw] for her first, is just to expose them to the current environment, help with their onboarding, get them used to what the expectations are, and make sure they have a pathway for the future.”

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23 of the 27 players will suit up for each match against South Africa.

The Full Squad: 

GOALKEEPERS (3): Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

DEFENDERS (9): Alana Cook (OL Reign), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC), Emily Fox (North Carolina Courage), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Casey Krueger (Chicago Red Stars), Kelley O’Hara (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Emily Sonnett (OL Reign)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC), Savannah DeMelo (Racing Louisville FC), Julie Ertz (Unattached), Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon, FRA), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)

FORWARDS (8): Mia Fishel (Chelsea FC, ENG), Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave FC), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Jaedyn Shaw (San Diego Wave FC), Alyssa Thompson (Angel City FC), Lynn Williams (NJ/NY Gotham FC)