Amy Rodriguez

Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Ellis tabs six uncapped players, Rodriguez for USWNT camp

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We are still waiting for Bruce Arena’s first U.S. men’s national team roster in a decade, but women’s boss Jill Ellis has given us the goods on prep camp for the SheBelieves Cup.

[ MORE: Stars & Duds | Three things ]

Ellis has called up six uncapped players as well as Amy Rodriguez, who is returning after time off to have a child.

The other 22 players were capped in 2016.

The six uncapped players on the roster are midfielders Kristen Edmonds, Christina Gibbons, Rose Lavelle and Taylor Smith, and goalkeepers Jane Campbell and Adrianna Franch.

Full USWNT camp roster

Goalkeepers: Jane Campbell (Stanford), Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns FC), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

Defenders: Jaelene Hinkle (Western New York Flash), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC)

Midfielders: Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Kristen Edmonds (Orlando Pride), Christina Gibbons (Duke), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Rose Lavelle (Wisconsin), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Samantha Mewis (Western New York Flash), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC), Taylor Smith (Western New York Flash)

Forwards: Crystal Dunn (Chelsea Ladies), Jessica McDonald (Western New York Flash), Alex Morgan (Lyonnais), Kealia Ohai (Houston Dash), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Amy Rodriguez (FC Kansas City), Lynn Williams (Western New York Flash)

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WATCH: Back-to-back! USWNT members team up to score KC the NWSL title

AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer
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It was a big week in Kansas City, and an even bigger year for FCKC stars Amy Rodriguez and Heather O’Reilly.

One night after Sporting KC won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with a shootout win over Philadelphia, it was the women’s turn to lift some silverware.

FC Kansas City got a 78th minute goal from USWNT stars Rodriguez and O’Reilly, and started by Lauren Holiday, in a 1-0 win over the Seattle Reign that gave them a World Cup and an NWSL Cup within months.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Olympic coverage | USMNT ]

Rodriguez’s goal was her 9th in just 13 games this season, as she rose to power an O’Reilly cross past Hope Solo, denying their USWNT teammate her own club/country double.

The league’s No. 3 seed, Vlatko Andonovski’s FCKC is now the winner of two-straight NWSL crowns despite finishing 11 points behind the top-seeded Reign. Seattle boasts Solo and Megan Rapinoe, while FCKC also has USWNTer Becky Sauerbrunn.

Holiday retires on top of the women’s soccer world. Watch the goal below.

US women shift to Vancouver with eyes on getting production from forwards

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Saturday was about travel, rest and recovery for the United States women after a scoreless draw with Sweden on Friday in their second match in group play at the 2015 World Cup.

Only 12 players trained at under a blue sky and coastal breezes at the University of British Columbia on Saturday afternoon following a morning flight to Vancouver. A game of handball to loosen the legs got the session started for Friday’s reserves. None of the 11 starters from Friday trained on Saturday, which forward Amy Rodriguez described simply as a “fun” one, evidenced by the shouts and laughs heard on the field for the 60-plus minutes.

The United States women left Winnipeg with 4 points from two matches, defeating Australia 3-1 despite being outplayed and drawing Sweden 0-0. But the U.S. left a fair amount to be desired in terms of their play.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s WWC coverage ]

A victory over Nigeria on Tuesday will guarantee the United States first place in the group. For forward Abby Wambach, that’s the only option.

“We have to go out No. 1 in our group,” she said Saturday after training.

Defensively, the United States has been sound, giving up one goal and nullifying Swedish striker Lotta Schelin on Friday. Goalkeeper Hope Solo did her part on Monday in the opening minutes against a game Australia team, thwarting away a pair of goal-bound shots in the opening 15 minutes to keep the Matildas off the board early.

[ RELATED: Kassouf: USWNT’s defense the difference thus far at WWC ]

Scoring, however, remains an issue for the Americans. No player has scored while playing in a forward position through 180 minutes at this World Cup (Christen Press scored from a midfield role on Monday), a problem exacerbated on Friday by the fact that all five forwards on the roster played against Sweden. Wambach’s lunging header in the 72nd minute was the most dangerous chance to speak of for the U.S. on Friday, and Sweden goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl tipped the ball over the bar.

“I think a lot of things are happening right now that our coaching staff is trying to figure out, that we’re trying to figure out,” Wambach said of the attack.

U.S. coach Jill Ellis said after Friday’s match that Friday’s forwards – Press and Sydney Leroux – weren’t “efficient” enough. “We could have been better and more productive from the two them,” Ellis said.

The U.S. should have opportunities against Nigeria on Tuesday at BC Place. Nigeria looked dangerous even if defensively shaky against Sweden in a 3-3 draw on Monday, but the well dried up on Friday against Australia in a 2-0 loss. Asisat Oshoala looked pedestrian, and while Ngozi Okobi, Francisca Ordega and Desire Oparanozie had passing chances, Nigeria lacked much bite again.

Wambach and the U.S. should be able to pounce on Nigeria’s tired legs. Nigeria coach Edwin Okon didn’t make a substitution in the team’s first match and the tired legs showed against Australia. Those legs could be fully burnt out come Tuesday, especially if Nigeria continues to train twice per day as it did in Winnipeg.

Wambach’s role could fluctuate from game to game, a strategy Ellis has been open about for some time. Coming off the bench – as she did on Friday – gives world all-time goal-scorer Wambach a different perspective on matches.

“You analyze the game as opposed to getting transfixed inside of it,” she said. “You get to see where things are breaking down when you do get on. You hope that your skill your talent will help your team redeem whatever kind of issues we have been having.”

Meet the US Women’s World Cup team: Forwards

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After the United States drubbed Mexico to qualify for the World Cup, Mexico coach Leo Cuellar remarked that the United States had enough forwards to fill out starting lineups for three teams.

[ MEET USWNT: GKs | DFs | MFs ] 

Here are the five Jill Ellis took with her to Canada.

Abby Wambach

Abby Wambach, who turned 35 on Tuesday, has been the face of American women’s soccer since the core of the 99ers retired after the 2004 Olympics.  She has done it all—Olympic gold medals, a club championship, and more international goals than anyone who has ever played—except win a World Cup.  Her dramatic, stoppage-time header against Brazil in 2011 stands as one of the most dramatic moments in the history of the tournament, but it was not enough to boost the United States to the title.  Recent years have seen Wambach dogged by suggestions she has slowed down too much to be considered part of the core of the U.S. team.  Her exact role remains to be seen, but what is clear is that Wambach can still score goals in the right situation, and that she is willing to put herself on the line to bring home a World Cup.

Alex Morgan

Alex Morgan arrives in Canada with questions about her health.  A bruise on her left knee forced Morgan to miss the final three matches in the run-up to what will be her second World Cup.  Morgan did participate in the United States’ first training in Winnipeg on Wednesday, but coach Jill Ellis has said the team will have to monitor her minutes early in the tournament.  Morgan’s health and affectiveness could be considered a key to the United States wading through the deeper waters of the tournament.  She has a nose for scoring important goals, none bigger than her last-minute header to beat Canada in the extraordinary 2012 Olympic final.

Sydney Leroux

The Canadian neutrals are not particularly likely to be rooting for the United States but they will be especially rooting against Sydney Leroux.  A Surrey, British Columbia native, Leroux was a Canadian youth player before eschewing a chance to be a major building block in order to pursue a place in the United States team.  She made it and is a likely starter at least until Morgan is fully fit.  Canadian fans have not forgiven Leroux for playing for the U.S.  Two years ago she was viciously booed throughout a U.S.-Canada friendly in Toronto.  She responded by scoring a goal and then pointing to the crest on her U.S. jersey.  If she responds with more goals on this trip to Canada it will greatly enhance the chances of a United States victory party.

Amy Rodriguez

Affectionately known as A-Rod, Amy Rodriguez is one of the comeback stories on this team.  It is not only that she missed significant time to give birth, but rather that it looked like she might have been finished at the international level even before taking maternity leave.  But Rodriguez committed herself and enjoyed a marvelous 2014 season with FC Kansas City capped by scoring both goals in the final.  For now she is on the short list of players whose national team credentials have been enhanced by NWSL.  Recent matches suggest Rodriguez will not be part of the regular rotation, but she barely needs a touch to make an impact on any match.

Christen Press

A forward on the official team sheet, Christen Press is likely to find herself in midfield where she will be called on to create for others as well as score.  But if Morgan is not a starter and assuming Wambach is not going to start every match, Press could find herself at striker at some point during the World Cup.  A Tom Sermanni-era debut player, Press has quickly risen through the ranks in a competitive group of attacking personalities.  At 26 she has pretty much mastered the club game and could be poised for a breakout on the international stage.

USWNT 3-0 Switzerland: Morgan, Rodriguez, Wambach rescue USA at Algarve Cup

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It took a while — 54 minutes, to be exact — but the U.S. women’s national team found a way to overcome a sluggish performance and move to six out of six points, top of Group B, at the 2015 Algarve Cup with a 3-0 victory over Switzerland on Friday.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s USWNT coverage | ’15 WWC ]

Following a first half in which the USWNT created little — and allowed very little as well, to be fair — the Americans sprang to life in the second half, hitting the Swiss with three goals in 27 minutes, the kind of scoring outburst once common for the USMNT, but rarely seen in recent months and years.

Alex Morgan scored the first, getting on the end of a perfectly placed ball over the top from Lauren Holiday. Morgan headed downward, beating the goalkeeper and the sense of relief was visible on the face of her USWNT teammates.

Amy Rodriguez doubled the lead in the 72nd minute with a sequence of quick, concise touches inside the Swiss penalty area. Rodriguez received the ball near the top of the six-yard box, with no clear shooting path. Rather than fire a shot into the wall of defenders and ‘keeper, she shielded the ball from the nearest defender, created space with a quick turn and lifted the ball over the ‘keeper and into the back of the net.

[ MORE: FIFA Women’s PotY Nadie Kessler to have knee surgery, could miss WC ]

Abby Wambach provided the insurance goal with a chip of the ‘keeper from the corner of the 18-yard box in the 81st minute. Wambach recovered a wayward Swiss back-pass not far outside the box, took one touch and chipped the ‘keeper who by this point was rushing out to close down Wambach. No such luck, as the ball sailed high and nestled inside the far post.

The USWNT returns to action on Monday, when they’ll face Iceland in the final game of Group B before moving on to either the first- or third-place game later next week.