Johnston, Naeher and Press to compete for the U.S.
Chicago, Ill. – U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Jill Ellis named the 20 players who will represent the USA at the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship running from Feb. 10-21 in Frisco and Houston, Texas. The USA opens the tournament on Wednesday, Feb. 10 against Costa Rica (7:30 p.m. CT).
Julie Johnston, Alyssa Naeher and Christen Press, all members of the Chicago Red Stars, were named to the United States roster to help secure a spot in the 2016 Olympics this summer in Rio. All three were members of the U.S. Women’s National Team that recently won the FIFA Women’s World Cup over the summer.
Johnston was the breakout star from the Women’s World Cup, playing in every minute of the tournament for the U.S, proving she belongs at the international level. The 2014 NWSL Rookie of the Year and NWSL Best XI in 2015 will look to continue to anchor one of the best backlines in the world during the Qualifying Championship.
Acquired this off-season by Chicago, Alyssa Naeher is the youngest goalkeeper on the U.S. roster. Naeher has been solid in goal when called upon by Ellis, including her start against China where she made a last minute save to secure the shutout in just her fourth U.S. appearance.
Throughout the Victory Tour no one was as consistent as Christen Press. In just seven appearances the forward was able to net eight goals and two assists. Named to the NWSL Best XI in 2015, Press might be the key to success in the Qualifying matches with her current high level play peaking at the perfect time.
After opening Group A play against the Ticas, the USA continues first round action against Mexico on Saturday, Feb. 13 (3 p.m. CT), and finishes group play against Puerto Rico on Monday, Feb. 15 (7:30 p.m. CT).
The two venues for the competition are BBVA Compass Stadium, home to the Houston Dash of the NWSL and the Houston Dynamo of MLS, and Toyota Stadium, located in the Dallas suburb of Frisco and home to FC Dallas of MLS.
The round-robin stage of the tournament will be conducted with three doubleheaders in each group. Group A will play doubleheaders at Toyota Stadium on Feb. 10, 13 and 15 and Group B – which features Canada, Guatemala, Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana – will play doubleheaders at BBVA Compass Stadium on Feb. 11, 14 and 16. The all-important semifinal matches will be held on Feb. 19 in Houston, with the winners qualifying for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. The championship game on Feb. 21 will also be in Houston.
All 20 players selected were a part of the USA’s 26-player roster for January training camp that ended with a 5-0 victory against Ireland on Jan. 23 in San Diego. The roster features three goalkeepers (a requirement by tournament regulations) and 17 field players, which includes seven defenders, five midfielders and five forwards, although many players on the roster can play more than one position.
Thirteen of the 20 players chosen by Ellis were on the USA’s 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup championship team and just seven players were on the USA’s roster for 2012 Olympic qualifying: goalkeeper Hope Solo, defenders Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelley O’Hara and Ali Krieger, midfielders Carli Lloyd and Tobin Heath and forward Alex Morgan. Solo, Heath and Lloyd are the only players on the roster who also participated in qualifying for the 2008 Olympics.
“This was an exceptionally challenging roster to select,” said Ellis. “The players all worked and competed very hard in the January camp and that made the final decisions extremely difficult. With only 17 field players allowed on the roster, and minimal time in between matches, I think we have one of the most versatile rosters ever for a qualifying tournament. Most of the field players are capable of playing at least two positions and as CONCACAF competitions generally present teams that will sit low and get numbers behind the ball, it is important to have players that can individually and collectively break teams down to create chances.”
U.S. Women’s National Team Olympic Qualifying Roster By Position:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)
DEFENDERS (7): Jaelene Hinkle (Western New York Flash), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC)
MIDFIELDERS (5): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Samantha Mewis (Western New York Flash)
FORWARDS (5): Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Stephanie McCaffrey (Boston Breakers), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado)
The U.S. will attempt to qualify for a sixth consecutive Olympic Games and win the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying event for the fourth consecutive time. In 2012, the USA won the Olympic Qualifying tournament in Vancouver, B.C. (at the same stadium where it would win the Women’s World Cup three years later) and then went on to win the gold medal in London.
In 2008, the USA won the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Mexico and went on to win gold in Beijing. In 2004, the U.S. won the tournament in Costa Rica and went on to win gold in Athens, Greece. The U.S. qualified for the 1996 Atlanta Games as host and for the 2000 Sydney Games as a top-seven finisher at the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Seven teams have already qualified for the 12-team Olympic Football Tournament: Brazil and Colombia from South America, France and Germany from Europe by virtue of their finish at the 2015 Women’s World Cup, New Zealand from Oceania due to Papua New Guinea pulling out of the second leg of qualifying, and South Africa and Zimbabwe from Africa. Two teams will qualify from CONCACAF, Africa and Asia and one more will qualify from Europe after a mini-tournament in March featuring Sweden, Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland.
-Carli Lloyd has the most Olympic qualifying appearances or anyone on the roster, playing in nine games (2008 & 2012) while scoring eight goals. Solo has played in eight Olympic qualifying matches (2008 & 2012)
-For the 2012 Olympic qualifying roster, 19 of the 20 players were on the 2011 Women’s World Cup Team
-Eight of the players named to the roster have eight caps or less
-Seventeen-year-old forward Mallory Pugh will be playing in her second CONCACAF qualifying tournament in a three-month span. She also captained the USA to the title at the CONCACAF U-20 Women’s Championship in early December in Honduras, earning a berth to the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup at the end of the year in Papua New Guinea
-Pugh is the youngest player ever named to a U.S. Olympic qualifying roster.
-The USA has never lost a match in Olympic qualifying, but tied Canada 1-1 in the title game of the 2008 tournament before prevailing in penalty kicks.
-Four players on the roster have played 100 times for more for the USA, led by Carli Lloyd’s 212 caps. Hope Solo has 186 caps followed by Tobin Heath’s 107 and Alex Morgan earned her 100th on Jan. 23 against Ireland. Becky Sauerbrunn could hit 100 during the qualifying tournament as she is currently on 96.