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USWNT’s Olympic roster features famous names, experience and age

Defender Kelley O’Hara (5), forward Alex Morgan (13) and midfielder Kristie Mewis (22) were among 18 players selected to the Olympic squad. (Michael Wyke/AP)

The U.S. women’s national soccer team will head to Tokyo in search of a fifth Olympic gold medal with a roster stuffed with familiar names and extensive experience.

All but one of the 18 players named by Coach Vlatko Andonovski on Wednesday were members of the 2019 squad that won the World Cup in France. The average number of international appearances is 111, and as of the July 21 opener against Sweden, the average age will be almost 31.

“I don’t judge the players by their age,” Andonovski said in a media conference call. “They are either good, perform well and can help us win, or they can’t.”

There were no major surprises on a roster featuring Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and many other world-class players. Carli Lloyd, who will turn 39 on July 16, was named to her fourth Olympic squad and will become the oldest U.S. Olympian in women’s soccer.

Tobin Heath, 33, also will go to a fourth Summer Games. Four players will compete in their third.

Despite injury issues that prevented them from playing in three recent friendlies, Heath and Julie Ertz made the cut. When healthy, both are regular starters.

Heath (ankle, then a knee injury) has not played since the winter but did train with the U.S. squad this month.

“Both Tobin and Julie are rehabbing very well and progressing very well,” Andonovski said. “Tobin is slightly ahead of Julie” and is likely to play in one or both of the home tuneups July 1 and 5 against Mexico in East Hartford, Conn.

Ertz (sprained knee) will receive playing time in closed-door matches in Japan and, Andonovski added, “hopefully increase the minutes in the group stage” of the Olympics.

Taking rehabbing players to a World Cup would come with risk because no roster changes are allowed once the tournament starts. In the Olympics, however, the four alternates are available at any time.

Although most of the 18 roster selections were predictable, there was some enduring intrigue surrounding the last few slots on a list with five fewer players than for a World Cup.

Adrianna Franch beat out Jane Campbell to back up goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. Midfielder Kristie Mewis, 30, was selected to her first major senior tournament, joining younger sister Sam, a fixture on the national team.

Defender Tierna Davidson, 22, made the cut ahead of Margaret Purce, a Silver Spring, Md., native who figured to be among the front-runners for a roster spot because of her ability to play on both the back line and front line.

Andonovski’s alternates are Campbell, defender Casey Krueger, midfielder Catarina Macario and forward Lynn Williams.

Purce was overlooked in favor of Krueger, who wasn’t in U.S. camp this month but has excelled with the Chicago Red Stars in the National Women’s Soccer League.

Macario, 21, is a rising star with French club power Olympique Lyonnais but has struggled with the national team. “She is not quite ready at this moment,” Andonovski said.

Unbeaten in 42 consecutive matches since early 2019, the United States is seeking to become the first women’s team to win Olympic gold following a World Cup title. What is different this time is the gap between tournaments. Usually the Olympics fall the year after the World Cup, leaving limited time to recalibrate and re-energize.

The pandemic delay afforded the U.S. players time to rediscover their hunger for another major trophy. However, it also left a veteran squad one year older.

The projected starting lineup in the opener will include six players age 32 or older. The youngest would be midfielder Rose Lavelle, 26, who is recovering from an ankle injury.

“Altogether,” Andonovski said, “we feel very comfortable with some of the more experienced players.”

Age could come into play amid a demanding Olympic schedule: To reach the final, a team must navigate five matches in 13 days. The top-ranked Americans are favored to win their group, which includes No. 5 Sweden, No. 9 Australia and No. 22 New Zealand.

To manage the congested schedule and deploy a rotating lineup, Andonovski emphasized the importance of player versatility. That helped Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit) secure a roster spot; she can play left back, right back and, in a pinch, center back and defensive midfield.

Davidson is suitable at left back and center back. Crystal Dunn, the starting left back, could play almost anywhere on the field. Lindsey Horan, an attacking midfielder, has seen time in defensive midfield, a position usually occupied by Ertz.

“As it was getting closer to the Olympics, initially I thought it was going to be very hard” to finalize the roster, Andonovski said. “But the closer it got, it actually got a little clearer and a little easier to make the final selections.”

U.S. Olympic roster

Goalkeepers: Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars).

Defenders: Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City), Tierna Davidson (Chicago), Crystal Dunn (Portland), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland), Emily Sonnett (Washington).

Midfielders: Julie Ertz (Chicago), Lindsey Horan (Portland), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash), Sam Mewis (North Carolina Courage).

Forwards: Tobin Heath (Manchester United), Carli Lloyd (Gotham FC), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Manchester United), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign).

Alternates: GK Jane Campbell (Houston), D Casey Krueger (Chicago), MF Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyonnais), F Lynn Williams (North Carolina).

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