Looking ahead to the SheBelieves, and beyond — Vlatko speaks — Must-click women’s soccer links

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, Feb. 6, 2022

Happy Soccer Monday! Vlatko Andonovski announced his 23-player roster for the SheBelieves Cup starting next week and we learned a lot.

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First off, Andonovski was pretty direct in saying that Christen Press and Tobin Heath are still in the mix for the World Cup roster.

I asked him specifically about Heath, because the extent of her injury was a bit more of a mystery than Press’ ACL.

Both of them are training together and running (see the attached Instagram post and click through!). Andonovski specifically said they were in return to play protocol. So could that mean we’ll seem them in the next window in April?

I’m wondering if, at this point, they’d realistically have a shot at significant roles given the younger players who have emerged since the Olympics.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re both world-class players who certainly still have enormous talent to contribute, but at this point in the preparation, do you disrupt the chemistry and the cohesiveness that has been formed in their absence? Who do you leave off the roster to bring them in?

That’s a really tough question, and I’m sure it’s one that Andonovski and his staff are dealing with.

You know what would make these decisions a bit easier? Expanded rosters. The men got rosters of 26 players for Qatar, but said the timing of the event — in November while seasons are in swing — made the move necessary.

FIFA is sticking to 23 for now: “As per the competition regulations for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023, FIFA can confirm that the squad sizes for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 will be 23 players.”

Andonovski said he still believes there may be wiggle room, especially given the serious injuries that have recently cropped up internationally.

Personally, I’m doubting FIFA shifts on this one. But we’ll see.

One thing that also made headlines in terms of the latest roster. Julie Ertz is likely out. Andonovski noted that she has not returned to play in a club setting, so that pretty much seals the deal. She gave birth last August to her son Madden and has been very involved with the Ertz Family Foundation. I’m just guessing here, but I think she finds fulfillment in her family and her faith, and that may be one of the reasons she hasn’t returned.

She’s missed on the national team, and not one has emerged that can duplicate her unique skillset. Andonovski was quizzed numerous times about the midfield, and what it might look like going forward. I’m looking to see how he tried to develop Rose Lavelle’s role.

Anyway, please read Andonovski’s comments below. They were a bit meatier this time than for previous roster announcements.

Also, on Monday afternoon after I had already filed the IX, U.S. Soccer released its plan for introducing recommendations from the Yates report on misconduct in the NWSL .

You can read some of the details here.

I also wrote about it for AP here.

And I spoke to Oregon Public Broadcasting about it here!

Lastly, here’s a plea: Jackie is doing some amazing things with Women Kick Balls. Subscribe if you can! She has a goal of 5,000 subscribers by the end of this year. Let’s get her there sooner!!!!

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The Kansas City Star wrote about Current draft pick Michelle Cooper.

Sandra Herrera of CBS Sports talked to Alex Morgan about the Wave’s second season.

The Equalizer on the sad news about Sam Mewis.

Forbes talks to Ali Riley about the New Zealand national team.

Just Women’s Sports is waiting on the schedule, too.

Nice story on Ifeoma Onumonu from Courtney Stith of The Athletic.

Just Women’s Sports on Christen Press and her possible return to the USWNT.

CBS Sports with the USWNT stock watch

New Zealand is not happy about Saudi Sponsorship of the Women’s World Cup.

AP’s story about the Saudi sponsorship is here.

Moya Dodd is among those questioning the Saudi sponsorship.

The Equalizer’s Jeff Kassouf wrote about how the NWSL conflicts with FIFA schedules.

CBC did a good story on Tigres coach Carmelina Moscato.

Jill Scott says Emma Hayes is good enough to coach in the Premier League.

Aston Villa’s Carla Ward says the WSL is being held back by bad officiating.

Five at The IX: Vlatko speaks

Question: How close are Cat Macario and Sophia Smith, and how do you judge Sam Coffey right now? what does she need to do to get back on the national team?

Andonovski: So first of all start with Soph and Cat, both are in return to play protocol. Soph actually is looking good, she’s back on the field and running. And I think that if we rushed it a little bit, we could have gotten some minutes from her, but I didn’t feel like this was a situation where we rush to get her back. Our goal is not just to get her back, but to stay back. And that’s why she’s not in this camp. Cat, on the other side, she started training on the field, started training with the ball. She’s she’s still in Qatar in the FIFA center for rehab. She’s doing well and she’s going back to Lyon to start team training. middle of February, and then hopefully we can see her started playing for her club team sometime in the second half of March. It takes about five to six weeks in team training before she starts playing games. So we expect to see her back, or eligible for selection in the for April camp. That goes same for for Soph and a couple of other players as well, like Kelley O’Hara, Christen and Tobin, they’re all in return to play protocol.
Now in terms of Sam Coffey, obviously she’s not on this roster in this camp, but it doesn’t mean that she’s out by any means. You know anytime someone makes the roster, someone else has to be off the roster. And there was something else that we wanted to see in this in this camp, in these games. Sam is very much in the pool, she’s she’s someone that we’re still valuating, evaluating and analyzing and is someone that we consider as a player that can have a spot in the World Cup roster.

Question: Just to follow up on what you just said about in response to the part about Sam Coffey. Do you do you feel like you know what your midfield is going to look like in July at this point like, and do you feel comfortable with the pool of players that you have called in over the past several camps as your pool going forward or is there still a possibility that it could expand to other players?

Andonovski: I think the pool of players that we that we have, we feel pretty comfortable with and this is something that we that we’ve thought about or planned for a while now. Obviously everybody’s aware of where Sam Mewis and that she’s not going to be eligable to play in the World Cup because of the injury and be eligible for selection. That’s something that we’ve known for a while, we just wanted to allow Sam to make a decision on when to make this public. Talking about midfielders, another person that hasn’t been in camp for a while, Julie Ertz, is someone that obviously when we see that she hasn’t committed to any team in the league so far, and the time is running out pretty much for her as well. And she’s someone that we’re probably not going to be able to count on in the World Cup. So these are two big names that that may be or will be absent from from the World Cup or World Cup selection. And this is something that we have planned for, and that’s why we’ve tried different different names, different players in this position, and we’re going to continue trying in this camp until we solidified the players that we believe will give us the best chance to be successful.

Question: Is this tournament a real parameter to know where the team is?

Andonovski: Yes. It will show us where the team is now, but I don’t think it will be a real parameter. of where the team is gonna be 5 1/2 months from now. Because I know we’re gonna try different things, and test different combinations of players. I’m sure that the same thing will happen with the teams that we’re going to face. So I don’t think it will show the exact level of where the teams are at. Just the simple thing could be the players that are missing, someone like Soph Smith or Catarina Macario, those are big players. Obviously we would love to have them in camp but at the same time we’re excited that we can we can try other players in those positions and prepare for something like this. Hopefully, it’s not going to happen, but if it does, we’re going to be ready for it.

Question: You mentioned there that Tobin Heath was in return to play protocol. She’s been away from the team for for quite a while and I’m wondering, Is she still a candidate for placement on the World Cup team?

Andonovski: Absolutely. I mean Tobin is one of one of those players that has tremendous experience with the national team, playing against top-level teams and, and she’s a born leader and born winner. She’s won World Cups. She’s won championships, in club, college, everywhere. Anyone that is healthy and ready and in good form and can help this team be successful, is gonna be looked and selected for the roster for the World Cup.

Question: I wanted to ask about these upcoming three games. Obviously you have really just one player in Lindsey Horan who is in season, and the rest are in pre season with their clubs. Does that lend the opportunity for you to kind of rotate squads? Will we see different combinations we’re not sued seeing?

Andonovski: So obviously the fact that we are in preseason makes things a little bit tougher for us, but at the same time, because of where the tournament falls in the in the calendar, or how far away it is from from the World Cup, it is actually a great opportunity for us to do these rotations. It’s not necessarily going to be just a rotation, to give someone a break. It will be a rotation where we’re going to try to pair certain players together or a certain group of players together to see how things work so we can analyze and also get a little better picture of how we want to step up when when the time comes.

Question: What are you trying accomplish specifically on the tactical side?

Anodonovski: Obviously we have principles that we’ve been very focused on, and I feel very comfortable with where we’re at with executing and implementing the principles and understanding the principles. Now we’re at the point where we need to meet to execute the little things details, and tweaks, and be able to adjust in game time. From the from the attacking standpoint, yes, it is true that we saw some rotations or some different setups in the midfield. We’re gonna see some more of that and add a little more unpredictability to our team when we position ourselves, when we when we get on the field.

Question: FIFA recently rejected a request by a number of Federation’s to increase the roster to 26 similar to what happened with the US Men’s World Cup. I’m not clear whether or not this is a dead deal, or is it something that the Federation and yourself obviously would advocate for?

Andonovski: Yes, so I don’t think it’s a dead deal. I know that FIFA would like to have a 23 player roster for the World Cup. And I know that, if not all, a majority of the coaches of the national teams that are going to participate in the World Cup would like to see a 26 player roster. And I’m saying this with confidence that most, if not all, the coaches want this because I sat in a meeting with all the coaches when we were in New Zealand for the draw, and every single one of them or most of them actually expressed disappointment in FIFA for trying to implement a 23-player roster. There’s so many different reasons why all the coaches want this, different coaches want it for different reasons, but mainly it is the health and the safety of the players and we’ve seen it in just the recent past, how many injuries top female players around the world have had, so I think that should be the primary reasons for everyone, which I think it is.

Question: Curious about two Coloradans. Mallory Swanson is of course already off to a strong start. Is there anything you’d like to see different from her from a tactical standpoint? And then what have the conversations been like with Jaelin Howell? Curious what she has to do to get back into the picture.

Andonovski: So first about Mallory. I mean, we’ve had numerous conversations with her and first thing is I want to say how happy we are to see how well she’s performing. One of the things with her is that she always needs to find a way to impact the game, or a different way to impact the game. And we see that from her, sometimes she’s impacting it from assisting, sometimes she’s scoring, but there is always a way that she impacts the game. It’s just so good to see that from her. She’s maturing in a role of a leader as well in the environment. And she’s doing an amazing job with that. So overall, it’s just exciting to see someone like Mal play and no matter what she what she goes through on the field she always has a smile on your face. You can see the joy, you can see the excitement and that’s what we want to see. That’s what makes us happy as well. Now in terms of Jaelin, Jaelin and I had a really good conversation before we sent out the invites and the conversation pretty much was that Jaelin is certainly not out of the picture. She does have something, or she’s good at something that probably not another 6 in the league is, now with Julie Ertz absent. So we want to see that from her, we want to see that from her in the league, we want to see it on a consistent basis. And that’s what is going to get her back on the team. We’re excited about Jae. She’s not someone that we have given up on. Just because she’s not on the roster, we are in constant communication with her and analyzing everything that she’s doing.

Question: In what way do you think that those three sides are going to test your team defensively?

Andonovski: You said at the beginning that all three are different in terms of style of play, or even philosophy, and that’s why they are in this tournament because we needed something different or different things that we needed to face before we go to the World Cup, where we wanted to face all kinds of challenges that we can, so we have enough time to solve it before the World Cup. I think they’re all gonna test us a little bit different. First they’re all very organized teams. You look at the defensive setup, they’re all very organized, but they’re organized in different ways. Canada, obviously is going to be just a little more intense and more aggressive than the other ones. I think that Japan is going to be just a little more disciplined and rigid in their system. I think that we’re going to see five in the back, but slightly more aggressive five in the back from Japan. And then with Brazil, being coached by Pia, we can see a very, very organized 4-4-2 and very disciplined and alone. very disciplined and a little more what I would say in your face, defense.

Question: During the January camp we saw the introduction of Kornieck in a defensive mid role and we even got to see Rose Lavelle spend some time as an 8 against New Zealand. So with this tournament going up against top-15 clubs, will we continue to see how Lavelle plays within that 8 role or possibly more time for Kornoieck in the 6?

Andonovski: This is actually a very good tournament for us to see what parts of what we tried in the previous games is going to work against good teams. Because it’s one thing working in January, against New Zealand, but it’s different working against Canada, Japan or Brazil. So yes, we will see a little bit of everything. I’m not sure what game or what part of the game we’re going to see that. But I was very happy to see the fluidity between the midfield when Rose was there, but also in the second half of the first game was really good as well when we allowed the players to interchange their positions a little bit more. Like I said, we will see a little bit of everything and then hopefully we can we can judge and analyze what what will work going forward.

Question: Are there any players that you haven’t mentioned yet that weren’t named to this roster that you would say are in prime consideration for a spot going to the World Cup?

Andonovski: I mean, obviously, we talked about players that are injured, from Soph, Cat and Kelly, but we talked about Tobin, we can’t forget about Christen Press who I think is very similar to Tobin, just very experienced, been in two World Cups, won two World Cups, and we know that can be an asset on any team. Sam Coffey, we talked about Jaelin Howell, (DeMelo? I think) is another midfielder we’ve spent time working with. So these are all players that are in consideration. And I’m sure we’re gonna see in one of the next camps. Tierna Davidson is one of the one of the players that is back that we’re really happy to have back. Casey Krueger, that’s another another player that we’re excited to have back. So the pool is still fairly large, I guess, and part of the reason why is because of players being in return to play protocol. We’re not going to give up early, just because they were injured.

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Written by Annie Peterson