Players hoping to make the United States’ Women’s World Cup squad will step into a pressure cooker on Saturday, as a friendly against Ireland is one of their final chances to earn a spot with the four-times champions.
The exhibition match in Austin, Texas, is the United States’ second-to-last before head coach Vlatko Andonovski names the 23 players who will travel to the quadrennial tournament, which is co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
“Every performance, every rep in training – it all matters,” 37-year-old defender Becky Sauerbrunn told reporters on Friday.
Sauerbrunn, a veteran with 214 caps to her name, knows well the pressures of the April camp after competing in three previous World Cups, including in the Americans’ successful 2015 and 2019 campaigns.
“It all could be the defining moment for you going into the World Cup if you’re going to be someone that is a starter, who gets significant minutes,” she said.
Twenty-year-old phenom Trinity Rodman noted the World Cup was scarcely more than 100 days away, and said she was taking time to connect with veterans and sweat the details.
“It’s just tidying up the little things,” said Rodman. “We all know our principles, we know how to work hard, we know how to stay locked in.”
Andonovski said that between Saturday’s game and a final friendly on Tuesday against the 22nd-ranked Ireland, he expected to give playing time to most of the 26 players he called up for the camp. He remains adamant that he has not yet made up his mind on who will make the final cut.
“I’m positive we’re not going to come out with the 23 in mind and it’s going to be hard for us because there are players that we’re still looking at that are not in this camp right now,” he told reporters.
Among those not with the team was one of the United States’ most recognizable figures, Megan Rapinoe, who is recovering from a lower leg injury that Andonovski previously described as not serious.
“There’s a group of players that we believe are performing well or have performed well for a longer period of time – group of players that we’re happy with – that just have to maintain a certain level,” said Andonovski.
“But then there’s a certain group of players that every game may matter because they’re competing against someone else.”