TUKWILA, Wash. — With 11 national-team players on the roster, anything less than a W-League title for the Seattle Sounders Women will be unacceptable.
“I think we’d be selling ourselves short if we weren’t trying to win a W-League championship,” head coach Michelle French said after the team’s final open tryout Saturday.
While a group of mostly college players competed for the final remaining roster spots, six women who already signed were at the U.S. national team camp in Princeton, N.J., preparing for a May 27 friendly against China.
Defender Stephanie Cox, forwards Sydney Leroux and Alex Morgan, midfielders Megan Rapinoe and Keelin Winters and goalkeeper Hope Solo headline this year’s roster, and they are expected to be at the London Olympics July 25 to August 9.
“We can do as much as we can when they’re not here to be successful, but obviously, when they are here, they bring a whole new level to our team,” French said.
However, five of their teammates have also seen national team play at various levels: Defender Kate Deines has U.S. Under-23 experience, midfielders Lindsay Elston and Julia Roberts have U.S. Under-20 experience, midfielder Isabell Farrell has U.S. Under-18 experience and forward Veronica Perez plays for the Mexican national team.
Add in some role players, and French believes her team is solid all the way through the roster.
“Whether it’s backs, midfielders or forwards, we’ve got at least two or three players that I think are going to play a big role for us,” she said. “Seattle is going to be surprised at what great talent we have when the national team players aren’t here, so hopefully the support will continue when they have taken off.”
About 4,500 fans went to each of the three preseason games, which the Sounders won. After defeating Seattle Pacific University and Seattle University 5-0 each, the Sounders beat University of Washington 3-1 to cap off an unblemished exhibition run.
In those three games, the Sounders scored 13 goals and allowed one. Forward Lyndsey Patterson scored twice, Leroux had a hat trick against Seattle University, Morgan scored twice and Perez scored once in each game.
“She’s obviously going to play a huge role,” French said of the Mexican national team forward.
Deines played at center back in each game, keeping Solo from having too much to do. She is expected to make major contributions to the team, especially when the bigger names are missing from the game-day roster, French said.
The full roster has yet to be announced, but the Sounders Women have 17 players listed on the roster on their website, including Sophie Reiser, who was added on Monday along with three other players.
French was confident that her team will entertain its fans this summer.
“We want to keep the ball, want to keep it moving and play some exciting, attractive soccer,” she said. “Fortunately, with the personalities that we have, with and without the national team players, I think we’re going to be able to do that. Being sound and organized defensively with a little bit of attacking flair is going to be the biggest thing for us.”
Those players not jetting off to training camps and the Olympics will get their chance to shine this season, too. With three more USA friendlies scheduled after Sunday’s China match-up leading into London 2012, Seattle’s better-known players will be gone often.
“When (the national-team players) are not here, when it’s going to be the most important part of our season, (the other players) are going to have to train hard the entire time leading up to those games that they’re actually going to play,” French said.
When the U.S. internationals are in town, they will go right into the starting lineup. However, every player on the roster will expect that, and they were told from the start that it would be that way, French said.
“From Day 1, we explained that entire situation and said, ‘Listen, you have a choice. You can either choose to be a part of it, or you don’t have to be.’ You can either say, ‘OK, yeah, I’m all right with those six amazing players coming in and playing,’ or not,” she said. “So if they decided to sign on for this season, there’s an understanding that in those five other spots or four other spots, they’re fighting to get playing time on the field.”
Reiser is one of those players who will be competing for a chance to play all season.
“They’re all great people and players, and we understand that it’s great for us as a team and the game in Seattle to have such high representation for women’s soccer here,” she said. “It’s just a really strong sign of respect that we all can play as a team together.”
The Sounders Women kick off their season Sunday, on the road against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Seattle’s first home game is against the Colorado Rush on May 31. Home games will be played at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila.
Liviu Bird covers the Seattle Sounders Women for Equalizer Soccer. Follow him on Twitter at @liviubird.
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