A few notes before I begin. First there is absolutely nothing scientific about this list. It is strictly my opinion. Second, the rankings are not based solely on how good each player is for club or country but on a deeper overview including the quality of the likely substitute and the impact of players from other countries also leaving. Do I expect you to agree with the list? No I don’t. In fact, I’m counting on you not.
Two other points. There is a chance one or two of these players will be cut and return to the league after the United States plays South Africa on July 9. Since we can’t account for that the list assmes everyone will be gone through the Olympics. Also, Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe are not included. Lloyd has not played since a knee injury on April 23 and Rapinoe has not played this season.
1. Ashlyn Harris – She’s been rock solid for the Pride, bailing out the back line on myriad occasions, but the bigger concern is that backup Aubrey Bledsoe is out for the season with a broken bone in her leg leaving Megan Dorsey at the helm for entirety of July.
2. Tobin Heath – She has been the best and most valuable player in the league to this point and her absence was duly noted in the two earlier games she missed. The Thorns did rally to beat the Pride a after she came off on Sunday but there isn’t a player in the league that can come close to duplicating what Heath has done.
3. Lindsay Horan – She has brought a physical presence and an ability to help create goals and will quietly be one of the biggest losses among U.S. players over the coming stretch.
4. Alex Morgan – Jasmyne Spencer has goals in her last two games which could ease some of the burden of playing without Morgan, but the face of the Pride has also been the club’s most dangerous and unrelenting attacker.
5. Kelley O’Hara – Christy Holly took a big step toward dealing with O’Hara’s absence when he moved her up (due to Kelley Conheeney getting sick) and got his Olympic break backline on together. But O’Hara is a difference maker wherever she is and will be missed.
6. Christen Press – She is the most dynamic goal scorer in the league but the Red Stars have played pretty well without her and the team sometimes puts out a more balanced attack.
7. Alyssa Naeher — Her backup Michele Dalton led the league in goals against last season in a similar role spelling Karina LeBlanc, but Naeher has been on song this season playing behind the best backline of her NWSL career.
8. Emily Sonnett – Number one overall pick was supposed to be the junior center back alongside Kathryn Williamson but Williamson has been out since the end of the season leaving Emily Menges to fill the role. Menges has been very good but for as long as Williamson is out the Thorns’ center back depth will be challenged that much more.
9. Ali Krieger – There are plenty who have questioned Krieger’s performance in NWSL this season but with Whitney Church and Capryce Dydasco the most likely understudies, Spirit fans will almost certainly be longing for her return after Rio.
10. Crystal Dunn – Who would have thought Dunn would have no goals at the Olympic break and the Spirit would still be tied for fewest points conceded in NWSL? On one hand Dunn does so many other things to help the team on both ends of the ball. On the other might the forward line in general work better without her?11. Becky Sauerbrunn – The best defender on the planet has been outstanding of late after an ordinary start to the season. Her loss is mildly offset by the fact that right back Brittany Taylor is probably a little bit better centrally where she earned a Best XI nod in 2013.
12. Meghan Klingenberg – I would expect Thorns’ opponents to be doing a lot more attacking down the right flank without Klignenberg there to challenge and/or counter.
13. Julie Johnston – Red Stars’ coach Rory Dames recently said his team moves the ball better out of the back with Johnston there. At the same time the defensive darling of last year’s World Cup has made her share of blunders this season. Betting the club will feel her absence over an extended period of time.
14. Allie Long – Has been relatively quiet this season albeit in a deeper role than last season. She is also the Thorns’ all-time leader in games played so her absence will be as strange as it will be difficult to overcome.
15. Jaelene Hinkle – With Abby Erceg also set to leave for New Zealand the Flash will be looking for an entirely new left side of the defense and Hinkle has bossed several games from the familiar left back spot.
16. Sam Mewis – She has been marvelous but the Flash are suddenly among the deepest teams around and Lianne Sanderson is set to jump into the fray possibly as an even swap in for Mewis.
17. Heather O’Reilly – This season is proof that flank players can’t do it all on their own as O’Reilly’s excellent play has too often been wasted. But few players work as hard or cover as much ground as she does.
18. Whitney Engen – Engen has been one of the better Breakers but in her last game they conceded seven goals. That doesn’t mean they won’t miss her, but they do have reasonable alternatives but at 1-8-1 the Breakers have much more to worry about.
19. Hope Solo – This is no reflection on Solo, but more a nod to the Reign hardly missing a beat with Haley Kopmeyer in goal. Since 2014 the Reign are 10-2-4 when Kopmeyer starts.
20. Morgan Brian – I’ve been saying for some time that, at least for now, the best Dash midfield is one that includes Amber Brooks instead of Brian. Noe we’ll get to see how it goes. However it does, things can hardly get worse in Houston.
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