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Bush: Examining Jill Ellis’s 11 fresh USWNT call-ups

Casey Short, right, battles with Ali Krieger. The pair could soon be battling for outside back positions for Jill Ellis. (photo copyright EriMacPhoto for The Equalizer)

Casey Short, right, battles with Ali Krieger. The pair could soon be battling for outside back positions for Jill Ellis. (photo copyright EriMacPhoto for The Equalizer)

Following up on her comments since Rio regarding her future plans for the national team, Jill Ellis called up a 24-person roster for the team’s upcoming fixtures against Switzerland. Included in this group were 11 players with the potential for their first senior cap, the largest number of new faces Ellis has called up at once in her two years at the helm. Eight of the 11 play in the NWSL, while the other three are still in college. All but one have seen extensive time with the youth National Teams. Here’s a look at the newcomers.

Stanford goalkeeper Jane Campbell was called to senior camp at only 17 in 2013 under Tom Sermanni, but she hasn’t returned since. Long since mentioned in the conversations as the heir to the US goalkeeping throne, Campbell is an excellent shot stopper with fantastic distribution who has spent time with the U-17s, U-20s and U-23s. A senior, Campbell was named to the 2016 Hermann Trophy watchlist.

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Defender Abby Dahlkemper, a member of UCLA’s 2013 championship team, is the lone new centerback. She has significant experience with the youth national teams from the U-17s up. Dahlkemper brings a steadiness to the Flash backline despite her youth and has been a defensive stalwart for this year’s championship run.

Arin Gilliland is one half of one of the best outside back pairings in the NWSL. She has ruled the right flank for the Chicago Red Stars for two years, making a solid case for Rookie of the Year in 2015. Gilliland has strong defensive positioning and the pace to make outstanding recovery runs when she’s on the attack. She was a Hermann Trophy finalist and set a record with eight game-winning goals at Kentucky. Gilliland has been in the youth national team system since the U-15s.

The left half of Chicago’s fullbacks, Casey Short, is familiar to Ellis, having played under her at the U-20 level. After a series of season-ending injuries and a spell overseas, Short finally made her NWSL debut this year and never looked back. Short loves to push high and get into the attack, scoring two goals for Chicago this year.

Merritt Mathias only made the conversion to right back halfway through this season, helping to ease Seattle’s defensive woes, but it was enough to earn her a national team look. A forward by trade, her nose for the attack is something Ellis highly prizes in her fullbacks. After transferring from North Carolina, Mathias graduated from Texas A&M, where she was an All-Big 12 player, and also spent time with the U-17 and U-23 squads.

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Danielle Colaprico may be the name most are familiar with, as she has long topped the list of desired call-ups. Along with injured teammate Vanessa DiBernardo, Colaprico runs Chicago’s midfield and is quite possibly the best defensive midfielder in the NWSL. She won Rookie of the Year in 2015. The midfielder is uncompromising and has excellent distribution. After spending time with the U-23s last year, Colaprico was called to the senior national team on the Victory Tour but did not see any playing time due to injury.

Andi Sullivan is back on this year’s Hermann Trophy watchlist, alongside Stanford teammate Campbell, after being named a semifinalist last year as a sophomore. An attacking midfielder, Sullivan is equally accomplished at setting up plays for teammates and racking up assists as she is scoring goals herself. She has been with the youth national teams since the U-15 level, captaining the U-20s at the 2014 Women’s World Cup.

Former Texas Aggie Shea Groom was thrust into the role of lone striker this year after her Kansas City teammates Amy Rodriguez and Sydney Leroux took the season off due to pregnancy. After a few initial growing pains, Groom settled into the role, racking up seven goals for the year while carrying Kansas City’s attack on her shoulders. A player who is always willing to sacrifice herself for the goal, Groom brings a scrappiness that the National Team lacks. She played with Colaprico on the U-23s.

After a strong rookie season in 2014 as Houston’s first ever draft pick, Kealia Ohai played a quieter role in 2015, although she still led the Dash in assists. At first, it appeared 2016 would be more of the same, but halfway through the season, Ohai was moved to a wider role and proceeded to go on a streak that nearly netted her the Golden Boot award, scoring 11 goals in 10 games. Ohai is no stranger to championship teams, having won both the NCAA championship (at UNC alongside Crystal Dunn) and the U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2012. Fast and comfortable with the ball at her feet, Ohai is the kind of forward Ellis loves to place on the wings.

Ashley Hatch is a pure goal scorer, currently leading this season of women’s college soccer with 15 for Brigham Young University, including a hat trick (her second in her college career) against defending champion Penn State. Poised to be a breakout collegiate star in 2015 before missing eight games due to injury, Hatch has the perfect combination of athleticism and technical ability.

Lynn Williams is easily the least surprising name on this list. Winning both the Golden Boot and MVP awards this year, Williams appears to have erased the inconsistencies of her rookie seasonand is poised to lead her team to an NWSL championship. She is quick and has a nose for goal whether on top of the goalkeeper or from distance. A Pepperdine product, she led the team in both goals and assists her senior year and was named a Hermann Trophy finalist.


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