The 2018 Tournament of Nations is set to get under way on July 26. The competition consists of a series of friendly games between four of the world’s top women’s national teams. Like last summer, this year’s edition will feature the national teams of Australia (ranked 8th by FIFA), Brazil (7th), Japan (6th) and the hosts, the United States (1st).
Yesterday, USWNT coach Jill Ellis released her preliminary list of 25 players for the tournament.
USWNT Tournament of Nations Squad
Goalkeepers (3): Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns FC; 0/0), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride; 16/0), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 29/0)
Defenders (7): Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage; 19/0), Tierna Davidson (Stanford; 8/0), Jaelene Hinkle (NC Courage 8/0), Merritt Mathias (NC Courage; 1/0), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals FC, 139/0), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars; 21/0), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC; 17/0)
Midfielders (8): Morgan Brian (Chicago Red Stars; 75/6), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 61/15), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 51/5), Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit; 8/2), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC; 254/100), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage; 36/7), Allie Long (Seattle Reign FC; 39/6), McCall Zerboni (NC Courage; 2/0)
Forwards (7): Crystal Dunn (NC Courage; 64/23), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC; 133/19), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 142/86), Kealia Ohai (Houston Dash; 3/1), Christen Press (Utah Royals FC; 100/44), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC; 137/37), Amy Rodriguez (Utah Royals FC; 131/30)
Several of the usual suspects can be seen in this list, however, there have been five changes from those selected to face China last month in two friendlies. Franch, Sonnett, Short, Hinkle and Ohai come back to the squad while Murphy, Smith, Huerta, Purce and McCaskill find themselves on the outside looking in.
Perhaps the biggest talking point from this roster release is the reappearance of Hinkle. The NC Courage outside back has not been called into the side since declining an invite to camp last June for games in which the team wore jerseys with rainbow-colored numbers in honor of LGBT Pride Month.
She is a core member of a North Carolina side that is quite simply having its way in the NWSL, finding themselves top of the table and 16 points ahead ahead of second place Seattle. Hinkle has started all 15 games for the Courage and has logged a goal and three assists from defense, so one can certainly see why Ellis made the call, although some fans continue to scratch their heads over the exclusion of national team stalwart Ali Krieger, who has been more than solid for Orlando this season.
While the inclusion of Hinkle has elicited mixed reactions, it’s hard to not cheer on the feel-good comeback story that is Kealia Ohai’s selection. The Houston Dash captain suffered a torn ACL last year but there have been few doubts as to her ability to return to 100 percent as she has been on fire this season and scored a handful of stunners.
Captain K! @KealiaOhai wins the @NWSL Goal of the Week with this against Orlando! #DashOn to @BBVACompassStdm on July 11 for more ! pic.twitter.com/tx4BW04jAY— Houston Dash (@HoustonDash) July 3, 2018
The Women’s World Cup is less than a year away and this tournament is one of the few remaining high-level preparations for the USWNT. Looking at the rosters for the last couple of fixtures, the competition for a spot has never been more intense. It will be interesting to see how the team fairs and what sorts of combinations are fielded. When it comes to decision-making as a head coach, it’s difficult to imagine someone who has a harder job than Ellis right now.