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USWNT Olympic Roster: Who Will Jill Ellis Take to Rio?

With the Olympics only four months away and only 18 spots available, here's a look at who coach Jill Ellis might be taking to Rio.

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With the NWSL season officially underway, the race is on for some members of the league to prove they have what it takes to make USWNT Head Coach Jill Ellis' Olympic roster. With only 18 spots available on the plane to Rio instead of the usual 23, cuts will have to be made. Here's who this writer believes will be on the plane to Brazil in four months time.


Hope Solo: The number one keeper for the U.S. will surely be on the roster, barring injury of course.

Alyssa Naeher: Ellis will most likely only bring two keepers to Rio and the race for the backup spot is close between Naeher and the Orlando Pride's own Ashlyn Harris. But in recent matches, the gaffer has decided to give Naeher more reps. She even started last time out against Colombia, so expect to see the Chicago Red Stars' shot stopper get the spot.


Meghan Klingenberg: Klingenberg's speed and willingness to get up into the attack adds another dangerous element to the U.S. offense. The Portland Thorns defender also provides great service from wide positions, a trait the U.S. has been lacking with the loss of Megan Rapinoe. A World Cup veteran, expect to see Klingenberg in the starting lineup at left back when the team opens play against New Zealand.

Becky Sauerbrunn: Carli Lloyd might wear the armband, but the captain of the back line is the veteran Sauerbrunn. Her positioning and technique are always tremendous and, along with Julie Johnston, pairs to anchor this U.S. team.

Julie Johnston: As with Sauerbrunn, seeing Johnston out of position in defense is about as rare as the Yanks dropping a CONCACAF match. The added bonus that Johnston brings when compared to Sauerbrunn is that she is an absolute menace on set pieces. Don't be surprised to see Johnston's head responsible for a couple goals in Rio.

Whitney Engen: Make no mistake, Sauerbrunn and Johnston are the mainstays at center back and they will get the starts, but Engen is no slouch. Should there be an injury or red card given to either of  the starting duo, Engen has the size and experience to match up well with opponents' forwards.

Kelley O'Hara: Another veteran who has shown her ability to play at the outside back positions. O'Hara is a good option off the bench and while she may not be fast enough to contend for a spot in the midfield, she has proven that she can handle herself very well in defense and add additional firepower to the attack if needed.

Tobin Heath: Heath is so versatile and can play almost anywhere, and she's shown that she can hold down the fort at right back while getting into the attack. By having Heath on the back line, Ellis has an open spot in the midfield while keeping Heath's skills in the lineup. Heath is typically slotted into the midfield but Ellis has tinkered with her at the back in recent friendlies.

Ali Krieger: Should Ellis prefer to have Heath play in the midfield, Krieger is the clear choice to regain her starting spot at right back. While not as dangerous going forward, Krieger is a better defender than Heath is and knowing there's someone as solid as Krieger behind them could give the midfield an added confidence to get up the field without having to worry too much about leaving their right back out to dry.

Emily Sonnett: The Portland Thorns rookie earns my final spot on this projected roster. Sonnett probably won't get much, if any, time on the field. But Sauerbrunn's time with the U.S. is waning and Sonnett is the future, so any time Ellis has to get Sonnett accustomed to being in the squad will help the young center back down the road.


Carli Lloyd: Enough said.

Mallory Pugh: The teenager has been a favorite of Ellis' in 2016, and has rewarded the coach's generosity with her first two international goals. Pugh has proven she has what it takes right now to play at the highest level and she will be in Rio.

Morgan Brian: How nice it must have been for Ellis to have such a natural replacement for Lauren Holiday already in the fold when she retired. Brian is already an integral part of this U.S. squad and a nagging hamstring injury should be a distant memory by August.

Lindsey Horan: The Portland Thorn is physical, sharp around goal, and is comfortable on the ball. Against a team like France, which gave the Yanks quite a game just last month, Horan will be looked upon to put her foot on the ball and distribute.

Samantha Mewis: While she may not get into the starting XI, Mewis is a solid option in a holding midfield role who could come on late in games to see out a victory in the knockout rounds.


Alex Morgan: Eight games started, eight goals in 2016 for Morgan. The Orlando Pride forward will be expected to step up big time in order for the Yanks to defend their title.

Crystal Dunn: Dunn barely missed out on making the World Cup roster in 2015, and she won't be missing out this time. Eight goals of her own in 2016 added to her incredible pace makes for one dangerous player.

Christen Press: Morgan and Dunn are likely to get the starts up top, but Press has proven that she is plenty capable of coming off the bench and producing. If the U.S. is ever in need of a goal in the tournament, Press can be the go-to sub who has experience in big games.

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Those are my picks for Rio in 2016. Who do you think will slot into Ellis' roster?