The 9 NWSL players deserving of a USWNT call-up right now
What a travesty! How could they not pick your favorite player for that national team camp, or All-Star Game, or whatever all-league team that, because of this insult, has clearly a become joke?
Why do they even bother with these things when they always get them wrong, wrong, WRONG?
Here’s the problem: If you’re going to pick a snub, you also have to identify a player who shouldn’t be called up, and on today’s U.S. women’s national team roster, there just aren’t a lot of obvious drops.
If anything, this list shows just how much the NWSL has to offer. For many, the league is supposed to be a platform for the national team. That we could come up with nine (NINE!) players who have reasonable cases shows how much the league has to offer.
In truth, our snubs list even has snubs (shoutout to Chicago’s Arin Gilliland). As for our nine, we bunched some together to keep from repeating ourselves:
Vanessa DiBernardo, MF, Chicago Red Stars
DiBernardo has established herself as an elite NWSL and Australian W-League player, yet she continues to be overlooked by her country. In fairness, it’s hard to look at the national team player pool and say, “Yes, DiBernardo absolutely would get playing time!” Hard, but not impossible.
Maybe it’s a style thing, DiBernardo not being the most physical or industrious of players, but at some point, you’d think she’d get a look. By performance, alone? She deserves one.
Emily Menges, CB, Portland Thorns
Menges is the second-best centerback in the NWSL, right now, and over the last few weeks, she’s closing the gap on Becky Sauerbrunn for Defender of the Year honors. After a Best XI performance in 2016, Menges got her first call-up last fall, but to date, she is still uncapped.
For somebody whose mental skills arguably outshine the physical, the NWSL standout might have to replicate Sauerbrunn’s path: A long, unfortunate one from years of neglect to national team stardom.
Kristen McNabb, CB, Seattle Reign
Christina Gibbons, FB/MF, FC Kansas City
The rooks! They were numbers two and three on our midseason Rookie of the Year ballot, and if Ellis is going to be calling in other first-year talents (see: Boston’s Margaret Purce), why not give these two a try?
The answer probably comes down to need and position. Purce is a wide attacker; both McNabb and Gibbons are defenders. Still, these rookies have made stellar NWSL debuts.
Gibbons was called up in January, while McNabb has emerged over the last four months. Either way, both could corner more of the conversation as the NWSL season goes on. And, if we’re being honest, neither fullback nor centerback look especially deep for the U.S., right now.
McCall Zerboni, DM, North Carolina Courage
Angela Salem, DM, Boston Breakers
We covered Zerboni’s case, here. In short, she both deserves a look and is highly unlikely to get one soon, and not without reason.
Angela Salem is in the same boat. A weathered veteran of three leagues and multiple-time champion, Salem is having a season worthy of Best XI discussion in Boston. But she also doesn’t have the raw physical tools the national team has traditionally sought.
Nevermind her elite ball-winning and ability to connect the defense with midfield. This NWSL linchpin just doesn’t seem to fit into the national team mold.
Ashley Hatch, F, North Carolina Courage
Hatch was another young player called into January camp who, like Gibbons, hasn’t been called back since. Also like Gibbons, she’s had a strong rookie season, one that hinted at a recall for this tournament.
That didn’t happen, but now trying to claim a starting spot in North Carolina (no easy task, given that team’s amazing forward depth), Hatch looks like a future call-up. What’s more, she’s a fast, agile, relentless forward.
Katelyn Rowland, GK, North Carolina Courage
Adrianna Franch, GK, Portland Thorns
Jane Campbell seems to have a paved road into the national team, having been recalled shortly after claiming Houston’s starting spot. Abby Smith, the other goalkeeper in camp (beyond No. 1 Alyssa Naeher), has now made two straight camps, doing so despite recently missing time for treatment on her surgically repaired right knee. Both are positioning themselves as key figures in the U.S.’ future.
In terms of what we’ve seen in the NWSL, though, Adrianna Franch deserves a mention. Long on the national team radar, Franch has put up this year’s best goalkeeping numbers (insert obligatory goalkeeping statistics disclaimer, here). While onlookers unfairly dwell on her occasional discomfort on the ball, every other aspect of her game is stellar. When it comes to perception, Franch is being punished for merely not being perfect.
Rowland, on the other hand, has been great with the ball at her feet (save one moment, two weeks ago, where Megan Rapinoe nearly ruined her). In limited time, having just claimed a starting job, her numbers are actually better than Franch’s. With U-20 and U-23 national team experience, you know the former UCLA Bruin is on Ellis’ radar.
Note: First published in July, and still eerily relevant!