The old adage goes ‘history has a way of repeating itself.’
The U20 Women’s National Team is hoping that is not the case this time around.
Head coach Steve Swanson named a 20-player roster last week for the U20 CONCACAF Qualifyiing Tournament in Panama, which begins on March 1.
With the goal of reaching the summer’s FIFA U20 World Cup on the line, this 20-player roster includes six returnees from the 2010 U17 CONCACAF Championship team, which shockingly failed to qualify for the World Cup.
“I know it can be on the back of their minds,” Swanson told TopDrawerSoccer.com about the memory of failing to qualify. “But for us, this is a new team. It is important for us to draw on the positives of how far we have come as a team and continue to take one game at a time – not look too far ahead or behind. The past is the past.”
Mollie Pathman, who wore the captain’s armband for this team at the Four Nations Tournament earlier this month and was part of the last U20 World Cup team that lost in the quarterfinals to Nigeria, said it is about moving forward with this group.
“I think a lot of people on the team have unfinished business whether they were in the U20 World Cup two summers ago or on that U17 team,” said Pathman. “But we aren't trying to focus on that. We are moving forward and focusing on what we can accomplish this year.”
This year has been kind to Swanson’s group. The team recently captured the title at the Four Nation’s Cup in La Manga, Spain with a convincing 10-0 win over Switzerland, 2-0 victory over Norway, and 1-0 win over Germany.
“I thought we did a good job defensively as a group,” said Swanson about the tune-up. “Our back four did quite well in limiting the chances in three games. In that standpoint, it was a good tournament because we were tested. Our midfield, backs and goalkeepers all preformed well, which was good to see at this point.”
Pathman, who plays college soccer at Duke, also said that the tournament in Spain was a good warm-up for the team before qualifying begins, which starts on March 2 for the Stars and Stripes against Guatemala.
“I think the La Manga tournament was great preparation for these qualifiers,” said Pathman. “It was good to get three quality games in and it really helped us come together as a team.”
Defender Stephanie Amack, the youngest player on the roster, agreed with Pathman about the team's cohesiveness.
"The team is really coming together," said Amack who already made a verbal commitment to Stanford. "This is an incredibly talented and competitive group of players."
Striker Lindsey Horan was the star from the Four Nations Tournament, as she collected the honors for the best player of the event.
“There is no question she is a top talent at this age group,” said Swanson about UNC recruit Horan. “She is a real hard-worker, which I really like. She has a bright future.”
Swanson said that midfielder Sarah Killion also had a very good tournament overall in Spain.
“I thought Sarah did a nice job over there – just linking our team and settling us down when we needed it,” added Swanson.
UCLA freshman and Fort Wayne, Indiana native Killion is one of the standouts from the midfield, which is where the coach highlighted some of the positive growth of this team in the last year. He was also encouraged by what he saw in Spain as the team started to get on the same page.
“I think overall, it is about how we are coming together on both sides of the ball as a team.”
Now, the coach’s attention is firmly placed on qualifying for the World Cup and he knows he is going to face some challenging obstacles when his team starts play in Panama.
“We know it won’t be easy,” said Swanson. “It is a tough environment to play in. Our goal is to make it to the finals and qualify for the World Cup.”
The situation may be challenging, but the coach is secure with this group of players about getting the job done.
“We have a grounded group that knows every game will be important there. I am confident in this team. We are certainly looking to get off to a good start. We are excited for the challenge.”
“Now it’s just time for us to put it all together,” Pathman summed it up aptly.
U.S. U-20 Women's National Team World Cup Qualifying Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (2): Bryane Heaberlin (North Carolina; St. Petersburg, Fla.), Abby Smith (Dallas Texans; Dallas, Texas)
DEFENDERS (6): Stephanie Amack (Mustang Blast; Pleasanton, Calif.), Olivia Brannon (Virginia; Troy, Mich.) Crystal Dunn (North Carolina; Rockville Centre, N.Y.), Kassey Kallman (Florida State; Woodbury, Minn.), Mollie Pathman (Duke; Durham, N.C.), Cari Roccaro (Albertson Fury; East Islip, N.Y.)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Morgan Brian (Virginia; St. Simons Island, Ga.), Vanessa DiBernardo (Illinois; Naperville, Ill.), Julie Johnston (Santa Clara; Mesa, Ariz.), Sarah Killion (UCLA; Fort Wayne, Ind.), Mandy Laddish (Notre Dame; Lee’s Summit, Mo.), Sam Mewis (UCLA; Hanson, Mass.)
FORWARDS (6): Micaela Capelle (Portland; Gresham, Ore.), Maya Hayes (Penn State; West Orange, N.J.), Lindsey Horan (Colorado Rush; Golden, Colo.), Kealia Ohai (North Carolina; Draper, Utah), Katie Stengel (Wake Forest; Melbourne, Fla.), Chi Ubogagu (Stanford; Coppell, Texas)
J.R. Eskilson is a staff reporter at TopDrawerSoccer.com. Follow him on or send him an email.