Ahead of a second and final overseas trip of 2012, U23 WNT coach Randy Waldrum knows what he wants to get out of the coming week.
Traveling to Norway for the Three Nations tournament, the USA is scheduled to play U23 national teams from Sweden and Norway. For Waldrum it’s an opportunity to continue to evaluate the U.S. women’s player pool.
“These international games really tell us a lot,” he told TopDrawerSoccer.com . “It’s such a different level than the college game that some of these players are playing in, and even some of the pro leagues we have – internationals are always something different.”
With the primary objective is the continued identification of players to recommend to women’s head coach Pia Sundhage, Waldrum has called up a roster of 17 players, a mix of college players and professionals both in the United States and abroad.
All have at one point played in the collegiate ranks in the United States, and recent graduates like Ingrid Wells and Sarah Hagen will get a chance to impress Waldrum, and by that avenue, possibly earn a look with the full team.
Along with being a mixture of college and pro players, the group is also a blend of players in the final year of eligibility for the U23 age group and those who will be able to return next year. Because of that, another objective for Waldrum is continuing to implement a playing style.
“For kids that come back for the next cycle starting next January, we’ve really been trying to imprint a style of play,” Waldrum said. “All of our mandates from [Technical Director] April [Heinrichs] and from [Development Director] Jill Ellis is all of our teams playing in a 4-3-3 and some variation of that. We’ve been trying slowly over these last five or six months is imprint that style of play that we want.”
This competition marks the third time in 2012 that the U23 team has assembled. And while Waldrum knows the player pool very well, he’s looking forward to the chance to add a few new faces to the group, with players like Wells and Hagen getting a call up for this trip, a first for this year.
“I think mixing that group in with what we’ve been working with over the last four months is pretty exciting, so I’m looking forward to that with the group,” he said.
The team departed on Sunday, June 11, and the competition itself beings on June 15, as the United States faces Sweden’s U23s. Two days later, they’ll take on Norway, and wrap up with a final game before traveling back home to the States on June 20.
From Waldrum’s perspective, along with identifying players and working on a style of play, there is still the objective of winning the tournament as well.
But win or lose, this group has no World Cup to work towards and this trip is set to mark the final one of 2012. Players who won’t be eligible next year will then have to hope to earn a look from Sundhage in order to next put on a U.S. jersey.
And with the professional women’s game in the United States in a bit of a lurch with the demise of the WPS earlier in the year, it might be harder to achieve that without moving abroad – although Waldrum thinks that’s a trend that could continue to grow for those with professional and international aspirations.
“I think the ones that are serious about playing and continuing to play are going to go do it,” Waldrum said. “I think we have more overseas than we’ve ever had, and I think that’s only going to continue if we don’t get a league back. We need a place for them to play.”
Without a place to play, it’ll be more difficult for players in between youth and full national teams to earn a look. That makes this trip an even bigger prospect for those who earned the call.
U23 WNT Roster for Norway
GOALKEEPERS (2): Brittany Anghel (Syracuse; East Meadow N.Y.), Adrianna Franch (Oklahoma State; Salina, Kan.)
DEFENDERS (5): Natasha Anasi (Duke; Arlington, Texas), Cami Levin (Pali Blues; Newport Coast, Calif.), Toni Pressley (New England Mutiny; Melbourne, Fla.), Elli Reed (Boston Breakers; Park City, Utah), Meredith Speck (Long Island Fury; Rockville Centre, N.Y.)
MIDFIELDERS (5): Amber Brooks (North Carolina; New Hope, Pa.), Amanda DaCosta (Boston Breakers; Somers, N.Y.), Christine Nairn (Penn State; Annapolis, Md.), Meleana Shim (Santa Clara; Honolulu, Hawaii), Ingrid Wells (Kopparberg/Goteborg FC; Montclair, N.J.)
FORWARDS (5): Sarah Hagen (Bayern Munich; Appleton, Wis.), Melissa Henderson (Boston Breakers; Garland, Texas), Morgan Marlborough (Santa Clara; Kansas City, Mo.), Stephanie Ochs (WNY Flash; San Diego, Calif.), Gabriella Toulouse (Ragsveds IF; Arlington, Va.)