The USWNT Forwards Are The Strength of the U.S. Team
At last, this roster coverage turns away from the goalkeepers, defense and midfield and to the strength of the U.S. Women’s National Team roster: the forwards. Attacking ability is the utmost importance to the Americans. Oddly enough, even with the talent of the three starters (Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath), Jill Ellis brought four additional forwards. Some of them, especially a clutch veteran like Carli Lloyd, could see action as a midfielder as well. They have incredible depth at the position, filled with diverse talent. Any other country would dream of this level of security and upside. Creating scoring opportunities is what the USWNT forwards do better than anyone else. Here is the most dangerous attacking group in the World Cup.
The USWNT Forward Projected Starters
Alex Morgan | Age: 29 | Caps: 163 | ST | Team Captain
When soccer fans think of U.S. soccer, Alex Morgan is who they think of. She is the face of the USWNT. Morgan is among the most prolific goal-scorers in U.S. history. Morgan’s 101 goals rank 6th all time and her 0.62 goals per game is elite. Morgan was the U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year in 2012 and 2018, in addition to being the CONCACAF Player of the Year in 2013, 2016, 2017 and 2018. She is, beyond a doubt, a pure goal-scorer, through and through.
Peculiarly, Morgan never found her footing in the NWSL. Her 0.36 goals per game is significantly lower than her international average. Additionally, Morgan never earned an NWSL Best XI appearance. She also was only NWSL Player of the Week once in her career. In the NWSL, Morgan is just another player. But internationally, Alex Morgan is sensational.
For the USWNT forwards, Morgan is the electricity. When she broke out for the USWNT, Morgan displayed game-breaking speed and a knack for scoring. She was raw, fast and powerful. Morgan’s skillset gives her the ability to get behind the defense. She routinely gains position with speed and strength. Her athleticism and shooting ability were always dangerous. But, in recent years Morgan’s developed into even more of a threat.
Alex Morgan Evolved
In her growth, Morgan evolved into a well-balanced striker, willing to also be a role-player. In games, Morgan is seen making clearing runs or setting up the pass before the assist. She sets up her surrounding teammates for success. Her intelligence and knack for field position have also upgraded. Morgan makes phenomenal off-ball runs and has an impeccable first touch.
So, remember that Morgan can and likely will score in plenty. She has incredible upside, scoring 28 goals with 21 assists in 2012. In her arsenal, she has:
- Exceptional Position
- First Touch Accuracy
- Ability to Score with Both Feet and Head
- Speed and Strength through Contact
- Elite Off-Ball Runs
- Natural Scoring Ability
Megan Rapinoe | Age: 33 | Caps: 153 | LW | Team Captain
Three. In her soccer career, Megan Rapinoe has suffered three different ACL tears. But, each time she has returned to all-pro form. Her last ACL tear was in 2015 and many have placed partial fault of the USWNT’s loss to Sweden on Rapinoe’s recovering knee. But no more. Rapinoe is back and dangerous as ever.
There are two words that describe Rapinoe best: versatile and creative. Rapinoe is comfortable and a threat with either foot. She beats opponents on the left side to send in assists from the byline or cuts inside to create her own right-footed shot. Rapinoe can score or assist from every piece of grass on the attacking third.
Based off of her assist count, Rapinoe is an easy choice for playmaker. Her 57 assists ranked 5th all-time for the USWNT. In the 2015 World Cup, Rapinoe serviced up key passes on the regular. Her vision and feel of the game is brilliant. She is the Andre Pirlo of the UWSNT forwards. Rapinoe can and will set up her teammates to succeed.
After fouls, Rapinoe is at her most potent. Her dead-ball service is top of the world. She delivers upper-v strikes to the back of the net or lofty passes to a teammates head. Rapinoe’s intelligence and placement is unmatched. When, not if, the opposition gives her a dead ball opportunity, be ready for the spectacular.
Tobin Heath | Age: 31 | Caps: 150 | RW
Get your highlight reels ready because Tobin Heath’s footwork is ridiculous. It always has been. In her first USWNT cap, on her very first touch on the ball, Heath nutmegged two Canadian defenders. This is her story. Heath is confident and aggressive with her foot skills. She’s much like Brazilian footballers in that way. Why dribble around a player when she can nutmeg them?
Best of all, Heath is entering the 2019 Women’s World Cup in her best form. She notched 10 international goals since the start of 2018. Additionally, Heath earned an NWSL Best XI in 2018 and Best XI in the CONCACAF Women’s Championship. Her seven goals and six assists in just ten games in 2018 are exceptional.
On the right side of the pitch, Heath can be left alone. Because of her technical strength, Heath is difficult to guard one-on-one or even two-on-one. She can beat people off the dribble on any touch, has pace to run down a through ball, and plays through contact. Heath frequently makes professional and international defenders look inadequate.
In her third World Cup, Heath is expected to be great. She made four appearances in the 2011 World Cup and started five of the seven 2015 World Cup games. Big tournaments are not foreign for Heath. She is 31 years old and is a veteran winger. Barring injury, Heath should start all seven games and continue her 2018 success.
Carli Lloyd | Age: 36 | Caps: 274 | ST/AM | Captain
Wait. Carli Lloyd is a reserve? That’s almost as shocking as watching the NBA playoffs without LeBron James. To those new to the soccer world, Carli Lloyd is a USWNT legend. She’s ranked in the top-ten for caps, goals and assists. In the 2015 Women’s World Cup, Lloyd was clutch as could be. She scored in each of the USWNT final four games. In the final, Lloyd unleashed the beast and scored a hat trick to push the USWNT into victory. She was unstoppable, topping off her hat trick with a half-field strike.
Lloyd, after that ridiculous finals effort, was obviously granted the tournament’s Golden Boot. She was also the 2015 FIFA World Player of the Year. Everything went right for Lloyd and she is the last memory of the 2015 FIFA World Cup.
After the World Cup, Lloyd spent a few professional seasons with sub-star levels of performance. Adding to that is her age. Lloyd is 36 years old, 37 in July. She’s not fit enough to efficiently play a full-90 anymore. But, with the talent around her, she doesn’t have to be.
Instead, Lloyd gets the chance to come off the bench as a super-sub. Ellis moved the attacking midfielder to a reserve forward for one reason: come off the bench and shoot. Lloyd never hesitated to shoot as a midfielder and will certainly not pause as a USWNT forward. She always goes for goal, aggressively and determined. Though she’s not as fast as her younger self, Lloyd can play technical and crafty. Judging by her latest performances on the USWNT roster, it appears she’s once again found her footing. Lloyd scored five times in her last three matches. Once again, Lloyd is ramping up her international clutch gene. Get ready to watch the return of a legend.
Christen Press | Age: 30 | Caps: 116 | ST
If ever there was a player you don’t want the opposition to bring off the bench, it’s Christen Press. Press is a track-star, soccer player with incredible speed. She is a change-of-pace phenom with a high ceiling. Press will use her acceleration, along with a lethal cut back to her left-footed shot, to drive the ball into the back of the net.
At her best, Press is a goal-scoring machine. She set Stanford’s all-time scoring record with 71 goals. Press was the fifth player in USWNT history to score double-figure goals in three consecutive years (2014-2016). She slotted in with USWNT giants Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach, Tiffany Milbrett and Carli Lloyd. In those seasons, she also earned a spot on the NWSL First XI in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Additionally, she captured the 2013 Damallsvenskan Golden Boot. Those years were excellent for the striker.
Tale of Two Christen’s
But since then, she’s taken more of a backseat in USWNT scoring. After scoring 41 international goals from 2013 to 2016, Press only has 7 goals since 2017. Again, Press has game-breaking abilities. On four occasions, Press tallied an international hat trick. In one of those, she had four goals. Also, Press recently was Damallsvenskan Player of the Month after scoring four goals in three games in April of 2018. When she’s on, she’s on.
However, Press’ inconsistency as a USWNT forward is an issue. Then again, as a reserve, Press holds unbelievable upside. Her speed and scoring ceiling can open up large leads for the U.S. team. Whatever the case was for her slip in goals since 2017, Press remains an excellent reserve with World Cup experience and the ability to catch fire.
Mallory Pugh | Age: 21 | Caps: 53 | LW/RW
At just 21 years of age, Mallory Pugh already has 53 international caps. Amazing. She is without a doubt a rising star on this USWNT roster. Pugh was U.S. Soccer’s Young Female Athlete of the Year in 2015 and Gatorade’s National Female Soccer Player of the Year in 2016. For good reason.
Pugh is Technically Sound
On the USWNT forward depth chart, Pugh is a pure winger. She doesn’t hesitate to take on defenders directly with strong dribbling and precise footwork. When on the field, Pugh provides consistent, progressive runs. Attacking the defense like a seasoned veteran is what she does. Pugh has fantastic spacing and makes great runs off the ball. She understands the game and what the defense gives her. Her position makes it easy for teammates to find her. She is a technically savvy winger and that is deadly.
Adding to her winger skillset is a natural ability to score goals. In her first cap against Ireland, at just 17 years of age, Pugh came in off the bench and score. In her first cap. At 17! In 2016, she also became the youngest American player to score in the Olympic Games. Pugh knows how to get the ball in the back of the net. She is an excellent winger and will continue to rise.
With that being said, Pugh is still not as good as Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath. And that’s okay. Those are elite players. Pugh is still so young. She has more time to develop and master her craft. Still, if she is called upon this 2019 Women’s World Cup, she undoubtedly will shoot. Pugh is impressively efficient and has an uncanny ability to score.
Jessica McDonald | Age: 31 | Caps: 7| ST
Though she’s 31 years old, Jessica McDonald is the least experienced on the team, internationally speaking. She only has 7 caps to her name, gaining her first call-up in 2016. The reason behind her lack of international play is mostly because of injury and pregnancy. During her rookie season in the WPS, she suffered a devastating, knee injury with an 18-month recovery. During recovery, McDonald also became pregnant. By age 23, every other player on the USWNT roster had at least one call-up. McDonald, on the other hand, had an injured knee, a pregnancy and the dissolving WPS to worry about.
But, like many hero’s journeys, McDonald continued to persevere. It wasn’t simple either. In the last ten years, she’s played for nine different professional teams. In her son’s first two years, she played for four different teams, one in Australia. Being traded from team to team and moving from city to city, as a single mother, is not easy. Even so, McDonald made the most of her opportunities.
Paving Her Own Path
After moving back to the states for the inaugural NWSL season in 2013, Jessica McDonald began to make waves. She was the first player in the NWSL to reach 33 regular-season goals.
Even so, she still played off the bench or jumped from team to team. It wasn’t until 2017 that McDonald played on the same team for consecutive seasons. Because of their loyalty, the North Carolina Courage got the best of McDonald’s play. She helped lift them to two NWSL Shields (2016, 2017) and an NWSL Championship in 2018. In the closing moments of the 2018 season and the playoffs, McDonald was exquisite. She finished the regular season with four goals and four assists in her final seven games. Then, McDonald scored the only goal in the NWSL semifinal, then two goals in the title game and earned an NWSL Championship MVP.
McDonald may be 31, but her play is peaking. She’s finally getting the respect she deserves and a spot as a USWNT forward. McDonald is the best substitute striker in NWSL history. Now, she gets to patiently await her opportunity to strike.
If the Defense Falters, the USWNT Forwards Need to Score Multiples
After review, the USWNT forwards are without a doubt the strength of this squad. They will send volleys of shots at opponents, no matter the score. Ellis is an attacking-minded coach and her seven forwards display this. Each of them could earn a roster spot on another country’s team. This depth will serve the USWNT roster well. Especially considering the lack of depth, experience, and health at defense and goalkeeper. In order to win, the USWNT needs to score multiple goals in every game. Their defense and style will fail to shutout opponents. Nonetheless, they have the firepower needed to do so. Get ready for goals. And goals in abundance.
Check out the USWNT Goalkeeper roster break down.