As they prepare for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the USWNT goalkeepers have big gloves to fill. In 2016, the USWNT decided to terminate Hope Solo’s contract in controversy. Solo was the greatest women’s goalkeeper in U.S. history and probably the world. From the 2007 World Cup, she dominated the international level and was an intimidating wall to opposition. Solo holds U.S. records for international appearances, starts, wins, shutouts, wins in a season, consecutive minutes played and the longest undefeated streak. Solo led the U.S. to two Olympic gold medals and a second-place finish in the 2011 Women’s World Cup, earning the Golden Glove. Most notably, Solo’s strength, leadership and prowess as a goalkeeper led the U.S. to win the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
But now, without Solo, how will the USWNT goalkeepers fare? For over two decades, the U.S. had arguably the best back-to-back set of goalkeepers in Briana Scurry and Hope Solo. They covered six World Cups in that time. That was then. This is now. All eyes are on the USWNT to repeat their 2015 success (especially considering their lawsuit for equal pay). Because of Jill Ellis’ decision to only bring only six midfielders and seven defenders, the defense and goalkeeping will have to be stout. One injury or two yellow cards to those positions puts this team at a high risk of collapsing. The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup is a big test for the USWNT goalkeepers. Let’s hope they are mentally prepared for it.
Starting USWNT Goalkeeper
Alyssa Naeher | Age: 31 | Caps: 44
Following the Hope Solo fallout, Alyssa Naeher rose to the top of the USWNT goalkeeper’s depth chart. Alyssa Naeher is the starting goalkeeper for the Chicago Red Stars in the NWSL. In her 23 games in 2018, Naeher recorded a save success rate of 67.7-percent and 7 clean sheets. One year prior, in 2017, Naeher had a 72-percent save success rate and 6 clean sheets.
She was drafted 11th overall in the 2010 Women’s Professional Soccer draft. Since then, Naeher played for the Boston Breakers (WPS), the Turbine Potsdam (Frauen-Bundesliga), the Boston Breakers (NWSL) and the Chicago Red Stars. Naeher was NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year in 2014 when she broke the record for saves in a season (106). Soccer analysts acclaim Naeher as a top-ten goalkeeper heading into the 2019 Women’s World Cup, but criticize her lack of big-game experience and mistake prone play.
U-20 and Post-Solo Success
While Naeher doesn’t have World Cup experience, she does have starter experience in the U-20 Women’s World Cup. In that tournament, the Naeher earned the Golden Glove, while the USWNT U-20 took first place. Naeher also was on the 2015 Women’s World Cup roster. She wasn’t in the game, but she was a part of the preparation and saw the games unfold from the sidelines. Bench minutes are not equal to play minutes, but at least Naeher was part of it all. Internationally, Naeher has 43 appearances. In 2017, she started 13 of the USWNT’s 16 matches, recorded 6 shutouts and a 0.85 goals allowed average. Her strengths are in diving, reflexes and positioning. Naeher’s weaknesses are in handling and a lack of international starting experience. Critics will be quick to compare her to Solo and Scurry. Against Thailand on June 11th, Naeher needs to set the tone of her tournament.
Backup USWNT Goalkeepers
Obviously, it is a bad moment when a team turns to its backup goalkeeper. That means one of the following: injury, yellow/red card suspension, or poor play. U.S. fans do not want to see any of that. Top performances from Alyssa Naeher are the hope for U.S. soccer fans. Regardless, it is still important to know the goalkeepers in case of calamity or to better understand the future of the USWNT.
Ashlyn Harris | Age: 33 | Caps: 21
Ashlyn Harris is the starting goalkeeper for the Orlando Pride in the NWSL. In her 21 games in 2018, Harris recorded a save success rate of 66.7-percent and 4 clean sheets. One year prior, in 2017, Harris had a 66.7-percent save success rate and 2 clean sheets in 14 games.
Though Harris is incredibly talented with a rich history of club and youth-international play, injuries stifled her career. She was a standout goalkeeper at a young age. At Satellite High, she won the Gatorade National Player of the Year award. Harris earned 39 caps for the USWNT U-19 squad. Playing for the North Carolina Tar Heels, she led them to three national titles.
Professional and International Career
After an impressive young career, Harris was taken 19th overall in the Women’s Professional Soccer Draft by the St. Louis Athletica. However, she was taken as the backup to Hope Solo. Therefore, she never played a match with them. Since then, Harris played for the Washington Freedom, Western New York Flash, FCR 2001 Duisburg (Frauen-Bundesliga), Washington Spirit, Tyresö FF (Swedish Division 1) and the Orlando Pride. Harris holds three NCAA Women’s Soccer Championships (2006, 2008, 2009), one Women’s Professional Soccer Championship (2011), one FIFA U-19 Women’s World Cup Championship (2002) and one FIFA Women’s World Cup Championship (2015). She was also the 2016 NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year.
Internationally, Harris played as the backup to Hope Solo in the 2015 Women’s World Cup and now backs up Alyssa Naeher in the 2019 Women’s World Cup. She has 21 total caps and has yet to carve out consistent playing time. Harris also suffered a minor knee injury in April. But, she appears to be fit and ready for competition.
On a personal note, Harris’s fiance Ali Krieger is also on the 23-women USWNT roster
Adrianna Franch | Age: 28 | Caps: 1
Adrianna Franch is the starting goalkeeper for the Portland Thorns in the NWSL. In her 16 games in 2018, Franch recorded a save success rate of 73.9-percent and 3 clean sheets. One year prior, in 2017, Naeher had a 80.2-percent save success rate and 12 clean sheets in 26 games. In each season, she earned the title of NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year.
Our youngest and least experienced of the USWNT goalkeepers, Adrianna Franch is exceptional. At Oklahoma State University, Franch was the seventh player in Big 12 history to earn All-Big 12 First Team in each of her four seasons. Franch’s 38 collegiate shutouts are an OSU record and sixth all time in NCAA history.
Best Goalkeeper in the NWSL
Taken sixth overall in the 2013 college draft of the NWSL by the Western New York Flash, Franch quickly impressed soccer fans. She recorded six saves in her first game and helped the Flash to an NWSL Shield in 2013. Then, after missing the 2014 NWSL season, Franch started 12 matches for the Norwegian Avaldsnes IL in the Toppserien league. They finished second place in 2015. Then, Franch found her home in Portland. Franch recorded three shutouts in just six games in 2016, aiding the Portland Thorns to an NWSL Shield. Then, Franch led the Portland Thorns to an NWSL Championship in 2017. She was the NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year in back-to-back seasons. Franch is the first player to win this award twice.
Though Franch is decorated collegiately and professionally, she lacks international experience. She only has one cap to her name. Nonetheless, Franch very well could be the best goalkeeper on the roster. She plays in the same league as both Naeher and Harris, recorded better save success percentages in 2017 and 2018, and held a clean-sheet on 37.5-percent of her games with the Portland Thorns. She may be buried on the USWNT goalkeeper roster right now, but Franch is the future of this team.