2011 Breakers Preview (A Supporter’s View) Part 2
Prior to examining how the Breakers roster will be affected by potential World Cup call-ups, it is worthwhile to list those teams involved in the tournament. Representing Europe are England, France, Norway, and Sweden as well as host Germany. Representing Asia are Australia, Japan, and North Korea. Africa sends Nigeria and newcomers Equatorial Guinea. Brazil and Colombia represent South America and CONCACAF sends Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Oceania’s lone team is New Zealand. A quick glance at the Breakers’ current roster shows that only England and the USA team selections will impact the Blues directly.
England (Group B- Japan, New Zealand, Mexico, England)
Locks: Alex Scott, Kelly Smith
Hope Powell’s job is very easy when it comes to picking eligible Breakers for England. Barring injury, England will go as far as Kelly Smith’s boot carries them. The usual concern exists for Smith’s knee, but it is a World Cup, not a friendly and she is sure to be first-choice. As for Alex Scott, she is the exact type of wingback a team needs to make a deep World Cup run. She knows when to attack and has the pace to get back and defend.
United States (Group C- USA, North Korea, Colombia, Sweden)
Locks: Amy LePeilbet, Lauren Cheney, Rachel Buehler, Stephanie Cox
Bubble: Alyssa Naeher, Kelley O’Hara
Long Shot: Leslie Osborne, Jordan Angeli
It is a forgone conclusion that the Breakers will lose all of their first choice defenders to the World Cup between England and the United States. Aside from LePeilbet, starting spots are not a given. It all depends largely on where Pia Sundhage slots Buehler and who else is picked for the backline. Regardless of how frequently they play, the three defenders are all but assured, of being in Germany this summer. The same can be said for Lauren Cheney. Unless she picks up an injury or has a total loss of form the Under Armour girl should be competing with Alex Morgan and Amy Rodriguez for the slot next to Abby Wambach. Is she assured of playing every match? No, but it is fairly clear that she will not be helping the Breakers on the field come June.
Alyssa Naeher is a player that could be said to be on the border between Bubble and Long Shot. She had a strong second half of 2010 and earned her first call-up to a national team camp. However, the keeper situation is fairly settled. All potential injury setbacks aside, Hope Solo and Nicole Barnhart will be in Germany. Based on how the rosters have looked so far in 2011, it is fair to say that Ashlyn Harris has the inside track to a third slot. Breakers fans certainly should be forgiven for hoping that Naeher, a strong keeper of the future, stays stateside instead of just making up the numbers in Germany.
Kelley O’Hara’s situation is one that will have to be monitored in the early part of the WPS season. She did see action in the Algarve Cup and is very much on Pia’s mind. However, the number of solid players in her position makes it difficult to call her a lock for Germany. She will most likely be part of a pre-World Cup training camp and is in the roster training in England. Time will tell if she makes a strong enough impression to be named to the team.
Leslie Osborne and Jordan Angeli are two players that Breakers fans believe belong in Germany, but are not really in Pia’s plans. Osborne’s leadership in training is certainly valued, but it is clear that her holding midfield role is one that does not really exist in the national team set-up. For Angeli, World Cup 2011 could be considered one year too early. While players have been thrown into the cauldron of a big competition before (Amy Rodriguez in Beijing), it is hard to see Jordan being called in this late to the party without a real look from Pia. That being said, she could be in a great position to get into the 2012 London Olympic team. Another standout season would certainly make her a difficult player to ignore.