Megan Rapinoe among the surprises on U.S. women's CONCACAF W Championship roster

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FILE - United States' Megan Rapinoe, right, celebrates after scoring the opening goal.
Megan Rapinoe, right, celebrates with teammate Alex Morgan after scoring on a penalty shot for the U.S. in the 2019 Women's World Cup final against the Netherlands. Rapinoe and Morgan will represent the U.S. in the CONCACAF W Championship in July. (Francisco Seco / Associated Press)

U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski on Monday called up a mix of young and veteran players for next month’s CONCACAF W Championship, the qualifier for the 2023 World Cup and 2024 Olympics. And that makes the 23-player roster one full of surprises — both for who made it and who didn’t.

Making it were forward Megan Rapinoe and defender Becky Sauerbrunn.

Rapinoe’s inclusion was surprising because the 36-year-old hasn’t started for her NWSL club this season, playing just 154 minutes over four games for the OL Reign. And she hasn’t been part of the national team since October.

Less surprising was the inclusion of Sauerbrunn, who is a week past her 37th birthday. Although she missed the national team’s April camp because of a knee injury, Sauerbrunn has played in the Portland Thorns’ last six NWSL games. She is also the U.S. captain and leads all active players with 202 international caps.

Also returning for the first time since October is Alex Morgan, the NWSL scoring leader with nine goals in as many games for the expansion San Diego Wave. She is the national team’s leading active scorer, with 115 goals, and she’ll be joined by Wave midfielder Taylor Kornieck, who is looking for her first senior national team cap.

Among the missing is Angel City forward Christen Press, who hasn’t played with the national team since last summer’s Tokyo Olympics. She left Angel City’s match in Louisville on Saturday with a knee injury, but Andonovski said she wouldn’t have beaten out Mallory Pugh and Sophia Smith — whom he called the two most exciting players in NWSL — even if she was healthy.

“She's performing well. But it's not just her now. It’s her competing with the players that are in front of her,” he said. “It's not easy to be a forward in United States. The competition has just gotten bigger and bigger.”

Samantha Mewis, center, celebrates with Christen Press and Rose Lavelle after scoring a goal.
Samantha Mewis, center, celebrates with Christen Press, right, and Rose Lavelle after scoring a goal against Portugal during an international friendly match in June 2021. (Associated Press)

Eight other regulars were not available because of injury or maternity leaves, among them Abby Dahlkemper Catarina Macario, Sam Mewis, Crystal Dunn and Julie Ertz.

The coach said Rapinoe, third among active players with 187 caps, was included largely because her experience will be valuable on a team that features 10 players under the age of 26 and eight players with fewer than 10 caps.

“She is very important for this group,” Andonovski said. “Her winning mentality, her knowledge and understanding is very valuable for the group.”

Alyssa Naeher, Kelley O’Hara, Emily Sonnett, Rose Lavelle and Lindsey Horan, all members of the World Cup-winning team in 2019, were included as well.

“They’re on the team, first and foremost, because they can perform,” Andonovski said. “Their experience is a bonus.”

The U.S. will play friendlies against Colombia on June 25 in suburban Denver and on June 28 outside Salt Lake City before flying to Monterrey, Mexico, for the eight-team CONCACAF tournament, which kicks off July 4. The U.S. will play Haiti, Jamaica and Mexico in group competition. Costa Rica, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago and Canada, the reigning Olympic champion, will play in the other group.

The top two teams in each group will earn berths in next summer’s expanded World Cup field, as well as spots in the tournament semifinals. The W Championship winner earns an automatic berth in the 2024 Paris Olympics. The second- and third-place finishers will meet in a September playoff with another Olympic invitation at stake.

The last time the U.S. played in a World Cup qualifying tournament in Mexico, in 2010, the Americans suffered their only loss against Mexico, which forced them to win a two-leg playoff with Italy to qualify for the 2011 World Cup.

The roster

Goalkeepers: Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars).

Defenders: Alana Cook (OL Reign), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit).

Midfielders: Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon), Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit).

Forwards: Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave FC), Midge Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC).

Additional players for June friendlies vs. Colombia

Defenders: Carson Pickett (North Carolina Courage).

Midfielders: Jaelin Howell (Racing Louisville), Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC).

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.