The United States Women’s National Team roster for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup is full of internationally known names in the world of soccer. Names like Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd.
But some of those names reside in Salt Lake City and play for the Utah Royals FC. Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelley O’Hara and Christen Press are all regular starters for the Royals, and after this year’s worldwide tournament is over, they will have eight Women’s World Cup experiences among them.
For Sauerbrunn and O’Hara, it will be their third consecutive time competing in the Women’s World Cup. It’s the second consecutive for Press. The USWNT won the trophy in Canada in 2015 and are the favorites to repeat this year in France.
USA VS. THAILAND
When • Tuesday, 1 p.m. MDT
TV • Ch. 13
Press said she felt like a rookie four years ago playing among her national team compatriots. Now four years older and one of the veteran leaders on the team off the bench, she’s looking forward to settling and even thriving in that new role with the USWNT.
“Very, very quickly … a large group of players who felt youthful in 2015 are now on the veteran leadership group on the team,” said Press, 30. “I think that’s strange and sometimes we feel old. But also I think I take a lot of pride in that, in helping steer the team toward positivity, toward resilience, to help pass down some of the lessons that I learned when I was on the other side.”
Sauerbrunn will be a familiar face in the back line for fans. But she will be anchoring a set of players that are conspicuously different from the 2015 version. The 33-year-old center back will likely share the field with O’Hara, Crystal Dunn and Abby Dahlkemper in 2019.
Four years ago, that starting group included Ali Krieger, Julie Ertz and Meghan Klingenberg. Those players, including Sauerbrunn and goalkeeper Hope Solo, anchored a U.S. defense that did not give up a goal in 540 consecutive minutes of play, the second-longest streak since Germany’s 679 scoreless minutes from 2003-2011.
Sauerbrunn said she wants to be a leader for the team, and that may start with how she organizes the back line — with her voice.
"I feel like I have taken on more of a vocal role,” Sauerbrunn told The Associated Press. “That comes with organizing the people around me. … But also in a World Cup setting, you don't hear a lot, so you can't really speak beyond 15 yards to another person. … But in those moments when you can say something, yes, I feel like that is a role that I have had to step into, and that I'm happy to step into.”
For O’Hara, this World Cup might be one of redemption. She missed the majority of last season with the Royals due to injuries, and underwent ankle surgery last October. She played the first two games for the Royals in 2019, but Harvey somewhat managed her minutes.
In early May, O’Hara said she wasn’t yet fully fit. But in the three sendoff games the USWNT played before heading to France, she played 45 minutes against South Africa, 60 against New Zealand and 90 against Mexico. She started all three.
Coming back from injury has given her an appreciation for not only this World Cup, but her career as a whole.
“Being out for most of 2018 and dealing with a lot of injuries and a lot of just emotional and mental stress from all of that has made everything more meaningful,” O’Hara said. “It really just has made me fall in love with the game again and be so appreciative of being healthy and being able to just play soccer.”
Whatever role they play in the 2019 tournament, Sauerbrunn, Press and O’Hara all feel the U.S. have the roster and the mentality it will take to bring another trophy home to the states — and to Utah.
“I could not imagine a group of people who are more dedicated to being better than each other,” Press told Glamour Magazine. “But this team does an amazing job of coming together and really fighting and putting all that fuel in the same direction.”
WORLD CUP ROYALTY
Joined the Utah Royals FC via midseason trade in 2018. … Competing in her second consecutive Women’s World Cup. … Has 47 goals and 29 assists for the USWNT. … All-time leading scorer at Stanford University with 71 goals. … Played in Sweden after the Women’s Professional Soccer league folded.
Competing in her third consecutive Women’s World Cup. … Considered on of the best center backs in women’s soccer. … Winner of NWSL Defender of the Year three years in a row as a member of FC Kansas City. … Played the flute as a child.
Competing in her third consecutive Women’s World Cup. … Healthy after undergoing ankle surgery in October. … Has two goals as a defender on the USWNT. … Has experience playing attacking and defending positions. … Won a WPS championship in 2010 with the FC Gold Pride.