As coach Jill Ellis selected her roster for the U.S. women’s national team last month, one thing became evident – she trusts her veterans.
Nearly half of the players who made the roster for France 2019 played in the World Cup four years ago. Ellis has put an emphasis on the mental aspects that come with competing on the sport’s highest stage, specifically knowing that the veterans will be able to adapt and respond under pressure.
“World Cups aren’t moments to invest in players,” Ellis said on a conference call after announcing her roster. “World Cups are about winning.”
Ellis said in making a surprise selection with defender Ali Krieger, who has only played for the national team once in the last 25 months, that “no moment is ever going to be too big for (Krieger).”
“When you weigh putting a player in with 10 minutes left in a game and they know their role on a set piece and the moment doesn’t get too big for them, those are the pieces you just – you can’t buy that experience,” Ellis said.
One veteran who understands Ellis’ way of thinking is Carli Lloyd, who has been a member of the national team since 2005 and has already competed in three World Cup tournaments. She said knowing what to do when the stakes are the highest is an aspect that can only be figured out with time.
“It’s the biggest stage you can ever be a part of,” Lloyd told Omisport. “You just have to experience it. You have to stay the course and try not to get too far ahead of yourself. It’s one of those things where you just have to enter the beast and deal with things as they come. But there’s not too many things that can kind of replicate those moments except for playing there.”
Lloyd has watched players break onto the national stage and then grow into their role of leading the team. She takes pride in helping shape future generations of the sport.
“With all of us veterans it’s kind of our job to keep raising the bar and keep improving on and off the field and just bringing that leadership when the going gets tough and sharing some of those experiences with some of the other players,” Lloyd said.
Megan Rapinoe is another veteran who has experienced just about all there is to encounter when it comes to the international stage. She earned a spot on the national team in 2006 and played an integral role on the 2011 and 2015 World Cup teams. She has battled through injuries and knows the amount of adversity that can come with playing at the highest level, and sees it as part of her role to help the rookies get through those tough times.
“We just want to be the best team as possible and so bringing in new talent and learning from them is just going to give us a better product on the field and so what I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older is there’s just certain things that you don’t know until you know,” Rapinoe told Omnisport. “And there’s a lot of us that have been through a lot of different situations from qualifying to World Cups to a couple different leagues and so my role is just to relay my experience to the younger kids.”
Despite how many years are behind the veterans, there’s still an enormous amount of pride that comes with being selected to represent the United States at the World Cup.
“Even though this is my fourth World Cup roster, it’s just as special as the first one I was named to,” Lloyd said after the roster was announced (via ussoccer.com). “It’s a different chapter of my career, this most likely being my last World Cup, but it’s an honor to be among this talented group we have going to France.
“Even though we won in 2015, there’s still so much hunger on this team to go after that trophy and I’m looking forward to this experience with my teammates as it will be one of biggest and most exciting challenges of ours careers. At each World Cup I’ve played in, the level keeps getting better, and that’s a credit to the growth of the game around the world on and off the field.”
Lloyd is the oldest player on the roster at 36, while Tierna Davidson, who has 20 caps and one goal, is the youngest at age 20. Davidson will look up to the likes of Lloyd and Rapinoe to continue carrying on the strong tradition of the USA’s success at the World Cup.
“It’s such an honor and really a dream come true,” Davidson said. “It’s kind of crazy to think it could happen being this young, but making the team is something I’m really proud of and I’m just excited to see what this summer brings. … I’m a product of the people that I’ve played and trained with so I’m just grateful to all of them.”