World Cup Mania is here again, friends! The National Teams, including the USWNT last week with a cutesy The Office-inspired video, are announcing their rosters. Jill Ellis' choices to represent the U.S. women came with few surprises, but there were certainly a handful of omissions. But don't despair — you can still watch these talented athletes in NWSL competition throughout the summer. Isn't it amazing? So much soocer!
Here's who to watch in league play during the World Cup, and who you should definitely keep an eye out for future National Team call-ups.
Casey Short (D, Chicago Red Stars)
This is the story of a coach, who searched around the globe for a competent out-and-out left back, playing a brilliant and powerful striker out of her natural position, only to discover that the right woman for her was right in front of her all along.
We're just fans, standing in front of a coach who is willing to play Tobin Heath and Crystal Dunn as left backs, asking her to consider Casey Short. Short's omission from the National Team roster for France is perhaps the most perplexing given the lack of depth at her position; but also, y'all, Casey Short is good. She kept one of the anchors of the USWNT, Tobin Heath, quiet in the wild Portland/Chicago clash. She can score lofty stunners.
Whether it was an either/or decision between her and Ali Krieger is almost beside the point in a squad lacking overall defensive depth, and Short has shown in the NWSL that she can keep up with the best attackers in the world. With the absence of the Red Stars' starting keeper Alyssa Naeher during the World Cup, a strong backline will be essential, so expect Short to be an anchor for the Red Stars and maybe give Ellis some buyer's remorse.
I'll let this salty Wikipedia edit take it from here:
McCall Zerboni (MF, North Carolina Courage)
Zerboni, along with Short, was probably the omission that made the most USWNT supporters Big Mad on the Internet, with many arguing she should have been selected as a backup to Julie Ertz in the event of injury or Ertz taking a spot on the back line, in the stead of Allie Long or the injury-prone Morgan Brian. And for Zerboni, 32, it may have been her last shot at a World Cup spot. (Although Carli Lloyd is 36, so never say never?)
Zerboni, like her North Carolina teammate Jessica McDonald, has seen her star rise through dominance in the NWSL, and even after her 2018 season ended early due to injury, she was still instrumental in the Courage's dominant performance all season and named to the NWSL Best XI. The Courage are still unbeaten in their first four, and Zerboni's midfield mettle is part of the reason why. Whether you see her as a tough, defensive, physical midfielder or a master of the Dark Footballing Arts, eyes will be on Zerboni as she continues an impressive run in the domestic league.
Meghan Klingenberg (D, Portland Thorns)
Like Short, Klingenberg is an actual, honest-to-blog National Team-caliber LB who is also not a homophobe like some other National Team-caliber LBs who will remain nameless. Once a National Team regular, Kling hasn't played in Ellis' squad in a few years.
But Kling has had a notable start to her 2019 NWSL campaign with the Thorns, even being named to the NWSL Team of the Month for April. With two assists, six interceptions, and an impressive passing success rate, Klingenberg could bring versatility and experience to the LB position. Instead, she'll just continue bringing those things to the Thorns as they expand upon a solid start to the season.
Sofia Huerta (MF, Houston Dash)
Okay. So. The USWNT is definitely not short on attacking power. Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath and Crystal Dunn — who, again, will probably be playing as a defender — are all returning to no one's surprise, and Jessica McDonald has impressed in the NWSL. And Huerta's specialty is firepower. She's been fast and furious for the Dash, netting a goal and an assist so far on the season, and there's likely more where that came from.
Like Crystal Dunn, another successful attacking player in the NWSL, Ellis has in the past wanted to mold the versatile Huerta into the back line for international play, but the Dash had other plans, and Huerta has excelled in the No. 10 role in Houston. So it goes. Huerta will hopefully get another shot at the National Team, but in the meantime, her dynamic, Swiss-Army-knife play and thrilling drives will wow the NWSL crowds.
Anyway, Sofia Huerta deserves the world, and no, I will not be taking questions at this time.
Lynn Williams (F, North Carolina Courage)
With Jill Ellis tending to favor attack mode and a veritable buttload of goal-scoring talent on the USWNT — including Crystal Dunn, the very talented natural forward who, again, and I cannot stress this enough, will probably play this World Cup at left back — someone's gonna get left out. But the recent performance and form of Williams, who has netted a handful of caps for the National Team since 2016, merits more than an occasional SheBelieves Cup cameo.
She's made a name for herself in firepower alongside USWNT-called Courage teammates Jessica McDonald and Crystal Dunn, and was right behind Samantha Kerr in last year's NWSL Golden Boot chase. And with Kerr and Dunn out for the World Cup, that title just might be hers this year.
(Photo: Jamie Smed/Flickr)