USWNT in SheBelieves Cup: What we need to learn with 2023 World Cup right around the corner

The US women’s team will host Brazil, Canada and Japan in the eighth edition of the SheBelieves Cup, which officially begins on Thursday. The SheBelieves Cup is a rare event among several round robin tournaments taking place in FIFA’s official February window. This summer, all four participating countries qualified for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. The annual event will be the last opportunity for teams heading to the World Cup to reflect group stage play within the competition.

Head coach Vlatko Andonovski has named a 23-player roster ahead of the SheBelieves Cup and while the number of players for the USWNT is getting smaller, there are still positional areas and tactical issues that need to be addressed. As the players continue to prepare for the World Cup this summer, let’s take a look at three things we want to see from the team in the SheBelieves Cup:

More minutes for returning players

Part of the team’s form in 2022 was affected by injuries and lack of players. Squad selection for friendlies and the Concacaf W Championship introduced new players throughout 2022. Players who were injured at the end of the season or were on maternity leave are now re-integrated into the team.

Christa Dunn returned from maternity leave in September and earned her first start with the team during the January training camp against New Zealand. Dunn’s two starts in a row were two 45-minute shifts as she continues to add minutes with the team. Three games in a week will be a new challenge and the coaching staff can remain cautious in managing the games.

Lynn Williams came off the bench against New Zealand and left the January camp with a goal and an assist. Her hamstring surgery has kept her out of calls during 2022, and her 20-30 minute restriction window could expand to Brazil, Canada, or Japan. Emily Sonnett also returned to the team during the January training camp. She had a limited number of minutes on the back line, although her number of minutes may depend on what kind of staff the coaching staff may want to see on the back line.

Midfield fiddling

The January training camp finally brought some tactical changes to Andonovsky. He has relied too much on a 4-3-3 formation for a team that has sadly looked stagnant at times over the past year. While the lineup tended to work after the 2019 World Cup when options were Sam Mewis and Julie Ertz, injury has since forced players to rotate in the middle third in the #8 and #6 roles in particular.

Lindsey Horan, Christy Mewis, Sam Coffey, Andy Sullivan and now Taylor Cornick are all players who have been asked to spend time in the defensive middle position. While Sullivan was the player who usually played the No. 6 role last year, Andonowski introduced another player to the ever-changing defensive middle line-up during the January training camp, with Cornick starting against New Zealand.

While it’s not a wild idea to put the tallest player in the most demanding position, Cornick’s limited time in the role is likely to increase during the SheBelieves Cup. Andonowski told reporters during the squad announcement that the midfield scenarios they entered during the January camps will receive a higher score during matches against Brazil, Canada and Japan.

Cornick played as a defensive mid for San Diego Wave FC, but she had more opportunities to collaborate with her club. Head Coach Casey Stoney is also keeping an eye on new developments from Cornick and the USWNT.

“At times I played it lower but looser,” Stoney said during a recent media appearance. “I always played her with someone else, so she wasn’t an isolated six. I don’t see Taylor in that light for us. I think that we will deprive her of her power if she plays with an isolated six.

“If she played like a double six with the freedom to go forward, yes, potentially, and we did that last year. But I sent her to training because I knew she was leaving the national team and she needed to work.” on it, if she plays for a single six, you need to be disciplined and understand this role very clearly.

Defense organization

The January camp didn’t offer much to evaluate defense after two uneven scores, but the SheBelieves Cup may offer different scenarios. As in midfield, back row players have been rotated due to lack of players and injuries. Dunn’s return makes it difficult for the coaching staff to assess outside back depth, with Sonnett fully engaged on the back line.

When Andonowski revealed his roster of 23 players for the SheBelieves Cup, it included defender Tierna Davidson as a training camp player. The 24-year-old center back is in the final stages of ACL rehabilitation and is considered part of the young core of the USWNT. Despite his young age, Davidson offers a level of experience as a world champion and Olympic bronze medalist but will not qualify for a match during the SheBeleieves Cup.

Alana Cook and Naomi Girma may remain in the spotlight. The duo struggled in the opening minutes of the match against England in the bright lights of London’s Wembley Stadium, but regrouped and kept their composure for the remainder of the match. The duo also started against New Zealand in January cameos, but a five-goal lockout is hardly a yardstick to judge the pair. The coaching staff are aware of the reliability of veteran defender Becky Sauerbrunn. Competition with other World Cup teams can provide more game video to better analyze and determine which direction to move in defense.


All Eastern Times

Thursday, February 16
Japan vs Brazil, 16:00
USA vs Canada, 19:00

Sunday, February 19
USA vs Japan, 15:30
Brazil vs Canada, 18:30

Wednesday, February 22
Canada vs Japan, 16:00
USA vs Brazil, 19:00


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