6 Jan 2023

Rapinoe to miss games in New Zealand

8:24 am on 6 January 2023

Veteran forward Alex Morgan heads a largely inexperienced US women's football team roster for two friendlies against the Football Ferns in New Zealand later this month.

United States forward Megan Rapinoe.

Megan Rapinoe Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Another star player Megan Rapinoe is unavailable because of an ankle injury, while fellow forward Sophia Smith is also out through injury.

The United States are gunning for an unprecedented third straight World Cup title - and fifth overall - when the tournament kicks off in less than 200 days, after a frustrating end to 2022.

New Zealand and Australia host the World Cup in July and August.

Morgan, who led the US National Women's Soccer League with 16 goals last year, is one of only four players in the squad with more than 100 caps, along with defenders Becky Sauerbrunn and Crystal Dunn, and midfielder Lindsey Horan.

Notable names include 2021 NWSL Rookie of the Year Trinity Rodman, 20, and 22-year-old defender Naomi Girma, who are among 14 players with 25 or fewer caps.

Two players return to this first U.S. roster of the year after recovering from long-term injuries in defender Emily Sonnett and forward Lynn Williams.

It is a valuable road trip for the Americans, who will play all their Group E games in New Zealand starting against Vietnam on July 22 in Auckland.

"To get to bring the team to New Zealand in January and play in our World Cup venues has so many benefits so we are going to make sure we maximize our time together," said coach Vlatko Andonovksi.

"We want to make this trip as productive as possible and enjoy a unique experience as many of our players have never been to New Zealand before."

United States forward Alex Morgan

Alex Morgan Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The four-times world champions face no easy path to hoisting the trophy again and were left licking their wounds late last year when they lost three games in a row - to England, Spain and Germany - for the first time since 1993.

The recovered to beat Germany 2-1 at home in their final match of the year.

The United States play the Football Ferns on Jan. 17 in Wellington and on Jan. 20 in Auckland.

The USA have played the Football Ferns 19 times but never in New Zealand, so these will be the first-ever matches in New Zealand for the USWNT, which has played 715 games in its history.

USA squad to tour New Zealand:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Adrianna Franch (Kansas City Current; 10), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 11), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 86)

DEFENDERS (8): Alana Cook (OL Reign; 19/0), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC; 126/24), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC; 22/0), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC; 10/0), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign; 25/0), Hailie Mace (Kansas City Current; 8/0), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 211/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 69/1)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC; 4/0), Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon, FRA; 122/26), Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC; 7/1), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign; 84/22), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 46/7), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit; 17/3), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 37/3)

FORWARDS (6): Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit; 14/4), Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave FC; 200/119), Midge Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 20/4), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit; 10/2), Mallory Swanson (Chicago Red Stars; 82/25), Lynn Williams (Kansas City Current; 47/14)