Young players highlight first USWNT camp of 2022

Washington Spirit forward Ashley Hatch (33) warms up prior prior to the NWSL Championship soccer match between the Washington Spirit and Chicago Red Stars Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Louisville, Kentucky. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

The next wave of U.S. soccer talent includes several players who are under 22

The new year has brought new faces to the U.S. women’s national team.

The back-to-back World Cup champions opened their January camp in Austin, Texas, with 14 players who have fewer than 12 appearances for the United States.

Coach Vlatko Andonovski is taking a look at the team’s next generation as it begins preparations for qualifying this summer for the 2023 tournament.

Among them is Ashley Hatch, a 26-year-old forward who plays for the Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League and who won the Golden Boot last season for most goals. She has four caps with the national team.

“I feel like we have the newbies who are maybe new to this environment, but they’re not new to the NWSL environment — and that’s also a competitive environment. So it may be new seeing them here but it’s not new playing against them and with them,” Hatch said. “It’s fun. It’s super competitive. And I think everyone’s level always goes up a notch when we’re in this environment.”

The list of fresh talent includes Trinity Rodman, Naomi Girma, Jaelin Howell and Sophia Smith, all of whom are under 22.

Rodman was the 2021 U.S. Soccer Young Player of the Year following her rookie season with the Spirit. This is the first-ever national team call-up for the 19-year-old, who is the daughter of former NBA star Dennis Rodman.

Girma was the Pac-12 Defender of the Year last season at Stanford and was the No. 1 pick in the NWSL draft by the expansion San Diego Wave. Howell won her second straight Hermann Trophy as the nation’s top college player after her season at Florida State.

Defender Kelley O’Hara is the most-capped player in camp with 148 appearances. The 33-year-old was on the squads that won the past two World Cups.

As a veteran, O’Hara was asked what advice she gives the younger players in camp.

“I’ve always just told them you just have to bring your best every single day. It’s about starting here and staying here, and this environment, this team requires that day in and day out,” O’Hara said Friday on a conference call with reporters. “It’s about consistency, and it’s about intensity, and it’s about striving for excellence.”

The players were welcomed to training in Austin with the dreaded beep test, which involves running back and forth between markers with stages marked by ever-increasing beeps. Because of the chilly temperatures in Texas this week, the players performed the test in their U.S. Soccer-branded puffer coats.

“I think the beep test is the bane of everyone’s existence,” Hatch said. “Luckily, we didn’t have to do the full beep test. We just did the first 15. It’s kind of like a warmup and a standard just to see where we’re at. So yeah, it wasn’t great, but at least it was just the first 15. I feel like if it was a full beep test that those puffies would have been off.”

Andonovski left some of the team’s higher-profile players off the camp roster, including Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Christen Press and former UNC star Tobin Heath. He said he already knows what those players can do.

Also missing from camp is Julie Ertz, who is recovering from a knee injury, and Crystal Dunn, another former Tar Heels player who is expecting a child. Becky Sauerbrunn is recovering from a procedure to freeze her embryos.

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