There is so much experience and skill within the USWNT that it's hard to overlook just how truly young their frontline is. If you don't include Alex Morgan (34), Megan Rapinoe (38), and Lynn Williams (30), the average age for the rest of the frontline is only 20. That is the perfect amount of experience and freshness for Coach Vlatko Andonovski, and also the perfect dilemma to have because it raises the question, "Should you go for what's safe or play the rookies?"
This would be an easy answer if these were any typical rookies. The Men's World Cup of 2023 had shown what kind of end product you get if you play your young stars. Kylian Mbappe practically singlehandedly carried the French to an almost back-to-back World Cup title. On the other hand, a young and still relatively unknown Julian Alvarez led the frontline of Argentina, due to the absence of Sergio Aguero, and helped clinch the elusive World Cup title for one of the living G.O.A.T.S, Lionel Messi.
That's not to say that the USWNT will only stick to their veterans. Their recent friendly had shown a lineup that may be their go-to on paper. Alex Morgan looks to be a mainstay solely based on status and notoriety. She's a goal scorer. Her more central role makes sense to keep her presence near the goal as much as possible with her scoring capabilities and footwork, but this also allows her to be less of a dribbler. Let's be honest, at 34, she won't be the incisive dribbler she once was, and as a coach, I wouldn't expect her to be. Instead, you have two other players who can and have proven themselves despite their age.
- Sophia Smith via USWNT Instagram
Now, I could write about all three of these women, but I doubt Sophia Smith would lose her spot in the starting three. She has repeatedly proven that she has what it takes to start for the USWNT. I will say that these two young women closely follow her in skill and age and have a claim, at least to the left side of that starting three: Alyssa Thompson and Trinity Rodman.
At this point, depending on how closely you follow the National Women's Soccer League, you've likely already heard stories about these two. They've been tearing through the opposition all season long. No defender has been safe in a 1v1 against either of them, and other nations should be on alert when it comes to these two, as Wales witnessed in their friendly. Alyssa was given the go-ahead to start and instantly caused Wales' right back, Rhiannon Roberts, problems. That abuse lasted until the 64th minute when Alyssa was subbed off for DeMelo, but before the sub, there were 20 minutes of that game that I was really excited about: Alyssa and Trinity on the pitch at the same time. From then on, the game opened up. The combination didn't last long, but those 15-20 minutes within that match showcased the potential of this USWNT frontline.
It's tough to say that you would be omitting Alex Morgan from this equation, but within those 15 minutes, you had arguably the fastest forward line in the history of the game: Sophia Smith, Alyssa Thompson, Lynn Williams, and Trinity Rodman. It's crazy to even say that because they all play similar positions for their respective clubs. It's also the main reason why the USWNT must not be afraid to use them, especially Thompson and Rodman.
For one, Rodman showed her versatility by playing in a more central role when she came on for Morgan. She found both of her goals playing in that position and being in the mix. She can be a great option as an impact sub for Morgan when necessary or cause her own chaos on the wing.
- Alyssa Thompson via USWNT Instagram
Two, Thompson's bread and butter is on that wing. Time and again, she has proven that she is one of the best wingers right now. If you're keeping Crystal Dunn out of an attacking role, then you must be doing something right. It also helps to have Dunn as a defensive buffer if you're feeling tentative about playing such a young player early on. Who better to have as a coach and back you up on the pitch than one of the most versatile footballers in the game?
Three, not only do you have squad depth, but you also have tactical depth. The USWNT frontline is so versatile that you can play the front three, a front two, one up top with two narrow, or even a top 4—the options are endless. One of the worst situations for a defender is having to deal with a new opponent with fresh legs when they were just starting to get comfortable with their assignment. Teams can easily see a Smith and Thompson in one half and a Williams and Rodman in another. It's madness.
- Trinity Rodman & Alyssa Thompson via USWNT Instagram
I am not saying that the USWNT should always use a top-four strategy (nor am I saying they shouldn't). What I am saying is, don't do the traditionally football thing and use your youngsters less than your veterans. Rodman and Thompson have earned their spots at the Women's World Cup this summer; let them finish it off with some stripes on the pitch as well.