USWNT: 3 things we learned from Olympic qualifying

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HOUSTON, TX – FEBRUARY 03: Christen Press #20 of USA looks on during the Group A game between the United States and Costa Rica as part of the 2020 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying at BBVA Compass Stadium on February 3, 2020 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)

2. Battle for the front three

Getting selected for the USWNT roster is hard enough. Forcing your way into the starting XI is even more of a challenge. And breaking into the front three? Well, that is nearly impossible. But that is precisely what several USWNT hopefuls are tasked with doing.

Head coach Vlatko Andonovski went with five different combinations in his attacking trio throughout the tournament. The personnel consisted of Carli Lloyd, Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe, Lynn Williams, Jessica McDonald and Christen Press. Every combination worked, the U.S. scoring at-least three goals in every game. But this tournament isn’t the Olympics and competition will get much tougher from here.

The Olympic roster will be cut down even more, only allowing room for 18 players in Japan. The question Andonovski faces now is who gets cut and from what position does he make slimmer. He could go in any position, whether it be dropping a goalkeeper, defender, midfielder or a forward, but with the talent on this team, he faces a tough decision that most managers don’t have the luxury or pressure of making.

The good news — or possibly bad — for Andonovski is that he has the SheBelieves Cup soon approaching where the USWNT will face more top competition that will challenge his players. His side will play England, Spain and Japan in March, all of which will be looking to challenge the U.S. at the Olympics. Andonovoski can use these matches to further formulate his plans for the front three positions.

But he also has another problem to consider: In addition to the six players he used in qualifying is Alex Morgan, who has insisted that she is going to try and play in the Olympics after a pregnancy. And we’d be foolish to say she couldn’t do it. A world-class roster is getting smaller, which means competition for Tokyo is that much more intense going forward.

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