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Nittany Lions Named To United States Women’s World Cup Team

The United States women’s national soccer team will once again include its Nittany Lion duo at a major tournament.

Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and defender Ali Krieger were named to the team’s 23-player World Cup roster trying to defend its title in France this summer.

While Naeher’s selection was a lock as the likely starter in net, Krieger emerged as a surprise inclusion after receiving her first call up in two years for friendlies in early April.

“I knew that the door was somewhat cracked over the years, just waiting for a second chance,” Krieger told reporters after her call up. “I knew that as long as I could get a toe in the door then I’d really take my opportunity and run with it. I just needed that one phone call and that opportunity to be back, so this is it.”

Krieger has spent more than a decade on the national team, most famously knocking home the winning penalty kick in a dramatic 2011 World Cup quarterfinals shootout against Brazil. With everything from the title Olympian to Champions League winner to her name, the right back started every game en route to becoming a World Cup champion in 2015.

During that two-year absence, the 34 year old looked like she was written off in favor of younger players, but she got the call up in April with likely starter Kelley O’Hara injured. In Krieger’s return game, the 99th cap of her national team career, she played all 90 minutes of a 6-0 win.

While Krieger might not see many minutes in France, Naeher figures to be a key component if this team’s going to have a successful run.

For the first time since the inaugural Women’s World Cup in 1991, a goalkeeper other than Hope Solo or Briana Scurry — who both sit atop a plethora of U.S. and international records — will be the top choice for the United States heading into the tournament.

Naeher has largely been that first choice keeper since Solo was dismissed from the team following the 2016 Olympics, earning the vast majority of her 43 international caps in the process. But that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been criticism coming from outside the team, including from those two former U.S. goalkeepers.

“In the past, when you look at strengths and weaknesses of the U.S. team, goalkeeping has always been in the strength column, and right now it’s in the question column,” said Scurry, who referenced Naeher’s lack of major tournament experience in April.

Solo, who recently ran an unsuccessful campaign for president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, may have had different motives, but she still noted that the Americans “need a goalkeeper.”

It’s hard to argue that Naeher isn’t the top choice in net for the United States, coming off starting 15 of the team’s unbeaten 20-game stretch in 2018 with a goal-against average of 0.47.

Regardless, she’s not focused on the questions. She’s focused on the road ahead.

“For me, I think the biggest thing is not getting wrapped up in what other people think, what other people say,” Naeher told the AP in early April. “At the end of the day, I can only control me, control who I am, the type of player I am, the way that I play, and the way that I carry myself.”

Also named to the roster is Allie Long, who played for Penn State in 2005-06 before transferring to North Carolina. The 31 year old is a rare player who will be making her World Cup debut in the later stages of her career, having lasted through the uncertainty of the women’s professional leagues before finally making her U.S. national team debut in 2014.

The United States players are heading to camp for three friendlies on home turf in May before the tournament. The team will begin its World Cup run on June 11 against Thailand, before playing two other group games against Chile and Sweden. If all goes right, the team will be in Lyon on July 7 for the World Cup final.

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About the Author

Steve Connelly

Unfortunately, former editor Steve Connelly has graduated. Where is he now? He might be doing something related to that PR degree he got in 2019. Maybe he finally opened that sports bar named after one of his photos, the Blurry Zamboni. Or he might just be eating chicken tenders and couch surfing. Anything’s possible. If you really want to know, follow him on Twitter @slc2o.

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