U.S. women's national team coach Vlatko Andonovski has called up a squad that mixes youth and experience for this month's SheBelieves Cup, leaving out big names like Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan in favor of up-and-comers like Sophia Smith and Ashley Sanchez.
The 23-player squad announced on Thursday will compete in the USWNT's first games of 2022 when the Americans face the Czech Republic, New Zealand and Iceland in the SheBelieves Cup, which will be held Feb. 17-23.
The games will be played at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, and Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
Veterans left out include some of the USWNT's biggest attacking names, such as Rapinoe, Morgan, Tobin Heath and Christen Press. Andonovski said those players had been left off to make room for the players needing to prove themselves.
"All these players are very good players -- we know that they've done so much for this team," Andonovski told ESPN of the veterans. "But right now I want to give a chance to players like Sophia Smith and Mal Pugh and Catarina Macario, Ashley Hatch, players that have earned their spot on the national team or earn their spot back. I want to give them maximum minutes or whatever minutes they earn so we can evaluate every aspect of their game, in the training environment or game setting."
However, the veterans being left off the roster should not be interpreted as those players being a lock, Andonovski added.
"It doesn't mean that all these players that have done well in the past are just going to come back here in the next camp because they've done well a year ago or two years ago," Andonovski added. "There's a reason why we're not calling Mia Hamm or Julie Foudy in camp, right? So the same goes here: they need to perform, they need to play in their markets, they need to play well in their markets, and show that they can still contribute and be valuable for the national team."
Rookie Trinity Rodman, the 19-year-old who accepted her first call-up in January, did not make the final roster but joins the team as a training player during the lead-up to the tournament. On Wednesday, Rodman signed a contract extension with the Washington Spirit that her agency said would make her the highest-paid player in the NWSL.
Andonovski said Rodman was "very competitive" in the USWNT's January camp and "her mindset fits well" with the USWNT, but he also said she needed more time around the national team without pressure.
"She's doing really good in the league, but the national team is a completely different animal," Andonovski said. "We don't want to burn her out -- we want to give her a chance to slowly adjust herself to the system, to the structure and to absorb information slowly step-by-step instead of throwing everything at her."
In the midfield, veterans Julie Ertz and Samantha Mewis are also left out in favor of less established USWNT players such as Macario and Sanchez. Mewis is coming off an injury, Andonovski said, but Ertz wasn't fit enough to merit a USWNT call.
"Julie was not ready to come into camp from a physical standpoint," Andonovski said. "In the conversation that I had with her, she understands that in order to get back into camp -- and that's not just for Julie, that's for any player on this team -- first and foremost, you got to be healthy, fit and ready to play. Then, the next thing is you gotta perform in your club market to earn your spot on the national team."
Ertz was traded from the Chicago Red Stars to NWSL expansion club Angel City FC in December, but she was not on Angel City's preseason roster announced on Tuesday and has not reported for the club's preseason camp.
"Whenever Julie is ready and she performs well -- we know how good she can be, we know how valuable she is for this team -- we're gonna be happy to see her back," Andonovski said.
The SheBelieves Cup roster mostly includes players who had joined the USWNT in Texas for its annual January camp, which traditionally features more bubble players and up-and-comers.
The exceptions are midfielder Macario, who missed the camp to stay with Lyon as it faced rival Paris Saint-Germain in the Coupe de France, and defender Becky Sauerbrunn, who missed the January camp with what U.S. Soccer called "a minor injury."
"We had a great camp in Austin and now we need to see this group of players in game environments against highly motivated opponents," Andonovski said. "Every player in the pool is focused on making the roster for World Cup and Olympic qualifying this summer."
Of the 23 players on the roster, 11 are players who have been on the fringes of the USWNT and have 25 or fewer caps. Six players have single-digit caps.
Morgan Gautrat (née Brian), a late addition for the USWNT's January camp, joins the SheBelieves Cup roster, marking her return to the national team. She won two World Cups with the USWNT in 2015 and 2019 and had been last called up for the USWNT's January 2020 camp.
The only uncapped player to join is Washington Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury (née Bledsoe). She was named the NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year in 2019.
USWNT starting goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who suffered a right knee injury during the Tokyo Olympics, could see her first game minutes since she was sidelined in August.
USWNT SheBelieves Cup roster
GOALKEEPERS: Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit; 0), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 2), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 78)
DEFENDERS: Alana Cook (OL Reign; 4/0), Abby Dahlkemper (San Diego Wave FC; 77/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 45/1), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC; 8/0), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign; 9/0), Kelley O'Hara (Washington Spirit; 148/2), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 63/0), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 199/0)
MIDFIELDERS: Morgan Gautrat (Chicago Red Stars; 87/8), Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyonnais; 108/25), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign; 68/18), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyonnais; 12/3), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 33/4), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit; 2/0), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 22/2)
FORWARDS: Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit; 4/2), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars; 67/18), Margaret Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 9/2), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 10/1), Lynn Williams (Kansas City Current; 45/14)