Top 60 USWNT Goalkeepers - April 2019

cover photo from the NWSL

The 2019 World Cup kicks off June 7th, with the United States waiting to play their first game on the 11th against Thailand. Teams must submit a preliminary roster by April 26th, featuring no more than 50 players. Alyssa Naeher, Ashlyn Harris, and Adrianna Franch are the frontrunners for the three final roster spots while dark horse candidate Jane Campbell could see her name on the preliminary roster spot.

# - listed as trailist on NWSL preseason roster
^ - recently finished collegiate eligibility

1. Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars) - 31
2. Aubrey Bledsoe (Washington Spirit) - 27
3. Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride) - 33
4. Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns) - 28
5. Haley Kopmeyer (Orlando Pride) - 28
6. Katie Fraine (Vaxjo / Sweden.1) - 31
7. Britt Eckerstrom (Portland Thorns) - 25
8. Michelle Betos (Seattle Reign) - 31
9. Lindsey Harris (Klepp / Norway.1) - 25
10. Nicole Barnhart (Utah Royals) - 37

One to Watch: Audrey Bledsoe. 2018 was a busy year for Bledsoe. Despite the poor team performance, Bledsoe was named the 2018 Washington Spirit team MVP, set the NWSL record for most saves in a year, and is fresh off of winning Australia’s W-League with Sydney FC. The key to Bledsoe’s success can be found in her footwork, maintaining impeccable balance and never going to ground too early. Routinely she finds a way to displace a shot that would slip most goalkeepers almost solely because of her ability to move herself from post-to-post. For a national team that has struggled with stability in the back, Bledsoe would be a great addition as her consistency is tops in the league, rarely conceding a poor goal despite being on a 2 win team in 2018.

11. Bryane Heaberlin (FFC Frankfurt / Germany.1) - 25
12. Emily Dolan (Real Betis / Spain.1) - 24
13. Christina Dineson (Assi / Sweden.2) - 26
14. Abby Smith (Utah Royals) - 25
15. Kelsey Wys (Washington Spirit#) - 28
16. Tori Ornela (IA / Iceland.1) - 27
17. Audrey Baldwin (Free Agent) - 27
18. Megan Dorsey (Sparta Praha / Czech Republic.1) - 27
19. Jane Campbell (Houston Dash) - 24
20. Emily Armstrong (IBV / Iceland.1) - 25

One to Watch: Jane Campbell. At one time Campbell was the apparent heir to the USWNT starting spot but after a polarizing season and a half in the league, fans are starting to notice the one-step-forward-one-step-backwards trend. Unfortunately, 2019 hasn’t started off any different from last year. After a near positive opener against the Seattle Reign, her sloppy footwork forces a turnover and penalty in the dying minutes of a tied match. She makes a wonderful penalty save to put herself back on even ground. She’s still fairly young (turning 24 this past February) and has a world of talent up her sleeve, but if she can’t stop routinely shooting herself in the foot, the national team may look elsewhere for the number one position.

21. Sammy Jo Prudhomme (Washington Spirit#) - 25
22. Adelaide Gay (North Carolina FC#) - 29
23. Lauren Watson (Assi / Sweden.2) - 25
24. Jennifer Pelley (Djurgården / Sweden.2) - 25
25. Lucy Gillett (Crystal Palace / England.2) - 25
26. Katelyn Rowland (North Carolina FC) - 25
27. Jillian McVicker (IK Myran / Finland.1) - 25
28. Caitlyn Clem (UMF Selfoss / Iceland.2) - 24
29. Alex Godinez (Pachuca / Mexico.1) - 25
30. Brett Maron (Kristianstad / Sweden.1) - 32

One to Watch: Jillian McVicker. The Ohio State Buckeye has a large task in front of her: keep Myran in the topflight. After an 18-2-2 run to earn promotion from the second division, Myran brought in McVicker to bolster the squad a little more. McVicker has some Champions League experience under her belt, playing for Romania’s Olimpia Cluj back in 2017. If McVicker is able to keep Myran afloat, she may find herself moving up to a higher profile club. If not, Myran fans might only remember the first division as a passing moment.

31. Mallory Lieberman (AS Saint-Étienne / France.1) - 23
32. Lauren Clem (Uppsala / Sweden.2) - 23
33. Cassie Miller (PSV Eindhoven / Netherlands.1) - 24
34. Casey Murphy (Montpellier / France.1) - 23
35. Emily Boyd (Chicago Red Stars) - 22
36. Danielle Rice (Örebro / Sweden.1) - 23
37. Morgan Bertsch (SC Braga / Portugal.1) - 23
38. Courtney Brosnan (Le Havre / France.2) - 23
39. Alison Jahansouz (Chicago Red Stars#) - 23
40. Bella Bixby (Portland Thorns) - 23

One to Watch: Emily Boyd. Alyssa Naeher is likely to miss four or five games with Chicago due to the World Cup starting in early June, which will leave the Red Stars turning to 22 year old Emily Boyd in the mean time. Admittedly, Boyd isn’t exceptionally quick but where she lacks in agility she more than makes up for in strength and bravery. Boyd won’t takes Naeher’s starting spot for a couple more years, but these handful of games are crucial for her development and hopefully preparing for the changing of the guards in 2022, unless she impresses the front office to make the switch sooner.

41. Rachel Egyed (Hapoel Ra’Anana AFC / Israel.1) - 23
42. Megan Hinz (Chicago Red Stars#) - 23
43. Anna Buhigas (Tavagnacco / Italy.1) - 24
44. Hannah Seabert (Fortuna Hjorring / Denmark.1) - 24
45. Ella Dederick (Washington State) - 22
46. Jalen Tompkins (University of Colorado) - 22
47. Courtney Hofer (Empoli / Italy.1) - 23
48. Kate Mason (Telge United FF / Sweden.3) - 23
49. Lainey Burdett (Orlando Pride) - 22
50. Caroline Brockmeier (LSU^) - 22

One to Watch: Ella Dederick. After seeing her senior season cut short due to an ACL tear in September, Dederick has been granted a medical redshirt and will be back with the Cougars this fall. Needless to say, questions will surround Dederick’s power and agility but few are doubting her desire to finish her collegiate career on a strong note. The 2020 goalkeeper draft class will be a crowded one, even more so with Dederick joining in, but if there’s one goalkeeper up for the challenge it’s Dederick.

51. Phallon Tullis-Joyce (Stade de Reims / France.1) - 22
52. Kelsey Daugherty (North Carolina FC#) - 22
53. Cosette Morche (Houston Dash#) - 21
54. Kaelyn Johns (Dayton^) - 22
55. Devon Kerr (Houston Dash) - 22
56. Mikayla Krzeczowski (University of South Carolina) - 21
57. Samantha Leshnak (North Carolina FC#) - 22
58. Shae Yanez (Washington Spirit) - 21
59. Brooke Heinsohn (Duke) - 21
60. Kaylie Collins (USC) - 20

One to Watch: Mikayla Krzeczowski. Ask any coach and they’ll say Krzeczowski’s a little undersized for the next level. Displaying a stunning ability to react and read oncoming plays, her senior year will be held under a microscope to see how well she can cover the top third of the net. The 5’6” goalkeeper hasn’t shown much reluctance to challenge opposition in the air so far, but nevertheless the stigma of short goalkeepers is one that filters a number out of the league. If she can display a true commanding presence of the box and ability to cover the bar, she should hear her name called in the 2020 draft.

USWNT Goalkeeping Eras

cover photo from Andy Mead/Icon Sportswire

The most exclusive position in all of US Soccer: the USWNT’s goalkeeper. Only 23 women have played goalkeeper for the national team in 34 years. Branching off the men’s goalkeeping era post I did a few years ago, the same methodology applies here. The graph portrays a goalkeeper’s percentage of their own games played vs. the available caps in the previous two years. For example, at the end of December 2012, Hope Solo had 31 appearances in the last two years (dating back to the start of 2011). There were only 7 non-Solo goalkeeper caps (Barnhart 5, Loyden 2) in the timespan, giving Solo a 82% share. This is also why a goalkeeper’s last cap will occur two years before their space on the graph completely fades out. Below is the complete list of every goalkeeper that’s played for the national team as well as the corresponding graphs.

All-Time USWNT Goalkeeper Caps

1. Hope Solo (2000-2016) - 202
2. Briana Scurry (1994-2008) - 175
3. Nicole Barnhart (2005-13) - 53
4. Siri Mullinix (1999-04) - 45
5. Alyssa Naeher (2014-present) - 38
6. Saskia Webber (1992-2000) - 28
7. Mary Harvey (1989-96) - 27
8. Tracy Ducar (1996-99) - 24
9. Amy Allman (1987-91) - 24
10. Ashlyn Harris (2013-present) - 19

11. Lakeysia Beene (2000-03) - 18
12. Kim Maslin-Kammerdeiner (1988-91) - 17
13. Kristin Luckenbill (2004) - 14
14. Jill Loyden (2010-14) - 10
15. Kim Wyant (1985-93) - 9
16. Jen Branam (2000, 06) - 6
17. Janine Szpara (1986-87) - 6
18. Jen Mead (1993-1997) - 6
19. Jaime Pagliarulo (1997, 01) - 3
20. Jane Campbell (2017-present) - 3

21. Emily Oleksiuk (2001) - 2
22. Gretchen Gegg (1986, 90) - 2
23. Ruth Harker (1985) - 2

1985 - 1991

The first half decade games were erratic and scarce. 1987, 1989, and 1991 the national team played 11, 1, and 28 games, respectively. UCF alum Kim Wyant started in each of the six first games while Amy Allman and Mary Harvey collected the bulk of the appearances for the time. Allman played in sixteen of the ninteen games from 1987-1988 but would eventually play backup to Harvey, who led the team to a first place finish at the very first World Cup.

1992-2004

As Harvey’s time with the national team waned, some new faces would eventually supplant the World Champion. Harvey was 30 by the time the 1995 World Cup rolled around and while Saskia Webber had established herself as a promising young goalkeeper, it was Briana Scurry who sprang onto the scene at the start of 1994. Until the end of the decade, Scurry received at least half of the caps every year, with UNC product Tracy Ducar (née Noonan) making the biggest dent at the end of 1997. Siri Mullinix started the 2000 Olympic silver medal run as then coach April Heinrichs opted for Mullinix over Scurry due to her spending "too much time appearing on talk shows and too little time at the gym”. A young hotshot goalkeeper named Hope Solo earned her first cap in the spring of 2000.

2005-2018

Solo managed to earn a bulk of the caps for over a decade, dipping off slightly due to a solider surgery at the end of 2010. Scurry would start for the USWNT during the 2011 and 2015 World Cups but the starting spot in the summer of 2007 was split between Scurry and Solo. Barnhart notched 53 appearances over her career as the 37 year old is heading into camp yet again with the Utah Royals. Alyssa Naeher was been the number one goalkeeper since 2017 but as the next five years could look something similar to 2002 or 1993 as the team may start testing out other options at the position.

Can the USWNT Learn Anything from the Canadian Hockey League?

cover photo belongs to ISI Photo

Back in the summer of 2013, the Canadian Hockey League made a surprise announcement when they put a ban on foreign goalies entering the league. The ban - specifically aimed at talented European goaltenders - limited teams from drafting any non-North American goalies in the three junior leagues (all under the CHL) in an attempt to give more playing time for Canadians to aide in their development. The move was a response to the country’s perceived goaltending crisis, where many viewed the netminders as a major weak point in Canadian hockey. Even as recently as summer 2017, the goalie development crisis was still a concern for some despite the league’s efforts to mend the issue. However the CHL rolled back the ban this summer, citing improvements to goalie development, although there is still some debate on the impact of the short-lived rule.

Turning to the USSF, it’s no secret goalkeeper development hasn’t been at its best in recent years. While the USMNT is struggling to fill out their second and third slots with proven talent, the USWNT is in a tight spot as well. Replacing Hope Solo has been more challenging than expected, collegiate production seems to have hit a bit of a lull, and looking back at the 2018 Women’s U20 World Cup, goalkeeping wasn’t exactly the strong point in their tournament run.

Looking at both Hockey Canada and USWNT, there are some similarities between the two organizations’ last line of defense in terms of development. When Hockey Canada introduced the ban, it wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction after a few poor games. The ban was put in place after many realized the lack of representation of top Canadian goalies in both the professional leagues as well as the youth leagues. While stating the USWNT’s goalkeeper situation as a “crisis” is a bit excessive, the US has still yet to develop a goalkeeper at the level of Briana Scurry or Hope Solo nor is on track to do so. Both programs were once producing top-level goaltenders yet they’ve slowed their production in recent years.

To understand if Hockey Canada’s approach would be a good fit for the NWSL, it’s important to look at the problems plaguing the USWNT’s goalkeeper pool.

1. There is no one directing goalkeeper development within US Soccer - The last person to fill this spot was Peter Mellor back in 2005 before he moved to work solely with Real Salt Lake. Since then the standard for how a goalkeeper develops has been overseen by each coach on their own accord, from professional and youth clubs alike. At most, the federation has given vague guidelines on how goalkeepers must be developed through their licensing classes. Unfortunately most USSF coaching licenses spend little time on the position and typically are led by coaches who have never played goalkeeper. The USSF only recently started an A license goalkeeping course but featured zero NWSL goalkeeper coaches.

USYNT goalkeeper coaches work in a revolving door fashion, offering little consistency for who players will be training with from camp to camp. On the club’s side, a number of WPSL and UWS teams don’t have a goalkeeper coach while finding a collegiate problem with a goalkeeping coach who has been there for four years is tough to find. Additionally, NWSL coaches are limited to developing their second-string goalkeepers through practice, as it’s tough to find meaningful minutes for young backups.

The landscape for goalkeeping coaches in America is a mess. For every one positive goalkeeping environment in the US, there are another ten negative ones. Having a Director of Goalkeeping would ideally oversee the development for top-level goalkeepers, but also assist in making sure goalkeeper coaches across the country are on the right path when training their own goalkeepers.

A few months ago, Tab Ramos told SoccerAmerica how he’s aware of the need yet was currently in a hiring freeze, although since then the freeze seems to have been lifted. As of right now, the USSF has yet to name someone to oversee goalkeeper development on a full-time basis.

Rose Chandler holding the Golden Glove award from the 2016 CONCACAF Under-20 Women's Championship. Chandler did not return for her senior year at Penn State.  Photo from    gopsusports.com

Rose Chandler holding the Golden Glove award from the 2016 CONCACAF Under-20 Women's Championship. Chandler did not return for her senior year at Penn State. Photo from gopsusports.com

2. The dropout rate is too high - Just in the last few years, the women’s goalkeeping pool has lost a number of young prospects. Libby Stout, Caroline Stanley, Madalyn Schiffel, Brianna Smallidge, EJ Proctor, Alyssa Giannetti, Rose Chandler, and Evangeline Soucie have all retired for a variety of reasons. For some, retirement was unavoidable due to injuries but as a whole, there are far too many goalkeepers simply opting out for another career track outside of professional soccer.

Some may argue that goalkeepers who retire young aren’t in contention to truly compete for the USWNT’s starting spot and while it’s not fair to make a claim that early in a player’s career, it’s also missing the bigger issue. Top goalkeepers are only pushed by those who are under them. If there’s not enough talent to compete for a starting spot, things can easily become stagnant.

The dropout rate is a hard problem to combat, as money is a major driving force in persuading any career pursuit, but it’s one that is quietly draining the goalkeeping pool.

3. The path to professionalism is too muddied - Looking back to the 2018 U20 Women’s World Cup, players entered the tournament from top clubs all around the world. French players came from PSG and Lyon. German players arrived from Turbine Potsdam and Bayern Munich. English players trained at Manchester City and Liverpool. Spanish players hailed from Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. In contrast, the US is relying heavily on the collegiate system, a training environment that plays four months out of the year. It’s a tall task for the University of Virginia to match Lyon or Barcelona’s resources.


Assuming a player is able to navigate a grueling four years playing in a jam-packed schedule, the road only gets tougher. Roster spots are scarce for rookies in the NWSL and even more challenging for goalkeepers as most teams only carry two. Some may look at the WPSL and UWS as helpful stopgaps but the reality is most of those teams rely heavily on collegiate players outside the D-1 level. It’s barely a developing ground for top collegiate players but certainly not aspiring professionals.

Unless there are dramatic changes to the collegiate setup, the USSF will eventually have to entice players to skip college altogether if they want to continue to compete with the world. Despite all it has to offer, UNC won’t be able to provide the same level of commitment as PSG and Lyon continue to ramp up what they have to offer their youth players. Until then a player whose sights are set on joining the NWSL has a large task in front of them: they must finish their cumbersome college career as a top U23 player in the world - by only training with their team for a third of the year - and somehow land a golden ticket to join an NWSL side full-time. Anything less and the player is likely looking at another career path. As of right now, there’s not a better domestic track provided for young players.

It’s hard to be optimistic towards the situation when the USSF is rolling out A licensing courses without NWSL coaches or presenting initiatives like bio-banding, a program that groups players by their physical development to alleviate the problem of coaches not appropriately challenging early and late bloomers. The program is a wonderful example of the USSF seeing a problem but being unaware of what is causing the complication. If the problem is centered on coaches not doing their job well, then reshuffling the deck isn’t going to address the issue. (Adnan Ilyas has a great write-up on more issues with bio-banding.)

Similar to the CHL’s approach, if Canadian goalies aren’t good enough, giving them more chances to fail will only help so much. The CHL raised the idea of new coaching certification to help with goalie development but according to In Goal Magazine, “five years later the impact seems to depend on where you live, with some regions accrediting coaches regularly and coaches in other areas that still haven’t heard of it, let alone opportunities to take the course.” It seems the CHL’s plan was half-hearted, not to mention short-lived.

Development is not solved solely by high-level game appearances. It must be addressed in a top-down manner. From USWNT training sessions to the grassroots level, the USSF must be keen on having a system that yields positive results and not simply rely on removing tougher competition or hoping a coach can figure it out on their own. While putting a ban on foreign goalkeepers in the NWSL might be a positive dose for the American pool, it doesn’t address the position in a more thorough manner. The NWSL is a premier league trying to elevate the level of its play, as well as the top domestic players. There are only so many young goalkeepers who can hop right into the league. Unless the NWSL is interested in lowering the level of play, a handful of extra games for young goalkeepers only will help so much.

There are a number of directions the USSF can take when approaching goalkeeper development but copying the CHL will likely result in a similar reversal of the ban in a short time. Looking across the globe, countries are continuing to put more resources into raising the level of play in their respective domestic leagues and youth national team development. In contrast, the US has yet to see any substantial improvements in the goalkeeping department over the past few years and the output is starting to show. In order for the USWNT to stay on top, simply outsourcing goalkeeper development to whoever is interested won’t be enough anymore.

Three Things the USWNT Needs to Address With Its Goalkeeper Position

It's a worrisome time for the USWNT goalkeeper position. A last place finish at the SheBelieves Cup in March raised concerns with the current starters, Alyssa Naeher and Ashlyn Harris. Now with Harris out for a month and a half and turning 32 in October, fans are left wondering what the future of the position is going to look like. There are a number of fantastic write-ups on who the next USWNT goalkeeper should be (Scott French's article on FourFourTwo lists a number of possible goalkeepers while Jessica Fletcher provides a more in-depth look at four rising stars) but there a few hurdles the USWNT needs to address first.

 

Get As Many Goalkeepers in As Possible

The biggest problem with the Hope Solo era is that it was only the Hope Solo era. Rarely did any other goalkeeper get on the field in the past fifteen years. It was so lopsided, that the USWNT just recently got back to having more than one goalkeeper under 30 with at least one cap.

It was encouraging to see Abby Smith's inclusion on the Scandinavia tour but to no surprise she was not granted an appearance on the field in either game. Instead Alyssa Naeher, who we know exactly what to expect as a goalkeeper, played both games. In the two game series with 25th ranked Russia back in April, Jane Campbell was subbed in for Ashlyn Harris during the 74th minute when the scoreline was 5-1. Even when the USWNT is mopping opponents, youngsters struggle to get off the bench.

Teams should strive for cohesiveness between their goalkeepers and backline but overprotecting the position, by playing only one goalkeeper, creates a glass ceiling for everyone. The starting goalkeeper becomes complacent while the backups realize they can not work themselves into the starting role.

Perhaps the best example of a team utilizing multiple goalkeepers correctly was in the most recent Copa America. Some fans were skeptical about the lack of cohesiveness in the defense but Mexico earned seven points in the three matches, topping Venezuela and Uruguay for first place. Even in a competitive tournament, Mexico had no issue rotating goalkeepers, conceding only two goals in the group stage.

An open net, when done properly, empowers the goalkeeper core as well as the rest of the team. It sends a message that the manager is looking for the best and isn't content with anything short of it. Not every American goalkeeper deserves a chance in goal, but currently there are too many goalkeepers who haven't been given a chance. For goalkeepers like Abby Smith, Haley Kopmeyer and Adrianna Franch, they're constantly thought of as possible USWNT goalkeepers but we never really know because they're not given opportunities to prove themselves.

 

Stop Ignoring Goalkeepers in Europe

The USWNT has a thin history with Euro-based goalkeepers. The last two goalkeepers to earn a cap when playing in Europe were Hope Solo in 2005 and Saskia Webber in 1998. It says a lot about a goalkeeper who's willing to uproot from a comfortable place and push themselves to another level. The NWSL's limited roster spots offers only so much time for American goalkeepers yet Europe has a need of high level goalkeepers. While the the USWNT should want its players to continue to strive for the next level, they routinely ignore American goalkeepers playing abroad.

Despite offering aspects that the NWSL can't, Europe is understood to be a place void of National Team invites from fans and players alike. Katie Fraine expressed back in 2014 the unlikelihood of a call up in the past. "I believe being in Europe very strongly hurts my chances on getting a call up, especially considering that all of the players currently on the national team who were previously playing abroad have been brought back to the NWSL."

Libby Stout, when playing at Liverpool, echoed the same sentiment. "I do think that being overseas slightly affects my chances. I’m not being seen on a weekly or monthly basis so the odds are less."

For goalkeepers like Alyssa Giannetti and Michelle Betos in Norway or Adelaide Gay and Lindsey Harris in Iceland or Kelsey Brouwer in Cyprus or Audrey Baldwin in France, they're training in an environment where losing their job means having to leave a country. The USWNT needs to reward players for reaching a higher standard and not encourage them to become a backup in the NWSL. If playing in Europe was good enough for Ashlyn Harris (FCR 2001 Duisburg, Tyresö FF, 2012-13) and Alyssa Naeher (Turbine Potsdam, 2011-13), it's good enough for American goalkeepers in 2017.

 

Explore a "B" Team For Fringe Players

If players are stuck in a limbo of being untested but not quite USWNT-ready, a "B" team would be an easy fix. Essentially the equivalent of the USMNT's Camp Cupcake in the winter, the USWNT could organize a second team to place the players in question in an elevated environment. England's David James made a great case for a "B" team for England back in 2010. Specifically he points out an issue with late bloomers:

Otherwise, it seems, if you want to be successful in international football you had better do it while you’re young or miss out forever. As someone interested in coaching, I worry about an attitude that assumes if you haven’t done it already then you will never do it. That’s far too simplistic an approach and it says everything about this throwaway world we’re in: he’s had his chance, it didn’t work out so let’s get a new one. The B team can work as a vehicle to rejuvenate players who were in the frame at one point and are now out of it because of their age.
— David James

While a "B" team might not sellout stadiums, as James points out in the article, it gives players a chance to showcase themselves at an international level the NWSL can't offer. In turn, coaches are able to see who does and doesn't fit in a more intense and focused setting. 

The USWNT played 25 games last year, so finding opponents isn't the issue. And there's not a shortage of countries who wouldn't mind playing the USWNT's "B" team instead of the "A" team. Young players wouldn't have to worry about costing their club team points while late bloomers could finally get themselves out of limbo. Worst-case scenario is the late bloomers aren't good enough and it turns into a U23 team to give young players time on the field.

The US aren't strangers to unconventional methods with their national teams. The early 90's essentially created a "club USMNT" as MLS wasn't established yet so players trained solely with the national team. On the women's side, the 1999 World Cup winners were club-less, as the WUSA was still two years away from creation. The USSF found a solution for both set of players to make sure they were still getting games and developing along the way.

The goalkeeper position turned stale by not giving young goalkeepers a chance and now fans are left wringing their hands over the position's future. There are avenues to reviving the position, but sticking with the same one or two goalkeepers isn't the answer.