Boyds, MD., (June 7, 2019) – The Women’s FIFA World Cup is the biggest event in women’s soccer. The Washington Spirit are thrilled to have five players participating in 2019.
Midfielder Rose Lavelle and forward Mallory Pugh will be representing the United States. Midfielder Chloe Logarzo will be representing Australia alongside defender/midfielder Amy Harrison. Reggae Girlz forward Cheyna Matthews will be representing Jamaica.
How They Got Here
The Reggae Girlz are the first-ever Carribean team to play in the Women’s World Cup. The team has suffered in the past from inactivity before making their historic run to qualify for World Cup in 2018. Through careful team building from head coach Hue Menzies and support from Bob Marley’s daughter Cedella, the Reggae Girlz surged through the CONCACAF qualifying tournament to takedown Panama in penalty kicks for the last spot in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Jamaica is in Group C alongside Australia (see below), Brazil, and Italy, all top 15 ranked teams. The Reggae Girlz are a talented group of soccer players, but they lack experience, with the oldest player on the World Cup squad at only 29 years old. The leader in caps has only 22 (for comparison’s sake, the USA’s oldest player is 34 and the caps leader has 274). The Reggae Girlz will face a challenge in advancing past the group stage, but they came out on top from their previous challenge of just making the cut. This team will be fun to watch.
Matthews has played in just three matches for the Reggae Girlz but has started all of them. She has frequently been paired with star forward Khadija Shaw and the two play off each other well in terms of speed and the general pace of play. While Matthews hasn’t scored an international goal or logged an assist yet, expect her to continue to start at forward in the World Cup. Matthews has the opportunity to break out on the world’s biggest stage.
How They Got Here
The Matildas became the first Australian team (men’s or women’s) to ever win a knockout stage match in World Cup history in the 2015 Women’s World Cup. This victory, along with the pool of talent that they have collected over recent years has helped lead the Australian surge. The squad easily qualified for the 2019 World Cup in the 2018 Asian Football Confederation Women’s Asian Cup.
The Aussies are currently ranked 6 in the FIFA World Rankings but have had some recent struggles in friendlies leading up to the World Cup. Australia landed in group C alongside Brazil, Italy, and aforementioned Jamaica. Realistically the Matildas only need to place third in the group in order to advance to the knockout stage. If they end up in third they will almost certainly qualify for one of the four third-place knockout spots. Mark your calendar for when the Aussies take on rival Brazil in the group stage on June 13.
Harrison has ten caps for the Australian Senior National Team. During the Australian hosted Cup of Nations tournament, Harrison played mostly in the midfield, a contrast to her defensive positioning with the Spirit. She played in all three matches coming in as a second-half impact-sub each time.
Looking ahead to the World Cup, it’s likely that Matildas coach Ante Milicic uses Harrison as one of the first options for a difference-making sub. Again while Spirit fans may be more used to seeing Harrison used both defensively and in the midfield, she will likely only play in the midfield for the Matildas.
Logarzo has 38 caps and six goals for the Matildas. Logarzo has only suited up once for the Australians in 2019 logging 63 minutes in the recent friendly versus the Netherlands. She was offensively focused taking three shots during the match, including one in the first half just barely missed finding the back of the net. Logarzo started in five matches for the Matildas during the 2018 AFC qualifying tournament. During this stretch, Logarzo notched one goal.
Logarzo has started in every important match for Australia over the last three years. Expect to see her start every match this World Cup and flex her offensive powers.
United States of America
How They Got Here
The Stars and Stripes have long been a powerhouse of women’s soccer. After the 2015 World Cup, the Americans went through an organization shift as the player pool was being expanded to focus on 2019. The US won 28 straight matches from 2017 to 2019 before suffering a loss to host-nation France back in January. The U.S. Women’s National Team steamrolled their competition in the 2018 CONCACAF qualifying tournament not allowing a single goal against.
One would have to expect that anything short of a final’s appearance would be a disappointment for this group. This is an experienced group with eight players on this team having over 100 caps. The pressure to win is nothing new to the US. Since 2008 the Stars and Stripes have been sitting on top of the rankings over 85% of the time.
It would be one of the greatest upsets in the history of international sport if the Americans did not make it out of the group stage. They will face long-time group rival Sweden, Thailand, and Chile in Group F. Chile and Thailand and both much further down in the FIFA rankings (34 and 39, respectively). It is likely that the US will get first or second in the group stage and advance from there.
Lavelle has seven goals over 27 caps for the senior squad. The 24-year-old has been a key member of the Stars and Stripes since 2017 and has been a regular fixture in the starting XI since the 2018 Tournament of Nations. October of 2018 was Lavelle’s best month internationally, scoring three goals during the US’s run during the CONCACAF qualifying championship.
Since then Lavelle has been more subdued goal scoring-wise but has still been a strong all-around contributor for the U.S. Women’s National Team. Most recently Lavelle notched a goal during a friendly with New Zealand and came extremely close to getting another during the final match of the sendoff series against Mexico. Fully expect Lavelle to start each match for the U.S. Women’s National Team in the World Cup and be an absolute joy to watch on the ball.
Pugh has become a very accomplished soccer player at the international level with 53 caps. She was the youngest member of the U-20 team in 2014 (15 years old) and went on to captain the same team at the 2016 U-20 FIFA World Cup. Pugh made her Senior Team debut (she netted a goal in the match) at age 17, the youngest senior debut since 2002. Pugh also became the youngest player to ever score for the US in the Olympics in 2016.
This will be Pugh’s first World Cup. Pugh has been a staple for the U.S. Women’s National Team since her arrival having played in nearly every important match. More recent highlights include a goal in the final match of the sendoff series versus Mexico last month, scoring a brace in her hometown during an April friendly against Australia, and starting every match in the US run to take the CONCACAF qualifying championship. Keep your eyes on Pugh to make an impact the second she steps on the pitch.