Becky Sauerbrunn, who went to Ladue High and played club soccer for J.B. Marine, was named to the U.S. women's Olympic soccer team on Tuesday. It will be the second trip to the Olympics for Sauerbrunn.
There wasn't a lot of suspense to the selection. Sauerbrunn has been a mainstay on the team over the past several years, and is one of the team's two captains. With Carli Lloyd, who was also named to the team, out recently with an injury, it has been Sauerbrunn wearing the captain's armbands for the team's preparation matches.
“Any time you get to represent the United States is a tremendous honor,” Sauerbrunn told U.S. Soccer. “I'm thrilled to be going to my second Olympic Games. It is a truly unique experience being a part of Team USA with all these athletes competing in all these different disciplines. There's a real sense of camaraderie and being part of something bigger than just your team. In that sense, it's quite different from the World Cup where the spotlight and pressure rest solely on our team.”
Sauerbrunn has been the leader on the back line -- she's also the only one of the 16 field players to have never scored an international goal -- and has taken on the added responsibility of being captain.
"She's been great," U.S. coach Jill Ellis told the Post-Dispatch on a conference call after the announcement. "She obviously has respect of the coaches and players. When I named her a captain, I said to her she'd grow in this role naturally. She's done that, in front of the team, on the field. Her and I check in fairly regularly. Initially, she was a lead by example type. Now she's being more vocal. I think she's fantastic. So much is about consistency and professionalism as a captain."
The U.S. team has historically done better at the Olympics, winning four of the five tournaments, including at London in 2012, than at the World Cup, but coming off their win in Canada in the World Cup in 2015, they have a chance to be the first team to hold both titles at once.
There are substantial changes to the roster from the World Cup. Eleven of the 18 players will be making their first Olympic appearance: goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, defenders Whitney Engen, Meghan Klingenberg, Julie Johnston and Ali Krieger, midfielders Allie Long, Lindsey Horan and Morgan Brian, and forwards Mallory Pugh, Crystal Dunn and Christen Press.
“We have a lot of new faces on the roster compared to just a year ago,” Sauerbrunn said. “It's been a quick turnaround, but the young players have done such an amazing and professional job working in to our system while adding their own flair to our team DNA. We're attempting to evolve our style of play, and the new players have been instrumental in helping us get to a new level. It's a wonderful mix of experience and youth, and the team has a great energy at camps.”
Also named to the team was goalie Hope Solo, who played for the St. Louis Athletica of the WPS.
“When you go to the Olympics,” Ellis told U.S. Soccer, “and have essentially 11 new debutants as Olympians, players who have had two Olympics already under their belts, heading into their third with Carli and Tobin (Heath) and Hope, it really is a bonus to have that experience, to have players that have been in the trenches and understand what it takes. The Olympics is slightly different than the World Cup, but it is a shorter turn-around. We’re playing in a pretty hostile environment in terms of the home team is going to be the favorite down there. Having them and their experiences on and off the field is important. I know Becky and Carli as our captains will lead us, but I also think we have veteran players that will step into leadership moments.”
The full U.S. roster, with their NWSL clubs:
GOALKEEPERS (2): Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)
DEFENDERS (6): Whitney Engen (Boston Breakers), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC)
FORWARDS (4): Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado)