Monday, October 1, 2007
Six names to watch for 2011
The United States doesn't know where it will be played or what the qualifying process will be to get there, but it's clear that redemption is just four years away at the 2011 World Cup.
Eight players participating in their first World Cup started at least a game for the United States in China. And while it's more likely that many of those faces will get a chance to call on that experience as repeat performers four years from now, there is always room for change.
Here are six players who have what it takes to be in the mix for 2011. 1. Ashlyn Harris, Goalkeeper The keeper of the future may arrive sooner than expected given events at the World Cup. While it's difficult to imagine one controversial interview derailing Hope Solo's entire career, her immediate future is uncertain after she was told to stay away from the team's third-place game against Norway. At the very least, assuming Briana Scurry retires between next year's Olympics and the next World Cup in 2011, it appears likely Solo would have to earn back the starting job in an open competition. And by that point, she might be competing against Harris. A red-shirt sophomore currently splitting time in goal with senior Anna Rodenbough at the University of North Carolina, Harris is an athletic, aggressive and confident keeper who has been among the youngest players on teams at almost every stage of the youth international scene, despite a pair of ACL injuries that wiped out her 2005 college season and limited her to part-time duty after returning for last season's NCAA Tournament. If she stays healthy, she has the potential to combine the best of Solo and Scurry. 2. Angie Woznuk, Midfielder The United States desperately missed having a proven playmaker in the midfield in this World Cup. Aly Wagner should help fill the void in next year's Olympics if she's able to stay healthy, but she'll be on the other side of 30 by the 2011 World Cup and playing time might again be up for grabs. A red-shirt senior who was ninth in all-time assists at the University of Portland entering this season, Woznuk is one of the best playmakers in the college game and put together strong international efforts at the 2004 Under-20 World Championships, where she was awarded the Silver Ball as the second most outstanding player despite the United States finishing third, and the 2006 and 2007 Nordic Cups with the Under-21 national team. 3. Christina DiMartino, Midfielder If it's not Woznuk directing traffic in the middle of the field, it might well be DiMartino. She's undersized compared to most elite midfielders at the international level, but more importantly, she seems to play with an aggression and purpose directed at punishing opponents who take her for granted because of that 5-foot-2 frame. An absolute magician with the ball at her feet, she's also blessed with experience at working with teammates who demand the ball on a regular basis, playing alongside two-time Canadian World Cup veteran Kara Lang and United States hopefuls Lauren Cheney and Danesha Adams on a powerhouse UCLA team. 4. India Trotter, Defender A converted college attacking player who led Florida State to the College Cup in her final season of eligibility, Trotter was beaten out for the last spot on the back line by Marian Dalmy when United States coach Greg Ryan finalized his World Cup roster. Veteran defender Christie Rampone has said she would like to continue playing long enough for her young daughter to see her play in another World Cup, but her versatility might have her playing in the middle of the back line with Cat Whitehill by 2011. If so, Dalmy, Trotter and Stephanie Lopez should be three of the leading candidates to start outside. 5. Danesha Adams, Midfielder/forward Trying to locate domestic players with the kind of speed Brazil displayed in this World Cup is critical -- it wouldn't hurt to have a little more pace throughout the lineup if it also comes attached with soccer skill. Able to dominate with speed alone at times at the college level with UCLA, Adams needs more experience on the ball at the senior international level after earning her first cap last fall against Chinese Taipei. But she has fared well at every level of the youth international scene and has an innate confidence that could evolve into a take-charge attitude either as a forward or an attacking midfielder. 6. Kerri Hanks, Forward It might seem odd to suggest a player who won the Hermann Trophy as a sophomore at Notre Dame is a controversial candidate for 2011, but Hanks is a polarizing figure. An immensely gifted offensive player who led the nation in goals and assists last season, she also battles herself and her temper on the field. Although an accomplished scorer at the youth level, scoring 22 goals in 30 games for the Under-19 team in 2002-04, she has yet to play for the senior team and struggled while training with the team prior to the Four Nations Cup in January, according to Ryan. But one of the strongest criticisms of the American youth soccer system is that it fails to nurture creative and instinctive play -- i.e. it doesn't produce a lot of Martas. Hanks, whose British father encouraged her to work on her game in both supervised and unsupervised settings, has that instinctive quality to her game. As she hones those skills and hopefully tones down her temper, she could become a new generation's Kristine Lilly serving balls to Abby Wambach and finishing off the dribble. Graham Hays is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's soccer coverage. E-mail him at Graham.Hays@espn3.com.