CHESTER, Pa. (April 13, 2022) — It took just 25 seconds of gameplay for Rose Lavelle to help create the first goal in the U.S. Women’s National Team’s eventual 9-0 win against Uzbekistan on Tuesday at Subaru Park. But for Lavelle, the buildup to that moment started 7 minutes prior to the game’s opening whistle.
The former National League midfielder for Cincinnati United Premier (OH) led the U.S. starting lineup — the team’s youngest in 15 years — out of the tunnel with a red pennant in hand and white band on her arm, as Lavelle captained the U.S. WNT for the first time in her career.
“That was really cool,” Lavelle said of being named captain. “I don’t think that was ever really something that was on my radar. When [U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski] said that, I was a bit surprised but obviously it’s a huge honor.
“I don’t think I ever saw myself in that position, but it’s a huge honor and something that I’ll remember forever.”
After handling her pregame responsibilities with the referees, exchanging pennants with Uzbekistan captain Diyorakhon Khabibullaeva, and taking the customary captains and starting lineup photos, Lavelle made her way toward midfield for the opening kick. With one last adjustment of the captain’s armband, the ball kicked off and it was back to normal business for the 26-year-old.
Just moments after the game began, Lavelle decisively pointed to open space down the right wing and received the ball in a position to run at the back line. She cut toward the end line and crossed the ball into a dangerous area that forced an own goal and got the U.S. on its way. While Lavelle finished the night with two goals and an assist, she played a hand — or foot, to be accurate — in all six first-half goals scored by the U.S.
While her on-field influence was clear to see, Andonovski said Lavelle has been a good all-around presence for the young group of players in this U.S. camp.
“Obviously, we see her on the field, but what many people can’t see is how she has been in the environment,” Andonovski said. “It’s very nice to see how much she has grown — how she is growing into this role and how she helps the younger players to integrate into the system and into the team. I’m very happy with her and I was very proud to tell her she was going to be captain of this team for this game.”
Breaking down Lavelle’s impact on goals
The importance Lavelle currently plays in the U.S. WNT is evident by the fact she’s appeared in more games (35) under Andonovski than any other player.
Now with 71 total caps, Lavelle’s performance on Tuesday pushed her U.S. goal total to 20 and displayed some of the various ways she can impact the team’s attacking movements.
USA (1-0) – Lavelle ran at the back line from the right wing and played a cross into the box that led to an own goal.
USA (2-0) – Now on the left wing, Lavelle’s off-the-ball movement pulled in the defense and freed up space for fellow former National League player Emily Fox to receive the ball. Fox, Lavelle and Catarina Macario combined passes that led to Fox being fouled just outside the penalty area — resulting in Macario’s free kick goal.
USA (3-0) – Lavelle drove into the box through a trio of defenders before playing a ball that eventually fell to Mallory Pugh, who finished the play with a goal.
USA (4-0) – Lavelle made a late run into the box and fired a shot that was saved but calmly chipped a follow-up effort over the Uzbekistan keeper and defenders that dipped under the bar and into the net.
USA (5-0) – After receiving the ball just inside the center circle, Lavelle made a driving run — almost a mirror image to her 2019 World Cup-clinching goal against the Netherlands. She turned a defender by going away from her preferred left foot and quickly sent a low drive off the inside of the right post for her second goal.
USA (6-0) — Just before halftime, Lavelle received the ball at the top of the box and — with her final touch of the game — slid a precision pass to Macario, who held off a defender before scoring inside the far post.
Cook, Fox leading team in minutes played
Another pair of players who competed in the National League during their youth careers are getting significant experience with the U.S. Women’s National Team.
Defenders Alana Cook and Emily Fox have compiled the most and second-most minutes played, respectively, of all U.S. players through the first five games of 2022.
Cook — who won a National League title with Match Fit Colchesters (NJ) in 2013 — said it was good to play close to home on the East Coast, and she’s been enjoying her opportunity to earn her place within the team.
“I think it’s always an exciting opportunity any time you get to be in camp, any time you get to play,” Cook said. “You only stand to get better the more opportunities you have to learn and to go out there, make mistakes, learn from them, get coached. It’s really exciting building into the opportunities we have moving forward with the tournaments we have and cherishing every moment of that.”
Cook said there is added meaning to getting early experience with the U.S. team alongside some teammates and close friends who she came up with through her youth soccer career and during her time at Stanford.
Several of the U.S. players have shared common experiences en route to the national team. Back in December of 2012 in North Carolina, Cook, Fox and Lavelle shared the same fields while competing in National League games for their respective club teams. Now, nearly 10 years later, the three have worked together as U.S. teammates and key contributors to an early unbeaten start in 2022.