U-20 USWNT: Defenders (CONCACAF 2012)

The U-20 USWNT has six defenders listed on its 20-player roster for the CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 Championship in Panama: Stephanie Amack, who is the youngest player on the roster; “freakishly athletic” Olivia Brannon of Virginia; Crystal Dunn, the most internationally experienced defender on this squad, although she plays forward at UNC; Kassey Kallman of Florida State, who is the anchor of the backline; Gatorade 2009-2010 National High School Girls Soccer Player of the Year Mollie Pathman of Duke, who is also another coverted forward; and Cari Roccaro, another high schooler, who has officially committed to Notre Dame.

Stephanie Amack
D.O.B. / Age: 23-Dec-1994 / 17.2
Height: 5’10”
College/Club: Mustang Blast (verbal: Stanford)
Hometown: Pleasanton, California
Past YNT Championships: none
U-20 Position: Outside back (also has club experience at forward)
Notables: NSCAA Girls Youth All-America Team (2011). Only called up to the U-20 team in January, was part of the concurrent U-18 camp (U-20 team in 2014).
Quote: “Amack showed us she can play any position on the field. She’s well-rounded, has really developed a lot in the past year.” — (former) U17 WNT coach Mike Dickey (June, 2010).
Starter or Sub: Sub. Only saw limited time at La Manga this year.

Olivia Brannon
D.O.B. / Age: 8-Feb-1993 / 19.1
Height: 5’6″
College/Club: Virginia (UVA)
Hometown: Troy, Michigan
Past YNT Championships 2010 CONCACAF Women’s U-17 (4 matches)
U-20 Position: Center-back (probably), but can play outside-back as well.
Notables: NSCAA Girls Youth All-America Team (2011). Had a standout freshman year at Virginia. Played at outside-back for the 2010 U-17 WNT.
Quote: “She has freakish athleticism… She’s unbelievably fast and quick and has great tenacity when healthy. Her strength on the ball and off the ball is great. Technically, she’s really improved over the years where she’s become a player that’s solid on the ball. She sees the field so well. She’s like that point guard in basketball where you’ve got to be ready to get the ball because even though you don’t see her looking at you, she sees you. That’s what makes her so special.” — Troy Athens girls soccer coach Tim Storch (March, 2011)
Starter or Sub: Starter, primarily. (played 2 whole matches in La Manga).

Crystal Dunn
D.O.B. / Age: 2-Jul-1993 / 18.7
Height: 5’2″
College/Club: UNC
Hometown: Rockville Centre, New York
Past YNT Championships2010 CONCACAF Women’s U-20 (5 matches);  2010 FIFA Women’s U-20 World Cup (4 matches);  2008 CONCACAF Women’s U-17 (5 matches)
U-20 Position: Outside-back (probably), but also center-back.
Notables: Plays forward at UNC. Soccer America Women’s Freshman of the Year in 2010. In a 2009 state high school championship game, she scored four goals and had a hat trick in the first 20 minutes of the match. As part of the 2008 U-17 WNT, she played outside back, but for the 2010 U-20 WNT, she moved to central defender.
Quote: “In my last U-20 cycle, (defender) Crystal Dunn was in the first camp and then she did not return for a few events. She stayed positive, worked at the things she was told she needed to improve on and she became a major player on the World Cup stage in the summer of 2010.” — Jill Ellis (February, 2011)
Starter or Sub: Starter, probably. Could split time with Roccaro.

Kassey Kallman
D.O.B. / Age: 6-May-1992 / 19.8
Height: 5’8″
College/Club: Florida State
Hometown: Woodbury, Minnesota
Past YNT Championships
U-20 Position: Center-back
Notables: Has started every match at Florida State in both her freshman and sophomore years. Led the team in minutes played both years. Also played high school basketball. Has two older sisters who also played college soccer (Krystle, WVU/Minnesota; Kylie, Minnesota).
Quote: “the best all-around, total player we’ve ever had” and “Where she’s improved a lot is her anticipation of what’s developing and her ability to shut it down” — Woodbury High coach Bill Ebertz (December, 2009)
Starter or Sub: Starter.Will probably play every minute, unless rested.

Mollie Pathman
D.O.B. / Age: 1-Jul-1992 / 19.7
Height: 5’3″
College/Club: Duke
Hometown: Durham, North Carolina
Past YNT Championships:  2010 FIFA Women’s U-20 World Cup (2 matches)
U-20 Position: Outside back (left back).
Notables: 2009-10 Gatorade High School Girls Soccer Player of the Year, plus many more honors. Plays forward at Duke.
Quote: “What makes Mollie so great is she’s the most humble of players… Knowing her status with the national teams, she doesn’t take anything for granted.  She keeps working on her game and it translates on the field. She is nonstop as a worker.” — Pete Sadin, Pathman’s former club coach (May, 2010)
Starter or Sub: Starter.

Cari Roccaro
D.O.B. / Age: 18-Jul-1994 / 17.6
Height: 5’6″
College/Club: Albertson Fury (committed to Notre Dame)
Hometown: East Islip, New York
Past YNT Championships2010 CONCACAF Women’s U-17 (4 matches)
U-20 Position: Outside back (probably.
Notables: 2011 Gatorade State Fall Girls Soccer Player of the Year (New York); 2010, 2011 NSCAA Girls High School All-America Team. Captain of the 2011 U-18 WNT. Ran into Abby Wambach on the beach. Played in the midfield for the 2010 U-17 WNT.
Quote: “She possesses great size and strength, much like a Melissa Tancredi, and is a very good athlete… She is extremely versatile playing in the defense for the U.S. U-17 World Cup team, and playing in midfield and up front with her Albertson Fury team. She will be one that will come in and impact our program right away.” — UND and U-23 WNT coach Randy Waldrum (February, 2012)
Starter or Sub: Sub (more probably than not). Could share right back duties with Dunn.

* * *

Kallman played every minute in La Manga, this year, and, thus, seems to be the primary central defender for this team, so she is most likely a lock at one of the central defending spots.

The other lock is at left outside-back, with Pathman. Pathman started all three matches in La Manga, while only being subbed out once.

Brannon is likely the other central defender, as she started and played the full ninety in two matches in La Manga. Brannon also plays central defender for U-20 WNT head coach Steve Swanson at his other coaching job, Virginia, where she was a regular starter as just a freshman. Dunn can also play centrally, and did so for the U-20 WNT in 2010, but Brannon seems the more logical choice as central defender is her now normal position. Plus, she has the height advantage. And, then there is the same-coach factor.

Right back is more of a question mark, as both Dunn and Roccaro got plenty of minutes at La Manga. Based on the experience factor, I expect Dunn to get the start. Although, Swanson seems to be impressed by Roccaro, so it would not surprise me if the taller Roccaro got the start instead. Plus, it is very likely that Roccaro could be used to rest Dunn during a group stage match. And, as mentioned earlier, Dunn also has YNT experience in central defense. But, as her regular college position is at forward, having her play outside-back will allow her to be more offensive-minded and is a slightly more natural fit, compared to central defense.

Also, regarding Dunn and Roccaro, at La Manga, they were both on the field at the same time, along with Kallman (definite center-back) and Pathman (definite left-back), during the second match. The two were also on the field together in a scrimmage during the January camp.  I think Swanson was testing Dunn as a center-back in those matches, but perhaps Roccaro played centrally. But, I have yet to find any indication that Roccaro has any experience in central defense.

Amack only got limited minutes at La Manga, so I expect her to be a sub, only. Based on the substitution patterns at La Manga, it appears that she only played outside-back, so she could be subbed in for Pathman late in a match, in order to protect Pathman for the next match.

Verdict: The starting backline is Dunn (RB), Brannon (CB), Kallman (CB), and Pathman (LB).

Next Up: Midfielders

This Series: (1) Intro(2) Goalkeepers; (3) Defenders; (4) Midfielders(5) Forwards; and (6) Conclusion.