U-20 USWNT: Midfielders (CONCACAF 2012)

The U-20 USWNT has six midfielders listed on its 20-player roster for the CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 Championship in Panama: 2010 Gatorade High School Girls Soccer Player of the Year, Morgan Brian of Virginia; the sophomore slump-free Vanessa DiBernardo of Illinois and Julie Johnston of Santa Clara; three-peat Gatorade High School Girls Soccer Player of the Year for Indiana, Sarah Killion; on-field scoring assistant Mandy Laddish of Notre Dame, and 5’11” “little sister,” Sam Mewis of UCLA.

Morgan Brian
D.O.B. / Age: 26-Feb-1993 / 19.0
Height: 5’7″
College/Club: Virginia (UVA)
Hometown: St. Simons Island, Georgia
Past YNT Championships2010 CONCACAF Women’s U-17 (5 matches); 2008 CONCACAF Women’s U-17 (3 matches); 2008 FIFA Women’s U-17 World Cup (1 match)
U-20 Position: Attacking center-mid
Notables: 2010-11 Gatorade High School Girls Soccer Player of the Year. Soccer America Women’s Freshman of the Year, 2011. Scored 7 goals at 2010 CONCACAF Women’s U-17 Championship.
Quote:  “She’s kind of skinny, lanky, tall; but once she gets on a soccer field, the impact that she makes for our team is extraordinary. You look at the four qualities of a soccer player: the technical, the tactical, the physical and the mental and she’s up there on every one, which is rare to see in such a young player.”  — UVA head coach and U-20 WNT coach Steve Swanson (November, 2011)
Starter or Sub: Starter.

Vanessa DiBernardo
D.O.B. / Age: 15-May-1992 / 19.8
Height: 5’4″
College/Club: U. of Illinois
Hometown: Naperville, Illinois
Past YNT Championships
U-20 Position: Attacking center-mid
Notables: Had 17 goals, 5 assists last fall as a Sophomore. 2009-10 Gatorade Illinois Girls Soccer Player of the Year. Father is Hermann Trophy winner (1978) Angelo DiBernardo, who played for the USWNT in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Quote: “Her talent is pretty apparent in terms of what she has been able to accomplish… I think the subtle thing is how she is also able to make the players around her better. That is the mark of not just a great player, but a great person who embraces their own talents but is also able to see the talent in the players around her as well.” — Janet Rayfield, Illinois women’s soccer coach (Nov, 2011)
Starter or Sub: Sub.

Julie Johnston
D.O.B. / Age: 6-Apr-1992 / 19.9
Height: 5’7″
College/Club: Santa Clara
Hometown: Mesa, Arizona
Past YNT Championships
U-20 Position: Holding center-mid
Notables: Led Santa Clara with most goals (9) and tied for most assists (4). One of five midfielders named to the 2011 NSCAA Women’s NCAA Division I All-America First Team. Also one of fifteen semi-finalists for the 2011 M.A.C. Hermann Trophy.
Quote: “Julie was our most outstanding player this year… She moved around in terms of different positions so her goal-scoring probably would have been even more had we not played her at center back for a few games… Julie established herself as a non-captain leader and in our biggest games of the year had her best performances.” — Santa Clara head coach Jerry Smith (November, 2011)
Starter or Sub: Toss up. Leaning toward Starter.

Sara Killion
D.O.B. / Age: 27-Jul-1992 / 19.6
Height: 5’8″
College/Club: UCLA
Hometown: Fort Wayne, Indiana
Past YNT Championships
U-20 Position: Attacking center-mid.
Notables: Three-time Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Indiana (2009-2011).
Quote: “Sarah is a play-maker, a very possession-oriented player with incredible vision… She plays balls that are dangerous and she’ll score, too. If you’re looking for a player to fit in a program to make everyone better, Sarah is that person.” —  Bobby Poursanidis, Fort Wayne Fever (February 2009)
Starter or Sub: Starter (probably).

Mandy Laddish
D.O.B. / Age: 13-May-1992 / 19.8
Height: 5’7″
College/Club: Notre Dame
Hometown: Lee’s Summit, Missouri
Past YNT Championships2008 FIFA Women’s U-17 World Cup (1 match)
U-20 Position: Attacking center-mid (probably)
Notables: Has played both attacking-mid and holding-mid positions. Her second career collegiate goal was a 1-0 game-winner versus Ohio State in a 2010 NCAA Women’s Soccer Final Four semifinal.
Quote: “Mandy brings a wealth of experience to our program, even as a young player… She is a very technical player with the versatility to play in multiple positions within our system here at Notre Dame. Her strengths come as an attacking player who is capable of helping in the midfield or even as a forward.” — UND and U-23 WNT coach Randy Waldrum (February, 2010)
Starter or Sub: Sub.

Sam Mewis
D.O.B. / Age: 9-Oct-1992 / 19.4
Height: 5’11”
College/Club: UCLA
Hometown: Hanson, Massachusetts
Past YNT Championships2010 CONCACAF Women’s U-20 (3 matches); 2010 FIFA Women’s U-20 World Cup (1 match); 2008 CONCACAF Women’s U-17 (4 matches); 2008 FIFA Women’s U-17 World Cup (4 matches)
U-20 Position: Holding center-mid.
Notables: Two-time Gatorade High School Girls Soccer Player of the Year for the state of Massachusetts (2010 & 2011). Has an older sister, Kristie, who is a junior at Boston College and has been in recent senior USWNT camps.
Quote: “[Samantha] is very different from Kristie… She’s more shy, sometimes she doesn’t know how good she is, and I like that about her. I don’t think she knows how much potential she has, which I think is a great thing to have as a soccer player and a person.” — Sydney Leroux (October, 2011)
Starter or Sub: Toss up. Leaning toward Sub.

* * *

As mentioned in the introduction, I am assuming that the formation is a 4-3-3 with one holding center-midfielder. But, whether there is one attacking midfielder or two, Brian will be on the field as a starting attacking midfielder.

For the holding role, I expect either Johnston or S. Mewis to be the starter. For the first two matches at La Manga, the substitution pattern was the same: Johnston started, with S. Mewis replacing Johnston at halftime. At these were halftime substitutions during test matches, it would be fairly safe to assume that the substitution was a like-for-a-like. Although, in the third test match, versus Norway, both S. Mewis and Johnston started the match. Either both were holding midfielders, or Johnston was tried up in an attacking role.

For the other midfielder role, Killion seems to be the most likely candidate as she started the first two matches at La Manga and played for the full ninety in the second match. But, DiBernardo also had significant minutes at La Manga. Or, perhaps Johnston might take this role with Mewis as a starting holding-mid.

Laddish only saw limited action as a sub at La Manga, so I expect her role in this tournament to also be from off the bench. DiBernardo will also be likely used as a sub.

Verdict: The starting midfield is Killion (AM), Johnston (HM), and Brian (AM).

Next Up: Forwards

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