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UNC’s Alessia Russo replaces Lucy Bronze on England roster for SheBelieves Cup

Russo was the MVP of the ACC Tournament this past season for the North Carolina Tar Heels.

UNC forward Alessia Russo adjusts her socks in the ACC Championship vs. Virginia on Nov. 10, 2019 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. (Mitchell Northam / Pro Soccer USA)

On England’s roster for the 2020 SheBelieves Cup, a college player will fill in for someone who was a finalist for FIFA’s Player of the Year award in 2019.

The English women’s national team announced Wednesday that it has added Alessia Russo to its roster for the upcoming friendly tournament after Lucy Bronze was forced to withdraw due to a calf injury.

Russo, 21, was already in camp for Phil Neville’s side as a training player.

Currently a star at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill – the same school Bronze went to – Russo has played for England at every youth level but has yet to be capped by the senior team. In 2018, she helped England claim a bronze medal at the FIFA U-20 World Cup.

This past season, Russo led Anson Dorrance’s Tar Heels to an ACC championship and an appearance in the College Cup final, tallying 13 goals and three assists in 24 games. She was named MVP of the ACC tournament. She has a total of 28 goals and nine assists in 57 matches over her career at UNC.

During the ACC tournament this past season, Dorrance predicted that Russo would be able to contribute to England’s senior team in 2020.

“With Alessia, I promised Phil Neville that we would have her ready by the last week in February. That’s the SheBelieves Cup,” Dorrance said in November. “At the rate she’s going, she is going to be ready, and Phil will be very excited about all of the pieces Alessia is adding to her game.

“Her dreams are certainly beyond the collegiate game. And she’s assembling all of those pieces to contribute for England.”

Bronze, 28, has been capped 81 times by England since 2013.

She’s started in 13 matches over the past two World Cups, notching three goals and two assists. Bronze has five assists in 18 starts for French giants Lyon this season. In 2019, she was a finalist for The Best FIFA Women’s Player award, which ultimately went to U.S. star Megan Rapinoe.

Bronze will remain in France for treatment, according to a release from the England FA.

Replacing Russo as a training camp body will be Anna Patten, who is a defender for the University of South Carolina. This assignment will take Patten away from England’s U-21 team, which will take on France in a double-header next week.

The Lionesses will open the 2020 SheBelieves Cup against the U.S. in a match at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida on March 5.

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