When U.S. women’s national team head coach Jill Ellis announced her World Cup roster in May, the buzz around her choices was hardly quiet.
But perhaps nowhere was that noise louder than around Allie Long.
The midfielder had seemingly been on the bubble for the World Cup roster. She had been on and off the squad in the matches leading up to May’s final roster. Injuries had appeared and reappeared, particularly a nagging one to her knee. Many thought there were better options for Ellis to call up at Long’s position (McCall Zerboni the most commonly talked-about snub in the midfield).
Still, Long will make the trip to France this summer – her first call-up for a World Cup. Long played in the 2016 Olympics, earning three starts in the U.S.’s four matches.
She’s accumulated 42 caps since her national team debut in 2014, and she’s scored six goals in that span. That experience, spread throughout the past several years, was a big reason for Ellis’s choice.
“World Cups aren’t moments to invest in players,” Ellis said on a conference call last month, explaining her World Cup roster. “World Cups are about winning. So I think experience, for any coach, is going to weigh heavily in some of these decisions for sure.”
Long agreed that her time on the Olympic roster in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 helped her in the end when it came to earning the World Cup call-up.
“Number one, playing in the Olympics and (Ellis) seeing me in that environment, and just being on the team the last three years has given her a comfort level in knowing what she has in me,” Long said. “I think that I can offer consistency, and I’m someone in the midfield who can calm it down and just keep possession on the ball and win tackles off the ball.”
Despite her back-and-forth roster appearances over the last year, Long is ready to use this summer as a chance to prove herself again on an international stage.
Because there was a time when Long had no idea if she’d be on this roster either. When Ellis called her in May to let her know she’d made it, Long wasn’t sure at first which way that conversation would go. It could “either be good or bad,” Long said.
It was a similar feeling to what echoed in Long’s mind throughout the past few months – especially when she missed out on final rosters for the SheBelieves Cup and the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying tournament.
Still, the questions of what her future on the national team would hold served as ready-made motivation to keep working. And now the reward? A spot in France in her first World Cup.
“There were definitely times when I was like, ‘How is this going to happen?’” Long said. “But every time I started to go down that path, I just wouldn’t let myself. I worked hard. I was training hard every single day, and it motivated me by not being there to be at my best every day in the offseason, so that when I did get my chance, I would be ready.”