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USWNT bench players ready to compete if called upon in World Cup

The depth, experience and versatility of the bench was something Jill Ellis touted when she announced the 2019 World Cup roster.

United States' Mallory Pugh, right, takes the ball past Thailand goalkeeper Waraporn Boonsing to score her team's 11th goal during the Women's World Cup Group F soccer match between the United States and Thailand at the Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims, France, Tuesday, June 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

PARIS — With one big win behind it, the United States women’s national team could use its upcoming World Cup match against another less-accomplished country to get quality minutes for some bench players. And if that happens, those players will be ready.

Former World Cup champions Carli Lloyd, Christen Press, Ali Krieger, Morgan Brian and Becky Sauerbrunn were among those who began the 13-0 Thailand victory on the bench, along with 21-year-old forward Mallory Pugh.

“I think on the bench, yeah, we have a lot of fire on us, and I think that we’re ready to take on anything,” Pugh said. “And you can put anyone in and they’re going to get the job done, because everyone knows what our main goal is and I think everyone is going to be prepared for that.”

Pugh and Lloyd each scored goals against Thailand after subbing on for Julie Ertz and Rose Lavelle, respectively. 

USWNT coach Jill Ellis touted the depth, versatility and experience of the entire team when she initially announced the 2019 World Cup roster. She spoke about those roster qualities again during a pre-matchday news conference Saturday after declining to reveal whether she’ll rotate the lineup Sunday at Parc des Princes against 39th-ranked Chile.

Starting U.S. midfielder Lindsey Horan also espoused confidence in her team’s supporting players.

“I think what’s so special about this team is the depth,” Horan said. “I think any player that comes off the bench brings something new and different and amazing to our team, and I think you saw that the other night.

“The starting lineup that we have, the attack is absolutely amazing, and then we have another I don’t know how many players who come of the bench and bring something different and new. That’s what’s so incredible about this team.”

One player has made clear numerous times that she is not satisfied in a substitute role and is looking to make an impact during this World Cup. Lloyd reinforced that message earlier in the week, saying, “Just being honest. If I was satisfied with that, I really shouldn’t be here, because that’s just not who I am as a person and a player.”

“I know that my ability is there. I know that if called upon and needing to play 90 minutes, I can do it,” Lloyd continued. “There’s honestly nothing there that’s holding me back, except for the coach’s decision. … I know I can help this team. I think Jill knows I can help this team, and I think my teammates know I can help this team.”

Though not satisfied, Lloyd said she respects the coach’s decision and continues to work hard every day for when she is given an opportunity to take the field. And when she gets one, she doesn’t let it go to waste. That’s why when she scored the final goal against Thailand in the 92nd — a goal critics called unnecessary — she celebrated and her coach celebrate and her team celebrated.

“That night was about celebrating people. I was most excited on the last goal we scored because that was Carli Lloyd,” Ellis said. “And I know all the history and all the background of that player to get to that moment and what that meant. 

“It might seem a scoreline to you, but it’s also years and years of work, and the pride I had in that moment — I wasn’t celebrating the score, I was celebrating Carli.”

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