Soccer-U.S. women's coach still tinkering ahead of World Cup defence

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - International Women's Friendly - England v United States - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - October 7, 2022 Coach Vlatko Andonovski of the U.S. before the match Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. women's head coach Vlatko Andonovski is still tinkering with his squad to find what he hopes will be a winning combination at this year's World Cup, as the Americans bid for an unprecedented third straight title without former stalwarts.

Sam Mewis and Julie Ertz, who once formed the bedrock of a stellar U.S. midfield, are both expected to miss the tournament which kicks off in July.

After a lengthy absence from the pitch, Mewis said this week she had undergone another knee surgery in June and was out indefinitely.

Ertz, who did not play in 2022, has yet to sign with a professional team this season after giving birth in August and Andonovski said time was running out for her return.

"This is something that we have planned for, and that's why we've tried different names, different players," said Andonovski, who announced the 23-player roster for the SheBelieves Cup on Wednesday.

"We're going to continue trying in this camp until we solidify the players that we believe will give us the best chance to be successful."

The U.S. kick off their title defence in the SheBelieves Cup, an annual round-robin tournament that this year also features Canada, Japan and Brazil on Feb. 16 in Orlando, Florida.

With veteran Megan Rapinoe back in the mix after recovering from injury, Andonovski said the competition was a chance to be creative with the World Cup less than sixth months away.

Mallory Swanson, whose stock rose with three goals across the United States' two friendlies last month against World Cup co-hosts New Zealand, was also named to the roster along with veteran Alex Morgan and rising star Trinity Rodman.

"It will show us where the team is now, but I don't think it will be it will be a real (barometer) of what the team is going to be five and a half months from now," Andonovski told reporters.

"We're going to we're going to try different things and test different combinations of players."

(Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York, editing by Ed Osmond)

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