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Five Tar Heels named to Women’s World Cup roster

Two returning World Champions and three World Cup rookies will be headed to France.

2019 SheBelieves Cup - United States v England Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The sun rises in the East, water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and North Carolina alums are playing the the Women’s World Cup. Some things do not, and will never, change. Last week Women’s National Team head coach Jill Ellis unveiled her 23-player roster for France 2019 and, as has been the case in every Cup since its inception in 1991, a group of Tar Heels will be taking part. Here are the four former Anson Dorrance-coached stars that will look to be earning Cup #4.

Tobin Heath - Right Winger

Australia v United States Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

To the surprise of no one, Tobin Heath will be appearing in her third World Cup as one of the USWNT’s key offensive weapons. The three-time National Champion and internet sensation is arguably the most talented player on the roster, with her terrific ball skills and playmaking ability.

2018 started off as a difficult one for Heath, who had ankle surgery in January and didn’t return to international play until June. But when she returned, she reminded everyone just how special a player she is, scoring seven goals and tallying six assists in just 10 games. 2019 has been a strong one as well, with her scoring two goals in the SheBelieves Cup.

The longtime fan favorite has gotten better and better with each passing season and will be one of the players the veteran team will lean on heavily, often asked to create offense on the fly when the collective buildup has stalled (think Iso scorer in basketball).

Crystal Dunn - Left Back

Belgium v United States Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images

What a difference four years makes! The most noteworthy omission from Canada 2015, Dunn is making her first World Cup appearance and just might be the most indispensable player on the roster. The versatile Dunn has become a mainstay at LB for Jill Ellis’ squad, despite the fact that she has been an explosive attacking player in the NWSL and even at times on the national team. But, with a lack of depth on the defensive side of the ball and an embarrassment of riches up front, she’ll be leaned on to secure the backline.

I’m going to put my fandom hat on here: Crystal Dunn is a preposterous soccer player. She can play at virtually any position, is frequently shuffled around throughout the lineup based on need, and excels at any role she is plugged into. I truly can’t think of a player in the men’s game that can do that. It’s almost a shame that she’s going to be mainly called on to close down opposing star wingers because she has so many other weapons in her arsenal. But the need is at the back and she goes where the need is.

Ashlyn Harris - Goalkeeper

South Korea v United States Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The post-Hope Solo era has not been the easiest for the USWNT, but Harris has once again made the roster as a strong option at backup behind Alyssa Naeher. There’s been some debate over the last couple campaigns regarding which of the two deserves the starting job — Harris is the more dynamic save-maker but is prone to mistakes and Naeher is more sure-handed, but at times indecisive. Ellis has opted to favor the sure-handed option.

This will be Harris’ second World Cup appearance and will be joining her fiancee and Orlando Pride teammate Ali Krieger on the team. Krieger, making her third WC appearance, was a surprise inclusion as she had been left out of the team for the better part of two years.

Jessica McDonald - Forward

Belgium v United States Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images

As discussed earlier this week, Jessica McDonald making it to the World Cup is a titanic feat, considering the journey she has been on in her career. But her play in the last two seasons speaks for itself and her energy off the bench will be tremendously valuable for a USWNT squad that can never have enough scoring, despite the talent they have up front. McDonald won’t start but she, along with Christen Press will be called on as instant offense.

Allie Long

South Africa v United States Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Like McDonald, Allie Long transferred to UNC and was part of the 2008 National Championship squad (along with Heath) and was a late bloomer on the National Team. She received her first international cap in 2014 and was frequently on the edge of several international competitions: She missed out on the 2015 World Cup, but made the 2016 Olympic Squad; she didn’t make the 2018 CONCACAF roster, but now she’s fought to earn a spot in France 2019.

Long presents an interesting option for the USWNT roster, as she is the only holding midfielder on the squad. The others favor either a box-to-box or attacking style. If the US find themselves needing a deep-lying playmaker, Long will be the best and most experienced option.