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Written by Oluwaseun Oyediji

Wednesday’s United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) Olympic roster drop drew both celebratory and disappointed reactions from the soccer community, but one theme crystallized from head coach Emma Hayes’s apparent strategy.

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In making an 18-player roster, versatility is key.

Retired USWNT midfielder and 2019 World Cup champion Sam Mewis cited players like midfielder Catarina Macario, utility phenom Crystal Dunn, and defend-from-anywhere Emily Sonnett for their ability to “be dangerous in more than one position.”

“This is a fluid group,” Mewis said Wednesday in a recorded reaction podcast for The Women’s Game.

“I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this group really rotated… this could be a signal of strength for the US Women’s National Team.”

Like Hayes, Mewis referenced the Olympic format’s tight turnaround, which offers little recovery time for players in positions expected to run the full 90.

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However, she explained, the US has "incredible depth, more so than a lot of other countries, [which] is a really, really great sign for a tournament like this."

Mewis’s World Cup teammate Jessica McDonald also pointed out that Dunn’s versatility has her listed as a striker, though she can "basically play anywhere."

With Dunn’s addition to forward selectees Mal Swanson, Sophia Smith, Trinity Rodman, Jaedyn Shaw, and alternate Lynn Williams, McDonald also noted that this roster features an "all Black front line."

That’s a significant leap in representation for a team that just 25 years ago listed only two Black players on the 1999 World Cup roster: legendary goalkeeper Briana Scurry and her backup, Saskia Webber.

Meanwhile…

Yet not all feedback was positive, as many fans, former players, and media personalities took to social media to express their disappointment over Hayes’s decision to include midfielder Korbin Albert.

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The 20-year-old Paris Saint-Germain player drew widespread criticism in March for homophobic and transphobic social media activity — including liking an Instagram post making fun of former USWNT star Megan Rapinoe’s on-field injury — for which she later issued an apology.

When asked directly about Albert, Hayes said her Olympic roster inclusion was "on merit in terms of what she offers for us in the midfield," and that "a lot of work that's been going on in the background" surrounding Albert’s personal growth.

On her podcast, Sam Mewis offered a different take: "There are endless opportunities to demonstrate this growth to the community that has been hurt. The actions were out in the open and so, to some extent, the growth should be out in the open as well."

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