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What Is This USWNT Player’s Deal: Rose Lavelle

AUSTIN, TX - APRIL 8: Rose Lavelle #16 of the United States dribbles past Megan Connolly #6 of the Republic of Ireland during a game between Ireland and the United States at Q2 Stadium on April 8, 2023 in Austin, Texas.
Erin Chang/USSF/Getty Images

Welcome to What Is This USWNT Player's Deal, a recurring series in which Defector selects a name from the American players most likely to go to the Women's World Cup this summer and answers the question: What is this USWNT player’s deal?

Most people didn't know too much about Rose Lavelle when she was named to the USWNT's 2019 World Cup roster. She was 23 years old at the time, and a few years removed from a sparkling college career at the University of Wisconsin. The start of her professional career was an extended bummer: After being drafted by the NWSL's Boston Breakers, she only played eight games in her rookie season due to injury, and then the Breakers folded before the start of the 2018 season. Lavelle was scooped up by the Washington Spirit in a dispersal draft, only playing 17 games in her two seasons with them due to further injury issues and international duty.

The national team is where Lavelle started to make her mark, appearing in five games for the USWNT in the 2018 CONCACAF Women's Championship and scoring three goals, including one in the 2-0 victory over Canada in the final. That run earned her a spot on the 2019 World Cup roster, and so there she was, a kid most casual soccer fans had never heard of, starting for the best team in the world, in the biggest tournament in the world.

It's important to remember that, at the time, there was some anxiety around the USWNT. The team had followed up its 2015 World Cup title with a humiliating loss in the quarterfinals at the Olympics, and there were questions about how effectively the program would be able to transition from one generation into the next. Lavelle played a huge part in soothing those anxieties at the 2019 World Cup, where she established herself as one of the best players on the team. She started six games, scored three goals, and orchestrated the action from midfield throughout the tournament. By the time the USWNT had finished its redemptive title run, one thing was clear: Lavelle made the team go.

Since then, Lavelle's career has followed the same pattern she established early on, in which she does most of her best work for the national team. She's made 86 appearances in her club career, in which she's scored 12 goals and notched six assists. Meanwhile, she's played 71 games for the national team, racking up 19 goals and 20 assists in those matches. If there's a time to watch Rose Lavelle, it's when she's wearing her national team uniform.

Who Does She Play For?

Lavelle is in her third season with NWSL's OL Reign, reigning NWSL Shield winners. She's had some trouble consistently staying on the field during her tenure there, and when she has played she hasn't quite provided the goals and assists production that one might expect from her. She was a big factor in the team's 2022 season, though, starting 17 games and contributing a career-high five goals.

Lavelle's an extremely versatile player, and so even when she's not bagging goals and sliding assists all over the field, she provides her team with plenty of value as a ball-winner and distributor. She keeps things humming, and any team she plays for is going to be a more composed, technically sound one with her on the field.

The Lindsey Horan Magnifique Test

The Lindsey Horan Magnifique Test refers to the following foolproof heuristic for determining whether or not a U.S. player is actually good or just good by our rosy American standards: Do fans tweet lovingly about them in their local language?

How Does She Play?

The simplest way to describe Rose Lavelle's game is to say that she's one of those players you can't pull your eyes away from when she's on the field. When she's at her best, she's giving everything you'd want from an attacking midfielder: dropping deep to receive the ball and fire off accurate passes to start attacking moves, flitting between the lines and probing weaknesses in the defense, sliding luscious through balls onto the feet of sprinting forwards, humiliating two or three defenders at a time as she dribbles past them, firing in goals from the edge of the box.

The reason Lavelle is able to do so many things on the field is down to her technical ability. She's one of those players who appears to have an internal gyroscope; she can be sprinting down the field with the ball at her feet, cutting and changing direction as she goes, and the top half of her body never seems to move. She can quickly and easily manipulate the ball with either foot, shift her weight and change direction without a hitch, and perfectly weight her passes. This is part of what made Lavelle's ascendance at the 2019 World Cup so fun to watch—for years, the USWNT had gotten by on its physical superiority, overwhelming opponents with its advantages in size, speed, and strength. And then, all of a sudden, there was this little spindly legged midfielder on the field, dancing around opponents and playing like she grew up in the Barcelona academy. Lavelle is exactly the sort of player the USWNT is going to need more of if it wants to keep pace with the ever-strengthening European national teams. Aside from that, the games are just way more fun to watch when Lavelle is on the field.

The Parental Recognition Index

The Parental Recognition Index is a holistic, objective metric that analyzes a player’s full array of skills and talents, distilling it all into a single number that corresponds to their ultimate potential and the likelihood that they will become a big enough star at the World Cup that one of your parents will send you a text message about them.

Your mom isn't a huge sports fan, but when she does sit down to watch a game of any sort with you, she's always looking for one thing: moxie. That point guard she wouldn't stop talking about when you were watching college basketball at the house this spring? He had moxie. The baseball guy who briefly got her out of her seat when he stretched a double into a triple? Moxie.

There is a 89 percent chance that your mom will text you, "this rose livelle [sic] has moxie!" during one of the group-stage games, and if Lavelle happens to score within 30 minutes of that text being sent, there is a 99 percent chance that your mom will follow up with, "Rosie!!!"

Show To Me A Cool Highlight

How about nearly five minutes of Lavelle embarrassing any defender dumb enough to get within three feet of her:

How Does She Fit In With The U.S. Team?

Lavelle can fit wherever she's needed in the midfield. She's got the box-to-box abilities necessary to play as one of the two No. 8s in a three-person midfield, but if Vlatko Andonovski decides he'd rather play with a double-pivot, she can easily push up and play as a No. 10. How exactly the midfield is going to shake out is one of the bigger questions facing the USWNT as it prepares for the World Cup, but I feel pretty confident in saying that any midfield set-up will be far better off with Lavelle included.

How Close Is She To The Hypothetical Best XI?

OK, so, here is where I have some bad news: Lavelle, as has been the case with depressing frequency throughout her career, is currently injured. She played in the first two games of the season for OL Reign before suffering a knee injury on April 8. She was set to return to action a few weeks ago, until OL Reign manager Laura Harvey revealed that Lavelle had suffered a setback, and was unlikely to play again before the World Cup.

If there's a reason to be hopeful here, it's that Lavelle's injury is being handled with an abundance of caution, and she's still got nearly two months of recovery time ahead of her. It sucks for NWSL fans that an injury is going to cost her a big chunk of yet another season, but a World Cup year is not one in which anyone should be taking risks. We'll know more about Lavelle's availability as the opening game against Vietnam draws closer, so here's hoping for the best.

Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that OL Reign won the NWSL title in 2022.

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