Casey Krueger was at home when she got the call from Vlatko Andonovski letting her know she’d be an alternate on the 2021 U.S. women’s national team Olympic roster.
She had been preparing for this call for months but didn’t prepare herself to hear that she’d be heading to Tokyo.
“My husband knew I had the phone call coming up,” Krueger said. “I think he thought it was going to be a bad phone call, too. So he kind of left the room and said, ‘If you need me, let me know.’ He came back in and heard the tail end of things.”
Krueger isn’t a pessimist. In fact, she’s described by her peers and coaches as one of the most positive players to work with. But when it comes to making the USWNT roster, she has become a realist.
Her goal since she was a young player growing up in Naperville was to compete with the USWNT for a World Cup title and Olympic gold.
Leading up to the 2019 USWNT World Cup roster announcement, Krueger was at every camp. She had high expectations for herself and believed she was a lock to make the team. When the call came from then-coach Jill Ellis saying she wouldn’t be competing in France, Krueger was shocked.
“It was definitely a very difficult time for her when she didn’t get named to the World Cup roster,” said Red Stars teammate Tierna Davidson, the youngest Olympian on the team. “She turned it around and ended up making every single NWSL Best XI in the 2019 season.”
Krueger still hasn’t received any clarity on why she wasn’t part of the 23-player roster that won a record fourth World Cup title. Her call with Ellis was short and emotional, so Krueger never got a clear picture as to why she was omitted.
Looking back, she said she wouldn’t change a thing about that experience because it gave her perspective.
After the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup season, an injury to her hip left Krueger on the outside of multiple USWNT camps last fall. Instead of stressing about what it meant for her future with the team, Krueger enjoyed the time away.
She got married, did some soul-searching and hit the reset button. When Krueger returned to the field in preparation for the 2021 NWSL season, she felt stronger than ever, and Andonovski took notice.
Krueger replaced Alana Cook on the 2021 SheBelieves Cup roster after Paris St. Germain denied Cook’s release because of quarantine requirements.
After the 2021 SheBelieves Cup, Krueger wasn’t called into another USWNT camp. Thinking she was out of the running, she put the Olympic roster out of her mind and shifted her focus to Chicago.
Through the 2021 Challenge Cup and the first half of the NWSL’s regular season, Krueger again proved herself as one of the most consistent outside backs in the game.
“I said all along that [players’] performance in the NWSL will matter when we make final decisions,” Andonovski said after announcing the Olympic roster. “Casey is a good example of that.”
There have been multiple reports that the International Olympic Committee will grant approval for competing teams to expand their rosters to 22, making the four alternates available on the active roster.
Andonovski confirmed that the team will have flexibility with the roster but said he’s waiting to see what the exact rules will look like.
When she paused to consider her journey and where it could end, Krueger struggled to find the words.
“I have chills thinking about [winning gold],” Krueger said. “It’s what I’ve been working for since I started on the soccer field.”
Red Stars 1, Spirit 0
Julia Elisabeth Roddar knocked the ball into her own net in the 33rd minute as the Red Stars won Friday night in Washington.