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Three players to watch for the United States during the SheBelieves Cup

Who can become a household name with a strong performance during the international showcase?

South Korea v United States Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The United States Women’s National Team begins tournament play in the 2018 SheBelieves Cup against Germany on Thursday evening at MAPFRE Stadium. The USWNT come to Columbus with a talented roster that boasts world class players like Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd, but head coach Jill Ellis included new players into the rotation for the tournament.

Since the end of the 2016 Olympics, Ellis has utilized more than 30 players in matches and called more than 50 into training camp. The U.S. head coach awarded 22 first-time caps, and 15 of those were awarded since the end of the 2016 Olympics. Ellis and her staff will continue to evaluate the U.S. talent pool and those numbers are likely to go down as the head coach looks to lock in a consistent roster ahead of the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

Here are some of the players, whom you may not know yet, that can become USWNT mainstays with a strong performance in this year’s SheBelieves Cup.

Abby Dahlkemper

Canada v United States Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images

The defender is a former captain of the U-17 National Team and member of the North Carolina Courage where she anchors one of the stingiest defense in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).

Dahlkemper hasn’t had an easy road to get where she is today, battling back from a septic infection that nearly cost her career. She took time off in 2016 to regain her health and rehab, but has come back successfully and given Ellis another solid defender.

“I think she’s got tremendous poise,” Ellis said in an article for ESPNW last year. “I think her distribution and her quality of delivery, I think she’s a natural playmaker from the back, essentially. And now couple that with her defending. That’s still a work in progress for her, but she has a ruggedness about her and a physical dimension to her.”

Sofia Huerta

Daniel Bartel/isiphotos.com

Chicago Red Stars midfielder Sofia Huerta has partaken in an interesting journey during her soccer career. Born in Boise, Idaho, Huerta was raised in a Mexican-American household in a community that is mostly white.

She relished the opportunity to grow up in a bilingual household and vividly remembers the cultural struggles her Mexican father endured while adjusting to life in the U.S. Because of Huerta’s dual eligibility, she had the option to play for the United States or Mexico. Huerta initially tried out for the U.S. but got cut from the squad prior to the 2012 U-20 World Cup. The Mexican Federation then began the process of courting the young player, and would eventually be successful.

Huerta played for Mexico at the U-20 Women’s World Cup and has five caps for Mexico’s senior team. She even played in a match against the U.S., but in September 2017, Huerta was granted a one-time association in which she switched to the United States Federation.

With her appearance against New Zealand in Commerce City, Colorado on Sept. 15, 2017, Huerta became the first female player in history to play for and against the U.S. Women’s National Team in a senior level international match.

Julie Ertz

Canada v United States Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images

Perhaps more recently known for her marriage to Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, “JJ” has evolved from a cult favorite to a USWNT mainstay. She was a stud member of the youth international teams and made the most of her chances with the senior squad.

Ertz is best known for her mental toughness while on the pitch. There is little that can phase the defender during the course of a game.

She was playing a near perfect game during the semifinal of the 2015 Women’s World Cup against Germany, until a questionable decision arose in the 59th minute. Ertz earned a yellow card and presented Germany with a penalty kick opportunity. It was the defender’s “worst nightmare.”

Germany missed the spot kick and the U.S. saw out the remainder of the game to advance to the final. Ertz makes a career out of defying expectations and going above and beyond the call of duty.