Savannah DeMelo to the USWNT: What to expect from the newest U.S. player

Quick Hits
  • Vlatko Andonovski recently named a 23-player roster for the USWNT’s friendlies against Nigeria on September 3 and 6
  • There’s a new face on that U.S. roster: Racing Louisville’s rookie midfielder Savannah DeMelo. Who is DeMelo? And how does she play? Let’s talk about that
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After an average showing in the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup, Racing Louisville started their season without a win in three straight games. Louisville needed something to break themselves out of their slump. Anything.

Enter, rookie midfielder Savannah DeMelo. 

In Racing’s fourth game of the season, DeMelo stepped up to take a free kick outside the San Diego Wave’s box. The midfielder connected cleanly with the ball and slammed it into the top right-hand corner of the goal. Even NWSL and Canadian veteran Kailen Sheridan couldn’t stop the free kick from hitting the back of San Diego’s net.

DeMelo’s free kick stunner ultimately handed the Wave their first regular-season loss, and finally put one in the win column for Louisville. 

Fast forwarding to last week, Vlatko Andonovski and the U.S. women’s national team’s coaching staff named a 23-player roster for the team’s friendlies against Nigeria on September 3 and 6. After they announced the roster, DeMelo joined the team in place of Trinity Rodman

This is DeMelo’s first senior team call-up. After some of her performances in the NWSL this year, Andonovski is bringing the rookie into the USWNT fold.

Who is DeMelo?

A standout midfielder at the University of Southern California, DeMelo appeared in 75 games, made 73 starts, and scored 17 goals while assisting an additional 28 during her college tenure. Her time at USC was interrupted by an Achilles injury in 2019, but she returned to form for her final years of NCAA eligibility and entered the 2022 NWSL Draft.

DeMelo was selected fourth overall by Racing Louisville FC with their second pick in the draft, after they selected fellow midfielder Jaelin Howell in the number-two spot. Since then, DeMelo has had an impressive rookie campaign.

She’s started all 17 of Racing’s regular season games and is currently leading all rookies in minutes with 1,653. In those games, DeMelo has appeared pretty much all over the midfield, sometimes playing on the wings, in a double-pivot with Racing’s natural No. 6 Jaelin Howell, or as a No. 10.

How does DeMelo play?

That attacking midfield role is where DeMelo often looks most comfortable. She’s dangerous in open play, especially on the dribble, and has the skill and confidence to take players on one-v-one and dictate the team’s attacking tempo. Her numbers back this up: DeMelo is only behind Emily Fox in her share of Louisville’s touches. She’s recording 12% of Louisville’s touches (relative to Fox’s 12.2%) as a midfielder.

These ideas are perfectly captured in this clip of DeMelo from Racing’s July 8 matchup against NJ/NY Gotham FC, where she steps into a wide-open space to intercept a pass from Gotham’s backline. 

After DeMelo interrupts the play, she drives the ball forward with pace, beats NWSL veteran Ali Krieger, and rips a shot past the goalkeeper for one of her three goals this season. 

DeMelo’s other two goals have also been highlight-worthy – and they’ve both been from set pieces. 

DeMelo’s body of work this season has her near the top of the Racing Louisville squad in a number of statistical categories. Of players who have notched at least 500 minutes in 2022, she’s currently ranked fifth on the team in shots (1.57), shots on target (0.52) and expected goals (0.16) per 96 minutes. She’s also third in goals per 96 (0.17), and first in expected assists (0.16), key passes (2.56), and goals added (0.08). 

Zooming out to look at how DeMelo’s numbers compare with the league as a whole, she’s fourth in the NWSL in key passes per 96. Her other attacking stats aren’t as close to the top of the league tables, but DeMelo is only a rookie so there’s lots of room for her to grow.

What to expect with the USWNT

Regardless, her performances have earned DeMelo her first-ever USWNT call-up, where she’ll have a chance to compete for minutes on the senior team. Don’t be shocked if we don’t see her play this time around, though. Competing with Lindsey Horan (OL, France), Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), and Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit) for a midfield spot is going to be tough.

That’s not to say she won’t ever make it into the USWNT’s lineup, though. This training camp experience will be an important part of DeMelo’s development, and if she performs as well as she’s played in the NWSL this season, it likely won’t be her last call up to the senior team. 

Data courtesy of American Soccer Analysis.