Alyssa Thompson's time to shine is now! USWNT winners and losers as Mallory Swanson injury overshadows pre-World Cup wins over Ireland

Mallory Swanson Alyssa Thompson USWNT GFX
After the team's latest warm-up games for Australia and New Zealand, coach Vlatko Andonovski has been left with a selection dilemma no one saw coming

No matter what happened in the two games against Ireland, no matter the results or the goals or the lessons, this week was one big setback for the U.S. women's national team.

That's all you can really take away when a team loses someone like Mallory Swanson just before a World Cup. That's the story, the only real story, of these two friendlies, right?

Well, not the only story. All of the focus will rightfully be on Swanson's injury and, ultimately, who replaces her. We saw several ways the second half of that sentence can shake out in Tuesday's 1-0 win, and it looks like the USWNT will likely have to trust a young star to step up in Australia and New Zealand.

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Swanson's bad luck, unfortunate as it is, will be someone's gain. Perhaps Trinity Rodman, perhaps Alyssa Thompson, perhaps Megan Rapinoe. Teenager Thompson, though, is among the winners of the week, having gone from outside the squad to starting in a matter of days.

She isn't the only player making a late World Cup push, either. On the other end of the career spectrum, Julie Ertz is back and making a run of her own. After nearly two years away, Ertz played both matches and barely missed a beat, proving that she too could play a part this summer.

With that said, here's a look at the big winners and losers of the USWNT camp...

  1. LOSER: Mallory Swanson

    LOSER: Mallory Swanson

    We'll get the obvious one out of the way, because we all know it's coming.

    This window, there's no bigger loser than Mallory Swanson, and that's heartbreaking.

    A player in the best form of her career and on her way to becoming a star suddenly, shockingly, taken out of World Cup contention. Swanson was going to be a key player for the USWNT this summer, maybe their best player, but, out of nowhere, she won't be able to play at the tournament.

    It's a horrible reality for Swanson, who looked destined for a breakout in Australia and New Zealand. It's horrible for the USWNT too, who will now need to reshuffle and rethink the attack after basically settling on a front three.

    There will, hopefully, be more World Cups for Swanson; she is still just 24 after all. But this could have been the one for her to announce herself to a global audience, and it's really sad that it won't be.

  2. WINNER: Julie Ertz

    WINNER: Julie Ertz

    It's hard to believe these were Ertz's first games in nearly two years. And, if she was this good after this kind of break, how good can she be at the World Cup?

    Much will depend on what happens next with Ertz, who is expected to sign with a new club soon. But, based on what we've seen, Vlatko Andonovski may not be able to leave Ertz at home even if she spends the next three months doing nothing but playing pickup.

    Ertz is simply that good and that important. In her two appearances this week, Ertz transformed the USWNT midfield. Can she play meaningful minutes at a World Cup level? That may be tough. But, at worst, she could be a key piece off the bench if the U.S. needs to regain midfield control.

    For years, the program has looked for an Ertz-like player to fill the hole she left behind. Now, they have Ertz herself once more.

  3. LOSER: Vlatko Andonovski
    Getty Images

    LOSER: Vlatko Andonovski

    As if he didn't have enough to worry about...

    Andonovski heads into this World Cup with question marks all over his roster, but now will face a complicated decision in the one part of the field that seemed somewhat set. Swanson's injury has given the USWNT coach another headache just weeks away from his roster selection.

    Andonovski had settled on his starting trio of Swanson, Alex Morgan and Sophia Smith, but now he'll have some juggling to do. Does he play Rodman on the left side, or maybe swap Smith over? Can Rapinoe be trusted to play big minutes? What about Thompson?

    All new headaches, and the old ones are still there too. The midfield situation is still uncertain at best and Andonovski will also have some tough choices to make at full-back.

    Heading into the World Cup, the USWNT is far from a finished product, which isn't ideal given where we are in the cycle.

  4. WINNER: Alyssa Thompson
    Getty Images

    WINNER: Alyssa Thompson

    She may not be ready, but there's a chance we're going to find out either way.

    Shortly after Swanson's injury, Thompson was called up to the USWNT in her place. She was then given her first senior start, playing all 90 minutes against Ireland. In some ways, it felt like a last-gasp look at a player that suddenly could be in contention to actually start at the World Cup.

    At just 18, Thompson still needs some refining. She only played her first professional club game a few weeks ago, after all. Against Ireland, she deferred on one big chance that she should have taken, showing that she still could use some confidence with the USWNT.

    But she's just so damn good. Despite her age, despite her unfamiliarity with everything going on, Thompson is the real deal. If there's anyone that may stand to benefit from Swanson's injury, its Thompson, who may go from the World Cup bubble to playing meaningful minutes this summer.

  5. WINNER: Defenders scoring first career goals

    WINNER: Defenders scoring first career goals

    Forget the goals, to be fair, because, let's be honest: they probably aren't repeatable. Emily Fox won't score many long-range golazos. Alana Cook will almost certainly never lob the goalkeeper from 35 yards ever again and, if she does, more power to her.

    This was about more than the goals, even if they were the headline. This was about some good performances from players that should feel good about their World Cup situations.

    Fox's has been secure for a while, and there is no doubt that she should start at right back. Her passing has been phenomenal and her ability to get into the attack has been invaluable. The goal? That was lovely, too.

    As for Cook, she may not be a locked in starter, but she should feel good about where she stands. Naomi Girma and Becky Sauerbrunn may be the favorites to start at the heart of the defense, but Cook put in a good performance against Ireland.

    Girma, given what we've seen, may be unbenchable, but is Sauerbrunn? Who knows? Even if Cook doesn't start, she'll certainly be used at the World Cup.

    Two unlikely scorers with two crazy goals, and both will have parts to play this summer.