No Rose Lavelle, no World Cup: Midfielder's fitness key for the USWNT ahead of final group-stage clash with Portugal

Lavelle World Cup USSWNT gfxGetty/GOAL

It's now been four years since the summer that Rose Lavelle became a household name in the United States. Just 24 years old and with the world at her feet, Lavelle departed France with a World Cup trophy, a goal in the final and the competition's Bronze Ball. She looked ready to be the face of the next generation of U.S. women's national team stars that would look to continue their dominance for the next decade or so.

If 2019 was Lavelle's coming-out party, the 2023 World Cup would be her encore. She arrived on the global stage in France, but, Down Under this summer, she'd begin to show the player she can be in her prime.

It hasn't quite happened that way. Limited by injury, Lavelle has made just two substitute appearances for the U.S., totalling just about 75 minutes on the pitch. So far, we haven't seen the best version of Lavelle this summer.

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We have, though, seen glimpses. With the USWNT trailing the Netherlands 1-0, Lavelle came on to save Vlatko Andonovski's midfield before assisting Lindsey Horan, earning her side a much-needed point. It was a cameo perhaps made out of desperation, but it was also an appearance that proved just how desperate the USWNT are for their midfield star.

As the U.S. prepare to face Portugal in the team's final group game, it's never been more clear how vital Lavelle is to this group. The U.S. isn't anywhere near it's best without her.