USWNT's Johnston, Lloyd, Rapinoe finalists for World Cup Golden Ball
Julie Johnston wasn't initially on the U.S. women's national team's roster for World Cup qualifying, and she didn't play at all as the USA clinched its place in Canada. Now she's on the shortlist for best player at the 2015 Women's World Cup.
Johnston, Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe represent the USA on the eight-player Golden Ball shortlist, which FIFA announced on Thursday. They're joined by Japan's Aya Miyama and Saori Ariyoshi; Germany's Celia Sasic; England's Lucy Bronze; and France's Amandine Henry.
USA goalkeeper Hope Solo is one of three finalists for Golden Glove, given to the best goalkeeper. She's joined by Germany's Nadine Angerer and Japan's Ayumi Kaihori. Solo won the award in 2011, while Angerer won in 2007.
The three players up for the Young Player Award are Canada's Kadeisha Buchanan, Norway's Ada Hegerberg and China's Jiali Tang.
Johnston, who won the Bronze Ball in the 2012 U-20 Women's World Cup, has been a vital part of a U.S. defense that has posted five consecutive clean sheets, has only conceded once in six games and rides a 513-minute shutout streak into Sunday's final against Japan.
Lloyd has scored three goals, including the game-winning goals in the last two knockout matches, and Rapinoe scored twice in the tournament-opening victory over Australia while being a key component of the USA attack ever since.
The USA has only had one winner of the Golden Ball in six other Women's World Cups, that being Carin Jennings in the inaugural 1991 event. Abby Wambach took home the Silver Ball, while Solo won Bronze Ball honors in 2011, as both finished behind Japan's Homare Sawa.
The USA will play Japan at Vancouver's BC Place looking to win a record third World Cup title. Japan, which beat the USA in penalties in the 2011 final, is looking to be the second straight team to go back-to-back in tournament history after Germany won in 2003 and 2007.