Three hundred and sixty six-days after undergoing back surgery and 599 since her last cap, Abby Dahlkemper returned to the pitch for the U.S. women’s national team on Dec. 2 as part of the starting XI.
The 30-year-old defender last appeared in stars and stripes on April 12, 2022, in a friendly against Uzbekistan. And after so much time away, she was thrilled to return to international play.
“Just grateful beyond words and just thankful for this opportunity,” Dahlkemper told TNT following the match.
Before her long absence from the field, Dahlkemper experienced back spasms and spondylolysis, a stress fracture in the spine. The 30-year-old defender realized she needed back surgery in the middle of a game for the San Diego Wave, her NWSL squad. And then last November, Dahlkemper underwent spinal fusion surgery and spent nearly a year recovering.
“It was scary once I got the surgery and got it done because I just didn’t know how I was going to heal, like if I was ever going to be able to get like a full rotation and this and that in my back,” Dahlkemper said in September. “But I feel like my body has adjusted well and coming back, I feel like I haven’t really missed a beat.”
Dahlkemper scored in her third game back for the Wave, and she played all 90 minutes for the USWNT against China. So the 2019 World Cup champion seems to be back to her pre-injury form.
“You just trust the process and control what you can,” Dahlkemper said. “And here I am. Just unbelievably grateful and thankful but excited to play with this team again.”
599 days. @AbbyDahlkemper makes her return to the #USWNT following major back surgery in 2022 to earn her 80th cap today. Welcome back, Abs 💙 pic.twitter.com/1QzBY0jN7T— U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (@USWNT) December 2, 2023
599 days. @AbbyDahlkemper makes her return to the #USWNT following major back surgery in 2022 to earn her 80th cap today. Welcome back, Abs 💙 pic.twitter.com/1QzBY0jN7T