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Abby Dahlkemper injury timeline: USWNT star’s road to recovery

Abby Dahlkemper playing for the USWNT.
Abby Dahlkemper last played for the USWNT in April. (Robin Alam/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, World Cup and NWSL champion defender Abby Dahlkemper announced that she’d had successful back surgery, in what many hope is the final chapter of a difficult year plagued by injury and absence.

The Wave declined to clarify Dahlkemper’s surgery due to “privacy” reasons, but the second photo in her post appears to show two screws inserted in her spine.

Dahlkemper has made a few stops on her club journey in recent years, going from the North Carolina Courage to Manchester City and then the Houston Dash, before finding a home at NWSL expansion side San Diego Wave. But the team’s captain didn’t get as much time on the field in 2022 as she had hoped for due to various health reasons.

Questions about Dahlkemper’s form have increased in recent years, but lingering injuries have seemed to play a significant role in her ability to execute on the field and her potential to contribute to her NWSL club and the U.S. women’s national team.

We took a look at the entirety of Dahlkemper’s 2022 availability to try to put together a clearer picture of her status, especially ahead of next year’s World Cup.

February 2022

Perhaps signaling the year to come, Dahlkemper’s public issues with her back started at the beginning of 2022. After being called up to the USWNT camp for the SheBelieves Cup in February, she had to withdraw due to a back injury and was replaced by Trinity Rodman.

March-April 2022

Dahlkemper’s most consistent playing time in 2022 came during the early stages of the Challenge Cup through the middle of May. She started all five of San Diego’s Challenge Cup group stage matches and rejoined the USWNT for two April friendlies against Uzbekistan, starting in one match and coming off the bench for 9-1 and 9-0 wins.

A bout with COVID-19 in late April landed Dahlkemper on San Diego’s availability report as “under COVID protocols.” She wrote on her Instagram at the time: “I have unfortunately tested positive for covid. I am so sad to be missing the game tonight but will be cheering from home.”

May 2022

Dahlkemper cleared COVID-19 protocols by San Diego’s May 1 match against Houston but did not play or feature on the bench. She did rejoin the Wave in early May and played in two regular season matches.

In a 4-0 win over Gotham on May 7, Dahlkemper had to leave the match in the 35th minute with what appeared to be a non-contact injury, after the broadcast showed San Diego trainers tending to her back and neck. She walked off the pitch under her own power, and head coach Casey Stoney said that the team was dedicating the win to the defender. She did not play in the team’s next match, a 2-1 win over the Chicago Red Stars on May 15.

On May 18, Dahlkemper played a full 90 minutes in San Diego’s 1-0 loss to Racing Louisville, but her passing completion dipped to 63.9 percent, a season-low to date.

Dahlkemper then fractured her ribs prior to the team’s next match. On Instagram, Dahlkemper wrote about the frustration of taking another step-back: “2022 has already been a year full of adversity for me, but throughout the trials it has allowed me to realize the pure joy and happiness playing soccer with my teammates brings me.”

She continued, “Although I’m so sad to face another setback, I am more determined than ever to get back on the field as soon as possible. I love this club and I love this city and I can’t wait to be back.”

July-August 2022

Dahlkemper’s rib injury sidelined her throughout the month of June, but she returned to NWSL play in July despite missing out on the USWNT’s roster for both June friendlies and the Concacaf W Championship.

She started all four of San Diego’s matches in July and was frequently paired with Kaleigh Rhiel in the absence of Naomi Girma, who was away on international duty for much of the month. Dahlkemper played 90 minutes in all but the last match of July, a 1-0 win over the Chicago Red Stars in which she was paired with Girma. She left that match in the 58th minute after being ejected for a second yellow card on a tackle.

When asked about Dahlkemper’s possible return after serving her one-game suspension on August 7, Stoney told the media, “Abby is our captain, so she becomes available next week, but she needs to fight for her shirt now, just like any player. She knows that and she wants to work hard to get back with the team.”

The manager also noted her captain’s essential presence in the locker room and her satisfaction with Rhiel (who on Thursday signed a contract extension with the club through 2024).

Dahlkemper was available off the bench for the rest of the month of August but didn’t see the pitch.

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Dahlkemper played in eight games for the Wave in the 2022 NWSL regular season. (Russell Lansford/USA TODAY Sports)

September 2022

Dahlkemper’s final two games of the year came in September. She played a full 90 minutes alongside Girma in San Diego’s 1-0 win over Angel City FC on Sept. 17. On Sept. 25, she started against the Orlando Pride.

In the 20th minute of that match, the defender appeared to hit her breaking point. Similar to her exit from the match in May, Dahlkemper sat down early in the game despite no contact, holding her back and unable to continue. Riehl subbed in at the 23rd minute and closed out the regular season alongside Girma.

October 2022

After Stoney told the media in October that Dahlkemper was “100 percent out,” the 29-year-old was finally given a Season-Ending Injury designation on Oct. 15, the day before the club’s first-ever playoff game against the Chicago Red Stars.

On Oct. 29, after San Diego’s season ended in a semifinal loss to the Portland Thorns, Dahlkemper made another announcement on her Instagram: “I wanted to firstly say how appreciative I am to be a part of such an incredible club in the San Diego Wave. With that being said, personally this year has been disappointing in terms of my health and availability … With the advice of doctors and for the longevity of my soccer career and livelihood post soccer I have decided to undergo a procedure on my back.”

In an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune in July, Dahlkemper said the bouts of adversity would not stop her “from getting back on the field and playing soccer and kind of doing what I love.” She also commented on her potential return to the USWNT but wouldn’t go so far as to say she is hopeful of returning for the 2023 World Cup.

“Obviously the first thing is I need to get back on the field and be able to play and compete,” she said. “I have a lot of respect for Vlatko, and I know he really values performance in the league and your ability to play well on your club team. That’s just important for me. I’m just trying focus on what I can control, and that’s health to a certain extent and being able to give my best to the team here, the Wave.”

Andonovski reiterated that sentiment earlier this month.

“We’re just hoping everything goes well,” he said. “Once she has the surgery we’re going to know more precisely what the return for her is going to be.”

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

USA Women’s Basketball Releases Olympic Roster, Explains Clark’s Omission

USA Women's Basketball's Diana Taurasi #12, Brittney Griner #15 and Sabrina Ionescu #6 at April's National Team Training Camp
All the players tapped for this year's Olympic roster have senior national team experience. (Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

USA Women's Basketball announced its official Olympic roster on Tuesday, with officials noting that Caitlin Clark’s lack of national team experience played a key role in her omission.

Selection committee chair Jen Rizzotti said that the committee evaluated players according to a set of on-court criteria they were given.

"When you base your decision on criteria, there were other players that were harder to cut because they checked a lot more boxes," she told reporters on Tuesday. "Then sometimes it comes down to position, style of play for [coach Cheryl Reeve] and then sometimes a vote."

Three first-time Olympians made the squad: Alyssa Thomas, Sabrina Ionescu, and Kahleah Copper. Additionally, Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum will make the switch to the national 5-on-5 team after winning gold in the inaugural 3×3 competition at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. 

Age, Rizzotti said, was "never brought up" in player selection discussions. It’s the first time in Olympic history that a USA Women’s Basketball 5-on-5 team will travel to the Games without a single player under 26 years old.

Rizzotti commented that all the players tapped for this year's Olympic roster have senior national team experience, something that Clark does not have.

"She's certainly going to continue to get better and better," USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley added. "Really hope that she's a big part of our future going forward."

Rizzotti said it would have been "irresponsible" to base roster decisions on anything outside of a basketball context. Marketing and popularity were not on the selection committee’s list of criteria. 

"It would be irresponsible for us to talk about her in a way other than how she would impact the play of the team," Rizzotti said. "Because it wasn't the purview of our committee to decide how many people would watch or how many people would root for the US. It was our purview to create the best team we could for Cheryl."

Clark expressed that she'll be using what some consider a snub as fuel for a run at the 2028 Olympic team. 

"I think it just gives you something to work for," Clark told media after practice Sunday. "It's a dream. Hopefully one day I can be there. I think it's just a little more motivation. You remember that. Hopefully when four years comes back around, I can be there."

Watch more: "Were Caitlin Clark and Arike Ogunbowale snubbed?" on Expert Adjacent

Arsenal Women Confirm US Tour, Preseason Friendlies

Arsenal's Lotte Wubben-Moy battles with Mayra Ramirez of Chelsea at the 2023/24 FA Women's Continental Tyres League Cup Final
The last time Chelsea and Arsenal faced off, the Gunners took home the FA Women's League Cup. (Copa/Getty Images)

Arsenal announced on Monday that it will join Chelsea for a series of preseason friendlies in the US in August. 

Arsenal will be based in Washington, DC from August 15th through August 26th. The Gunners are scheduled to play the Washington Spirit on August 18th, followed by a match with fellow WSL team Chelsea on August 25th. It’s the first time that the two London clubs will meet each other on this side of the Atlantic. 

Chelsea had previously announced their game against Gotham FC, confirming reports from ESPN that surfaced last month.

"We always want to create the best conditions for our teams to prepare and perform at their best in pre-season," said Arsenal sporting director Edu Gaspar in a statement. "This gives our players an opportunity to play and train in a new environment, in front of our supporters around the world."

Both Arsenal and Chelsea tout rosters full of international talent — formidable opponents for two equally stacked NWSL teams gearing up for postseason action. Arsenal is home to accomplished England nationals Leah Williamson, Beth Mead, and backheel goal-scorer Alessia Russo alongside Ireland captain Katie McCabe and USWNT defender Emily Fox.

The games are set to be streamed live for free on DAZN.

Arsenal's US tour builds off of a trip to Melbourne, Australia at the tail end of the 2023/24 season, where they beat A-League All Stars women 1-0 in front of 42,120 fans.

US Women Defeat NC Courage to Claim $1 Million TST Prize

TST team US Women celebrate a semifinal win
USWNT legend Heather O’Reilly led the 7-on-7 side to victory at Monday's TST championship. (The Soccer Tournament)

The US Women 7-on-7 team won the first-ever edition of The Soccer Tournament’s women’s bracket, taking home the $1 million prize.

The TST concluded on Monday, with Ali Krieger and Heather O’Reilly leading the US Women past the North Carolina Courage’s 7-on-7 team to a 6-3 victory.

"I mean, at that moment, you're not thinking right? Like, I just saw the ball come to me and i was able to put it in the back of the net," said game-winning goal-scorer Talia DellaPeruta. "And it was just... everything kind of stopped for a second. When it went in, I just could not believe it. Like, that was the winning goal, everything that we had worked for this whole weekend.

"I'm just so grateful that I can contribute in that way and to be surrounded by such legends on the field. I mean, to be able to get us over that line, it's the best feeling I've ever felt. This is the best day ever."

Each team member will take home $40,000, with the winnings split equally amongst the 25-person group. First launched in 2023, TST is now the world’s highest-stakes women’s soccer tournament, offering equal $1 million prizes for both the men’s and women’s champions.

"Every single person, staff, players — we deserve it. One million dollars!" O'Reilly said in a team huddle after the victory.

USA Basketball Reportedly Finalizes 2024 Olympic Roster

Jewell Loyd #4 of the United States and Breanna Stewart #10 of the United States celebrate the teams victory during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Japan V USA basketball final
This will be the first year since 1976 that USA Women's Basketball travels to the Summer Games without a single player under 26 years old. (Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

The women’s basketball roster for the Paris Olympics has reportedly been decided, with star WNBA rookie Caitlin Clark left off the 12-player roster.

Three first-time Olympians are slated to join the team: the Sun's Alyssa Thomas, the Mercury's Kahleah Copper, and the Liberty's Sabrina Ionescu. Meanwhile Clark, Brionna Jones, and Aliyah Boston are reportedly on the short-list for an injury replacement should any of the rostered players not make it to Paris, according to The Athletic.

Chelsea Gray and Brittney Griner, who were both named to the team, are currently in the process of returning from injury.

"I'm excited for the girls that are on the team," Clark told reporters Sunday. "I know it's the most competitive team in the world and I know it could have gone either way — me being on the team or me not being on the team. I'm going to be rooting them on to win gold. I was a kid that grew up watching the Olympics, so it will be fun to watch them.

"Honestly, no disappointment. It just gives me something to work for — it's a dream... Hopefully when four years comes back around, I can be there."

The reported Olympic lineup leans heavily on its veterans, with Diana Taurasi preparing for her sixth Olympic Games — a new all-time international basketball record. In fact, not a single player under the age of 26 was listed, a noteworthy departure from previous years.

In every Olympic roster dating back to 1976, at least two players under the age of 25 made it onto the US women's basketball team. Nancy Lieberman, the youngest player to ever compete for the US Olympic basketball team, was just 18 when she joined the 1976 Summer Games. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, WNBA stars Napheesa Collier and A’ja Wilson were both rostered at 24 years old.

Clark said USA Basketball officials called to tell her the news before it reached the press, the same approach they used for all other Olympic hopefuls. But according to Fever head coach Christie Sides, what some might see as a snub could also act as the catalyst for improved performance in the future.

"The thing she said was, 'Hey coach, they woke a monster,' which I thought was awesome," Sides said.

Clark also expressed excitement about the potential to get some much-needed rest during the Olympic break.

"Absolutely, it's going to be really nice," Clark said. "I've loved competing every single second. But it's going to be a great month for my body to get rest, get healthy and just get a little time away from basketball and the craziness of everything that's been going on. And just find some peace and quiet for myself.

"But then additionally, it's a great opportunity for us to work and get better. A great opportunity for myself to get in the weight room. To work on the court, at things that I want to get better at that I maybe didn't have time [to] going from college to the pro season."

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