Becky Sauerbrunn missed the 2023 World Cup with a foot injury, but she is back to being “one of the best center-backs in the world” — and to being a key leader for the U.S. women’s national team.
The 38-year-old defender was named to the USWNT roster for October, setting her up for her first international appearance since April.
There is no doubt that Sauerbrunn’s presence was missed at the World Cup. While other players did step up in her absence — for example, Julie Ertz at center-back — there is no one answer when it comes to replacing Sauerbrunn, both defensively and from a leadership standpoint.
“I think it’s really important to just kind of remind everybody that Becky would have been on the World Cup roster had she been fully fit for international minutes at that time,” USWNT interim head coach Twila Kilgore said Wednesday.
Quietly, Sauerbrunn has been making her way back from the injury that kept her away from the USWNT – and from what would have been her fourth World Cup. She’s been a steady presence for Portland since mid-September. And while she’s not back to a full 90, her return has been promising.
“Anytime a player, you know, suffers an injury and has to work their way back, that’s always gonna be really difficult,” Kilgore said. “But the quality of play that Becky has shown in her return has been very, very high. There’s a reason why she’s one of and has been one of the best center-backs in the world.”
Kilgore then called Sauerbrunn “one of the best center-backs that we have” before speaking on Sauerbrunn’s leadership, which will be instrumental as the team continues to bring in young talent such as Jaedyn Shaw and Olivia Moultrie.
“She is a leader, she helps us program in every single way,” Kilgore said. “And my expectations for Becky are simply to come back into the environment and be herself and like every player continue to prove that she belongs in the environment and compete for spots moving forward.”
The interim head coach also pointed to players stepping up in Sauerbrunn’s absence as another “mark of some of Becky’s leadership.” And when Sauerbrunn did rejoin camp in September for roughly 48 hours, “nothing really changed.”
“Becky was herself and she encourages other leaders in the group to be themselves,” Kilgore said. “Leadership is really about having an open dialogue, encouraging people to their true selves, bring their opinions and their special qualities to the table. So I just expect Becky to come back in the environment and be herself.
“Obviously holding high standards is part of everybody’s responsibility and having some self accountability is important to that as well. But I expect Becky to partner with myself and other leaders on the team to make sure that the standards are high for all of us as individuals but also as a group.”