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Christen Press among USWNT stars who could return in April

USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski said Christen Press could be ready for game minutes in April. (Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

U.S. women’s national team manager Vlatko Andonovski opened the door this week to a possible return by forward Christen Press.

The 34-year-old is still rehabbing an ACL tear, suffered in an NWSL match in June while playing for Angel City FC, but Andonovski estimated she could be ready for game minutes by the USWNT’s international window in April.

“Kelley O’Hara, Christen [Press], Tobin [Heath], they’re all in return-to-play protocol,” Andonovski told reporters on Wednesday after announcing the 2023 SheBelieves USWNT roster. The SheBelieves Cup will take place from Feb. 16-22, too soon for a number of players to fully make their way back from injury.

Press is currently in 2023 preseason camp with Angel City and has been updating fans on her progress through social media during the offseason. She posted a video showing her working on lateral movement in a gym environment in December, followed by one of her and Heath jogging together on a soccer pitch on Jan. 15.

Return-to-play protocol consists not only of building cardio fitness back up, but also non-contact training and then full-contact training. When speaking about Press’ USWNT teammate Catarina Macario’s own ACL recovery, Andonovski estimated it takes five to six weeks of full-team training to be ready for game minutes. He had also estimated back in October that Press could be ready for limited minutes by late February or early March.

While Press’ injury has kept her from soccer for most of the year, other questions hang over her possible inclusion on the USWNT’s April roster. Prior to last year’s World Cup qualifying Concacaf W tournament, Andonovski said that it was form — not fitness — keeping Press away from the team.

“Christen Press was not on the roster even before the injury,” Andonovski said at the time. “We’re very sorry for her injury and don’t have confirming information on the extension or the significance of the injury. We just hope that it is not too serious.”

“It’s not easy to be a forward in the United States right now,” he continued. “Obviously it’s great, but it’s not easy because the competition just got bigger and bigger.”

However, he spoke highly of Press to reporters this week.

“Christen Press, who I think is very similar to Tobin, just very experienced, has been in two World Cups, won two World Cups, and we know that can be an asset on any team,” Andonovski said.

He also praised Heath, saying she is “absolutely” still in the running for 2023 World Cup roster consideration.

“Anyone that is healthy and ready and in good form and can help this team be successful is gonna be looked at and selected for the roster for the World Cup,” the coach said.