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Five takeaways from the USWNT’s Olympics roster

Kristie Mewis dribbles through the midfield during the USWNT’s Summer Series win over Jamaica. (Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images)

The 18-player roster for the United States women’s national team’s Olympics campaign has finally arrived.

Coach Vlatko Andonovski has put together a roster that has as good of a shot as any at winning gold in Tokyo. With the inevitable snubs and surprising inclusions, here are our five takeaways from the roster selection.

1. Kristie Mewis’ redemption story leads to first Olympics

It’s hard to forget the journey Mewis has taken to get to this point — getting cut from the national team, bouncing around NWSL teams, tearing her ACL. But Mewis didn’t let any of those things deter her, and eventually she made her way back onto the national team in 2020, scoring a goal in her first game back against the Netherlands.

Now, the Houston Dash midfielder will have a chance to win gold with the U.S. as the only player who was not on the 2019 World Cup team. It also marks the first time that sisters will represent the U.S. on a world championship roster at the senior level, as younger sister Sam also made the team.

2. The Midge Purce snub

Purce made her case for inclusion during the USWNT’s Summer Series, but it just wasn’t enough for the forward to make the cut. A creative playmaker who can make things happen, Purce was asked to play a new position, leaving her to try to make the team as a defender. Through the transition, she showed her versatility in being able to adjust and move around the field. Andonovski said as much following the team’s win over Jamaica in the Summer Series.

Andonovski also said Purce could have been more patient and in step with the pace of the game. When considering the average age of the players on this roster, inexperience might have been the biggest factor in Andonovski’s decision to leave Purce off the team.

3. How healthy are Tobin Heath, Julie Ertz and Rose Lavelle?

Leading up to the roster selection, the biggest question was whether Tobin Heath and Julie Ertz would be healthy enough to play in the Olympics.

Heath has been sidelined since the beginning of 2021 with a knee injury she suffered while playing for Manchester United. Ertz hasn’t played since a May 16 Red Stars game because of an MCL injury. With Andonovski naming both of them to the roster, it appears they will be ready to go in time for the Olympics. Not only do Heath and Ertz bring experience, but they also provide depth and playmaking ability. Heath re-joined the team during training camp in June, and Ertz is expected to join them for the Send-Off Series in July.

Meanwhile, Lavelle rolled her ankle in the Summer Series game against Jamaica and missed the final game against Nigeria. Andonovski said she rested out of precaution, but it’s noteworthy that Lavelle didn’t play in the most recent OL Reign game against Chicago.

Only time will tell how healthy these players really are, but when considering the value each of them brings to the table, it’s hard not to justify their inclusion.

4. No need to worry about the alternates

In the event that any of Heath, Ertz or Lavelle are unable to play, Andonovski has assembled a stacked group of alternates. Catarina Macario or Lynn Williams could step in at any time and fill holes at midfield and forward. Goalkeeper Jane Campbell and defender Casey Krueger also have significant international experience, having played for the U.S. in FIFA Youth World Cups.

Macario arguably could have taken over Kristie Mewis’ spot on the roster, but experience ultimately won out — Mewis brings a certain level of game-readiness that Macario just doesn’t have yet. As Claire Watkins pointed out last week, Macario is the future and the experience she gains as an alternate will be valuable when she gets her official shot.

5. Experience, experience, experience

The team’s average age will be 30.8 when they kick off their first match on July 21. The average number of caps stands at 111. Carli Lloyd, who turns 39 on July 16, will be the oldest-ever U.S. women’s soccer Olympian — nearly two years older than Christie Rampone was when she played in the 2012 Olympics.

At 22 years old, Tierna Davidson is the youngest player on the roster. That represents a stark contrast from 2016, when then-coach Jill Ellis took 18-year-old attacker Mallory Pugh, 22-year-old Lindsey Horan and 24-year-old Crystal Dunn to Rio. All three were making their first major international appearances that year for the USWNT. This time around, the 18 players on this roster have made a combined 2,004 national team appearances.

Honorable mention

Casey Krueger’s inclusion on the alternate list garnered more attention than most would expect from a reserve lineup.

The Chicago defender’s presence on the roster did come as a bit of surprise since she missed the most recent Summer Series, but she does help make up for a lack of depth at outside back. For years now, the USWNT has relied on converting wingers to the outside back position, and in the case of Crystal Dunn, the move has paid off. But in a short tournament like the Olympics, it’s important that the USWNT has a tried and true defender in the ranks, especially if Kelley O’Hara or Dunn go down with an injury. The 26-year-old is a defender’s defender, something that has become increasingly valuable on the USWNT squad.

New Washington Spirit Head Coach Jonatan Giráldez Arrivin DC

head coach Jonatan Giráldez
Jonatan Giráldez joins the NWSL from FC Barcelona Femení. (Ramsey Cardy/UEFA via Getty Images)

Five months after announcing that the Washington Spirit had hired Barcelona Femení coach Jonatan Giráldez as the team's new head coach, Giráldez has joined the club in Washington, DC.

Giráldez is coming off of a successful season with the Spanish side, having won UEFA Women's Champions League, Copa de la Reina, Supercopa, and Liga F in his final season to complete a lauded Quadruple.

While Giráldez was finishing out his tenure in Europe, Adrián González filled in as Spirit interim head coach. González has also seen success, leading the team to its third-place standing with a 9-3-1 record through 13 games.

“I’m thrilled to join the Spirit and begin this next chapter with the club,” Giráldez said in an official team statement. “To be part of the vision Michele Kang has for the Spirit and women’s soccer globally is an exciting opportunity.”

Giráldez has worked at Barcelona since 2019, initially coming on as an assistant coach before moving up to head coach in 2021. The team went 30-0-0 on the season under Giráldez during his first year as manager.

He brings along with him Andrés González and Toni Gordo, who will serve as the Spirit's Fitness Coach and Club Analyst, respectively.

US Track & Field Olympic Trials Touch Down in Oregon

Sha’Carri Richardson competes in the women’s 200-meter preliminary round during the USATF Outdoor Championships
Sha’Carri Richardson will have some competition this week as athletes vie for an Olympic berth. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The US Olympic Track & Field Trials begin on June 21st, kicking off a 10-day quest to determine who will represent the US in Paris this summer.

The crucial meet will take place in Eugene, Oregon, where the top three finishers in each event will punch their ticket to the 2024 Olympics. As with this past week's US Swimming Trials, even the most decorated athletes must work to earn their spot — and one bad performance could undermine four years of preparation.

Reigning 100-meter World Champion Sha'Carri Richardson headlines this year's field, as the 24-year-old looks to qualify for her second Olympic Games and compete in her first. Richardson is a world champion in both the 100-meter and 200-meter sprint, but missed the Tokyo Olympics due to testing positive for THC shortly after the last US Olympic Trials.

Other standouts include 400-meter Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, who's currently the most decorated athlete in the active women's US Track & Field pool. McLaughlin-Levrone qualified to run in the 200-meter and 400-meter flat races alongside the 400-meter hurdles at the Olympic Trials, but opted to focus solely on her signature event.

800-meter specialist Athing Mu will also be a huge draw this week, as the Olympic gold medalist looks to shake off a lingering hamstring injury while pursuing her second Summer Games. Gold medal-winning pole vaulter Katie Moon will also attempt to qualify for her second-straight Olympic Games.

Ole Miss star McKenzie Long could be Richardson's greatest competition in the 100-meter and 200-meter events, as well as Richardson's Worlds teammate Gabby Thomas in the 200-meter. In field events, watch for Oregon senior Jaida Ross going head-to-head with reigning world champion Chase Jackson in the shot put, as both push for their first Olympic team berth.

Regardless of why you tune in, the US Olympic Trials are a perpetually thrilling and sometimes brutal qualification process. If you're able to make your way to the head of the pack, a shot at Olympic glory might just be waiting at the finish line.

Fans can catch live coverage throughout the Trials via NBC, USA, and Peacock.

Top Teams Square Off in NWSL Weekend Slate

NWSL Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda
Orlando Pride, led by forward Barbra Banda, will take on Utah in this weekend's NWSL action. (Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As the NWSL season continues, a few top-performing clubs will have a chance to boost their standings this weekend.

First-place Kansas City will travel to Providence Park to take on fifth-place Portland, as the Current look to keep their unbeaten streak intact. And in New Jersey, third-place Washington will take on fourth-place Gotham FC, with both teams attempting to extend multi-game unbeaten streaks.

A six-point gap has opened between the fifth and sixth spot on the NWSL table — with just six points also separating the league's top five. Kansas City, Orlando, Washington, Gotham, and Portland have recently proven themselves to be a cut above the rest of the competition. With eight postseason spots up for grabs and half the season behind us, a pattern is forming that indicates the playoff race could come down to spots six through eight on the NWSL table.

Of those top five teams, only Orlando faces an opponent in the bottom half of the league this weekend: The Pride will take on 14th-place Utah, who nonetheless are coming off a win — just their second of the season — over Bay FC last weekend.

But despite Kansas City and Orlando having yet to lose a game, Gotham might be the squad coming into the weekend with the most momentum.

Clutch goals from Rose Lavelle and rookie Maycee Bell gave the Bats a 2-0 midweek win over San Diego on Wednesday, in a rematch of the 2024 Challenge Cup. Gotham's unbeaten streak dates all the way back to April, as rising availability and sharpened form have honed this year's superteam into a contender.

Bottom line? As the NWSL season passes the halfway mark, some matches might begin to feel more like playoff previews than mere regular season battles.

Chelsea Gray Returns From Injury in Aces Win Over Seattle

las vegas aces chelsea gray and kelsey plum celebrate a win over the seattle storm
Gray has been sidelined with a foot injury since the 2023 WNBA Finals. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Chelsea Gray made her return to the basketball court on Wednesday, helping the Aces to a 94-83 win over the Seattle Storm. 

The lauded point guard missed the first 12 games of the season, having been injured in last year’s WNBA Finals. The left foot injury caused her to miss Game 4 of the championship series, and she’s continued to rehab it through the beginning of the 2024 season. 

Her return on Wednesday was capitalized by the fact that she needed just 20 seconds to make an impact and record her first assist. While she finished with just one point, she had seven assists, four rebounds, and two blocks to go alongside it in 15:30 minutes. Gray's contributions on the night brought her career assist record up to 1,500.

"I probably went through every emotion leading up to today," Gray said after the game. "I was a little anxious all day. It's been a long time since I've been out on that court. But the fans were amazing from the time I came out to warm up to the time I checked in the game. It was a rush and a feeling I missed a lot."

It’s been a roller coaster of a season so far for Las Vegas, who have lost five of their last seven games. Gray, who averaged 15.3 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.0 rebounds in 2023, has proven herself a much-needed addition to the team’s lineup.

"Felt like my heart," Aces coach Becky Hammon said when asked how she felt hearing the crowd erupt for Gray's return. "She's the leader of our team. I thought she did a wonderful job too."

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