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Vlatko Andonovski plays down Lindsey Horan’s taped knee: USWNT notes

Lindsey Horan started the Concacaf opener Monday and is expected to remain in the USWNT’s lineup. (Jaime Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images)

The U.S. women’s national soccer team is one win closer to the 2023 FIFA World Cup.

After defeating Haiti 3-0 on Monday in their opening match of the Concacaf W Championship, the USWNT prepares to face Jamaica on Thursday.

The U.S. is first in Group A, followed by Jamaica, Mexico and Haiti. The top two teams after the three-game group stage qualify for next year’s World Cup.

“I think we’re really excited for the next game,” said defender Emily Fox. “We have a lot of respect for Jamaica. We know they have a lot of good threats, so for us it’s about learning from the last game and trying to improve each game and taking it step by step.”

Jamaica head coach Lorne Donaldson is familiar with two of the USWNT’s starting forwards, Mallory Pugh and Sophia Smith, whom he coached during their youth club careers at Real Colorado. The Jamaican team trained in the high altitudes of Colorado in preparation for this tournament instead of playing any friendlies during the international window in June. The lack of matches didn’t deem to be an issue in Jamaica’s 1-0 upset win over host nation Mexico on Monday.

The USWNT will have to pick up their pace of play to get past a tough Jamaican side. Defense and injuries are a couple of the other big concerns that head coach Vlatko Andonovski addressed in a press conference on Wednesday.

‘Lindsey is medically at 100%’

At Olympique Lyonnais, Lindsey Horan’s club team this past season, the midfielder was nicknamed Potato because of her swollen knee.

In the USWNT’s opener on Monday, she started and continued to play with a taped knee. She raised concerns further after a video from training earlier this week showed her favoring the same knee.

Andonovski tried to dispel those fears on Wednesday.

“Lindsey is medically at 100 percent,” he said. “But just because she had a little bit of a break between her last game in Lyon and in the first game here, we’re trying to manage her properly and not overload her, but build her up to her minutes.”

Currently, the plan is for Horan to start Thursday’s match against Jamaica.

“We’re going to continue building her so she is properly ready for the upcoming games,” the coach added.

Coming into the tournament, there were also health concerns surrounding defensive midfielder Andi Sullivan, who has been recovering from a quad injury. In the June friendlies, Horan prepared herself to step in as a backup at the No. 6 position should Sullivan need rest.

Andonovski said the starting lineup against Haiti will likely be the same group that sees most of the minutes against Jamaica and throughout the rest of the tournament. Horan and Sullivan were both in Monday’s starting XI.

“Obviously, there are some bumps and bruises with some of the players, but the good thing is everybody is ready and prepared to play,” Andonovski said.

‘Two goalkeepers ready’

With 80 caps, Alyssa Naeher leads a goalkeeping trio that also includes Casey Murphy (five caps) and Aubrey Kingsbury (one). Two of them are guaranteed to appear in this tournament.

After Murphy got the start against Haiti, Andonovski said it’s “not a secret” that they will also play Naeher, who was the starting keeper at the Tokyo Olympics before she injured her knee in the semifinal.

“She’s an incredible goalkeeper,” he said. “We know what she can do.”

While it makes sense for Naeher to hold onto the starting role deep into the tournament given her experience, Andonovski said they will decide how to move forward after Thursday’s match. Regardless, it was important for Murphy to get a game in right away. Backup keeper AD Franch hadn’t played a game at the Olympics up until the 22nd minute of the semifinal, when Naeher had to leave the pitch, and she then started the USWNT’s bronze-medal match against Australia.

“This way, we know we’re going to have two goalkeepers ready after these two games,” Andonovski said.

‘Our backline is stellar’

The USWNT’s backline weathered a couple of scares against Haiti on Monday, including a penalty in the box and missed one-v-ones.

After controlling most of the possession in their games over the last year, the USWNT defense hasn’t had much experience withstanding top opponents in high-stakes situations. Andonovski believes the mishaps are important preparation for next summer’s World Cup, and they don’t have as much to do with the defense making mistakes as they do with world-class opponents getting creative in the attack.

“I think our backline is stellar,” the coach said. “I truly believe that we have the capability to stop any attack, any player in the world and I have no problem saying that we’re ready to do that regardless of who is in the backline.”

Andonovski likes to push numbers forward, which puts the backline under greater pressure against a quick counterattack. And the Concacaf teams will continue to test the USWNT’s defensive tactics.

“It will be tough,” Andonovski said. “It will create different problems for the backline, but that’s what we want. We do want to play teams like that, and we do want to play teams that will create different challenges for us.”

Morgan makes a case for the No. 9

Before Catarina Macario tore her ACL, she was supposed to be the starting center forward for the USWNT. For months, the plan was to build the team around the 22-year-old.

Without her, there was uncertainty right up until the Haiti match about who would start in the No. 9 — Ashley Hatch or Alex Morgan.

Morgan earned the nod and took full advantage, scoring a first-half brace off a backheel flick and a header.

“I’m so happy to see her performing as well as she does,” Andonovski said. “I know it sounds crazy, but I do believe that she’s actually playing better every time you see her on the field. The goals she scored the other day, I think that they’re world-class goals. The first goal, but even the one that was offside. Unbelievable run, great run, great angle, good finish.

“So that’s Alex Morgan in a nutshell. When you need her the most, you can count on her. As a as a coaching staff, we decided for her to be a starter on this team for a reason, and I think it was a good explanation — or the goals scored were explanation — of what the reason was.”

Andonovski said he doesn’t know what the forward line will look like when Macario returns. For now, he’s riding the play of his veteran.

“Cat will have to come back and earn her spot back and then we’ll see where she falls the best, but if Alex plays the way she is, I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know how someone takes that spot.”

Jessa Braun is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.

The Women’s Cup Finalizes 2024 Tournament With Chile’s Colo Colo

Patricia Padium (L) of Brazils Audax/Corinthians, vies for the ball with Claudia Soto of Chile's Colo Colo during the Women Copa Libertadores final match
The addition of the Chilean side rounds out the Cup's four-team field. (FAVIO FALCON/AFP via Getty Images)

The Women’s Cup field has been finalized, with Chilean club Colo Colo joining the four-team field. 

Colo Colo will join Racing Louisville of the NWSL along with Italy's Juventus and Brazil's Palmeiras at Lynn Family Stadium in Louisville from August 9th through 13th. 

The tournament will have a $100,000 prize pool.

"We are honored to have Colo-Colo as the first Chilean Team to play in The Women’s Cup," said J.P. Reynal, CEO of The Women’s Cup, in yesterday's press release. "Women’s soccer has seen exponential growth in South America and having two of the best teams in the region participating in this year’s tournament is proof they can compete with the top teams from Europe and the United States."

"We are pleased to be considered in this important championship for women’s soccer and very proud that Colo-Colo is one of the most important exponents of this discipline in Chile," echoed Enzo Caszely, president of women’s football at Colo-Colo. "As a club, we have been pioneers in its professionalization at a national level, and this instance is proof of it."

Juventus and Colo-Colo will square off on Friday, August 9th at 5 PM ET followed by Racing Louisville and Palmeiras at 8 PM ET. Tickets can be purchased now via both The Women's Cup's and Racing Lousiville's websites.

This is Racing Louisville's third time featuring in the competition. The team won The Women's Cup's first iteration in 2021, beating German side FC Bayern in penalty kicks at Lynn Family Stadium. The Seattle Reign claimed The Women's Cup in 2022.

The Kansas City Current will also host a Women’s Cup tournament from August 14th through the 17th. The winners of each 2024 tournament will then face each other in the Global Series Finals, scheduled for February 2025.

PWHL Draft Spurs Controversy for League Champs Minnesota

pwhl draft first pick Sarah Fillier
PWHL New York kicked off the 2024 PWHL Draft by selecting Princeton's Sarah Fillier No. 1 overall. (PWHL)

The 2024 PWHL Draft took place on Tuesday, with Princeton and Canadian national team forward Sarah Fillier going first overall to PWHL New York. 

New York also added two defenders and a goaltender, as well as three forwards to make seven solid additions to next season's roster. 

But it was first-ever PWHL champions Minnesota that created the most buzz, with the draft happening just three days after they announced the abrupt departure of general manager Natalie Darwitz following a league review. 

With the 10th overall pick, PWHL Minnesota took Team USA forward Britta Curl. Fans immediately took to the internet to voice their concerns, citing Curl's social media activity. In the past, Curl had "liked" posts on X that targeted the LGBTQIA+ community, particularly transgender individuals. Her activity also showed support for Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old Wisconsin man who fatally shot three unarmed people, two fatally, during a 2020 Black Lives Matter protest.

When asked about the pick — and whether or not he had consulted with any members of the LGBTQIA+ community prior to making the pick — PWHL Minnesota coach Ken Klee opted to defend Curl.

"Did I speak to anyone from the community? I talk with players, with coaches. That’s tough to answer for me," Klee said. "I spoke with a lot of different people. I mean, at the end of the day, I was told she’s a great teammate, a great person. She’s obviously a great player."

The team also had PWHL Minnesota assistant coach Mira Jalosuo, who is married to a woman, announce the pick.

"We have people in that community and obviously Mira making that selection for us, I think that speaks volumes for us," Klee added. "We were just trying to pick the best players available. I wouldn’t want anything to take away from any of those players' experience. It’s unfortunate a little bit at the beginning, but again, it’s okay. People are entitled to their opinion."

Washington Mystics Snap 12-Game Losing Streak

Brittney Sykes #20 of the Washington Mystics shoots the ball during the game against the Atlanta Dream during the 2024 WNBA Commissioner's Cup game on June 11, 2024
Washington guard Brittney Sykes returned from injury Tuesday night to post a game-high 18 points. (Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Washington Mystics snapped a team-record 12-game losing streak on Tuesday, taking home their first win of the season over the Atlanta Dream. 

Brittney Sykes returned from injury and made an immediate impact with game-high 18 points, four assists, and three rebounds. As a team, Washington shot over 50% from behind the arc.

"The feel is it's been coming," coach Eric Thibault said after the game. "I said the other night that we're turning into a good basketball team and we just haven't had the wins to show for it yet. We've been playing better basketball now for a while.

"We're obviously shooting well, but I think the quality of the shots we're getting is really good."

Still, the team’s slow start isn't exactly in the rearview mirror. With star forward Elena Delle Donne sitting this season out, the Mystics were always predicted to face an uphill climb in what has been described as a rebuilding year. 

But with a franchise-worst 0-12 record to kick off the 2024 season, the Mystics are likely on track for a lottery pick. However, Washington can point to positive performances from star draft pick Aaliyah Edwards and league newcomer Julie Vanloo.

Elsewhere in the WNBA, the Las Vegas Aces continued their skid with a surprising 100-86 upset courtesy of the Minnesota Lynx. The reigning WNBA champions were shorthanded this week, falling to 5-5 on the season despite MVP-level play from A'ja Wilson, who scored 28 points in Tuesday's loss.

Minnesota shot over 55% as a team, with Alanna Smith leading the team with 18 points. The game marked the Aces' first three-game losing streak since 2019.

"This is a long, long, long season," Wilson said in her postgame remarks. "I'm not going to press the panic button. I'm still going to bet on us. I know exactly what's in that locker room."

Aces stalwart Chelsea Gray has been out with injury since last year's WNBA Finals run. And while she told reporters on Tuesday that she's set to return before the Olympic break, the team can’t get her back soon enough as they continue to struggle with depth. 

"I don't want them thinking too much; then you get paralysis [by] analysis," coach Becky Hammon said. "We're just not being solid in our base. Just be solid defensively. We're not a very good team right now, that's just reality. But we know we can get better. I still have a lot of belief in this ball club."

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

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