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USWNT roster: Who’s trending up, down after Australia friendlies

Ashley Hatch earned her second and third caps for the USWNT against Australia. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

The U.S. women’s national soccer team experienced a changing of the guard for their two-game friendly series against Australia this past week, winning 3-0 on Saturday and drawing 1-1 on Tuesday.

The young roster included 13 players with 10 caps or fewer. Forward Sophia Smith (10 caps) and goalkeeper Bella Bixby (zero caps) were the only two players who didn’t see the field after they were placed in concussion protocol.

The Australia friendlies gave USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski a chance to evaluate the less experienced players in a high-pressure environment. Not all of them are coming back, but every veteran should be on notice as the competition for roster and lineup spots ramps up. The team’s next camp is in January, and Andonovsi said he’s already told some of the new players they are invited to attend.

Of the players who were in Australia, here are a few whose stock is trending up, trending down and staying the same based on their performances.

Trending up

GK Casey Murphy

After two stellar debuts, goalkeeper Casey Murphy has skyrocketed into the conversation for the USWNT’s 2023 World Cup roster. She preserved a shutout in the first game, saving at least three tough shots in the final stretch of the first half when her midfielders and backline gave the Matildas too much space in dangerous areas. Her efforts in the second match were no different. She made her best save in the 21st minute, diving to the low right corner to knock the ball off the post and away from traffic. Through a barricade of defenders and forwards, the North Carolina Courage keeper could barely even see the bullet of a shot flying in from outside the 18-yard box. Her poise and ability to make game-saving stops should earn her even more opportunities in 2022.

D Emily Fox

Emily Fox played much better on Tuesday than she did Saturday. In an epic matchup with Australian winger Hayley Raso, the left fullback was more aggressive and confident when making tackles and dribbling up the field. Most impressive was her ability to carry the ball out of pressure, even through three opposing players at a time. Many players would look to pass out of their defensive third in those instances, but Fox has more options because of her speed. To make the World Cup roster, she’ll need to work on taking care of the ball in the attacking zone. The 23-year-old often makes incredible runs up the wing, just like she did with Racing Louisville FC during the NWSL season, only to give the ball away with a bad pass or touch past the end line.

F Midge Purce

NWSL Best XI member Midge Purce stayed consistent from the first match to the second. Not only did she get two assists in two games, but they were almost identical: hard, accurate passes from the end line to the player at the spot, first to Rose Lavelle and next to Hatch. Purce uses her 1v1 skills and off-ball intuition to get herself into those positions. She worked well defensively in the middle of the park with right fullback Sofia Huerta to help the U.S. maintain possession. Andonovski loves versatility, and Purce has it.

F Ashley Hatch

With two goals in her first two starts (a 50 percent caps-to-scoring ratio over three total caps), Ashley Hatch is technically the best finisher on the current squad. What’s tricky about Hatch, though, is she isn’t a consistent 90-minute, or even 70-minute, player. She gets quick bursts of energy that result in goals but isn’t known for her distribution or setups in the attack. Hatch played the majority of both games against Australia. That will change when Catarina Macario returns to training camp. The 22-year-old has the knack for goal and the well-roundedness Andonovski likes in his starters.

D Alana Cook

Alana Cook is as reliable as they come at center back. Even against Australia’s man-marking, she consistently threaded difficult balls to her teammates and read Australia’s forward runs, which is no small task for a player getting her third and fourth caps against a quality international team. It’s especially difficult to mark Sam Kerr, but Cook frustrated the world-class goal scorer in both games and even beat her in a key 1v1 situation.

Trending down

GK Jane Campbell

Jane Campbell came into this camp as the leader of the goalkeeping trio, carrying seven caps over Bella Bixby and Casey Murphy’s zero. Though she hasn’t appeared much for the USWNT, Campbell has been a consistent backup keeper for the team, traveling to the Tokyo Olympics this past summer as the third string. Given how well Murphy played in Australia, Campbell’s backup spot with the team could be in jeopardy once Alyssa Naeher returns from injury.

D Becky Sauerbrunn

It was surprising not to see the veteran get more playing time against Australia considering she’s the most-capped player on the roster with 199 appearances. Lindsey Horan wore the armband for the two friendlies even though Sauerbrunn has been captain for most of this year. She only came onto the pitch in the last few minutes of both games when the USWNT shifted to a five-player backline. It’s highly unlikely Sauerbrunn will be cut from the team before she retires, but she certainly has a position to protect since Andonovski seems to be in the process of rebuilding his defense.

F Ashley Sanchez

Andonovski called up Ashley Sanchez as the only inexperienced midfielder to travel with the team to Australia. The USWNT’s midfield is steady and is the toughest area for a newcomer to crack right now. Sanchez is a hungry player who received her first two caps in Australia, but she isn’t yet at a point in her career where she can force Andonovski’s hand over the midfield mainstays.

The same

M Rose Lavelle, Lindsey Horan, Andi Sullivan

The three who got the most playing time in the midfield over the past two games didn’t do anything to garner high praise, but the experience they brought to a young team, connecting the defensive lines with the attack, was critical to the USWNT’s success.

Rose Lavelle is one of the best midfielders in the world because of her creativity and technical abilities, and she rarely makes a poor decision on the ball, even under heavy pressure at the top of an opponent’s box. Horan, though not as strong of a dribbler as Lavelle is, sets the balance with good ball distribution and defensive work and isn’t afraid to plough through opponents. Reading the field, she was able to change her positioning and strategy as soon as she felt the Matildas were getting too comfortable. Andi Sullivan’s impact in Australia was quieter, but the USWNT also didn’t use her six position enough to their advantage when they had possession.

Jessa Braun is an editorial intern for Just Women’s Sports. She is also the Head of North American Content for the Women’s Sports Alliance. You can find her on Twitter @jessabraun.

Alyssa Naeher’s goalkeeper jersey sells out in less than three hours

uwnt goalie alyssa naeher wears jersey on the field with club team chicago red stars
USWNT star keeper Alyssa Naeher's new replica NWSL jersey was an instant success. (Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

For the first time in the NWSL's 12-year history, fans can now buy their own goalkeeper jerseys. And while replica goalkeeper jerseys representing all 14 NWSL teams hit the market on Wednesday, some didn't stick around for long. 

Fans across women's soccer have long vocalized their discontent over the position's lack of availability on social media, often comparing the shortcoming to the widespread availability of men’s goalkeeper jerseys. And as the NWSL has grown, so has demand — and not just from those in the stands. 

"To have goalkeeper kits available for fans in the women’s game as they have been for so long in the men’s game is not only a long-awaited move in the right direction, it’s just good business," said Washington Spirit goalie Aubrey Kingsbury in an team press release. "I can’t wait to see fans representing me, Barnie [Barnhart], and Lyza in the stands at Audi!"

Business does, in fact, appear to be booming. Alyssa Naeher’s Chicago Red Stars kit sold out less than three hours after the league's announcement. Jerseys for other keepers like DiDi Haračić, Abby Smith, Michelle Betos, Katelyn Rowland, and Bella Bixby aren’t currently available via the Official NWSL Shop, though blank goalkeeper jerseys can be customized through some individual team sites. Jerseys start at $110 each.

"This should be the benchmark," said Spirit Chief Operations Officer Theresa McDonnell. "The expectation is that all players’ jerseys are available to fans. Keepers are inspiring leaders and mentors with their own unique fan base who want to represent them... I can’t wait to see them all over the city."

Simone Biles talks Tokyo Olympics fallout in new interview

gymnast simone biles on a balance beam
Biles' candid interview shed light on the gymnast's internal struggle. (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Decorated gymnast Simone Biles took to the popular Call Her Daddy podcast this week to open up about her experience at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, revealing she thought she was going to be "banned from America" for her performance.

After Biles botched her vault routine due to a bout of the "twisties," she withdrew from the team final as well as the all-around final in order to focus on her mental health. She later reentered the competition to win bronze in the individual balance beam final.

In her interview with podcast host Alex Cooper, Biles admitted to feeling like she let the entire country down by failing her vault attempt.

"As soon as I landed I was like 'Oh, America hates me. The world is going to hate me. I can only see what they’re saying on Twitter right now,'" she recalled thinking. "I was like, ‘Holy s---, what are they gonna say about me?'"

"I thought I was going to be banned from America," she continued. "That’s what they tell you: Don’t come back if not gold. Gold or bust. Don’t come back."

Widely regarded as the greatest gymnast of all time, Biles has hinted at a desire to join her third Olympic team in Paris, though her participation won't be confirmed until after the gymnastics trials in late June. She holds over 30 medals from the Olympic Games and World Artistic Gymnastics Championships combined, and if qualified, would be a sure favorite heading into this summer’s games.

Caitlin Clark reportedly nearing $20 million+ Nike deal

Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever poses for a portrait at Gainbridge Fieldhouse during her introductory press conference
WNBA-bound Caitlin Clark is said to be closing in on a monumental NIke deal. (Photo by Matt Kryger/NBAE via Getty Images)

Caitlin Clark is reportedly close to cementing a hefty endorsement deal with Nike.

The Athletic was the first to break the news Wednesday evening, commenting that the deal would be worth "eight figures" and include her own signature shoe. On Thursday afternoon, the publication tweeted that the deal would top $20 million, according to lead NBA Insider Shams Charania. Both Under Armour and Adidas are said to have also made sizable offers to the college phenom and expected future WNBA star.

The new agreement comes after Clark's previous Nike partnership ended with the conclusion of the college basketball season. She was one of five NCAA athletes to sign an NIL deal with the brand back in October, 2022. 

Considering Clark's overwhelming popularity and Nike's deep pockets, the signing's purported value doesn't exactly come as a shock. New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu’s deal with the brand is reportedly worth $24 million, while NBA rookie and No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama’s deal is rumored to weigh in at $100 million. And in 2003, LeBron James famously earned $90 million off his own Nike deal. 

Clark’s star power continues to skyrocket, with the NCAA championship averaging 18.9 million viewers and the 2024 WNBA Draft more than doubling its previous viewership record. Following the draft, Fanatics stated that Clark's Indiana Fever jersey — which sold out within an hour — was the top seller for any draft night pick in the company’s history, with droves of unlucky fans now being forced to wait until August to get their hands on some official No. 22 gear.

In Wednesday's Indiana Fever introductory press conference, the unfailingly cool, calm, and collected Clark said that turning pro hasn’t made a huge impact on how she’s conducting her deals.

"If I’m being completely honest, I feel like it doesn’t change a ton from how I lived my life over the course of the last year," she said. "Sponsorships stay the same. The people around me, agents and whatnot, have been able to help me and guide me through the course of the last year. I don’t know if I would be in this moment if it wasn’t for a lot of them."

Star slugger Jocelyn Alo joins Athletes Unlimited AUX league

softball star jocelyn alo rounds the bases at an oklahoma sooners game
Former Oklahoma star Jocelyn Alo has signed with Athletes Unlimited. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Former Oklahoma slugger Jocelyn Alo has signed on with Athletes Unlimited and will compete in the AU Pro Softball AUX this June.

The NCAA record holder in career home runs (122), total bases (761), and slugging percentage (.987), Alo was originally drafted by the league in 2022 but opted instead to join the newly debuted Women’s Professional Fastpitch

Alo currently plays for independent pro softball team Oklahoma City Spark, with team owner Tina Floyd reportedly on board with her recent AUX signing. AUX games are scheduled for June 10-25, while the Spark's season will kick off June 19th. Alo will play for both. 

Among those joining Alo on the AUX roster are former James Madison ace pitcher Odicci Alexander and former Wichita State standout middle infielder Sydney McKinney.

According to Alo, the decision to play in the Athletes Unlimited league was fueled by her desire to propel women's sports forward as well as provide more exposure to a sport that's given her "so many opportunities."

"Not only to challenge myself more, but just for the growth of the game," Alo said, explaining her reasoning to The Oklahoman. "I genuinely believe that professional softball can be a career for girls."

Joining AUX is also one more step in her plan toward representing Team USA at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

"I’m constantly thinking about how can I do these little things right in these four years to prepare me for the biggest stage of softball," she told The Oklahoman. "I definitely want to play in the Olympics, for sure."

Alo further expressed enthusiasm in the hope that the rise of other women’s sports, like women’s basketball and the NWSL, will push softball’s professional viability even higher.

"We’re seeing the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) get their stuff going, I see the WNBA starting to get hot," she continued. "I feel like the softball community is like, 'All right, it’s our turn and it’s our turn to just demand more.'"

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