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USWNT injuries: When Macario, Press and more could return

Catarina Macario's continued ACL recovery kept her out of the World Cup for the USWNT. (Howard Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

A number of U.S. women’s national team stars missed out on the 2023 World Cup due to injury, and the team felt their absence on the pitch.

What is the status for these injured players? And when could they return to the USWNT?

Becky Sauerbrunn

The 38-year-old defender missed what would have been her fourth World Cup due to a foot injury she suffered in April. After being left off the USWNT roster, she was upfront about the injury, noting that while a World Cup return would have been “possible,” doctors warned that it would be “aggressive” for her to get back in time.

Sauerbrunn has continued to rehab the injury and intends to return this season for the NWSL’s Portland Thorns. She also could rejoin the USWNT for its September friendlies against South Africa, although no updates have been given on her status.

Mallory Swanson

Swanson tore the patellar tendon in her left knee during an April friendly against Ireland, ruling her out for the World Cup. Her surgery went well, and Swanson even said that she felt as though she might defy the odds to make the summer tournament.

Ultimately, the 25-year-old forward wasn’t fit for the trip to Australia and New Zealand. But Swanson has been seen doing rehab recently, and even getting in a couple of touches in July. “Recovery has been good,” she told Just Women’s Sports.

Still, there is no update as to when Swanson could return, although the typical timeline for recovery from such an injury is six months.

Abby Dahlkemper

Dahlkemper underwent back surgery in December, and earlier this month the 30-year-old defender made her return to the pitch for the NWSL’s San Diego Wave.

“It felt great,” Dahlkemper said of her return. “I am just so happy to be back. I feel like it’s been a really long journey. I, throughout my career have fortunately been healthy up until last year. So I’ve never really experienced a long time out like I did. Just proud of myself, I’m happy. Excited to be back with the team.

“It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life, physically and mentally. Having to have back surgery at my age is kind of uncommon, so to go in there and have it be not known how it’s going to do, how I’m going to heal, how I’m going to feel coming back was really scary. But I leaned in and trusted my gut. … Everyone helped me along the way and I really wouldn’t be back here today playing if it wasn’t for everyone helping me and the support.

“I tried to take it one day at a time. Definitely a lot of lows, but I celebrated the highs as well. Just happy and really proud of myself. I feel like when you go through adversity that’s when you learn the most about yourself.”

Dahlkemper has not played a full 90 since her return, but she played 45 minutes in the team’s Challenge Cup match on Aug. 6.

Sam Mewis

Mewis underwent arthroscopic surgery on her right knee in August 2021. While she initially was slated for an eight-week absence from the pitch, she just had a follow-up surgery in January, and she has not played for the USWNT in two years.

It is unknown when the 30-year-old midfielder could make her return, though she shared a video of her recovery process in July. In a video captioned “6 months today!” Mewis is seen doing weight-lifting exercises, including lower body exercises such as deadlifts and lunges. The midfielder appears to be regaining range of motion and strength in her right knee.

Still, there remains no timetable for Mewis’ return.

“Obviously, I haven’t played in a while,” she told Goal in July. “I’m just doing my rehab and taking it one day at a time, but I think my message is just in moments like that, in moments of difficulty, just try to find that new purpose, if you can, and apply yourself to that.”

Catarina Macario

Catarina Macario tore her ACL last June and had some setbacks in her recovery journey, which resulted in her missing out on the World Cup. She signed a three-year deal with Chelsea in June, though, and recently was seen at training with the Women’s Super League club as its preseason gets underway.

The WSL season is set to kick off in October, with Chelsea playing Tottenham on Oct. 1. The 23-year-old midfielder could make her return before that, however, if she gets a call-up from the USWNT for the September friendlies.

Tobin Heath

One of the more senior members of the USWNT, Heath has not suited up for the red, white and blue since October 2021. Throughout 2022, she struggled with injuries, including a hamstring injury that ended her season with Arsenal. She later joined OL Reign, appearing in five matches, before once again being sidelined with an injury.

She underwent season-ending knee surgery in September 2022 and has been seen doing limited training. In February, Andonovski said that Heath was “absolutely” still under consideration for World Cup selection. While the 35-year-old forward did not return for the World Cup, her playing days are “definitely not” over yet, she told UPROXX in August.

Christen Press

Press’ recovery journey has not been linear. In June, the 34-year-old forward returned to the practice field in cleats, but she remained on the season-ending injury list for Angel City FC. And then in July she announced she would have to undergo a fourth surgery to repair her knee.

Following the fourth surgery, Press has not shared a recovery timeline, although she has said she wants to return to professional soccer. It’s unlikely that will come during the 2023 NWSL season, so the soonest fans could see Press back in action may be 2024.