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USWNT mock roster 1.0: Who will go to the 2023 World Cup?

Alex Morgan and Mallory Swanson are both currently locks for the 2023 World Cup roster. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

With only a few games left before the U.S. women’s national team takes off for the 2023 World Cup in New Zealand, the final roster is slowly taking shape.

The USWNT has been dealing with the absence of a number of key contributors due to injury, making it difficult to foresee exactly which players might be pushed to the roster bubble in the next few months. But the team’s approach to the SheBelieves Cup this past week has offered some insight into head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s thinking.

If the U.S. were getting on the plane to New Zealand today, who would Andonovski select to the 23-player roster, tasked with defending the team’s 2019 World Cup win? Here is the first edition of our mock World Cup roster.

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Adrianna Franch (Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images)

Goalkeepers

Locks: Alyssa Naeher, Casey Murphy, Adrianna Franch

First players out: Aubrey Kingsbury, Jane Campbell, Bella Bixby

This position is fairly straightforward: Naeher and Murphy are the USWNT’s No. 1 and No. 2 goalkeepers, and Franch’s recent form should earn her the spot at No 3. NWSL action could sway that decision if Kingsbury, Campbell or Bixby start the season out strong, but Franch would have to slip in form to make room for any changes.

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Kelley O'Hara (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Defenders

Locks: Naomi Girma, Becky Sauerbrunn, Alana Cook, Sofia Huerta, Emily Sonnett, Crystal Dunn, Emily Fox

First players out: Tierna Davidson, Kelley O’Hara, Casey Krueger

The first players out in this scenario could absolutely make their way to the World Cup, but the lack of recent game tape from Davidson, O’Hara and Krueger makes it difficult to select them if the tournament started today.

The player most vulnerable to being overtaken by someone coming back from injury is Emily Sonnett. The 29-year-old has played both center back and outside back for the U.S. in recent international windows, with Andonovski not committing her to either position. Davidson has similar versatility and might be considered a more stable presence on the backline.

O’Hara and Krueger are experienced defenders who will have an opportunity to push for the spot currently held by Sofia Heurta at right back. If O’Hara is fit, she’ll be on the plane, but she simply needs to show she can handle the workload. Krueger is probably one step further out, but she could get a look at April camp.

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Catarina Macario (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Midfielders

Locks: Lindsey Horan, Andi Sullivan, Rose Lavelle, Catarina Macario, Kristie Mewis, Ashley Sanchez, Taylor Kornieck

First players out: Sam Coffey, Jaelin Howell, Morgan Gautrat

The U.S. midfield is a complicated project, with Andonovski packing the roster with players who fill similar roles for their club teams as Lindsey Horan, who has appeared undroppable from the starting lineup in recent games. Andi Sullivan will likely be relied upon heavily in the defensive midfield, aided by a combination of Horan, Kristie Mewis and Taylor Kornieck.

Andonovski has said recently that he considers Catarina Macario to be an attacking midfielder, but the 23-year-old can also play at the point of the team’s new 4-2-3-1 formation. She’s the one player who has a seat on the plane to New Zealand regardless of fitness, though she’s very close to making her national team return after tearing her ACL last June.

The three players just outside the roster bubble are all defensive midfielders, as Andonovski doesn’t appear to have a true backup No. 6 in his plans. Sam Coffey and Jaelin Howell are both up and coming at the position, perhaps tabbed for tournaments in the future. Morgan Gautrat is an experienced holding midfielder at both the club and international level, but she hasn’t gotten much time with the U.S. while coming back from injury in 2022.

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Christen Press (Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Forwards

Locks: Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Lynn Williams, Sophia Smith, Mallory Swanson, Trinity Rodman

First players out: Midge Purce, Christen Press, Ashley Hatch, Alyssa Thompson

Whether Macario is listed as a midfielder or a center forward will influence how many players are taken at each position, but her presence will influence the frontline selections no matter how she is designated. Ashley Hatch has served as the backup to Alex Morgan in Macario’s absence but will likely be the odd player out when Morgan and Macario are healthy at the same time.

Midge Purce and Christen Press both suffer from the USWNT’s incredible depth at the winger position. Purce hasn’t gotten significant time at the SheBelieves Cup, with Trinity Rodman and Lynn Williams getting starts at right wing. Rodman is an exciting connecting winger with a high ceiling, and Williams is arguably the player most integral to making Andonovski’s defensive press work.

Press is simply in a race against time, as she works her way back from an ACL injury that cut her 2022 season short with Angel City. The two left wingers in front of her are Rapinoe and Swanson, though the starting job will almost certainly go to Swanson if she’s fit. If Press can hit the ground running in March, she deserves consideration to return to the team in April. But if she has any setbacks in her recovery, she might run out of opportunities to make it back to the international stage in 2023.

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

New Washington Spirit Head Coach Jonatan Giráldez Arrives in 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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