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How USWNT players strike ‘tough’ balance with NWSL playoffs

Sophia Smith is one of 13 players on the USWNT's October roster still competing in the NWSL playoffs. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images for USSF)

Sophia Smith, Becky Sauerbrunn and Alex Morgan are among the 13 players at the U.S. women’s national team’s October training camp still competing in the NWSL playoffs.

All those players are seeking to strike a balance between focusing on their national team duties and staying sharp for the NWSL semifinals on Nov. 5. Smith, Sauerbrunn and the Portland Thorns will take on Lynn Williams and Gotham FC, while Morgan and the San Diego Wave will face Emily Sonnett and OL Reign.

Other players competing in the postseason include: Sam Coffey, Crystal Dunn and Olivia Moultrie with Portland; Naomi Girma and Jaedyn Shaw with San Diego; Midge Purce with Gotham FC; and Alana Cook and Sofia Huerta with OL Reign.

“You come into camp and it’s so busy because you have so many different meetings — a set piece meeting, a defenders meeting,” Sauerbrunn said after Thursday’s scoreless draw with Colombia. “And so you’re just trying to remember, OK, these are the national team tactics. And then you get back to Portland and it’s like you’ve got to relearn everything that Portland was doing. And so it is really tough.

“You have to be wherever you are and give it everything that you’ve got with the team that you’re with. But it can be really tough because, I’m so excited to be back with Portland as well, but also I really want to beat Colombia in a few days.”

The USWNT will face Colombia again at 5:30 p.m. ET Sunday to finish out the two-match friendly series.

The U.S. coaching staff is aware of its players’ dual priorities, and they are “managing minutes with players in different parts of the NWSL season,” interim head coach Twila Kilgore said Thursday.

“The key is just that when they do go in, that they make a difference that they’re asked to make,” Kilgore said.