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What former USWNT players have said about the current roster

Andi Sullivan, Kristie Mewis, Rose Lavelle and Mallory Pugh enter Red Bull Arena before the USWNT’s match against Germany on Nov. 13. (Erin Chang/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

The 2023 World Cup is fast approaching, with just six months to go until the tournament kicks off in Australia and New Zealand.

The U.S. women’s national team has spent the last six months already ramping up its preparation. And former USWNT stars have not been shy in offering their thoughts on the current roster, including Mia Hamm, Carli Lloyd and more.

Just Women’s Sports rounds up what former USWNT World Cup champions have said about the 2023 squad, which will continue to ratchet up its intensity level this month with a trip to New Zealand to face the Football Ferns.

Julie Foudy

The USWNT lost three games in a row in October and November before rebounding with a win against Germany to close out the year. While the losing streak sounded alarm bells, Foudy saw them as just part of the process for a developing roster.

“You’re playing against three of the best teams in the world who could easily win this next World Cup, and that’s what you want to see at that level,” she told Just Women’s Sports in December. “And they’re still so young. I mean, that’s the thing we often forget when people start to panic about what is happening with this team.

“This is a rebuild. That’s going to take some time.”

Foudy — who played with the USWNT from 1988 until 2004 and won the 1991 and 1999 World Cups with the squad — pointed to forwards Mallory Pugh and Sophia Smith as bright spots. And while she acknowledged the team’s many injuries, she said there had been “too much discussion” about the missing players.

“Guess what? That’s part of soccer,” she said. “Yes, the U.S. has a ton of injuries right now. But that’s part of it. It’s the next person up.”

Even with the injuries, Foudy likes the USWNT’s chances in Group E, which also includes the Netherlands, Vietnam and a winner from the intercontinental playoff.

“It’s a very winnable group,” Foudy said on CBS Sports’ “Attacking Third” podcast in November. “I think with the expanded field of 32 teams, you have a pretty clear delineation of those top two teams in the groups. I think it’s a good group. It’s a good matchup.”

Mia Hamm

Two young stars in particular have stood out to Hamm in the USWNT’s World Cup warm-ups, she told Bleacher Report in December: 24-year-old Mallory Pugh Swanson and 23-year-old Catarina Macario.

Pugh was snubbed from the U.S. Olympic roster in 2021 but since then has undergone a career renaissance.

“When I see her play, the joy on her face is what excites me about her future,” said Hamm, who played for the USWNT from 1987-2004. “I’m really excited to watch her play next summer.”

Macario is nearing her return from an ACL injury she suffered in June, and Hamm praised her “savvy and understanding.”

Carli Lloyd

Not all the discussion of the current iteration of the USWNT has been positive. After the team fell 2-1 to Germany in November for its third loss in a row, Lloyd called out the team on Twitter.

“The winning culture and mentality that has carried on from generation to generation within the USWNT has been fizzling away,” she wrote. “I said it when I retired. I saw it slipping away. Players have to embody that. That’s been our DNA since the ’80s, but not so much anymore.”

Lloyd spent 17 years on the national team before her retirement in 2021, and she played an integral role in the 2015 and 2019 World Cup runs. But the 40-year-old believes the 2023 World Cup will be “the hardest one to win yet,” she said on the “Attacking Third” podcast in November.

Heather O’Reilly

The November loss to Germany also prompted O’Reilly to question the USWNT’s urgency. The three-game losing streak marked the national team’s longest since 1993.

“Rewatched the match from last night and have to say I am tremendously disappointed,” O’Reilly wrote in a Twitter thread. “Simply not good enough in so many regards.”

The 37-year-old midfielder, who played for the USWNT from 2002-16, also expressed concern over the “midfield shape,” pointing out Germany’s movement between the 18-yard lines and the USWNT’s sluggishness at the end of the match. She did have praise for veteran forwards Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe and midfield substitute Ashley Sanchez.

Briana Scurry

Ahead of last summer’s World Cup qualifying tournament, the former USWNT goalkeeper talked about the growing scrutiny USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski would come under. Andonovski took the helm after the 2019 World Cup win, then led the team to the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

“Vlatko’s going to be a topic of discussion, I believe, going forward with regards to his choices,” Scurry told Just Women’s Sports in June. “He’s got a lot of pressure on him, and obviously he’s got a whole year until actually coaching the World Cup tournament itself. But this is going to be an indicator of his philosophies.”

In particular, she pointed out Andonovski’s “odd” answer to a question on Christen Press.

The veteran USWNT forward did not make the qualifying roster. While her absence was not a surprise, as she had just torn her ACL while playing for Angel City FC, Andonovski said the injury did not factor into his roster decision.

“Christen Press was not on the roster even before the injury,” Andonovski said.

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.'"

Reporter’s awkward exchange mars Caitlin Clark’s Fever intro

caitlin clark at indiana fever press conference on april 17
An uneasy interaction between Fever recruit Caitlin Clark and a local reporter has gone viral. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

An Indianapolis Star columnist is apologizing for an uneasy exchange with freshly minted Indiana Fever player Caitlin Clark on Wednesday.

At Clark's introductory press conference with the Fever, reporter Gregg Doyel introduced himself then abruptly formed a heart with his hands. Throughout her career with Iowa, Clark has often flashed heart hands at her family in the stands after finishing a game. The gesture has since become linked to the standout player.

But what ensued between Clark and Doyel was an incredibly awkward interaction, to say the least.

"Real quick, let me do this," Doyel said before making the heart sign at Clark. A composed Clark responded, "You like that?" After Doyel quipped, "I like that you're here," Clark dropped her eyes to the desk and said, "Yeah, I do that at my family after every game."

“OK, well start doing that to me and we’ll get along just fine,” Doyel said in response, to which Clark raised her eyebrows at the reporter, looking visibly uncomfortable. It wasn't the only unsettling comment Doyel made that day, as he later referred to Clark as "that" and "it" when directing a question to Fever coach Christie Sides. Sides appeared similarly thrown off by his choice of words.

As the clip made its way around social media, Doyel faced backlash from both sports fans and fellow members of the media. Much of the criticism centered around whether or not Doyel or another press representative would address an NBA player in the same manner. 

Doyel later apologized via a column entitled "Doyel: Caitlin Clark, I'm so sorry. On Wednesday I was part of the problem." published on the Indianapolis Star's website late Wednesday evening. Referring to his behavior at the earlier press conference, he called his comments "clumsy and awkward."

"Please know my heart (literally and figuratively) was well-intentioned. I will do better," he wrote, noting that he was "devastated to realize I’m part of the problem."

Rose Lavelle hoping to return to play ‘in the next couple of weeks’

uswnt midfielder rose lavalle trains on a soccer field in florida
When healthy, Rose Lavelle is a trusted asset in the USWNT's midfield. (Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

Rose Lavelle is hoping to return to the field soon. 

The 28-year-old midfielder has been sidelined with a lower leg injury since the Gold Cup in early march. Since then, she has yet to play for new club Gotham FC in the NWSL. She also missed a potential USWNT appearance at the SheBelieves Cup in April, where senior team newcomer Jaedyn Shaw saw success assuming Lavelle's role in the attacking midfield. 

At the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee media showcase on Monday, Lavelle told reporters that she’s doing well and hopes to be back soon.

"I’m doing good — I’m hoping I’ll be back in the next couple weeks," Lavelle said. "It’s frustrating to start the year off with an injury, just because I feel like you come off preseason and you’re revving to go, so it’s so annoying."

Lavelle is still looking to compete for one of just 18 Olympic roster spots. When healthy, she ranks as one of the national team’s most trusted assets, but considering this most recent injury, her health is an obvious concern. Faced with an onslaught of experienced competitors and young talent, incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes will have some big decisions to make when selecting the Paris-bound squad — a reality Lavelle seems to be taking in stride as she works to regain full fitness.

"We have so many special players, we have so much depth, and so many different weapons to utilize on and off the bench," Lavelle said. "Unfortunately that means really good players are going to get left off, too. And I think for all of us, it’s just about being ready for whatever role is given to us, embracing that, and looking to put it into a collective picture so that we can go into the Olympics ready to go."

Kate Paye tapped to take VanDerveer’s place at Stanford

new stanford head coach kate paye spins a basketball on the court
Stanford associate head coach Kate Paye has officially been promoted to head women's basketball coach. (Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports)

Stanford has found its replacement for legendary head women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer in associate head coach Kate Paye.

The Cardinal confirmed the hiring on Tuesday via a press release. Paye was largely expected to replace the longtime head coach, as the college mentioned they were still negotiating Paye's contract when they announced VanDerveer's retirement.

In Tuesday's statement, Paye reported that she was "humbled" to have been tapped to lead the women’s program.

"Stanford University has been a central part of my life for as long as I can remember and I am humbled to have the opportunity to lead its women’s basketball program," Paye said. "I’d first like to thank Tara, who has played such a pivotal role in my career for her friendship and guidance. It’s not what she’s done, but how she’s done it, that has had such a profound impact upon me."

A Woodside, California native, Paye played under VanDerveer from 1992 to 1995, taking home a national title her freshman year. After graduation, Paye briefly joined San Diego State as an assistant coach before making her professional debut with the ABL's Seattle Reign in 1996. After finishing her playing career with the WNBA's Seattle Storm, she joined the team’s coaching staff in 2007 and has been with the organization ever since, picking up another national title win — this time as associate head coach — in 2021. Paye's brother John played quarterback for Stanford from 1983 to 1986, while also serving as a point guard on the basketball team.

In her own response, VanDerveer said that she was "grateful" that Stanford picked Paye to follow in her stead. Last week, the decorated coach stated that this year would be her last after 38 seasons at the helm and three national titles under her belt.

"She has long been ready for this opportunity and is the perfect leader for Stanford at this time of immense change in college athletics," VanDerveer noted. "Kate was the choice for this job and I am confident she will achieve great success as head coach."

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