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USWNT in the NWSL: Megan Rapinoe not concerned about calf injury

OL Reign forward Megan Rapinoe is not worried about her calf injury. (Michael Thomas Shroyer/USA TODAY Sports)

For the U.S. women’s national team, the 2023 NWSL season provided a perfect runway to the World Cup.

Most members of the team played for their NWSL clubs right up to the national team training camp, which kicked off this week in California.

How have the USWNT stars been performing for their club teams? Just Women’s Sports tracked their playing time ahead of this summer’s tournament.

Matchday #13: June 23-25

  • Megan Rapinoe (calf) missed OL Reign’s last two games heading into USWNT training camp, but she called her injury “minor” despite the bad timing. She is not worried about the injury affecting her at the World Cup.
  • Sophia Smith scored a hat trick in the Portland Thorns’ 4-2 win over the Washington Spirit. Those three goals pushed her into the lead in the Golden Boot race with 10 on the season. Yet while USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski is glad to see her in form, scoring at the club level “is totally different from doing it at an international level at a World Cup,” he noted.
  • Only Rapinoe, Rose Lavelle (leg) and Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyonnais) did not take the pitch in the final match weekend before World Cup training began. Of the 20 who did, most played a full 90 minutes or close to it; only Kelley O’Hara played less than 80 minutes. The 34-year-old defender started for Gotham FC but subbed out after 63 minutes in the 2-1 win against the Chicago Red Stars.

Matchday #12: June 17-18

  • Racing Louisville midfielder Savannah DeMelo scored a goal, continuing her scorching start to the season just after a report emerged that she will have a spot on the World Cup roster. Portland Thorns forward Sophia Smith and Washington Spirit midfielder Ashley Sanchez also scored goals for their teams this weekend.
  • Neither Rose Lavelle (leg) nor Megan Rapinoe (calf) appeared for OL Reign as they continue to deal with injuries. Lavelle has been out since April but has been training with the team, while Rapinoe’s recovery is only expected to take “a couple of weeks,” OL Reign coach Laura Harvey said.
  • Alex Morgan returned for the San Diego Wave, while Kelley O’Hara played 45 minutes for Gotham FC as she works her way back from injury. Julie Ertz played a full 90 minutes for the second straight week for Angel City FC.
  • Becky Sauerbrunn (foot) missed her second consecutive game for the Portland Thorns just after confirming that she will miss the World Cup due to the injury.

Matchday #11: June 9-11

  • Alex Morgan missed the San Diego Wave’s 0-0 draw with Racing Louisville on Friday, but her absence was merely precautionary, head coach Casey Stoney said. “She came off the pitch with a tight calf… It was a long trip here. She’s got a World Cup ahead,” Stoney said. “So it wasn’t a matter of she wasn’t fit to play. It was precautionary. We just didn’t want to push her.” She also called out Louisville’s pitch quality, calling it “notoriously” poor. (Morgan did venture out Saturday to catch Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stop in Detroit.)
  • Becky Sauerbrunn returned from a foot injury last week for the Portland Thorns, playing 24 minutes as a substitute in her first action since April 22, but she missed Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the Orlando Pride.
  • Megan Rapinoe played just six minutes in OL Reign’s 2-1 win against the Kansas City Current before exiting with her own apparent calf injury. While head coach Laura Harvey described Rapinoe as “OK,” she also said she did not know “the severity of it.”
  • Rose Lavelle (leg) has missed OL Reign’s last 12 matches across all competitions, and Harvey has said the 28-year-old midfielder likely will not return to NWSL action before the World Cup.
  • Kelley O’Hara (ankle) returned for the first time since May 14, coming on as a substitute in the 73rd minute of Gotham FC’s 1-1 draw with the Houston Dash. In true O’Hara fashion, she received a yellow card for a tackle 11 minutes later. Our soccer analyst Claire Watkins has O’Hara on the bubble for a World Cup spot in her latest mock roster.
  • In a matchup of the USWNT’s top two goalkeepers, Casey Murphy came out on top, as her North Carolina Courage beat Alyssa Naeher and the Chicago Red Stars 5-0. Yet the score doesn’t tell the whole story. Murphy did not face a single shot on target, while Naeher faced eight shots on target (and made three saves), though she allowed five goals.

Matchday #10: June 3-5

  • Christen Press is inching toward a return, as she teased in a photo posted to her Instagram, which showed her in cleats giving two thumbs up. The 34-year-old forward has not played since tearing her ACL last June, but she still wants to join the USWNT at the World Cup, as she told ESPN. “I think that her running form is looking superb and again, we are just making sure that we track the return to play and are able to tick the boxes in a very controlled and methodical manner,” Angel City FC coach Freya Coombe said.
  • Becky Sauerbrunn returned from a foot injury for the Portland Thorns, playing 24 minutes as a substitute in Saturday’s 2-0 win against OL Reign. She had not played since April 22.
  • Kelley O’Hara (ankle) has not played since May 14, while Midge Purce (hip) has not played since April 19. Both are close to returning, Gotham FC coach Juan Carlos Amorós said after Sunday’s game, though he did not provide a timeline.

Matchday #9: May 26-28

  • Julie Ertz returned to the Angel City FC lineup for the first time since May 13, playing 12 minutes in Wednesday’s Challenge Cup match against the Portland Thorns. Becky Sauerbrunn (foot) missed the same match but participated fully in the Thorns’ training the next day.
  • Cassie Miller got another start in net over AD Franch for the Kansas City Current. Franch has played in just five matches across the regular season and the Challenge Cup in 2023.
  • Olympique Lyonnais midfielder Catarina Macario “won’t be physically ready for selection” to the USWNT as she continues to recover from an ACL tear.

Matchday #8: May 20-21

  • Rose Lavelle (leg), Becky Sauerbrunn (foot) and Midge Purce (hip) remain on the injured list. Lavelle has missed OL Reign’s last eight matches across all competitions, while Sauerbrunn has missed the Portland Thorns’ last four matches and Purce has missed Gotham’s last six.
  • Kelley O’Hara and Julie Ertz were available as substitutes for Gotham FC and Angel City FC, respectively, but did not play. Taylor Kornieck made her first appearance since April 19 for the San Diego Wave, playing four minutes off the bench.
  • Olympique Lyonnais midfielder Catarina Macario has not played yet this season as she recovers from an ACL tear, and just one match remains in the Division 1 Féminine season.
  • Alyssa Naeher again struggled in goal for the Chicago Red Stars in a 4-0 loss against the Thorns, while Cassie Miller got the start over AD Franch for the Kansas City Current.
  • Alex Morgan, Ashley Hatch, Lynn Williams and Crystal Dunn are tied for the lead in the NWSL Golden Boot race with five each. Dunn plays as an attacking midfielder for the Thorns but as a defender for the USWNT.

Matchday #7: May 12-14

  • Rose Lavelle has missed OL Reign’s last five regular-season matches and their last seven in a row across all competitions with a knee injury. While she is training with the team and she is “on the mend,” she is still working her way back to game form, head coach Laura Harvey said.
  • Becky Sauerbrunn (foot), Taylor Kornieck (abdomen) and Midge Purce (hip) all remain sidelined with their own injuries, as they have for the last several weeks.
  • The USWNT goalkeeping corps did not have a stellar week, with Alyssa Naeher and AD Franch each responsible for own goals. Naeher allowed three goals total in a loss to Racing Louisville, which leaves the Chicago Red Stars alone at the bottom of the league table, while Franch allowed two goals in her first appearance for the Kansas City Current in a month.

Matchday #6: May 6-7

  • Rose Lavelle has missed OL Reign’s last four regular-season matches and their last six in a row across all competitions with a knee injury, one which head coach Laura Harvey admitted has turned out to be more serious than initially thought. The injury will keep Lavelle out for “a couple more weeks,” Harvey said last Wednesday.
  • AD Franch sat out her fourth match in a row across all competitions for the Kansas City Current. But while fellow goalkeeper Cassie Miller had the hot hand entering Sunday, she allowed three goals in a loss to Angel City, which could open the door for Franch to reclaim the starting spot.
  • Becky Sauerbrunn (foot) has missed two weeks in a row. Still, the USWNT captain and Portland Thorns defender should have her name inked on the World Cup roster.
  • Taylor Kornieck (abdomen) and Midge Purce (hip) each have been sidelined for the last three weeks. While neither should remain out for long, they’re losing out on opportunities to prove themselves to Andonovski.
  • Julie Ertz missed Angel’s City’s Challenge Cup match Wednesday and its regular-season match Sunday with excused absences related to a charity project in Philadelphia, but she will return to training this week, head coach Freya Coombe said.

Matchday #5: April 28-30

  • AD Franch has not played in the Current’s last three matches across all competitions, sitting in favor of Cassie Miller, who has not allowed a goal in that span. While Franch has been supportive of Miller, the time on the bench could hurt her standing in the USWNT goalkeeper pool.
  • Rose Lavelle (leg) missed her third game in a row with a lingering injury, but head coach Laura Harvey was unconcerned after her team’s 2-2 draw with Racing Louisville. “A couple more weeks and then she’ll be OK,” Harvey said.
  • Taylor Kornieck (abdomen) and Midge Purce (hip) each have missed the last two weeks of competition, and Becky Sauerbrunn was sidelined with a foot injury for the Thorns’ 3-3 draw with Angel City FC.
  • San Diego Wave striker Alex Morgan missed her team’s 3-1 loss against the Orlando Pride with a thigh injury. When asked if Morgan would be available for the upcoming week, head coach Casey Stoney said: “We’ll have to take our time this week and see how she recovers, but I hope so.”
  • Lindsey Horan and Catarina Macario play for Lyon in France’s Division 1 Féminine, which has not taken the pitch since April 16. The only two players on this list not in the NWSL, Horan is a regular starter for Lyon, but Macario has missed the entire season with an ACL tear.

Matchday #4: April 22-23

  • Alyssa Naeher has started all four matches for the Chicago Red Stars so far this season, but the 35-year-old goalkeeper gave up five goals in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to OL Reign.
  • AD Franch did not appear for the Kansas City Current in Sunday’s 2-0 win against the Orlando Pride; instead, Cassie Miller got the start (and the shutout). Franch had started the first three matches of the season for the Current, all losses.
  • Kelley O’Hara played a full 90 minutes for Gotham FC for the first time this season. O’Hara joined Gotham in free agency in the offseason but has been recovering from a nagging hip injury.
  • Julie Ertz returned to the NWSL for the first time since 2021, playing 71 minutes for Angel City FC.
  • Rose Lavelle (leg), Taylor Kornieck (illness) and Midge Purce (hip) missed their team’s matches with short-term ailments.

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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