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USWNT in the NWSL: Christen Press is on the mend

USWNT and Angel City FC forward Christen Press had three knee surgeries in eight months after tearing her ACL in June 2022. (Harry How/Getty Images)

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

And with USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski emphasizing league play in his roster decisions, players’ NWSL form is more important than ever.

How are USWNT hopefuls performing for their club teams? How many minutes are they playing each week? Just Women’s Sports is keeping track in the lead-up to World Cup roster selection.

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.
  • Rose Lavelle (leg) has missed OL Reign’s last 11 matches across all competitions, and OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey said the 28-year-old midfielder may not return to NWSL action before the World Cup.
  • 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, 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 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, 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 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, 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.