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.

In some ways, U.S. women’s national team head coach Vlatko Andonovski has one of the toughest jobs in women’s soccer, especially when it comes to the decisions he has to make about his roster construction. The USWNT’s depth has been tested due to unexpected injuries, and Andonovski nonetheless has had to leave a number of very talented players home from the 2023 World Cup.

There are a few players on the bubble not dealing with injury who very likely could have made the USWNT 2023 World Cup roster. These are the biggest surprises and snubs from the team’s roster reveal Wednesday.

Ashley Hatch, forward

It feels like a harsh rite of passage in a way for a player to, through no fault of their own, find themselves on the very edge of a USWNT World Cup roster after months spent in camp with the team. In 2015, that player was Crystal Dunn; in 2019, it was Casey Krueger; and this year, it is Washington Spirit center forward Ashley Hatch.

Hatch wasn’t beaten out by any one player, but rather by a concept shift and more pressing issues elsewhere on the pitch. Rose Lavelle’s lingering injuries made way for Savannah DeMelo earning a surprise spot, while Becky Sauerbrunn’s absence might pull Julie Ertz away from the midfield. A spot had to be sacrificed, and Andonovski felt he had enough cover from players who can start both centrally and on the wings to eliminate the backup center-forward role entirely. It’s difficult to argue against the way Andonovski has shifted things to make numbers work throughout the roster, but the loss of Hatch could alter the attack even further.

Sam Coffey had a standout 2022 rookie season for her club team and the USWNT. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Sam Coffey and Jaelin Howell, midfielders

Andonovski moved away from developing Howell and Coffey into 2023 World Cup defensive midfielders months ago, making their exclusion less of a surprise as it is an ongoing frustration. Coffey has the distributive skills and sophisticated spacing of a veteran far beyond her years, and Howell is the kind of disruptor USWNT fans are used to in the position.

Together, they’d make the perfect addition to the USWNT’s midfield numbers. Individually, they have been left to develop further with their club teams rather than within the U.S.’s punishing system that requires players to cover a significant amount of ground, have an elite defensive presence and distribute the ball.

Tierna Davidson, defender

Davidson fell prey to timing in many ways, as her return from an ACL injury coincided with her club, the Chicago Red Stars, struggling mightily on the pitch. Chicago has changed its formation multiple times while Davidson has tried to get her confidence and timing back in both a three- and a four-back system.

The result became a defense that couldn’t stop leaking goals, and while club issues were not enough to keep entrenched goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher off the World Cup roster, Davidson never got a chance to resume the elite play she had been known for.

Casey Krueger also missed out on the USWNT's 2019 World Cup roster. (Bill Barrett/USSF/Getty Images)

Casey Krueger, defender

Davidson’s Red Star teammate, Casey Krueger, hasn’t seen her personal form dip despite Chicago’s issues, but multiple small decisions Andonovski faced likely kept her off a World Cup roster once again. Krueger has been fit and effective on both sides of the ball this season and is still one of the best American 1v1 defenders in the world. She can also play center back when asked to, possessing the type of versatility the U.S. usually prioritizes.

But after controversially being the last player off the plane in 2019, Krueger doesn’t have World Cup experience, and the loss of Sauerbrunn likely had Andonovski looking for someone who had been in that position before. He opted for crossing specialist Sofia Huerta to break down low blocks, and longtime veteran Kelley O’Hara to offset the defense’s experience gap despite dealing with a few lingering injuries herself.

AD Franch, goalkeeper

Franch has won a World Cup and an Olympic bronze medal with the USWNT, and she had worked her way back into consistent camps through stellar performances in 2022. But Franch’s form hasn’t been quite the same in 2023 as Kansas City deals with defensive injuries, leading to the 32-year-old being benched in favor of Cassie Miller.

The U.S. has a long history of expecting goalkeepers to have different levels of form for club and country with how many variables can exist in a club environment — Alyssa Naeher being a primary example. But Franch’s inability to get back on the field, combined with the excellent form of Aubrey Kingsbury, was just enough to push Andonovski into a late switch for his third goalkeeper spot.

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

When U.S. women’s national team unveiled its final 23-player roster for the 2023 World Cup on Wednesday, some players saw their dreams realized while others had theirs dashed.

Among the players who missed out on a spot were Ashley Hatch, Tierna Davidson and AD Franch, all of whom have attended multiple USWNT camps this year.

“There is no harder thing that you can do than tell someone that they did not make the roster for a World Cup,” USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski said after the roster reveal.

While the USWNT went with seven forwards and six midfielders for the SheBelieves Cup in February, Andonovski opted to flip those numbers for the World Cup, which leaves Hatch on the outside looking in. The flexibility of the forward corps — namely Sophia Smith, Lynn Williams, Trinity Rodman and Alyssa Thompson’s ability to play in the No. 9 slot — played into his decision, he said.

“They’re all playing in a really good form and we’re comfortable with their abilities and what they can provide on the field,” he said. “We’re not worried about having someone step in and do well if needed.”

Chicago Red Stars defender Davidson also “missed it by a little bit,” Andonovski said. After tearing her ACL in March 2022, Davidson participated in the February camp and then made her return during the USWNT’s April friendlies against Ireland. But Andonovski felt as though there “were other players that fit better in the needs that we may have” for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

“She’s an incredible player and I have no doubt that she will be back on this team soon and in contention for the roster spot for the next big tournament,” he said.

Also missing the roster is goalkeeper AD Franch, who had been called up at the end of 2022 following a standout NWSL season. She’s had a rough stretch in 2023, however, and was swapped out for Aubrey Kingsbury.

Whittling down a World Cup roster to 23 players can be difficult, particularly if you are head coach of the U.S. women’s national team and have a plethora of talent to choose from.

USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski will announce his choices next week, and while some players have solidified their spots, others remain on the bubble. Which players are fighting for a trip to Australia and New Zealand?

Goalkeepers: AD Franch, Aubrey Kingsbury

Kingsbury has been playing lights out to begin the season. Franch, on the other hand, has seen limited appearances on the field, and has struggled when she has appeared for the Kansas City Current.

And while Alyssa Naeher is a staple for the USWNT, she has given up nine goals in her last two outings for the Red Stars, so Andonovski may want to stick with the backup who has the better recent résumé.

Defenders: Sofia Huerta, Tierna Davidson, Kelley O’Hara, Casey Krueger

Sofia Huerta had a great game last weekend against Kansas City, burying a penalty kick to give OL Reign the win. She was named Player of the Match and earned a nomination for NWSL Player of the Week. A former attacker turned right-back, her 35 regular-season goals rank 17th in NWSL history, so she could bring an additional scoring presence to a USWNT squad that has had a defender score in each of its last two friendlies. But she’s going up against O’Hara and Krueger, with each bringing a different element to the table — and while O’Hara has been struggling to stay healthy, Krueger’s versatility could give her the nod.

Davidson is another bubble player who faces stiff competition to make the final 23. At center-back, she is likely competing with OL Reign’s Emily Sonnett. In Chicago, Davidson has struggled – as has the rest of the Red Star defense – and was out before that with an ACL tear. She was the youngest player on the roster at the 2019 World Cup, but she could find herself on the outside looking in this time around.

Midfielders: Taylor Kornieck, Savannah DeMelo

Julie Ertz’s return to the USWNT lineup has meant one less spot on the USWNT roster because, let’s face it, there’s no way Ertz is being left at home. Kornieck has had solid USWNT minutes, and at 6-1 she is the tallest player the USWNT has to go up against opposition. Before sustaining an abdominal injury, Kornieck was leading the NWSL in aerials won. She’s already scored once this year for the USWNT, one of just a few players to do so, and would be a solid bench option for Andonovski.

DeMelo, meanwhile, has had an outstanding start to her NWSL season and week after week continues to make her case for the USWNT roster. She scored in four of five appearances to start the season and forced an own goal against Chicago. In May, she was named the NWSL’s Player of the Month. If NWSL play really does matter that much to Andonovski, then he’ll take DeMelo down under.

Forwards: Jaedyn Shaw, Midge Purce

If Andonovski is considering young star Alyssa Thompson for a roster spot, he should also be considering Shaw. Shaw has been a force for San Diego this season, not just as the team’s second-leading scorer but also as a passer. While her consistency needs some work, she has two seasons of professional experience under her belt that could be helpful on the world’s biggest stage.

Purce, meanwhile, has had a bumpy road with the USWNT, and a recent hip injury has kept her from NWSL play. While Purce has the talent to help the USWNT, her lack of recent playing time means she could get left at home.

If one position seemed locked up for the U.S. women’s national team heading into 2023, it was goalkeeper, with Alyssa Naeher and Casey Murphy as the clear one-two punch.

The NWSL season, though, may have created waves in the goalkeeper pool. With a recent run of poor play by some USWNT staples, coach Vlatko Andonovski faces a tough task in evaluating the keepers ahead of the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

“We’ll look into performances, first and foremost,” Andonovski said in April. “Who does well, who stops the ball going in the net? There’s no question that will be the first thing we’re going to be looking at.”

Naeher has struggled to start the season, albeit behind a porous Chicago Red Stars defense. AD Franch, who has been the third goalkeeper through all of the spring camps, has been benched for the Kansas City Current.

While the USWNT has options beyond Naeher, Murphy and Franch, they have limited – if any – international experience. While roster consistency can be a good thing, it also could limit the options in net for the defending World Cup champions.

Casey Murphy, North Carolina Courage – 14 caps

Casey Murphy’s play for the USWNT in the last year and recent start with the Courage may have solidified her case for the starting spot. Throughout the last year, Murphy has made 12 starts for the USWNT, going 9-2-1 and recording nine shutouts while allowing just five goals. So far this year, she’s started in three games and recorded a clean sheet in each of them.

And that run of form has carried over to her club. Through eight starts for the Courage in the 2023 regular season, Murphy has allowed just nine goals, which is among the lowest in the league. (Only Aubrey Kingsbury is better through eight starts, having allowed just seven goals.) Murphy also leads the league in clean sheets with four and has a 78.1% save percentage.

If there is one player who clearly deserves a World Cup nod for the USWNT, it’s Murphy.

Alyssa Naeher, Chicago Red Stars – 89 caps

Longtime USWNT keeper Alyssa Naeher has had a challenging run of late, allowing 22 goals through eight games in the NWSL regular season, paired with a save percentage of 65.4%.

Her goals against average of 2.75 is tied for the highest in the league, matched only by Franch. No other goalkeeper in the NWSL this season averages more than 2.0 goals against per 90 minutes. She also is one of two NWSL starting goalkeepers who has not recorded a clean sheet this season.

Some of her struggles to start the season can be placed upon the Red Stars organization. The team is in the midst of being sold, and a number of players exited in the offseason. But for the USWNT, her performance is still worrying.

Naeher has proved to be great under pressure throughout her career, which helped her ascend to her starting position for the USWNT. She has provided a steady foundation for USWNT fans everywhere as other areas of the field have been points of concern. After all, she anchored this team to a World Cup in 2019. Even the greatest, though, have their breaking points. Has Naeher reached hers?

AD Franch, Kansas City – 10 caps

AD Franch has had a rough go of it to start the season for the Kansas City Current. She has just five appearances across all competitions in 2023, having been benched in favor of Cassie Miller after coach Matt Potter got fired.

On May 14, she made her first appearance in almost a month — then allowed an own goal. In her most recent match before that one, which came on April 15, she allowed four goals against the Red Stars. She is allowing 2.75 goals per game on average, and her save percentage sits at a league-low 56.5%.

In 2022, she was a finalist for the NWSL’s Goalkeeper of the Year award, which got her back onto the USWNT after an extended break. But even though she has earned call-ups, Andonovski has not played around with his starters, sticking with Naeher and Murphy. So Franch has not played in a match for the USWNT since an October 2021 friendly against South Korea.

Aubrey Kingsbury, Washington Spirit – 1 cap

Washington’s Aubrey Kingsbury has been one of the best goalkeepers to begin the NWSL season. Her save percentage sits at 82.8% and she’s allowed just seven goals through eight appearances, leading to a goals against average of 0.87. She’s also recorded three clean sheets on the season.

Kingsbury is no stranger to big moments. Named 2019 and 2021 NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year, she helped the Spirit to the 2021 NWSL title. And last year, when the team stumbled, Kingsbury provided a steady hand. She finished 2022 with 6.59 goals prevented, and 0.35 goals prevented per 90 minutes, which ranked second among goalkeepers who started over half of team matches.

While Kingsbury has been called up a number of times since 2019, she has not been called up once this year despite her stellar form. And she has just one appearance in international play to her name, coming last year in the team’s 9-0 blowout win of Uzbekistan, which could hinder her chance at a World Cup roster spot.

Phallon Tullis-Joyce, OL Reign – 0 caps

We’ve said it before at Just Women’s Sports and we’ll say it again: Phallon Tullis-Joyce is worthy of consideration for a USWNT goalkeeper spot.

While Tullis-Joyce was named to the 59-player provisional roster for the Concacaf W championship last year, she hasn’t yet earned a call-up to the USWNT, even though she’s been one of the best goalkeepers in the NWSL through the last two seasons. Last season, she finished as a finalist for Goalkeeper of the Year, and this year she’s off to a strong start.

With three clean sheets and just 10 goals allowed through eight games, Tullis-Joyce has been a constant for OL Reign to start the season. And while her save percentage (69.7%) ranks in the middle of the league, she’s on track for another solid season.

Kansas City Current goalkeeper AD Franch allowed an own goal in her first time back in the lineup in a month.

The goal resulted from a fluky turn of events, which saw San Diego Wave striker Alex Morgan’s shot bounce off the post and then off Franch’s back and into the net. But it also marked the 11th allowed by Franch in just four appearances this season, and it contributed to her team’s 2-0 loss Sunday against the Wave.

Before Sunday, she had not played since April 15, when she allowed four goals against the Chicago Red Stars.

Since coach Matt Potter got fired, Franch has struggled to crack interim head coach Caroline Sjöblom’s lineup for the struggling Current. Instead, Cassie Miller has started in her place, recording a clean sheet in three straight games for Kansas City.

But Miller allowed three goals in a loss to Angel City last week, opening the door for Franch to return.

Before Franch was benched, she had started the season by allowing just one goal in a 1-0 loss to the North Carolina Courage. But she allowed four goals in each of her next two games, including that game against the Red Stars, before being benched for a month. She made her return Sunday but once again was not up to the form that nearly earned her NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year last season and did earn her a spot on the U.S. women’s national team roster starting in November.

“We knew that we could give them problems with that front three and our front three were unbelievable tonight,” San Diego coach Casey Stoney said. “I have to say the game plan was to defend and I thought they defended very, very well and we created and scored. Did they have more chances in terms of shots? Yeah, but we’ve had really clear openings, so that’s pleasing for us.”

In addition to Franch’s own goal Sunday – her second of the season – Franch ran into the goalpost and had to be checked out by trainers. While she did get back to her feet, her recent run of play raises some concern for both Kanas City and USWNT fans alike.

With every week that passes in the NWSL, players on the U.S. women’s national team bubble get a chance to prove their case further for inclusion on the team’s 2023 World Cup roster. USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski has long emphasized the importance of club performance, and players have been responding in the early stages of the 2023 season.

Andonovski himself took in two NWSL matches this past weekend, one in Seattle and one in Portland. The official World Cup roster is expected to be announced in June, and every week is crucial to Andonovski’s final decision-making process.

The games the USWNT head coach saw this weekend featured excellent performances for some and raised question marks for others.

Questions in the back

Not every player penciled onto the current USWNT roster had a weekend to remember as league action resumed. All three of Andonovski’s preferred goalkeepers either suffered losses or did not play in the NWSL’s fourth match day, and a few U.S. defenders also had rough outings.

Chicago Red Stars goalkeeper and longtime USWNT starter Alyssa Naeher conceded five tallies on just five shots on goal in a loss to OL Reign on Saturday. While one strike — a deflected free kick by Megan Rapinoe — was likely outside of the 35-year-old’s grasp, the other four were in the range of being savable. In all, the Reign got on the scoreboard five times on just 1.06 xG, a stat that measures expected goals.

Chicago’s rough day on defense also included USWNT defenders Tierna Davidson and Casey Krueger, who had a hard time settling in within the Red Stars’ high-risk, three-back system. On the other end, Emily Sonnett again played in the Reign’s defensive midfield and struggled to contain Chicago rookie Ally Schlegel on the sequence that led to the Red Stars’ second goal.

Casey Murphy’s North Carolina Courage also suffered a loss, though in a much closer 1-0 scoreline. Gotham FC emerged from a near two-hour rain delay with renewed purpose, and Lynn Williams scored the game-winner in the 80th minute off an endline run and cross by Yazmeen Ryan. Murphy’s goals conceded so far this season have aligned closely with her xG faced, indicating a return to consistency after an up and down 2022. Adrianna Franch did not play in Kansas City’s 2-0 win over the Orlando Pride.

In better news, Andonovski’s preferred defensive starters looked as steady as ever. Naomi Girma had another excellent match for San Diego in a 2-0 win over Angel City, and Becky Sauerbrunn guided the Portland Thorns to another shutout victory.

Raining goals

In several cases, a defender’s bad day made for an attacker’s dream outing, as USWNT hopefuls once again made waves in front of goal. Williams’ strike was her fourth goal across all competitions this season, matching the total output of any other Gotham forward in 2022. The forward’s signing has immediately boosted the club that finished in last place in 2022 and has further solidified Williams’ value on both the domestic and international stage.

Reigning NWSL MVP Sophia Smith also continued her run of strong form, this time connecting on two assists in Portland’s win over Racing Louisville. Smith now has four goals and four assists in as many regular season matches, becoming the first player to reach both marks in just four games. Smith found Christine Sinclair early in the game to put the Thorns ahead, and then doubled her assist tally with a slick pass to Morgan Weaver to put the game out of reach.

OL Reign’s Megan Rapinoe showcased her value this weekend, putting in her longest performance of 2023 with 45 minutes against the Red Stars. As Rapinoe has progressed from an injury into game shape, her accuracy in dead-ball situations and overall influence over a match have grown. The USWNT veteran won a number of key set-piece opportunities against the Chicago backline in the second half, converting one of those chances outside the box into a deflected goal that put the Reign up 4-2.

Important minutes building

For some players, simply spending extensive minutes on the pitch is part of the process. Rapinoe played 15 minutes more on Saturday than in her last game, putting together a full half for the Reign. It was a positive sign for the winger, as she slowly works her way back from a lingering calf injury that had kept her off the field early in 2023.

Another player quietly working her way back to full fitness is Gotham outside back Kelley O’Hara, who played a full 90 minutes this past weekend for the first time in 2023 (albeit with an extensive rain delay). O’Hara hadn’t played a full match since August 2022 while recovering from a hip injury that ended her season early and kept her away from the U.S. until April 2023. O’Hara didn’t play many minutes with the USWNT in her return from injury in April, but her extensive experience combined with stalwart club performances could be just enough to get her on the final roster.

Perhaps the most significant return this weekend was that of Angel City midfielder Julie Ertz, who completed her most extensive performance in almost two years on Sunday. Ertz played in the midfield for 71 minutes, a big jump from the 45 minutes she gave the U.S. on April 11. Ertz looked equally sharp and rusty in her first NWSL match since May 2021, but her fitness shouldn’t be called into question after a durable performance in an end-to-end contest.

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

The 2023 NWSL season kicked off this weekend.

The league itself offers plenty of storylines, from the Portland Thorns’ quest for a repeat championship to Gotham FC’s roster overhaul. But the season also serves as the runway to this summer’s World Cup, for U.S. soccer fans and U.S. women’s national team players alike.

Where do you catch your favorite USWNT stars in the domestic league? Just Women’s Sports offers the breakdown, by player and by NWSL team.

Note: While the USWNT will need to cut its roster to 23 players for the World Cup, more players than that remain in contention for roster spots. These lists include players who have featured on recent USWNT camp rosters and players who are working their way back from injuries.

Where do USWNT stars play in the NWSL?


  • Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)
  • Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage)
  • A.D. Franch (Kansas City Current)


  • Alana Cook (OL Reign)
  • Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars)
  • Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns)
  • Emily Fox (North Carolina Courage)
  • Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave)
  • Sofia Huerta (OL Reign)
  • Hailie Mace (Kansas City Current)
  • Kelley O’Hara (Gotham FC)
  • Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns)
  • Emily Sonnett (OL Reign)


  • Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns)
  • Julie Ertz (Free agent)
  • Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyonnais, Division 1 Féminine)
  • Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave)
  • Rose Lavelle (OL Reign)
  • Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyonnais, Division 1 Féminine)
  • Kristie Mewis (Gotham FC)
  • Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit)
  • Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)


  • Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit)
  • Tobin Heath (Free agent)
  • Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave)
  • Christen Press (Angel City FC)
  • Midge Purce (Gotham FC)
  • Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign)
  • Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit)
  • Mallory Pugh Swanson (Chicago Red Stars)
  • Alyssa Thompson (Angel City FC)
  • Lynn Williams (Gotham FC)

Which NWSL teams feature USWNT players?

Angel City FC

  • Christen Press
  • Alyssa Thompson

Chicago Red Stars

  • Tierna Davidson
  • Alyssa Naeher
  • Mallory Pugh Swanson

Gotham FC

  • Kristie Mewis
  • Kelley O’Hara
  • Midge Purce
  • Lynn Williams

Houston Dash

  • N/A

Kansas City Current

  • A.D. Franch
  • Hailie Mace

North Carolina Courage

  • Emily Fox
  • Casey Murphy

OL Reign

  • Alana Cook
  • Sofia Huerta
  • Rose Lavelle
  • Emily Sonnett
  • Megan Rapinoe

Orlando Pride

  • N/A

Portland Thorns

  • Sam Coffey
  • Crystal Dunn
  • Becky Sauerbrunn

Racing Louisville

  • N/A

San Diego Wave

  • Naomi Girma
  • Taylor Kornieck
  • Alex Morgan

Washington Spirit

  • Ashley Hatch
  • Trinity Rodman
  • Ashley Sanchez
  • Andi Sullivan

Not in NWSL

  • Julie Ertz (Free agent)
  • Tobin Heath (Free agent)
  • Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyonnais, Division 1 Féminine)
  • Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyonnais, Division 1 Féminine)

After finishing in last place in their inaugural season in 2021, Kansas City rode the underdog mindset in 2022. Head coach Matt Potter and general manager Cami Levin Ashton made a few important tweaks to a young group in order to peak at the right time and make it all the way to the NWSL Championship.

In 2023, the underdog label is far behind the Current, who signed some of the NWSL’s biggest free agents in the offseason. With full buy-in from ambitious ownership, the Current have become one of the premier destinations for professional women’s soccer players in the U.S. in only three years. But after a successful 2022 season, how will the team’s chemistry withstand all the new additions?

2022 review: Underdog energy

The Kansas City Current of 2022 played a cohesive, sometimes chaotic style of soccer that other teams found difficult to break down. While they weren’t immune to conceding first, they almost always found a way to come back to challenge for a result.

The team played in an expansive 3-5-2 formation, with three center-backs behind a high-flying midfield that moved the ball quickly and found space for their attackers. A number of young and relatively inexperienced players helped reset the team’s culture, with key veterans like Lo’eau Labonta and AD Franch setting the tone.

The team committed to the grind of the NWSL season early on with a preseason process they’re using again this year. Labonta told reporters in February that the heavy lift days the team holds in Florida in the preseason are a “rite of passage” and that the time spent in camp set them in the right direction in 2022.

“Matt [Potter] has actually given credit to us being here and grinding here for why we’re able to make it so far in the league last year,” Labonta said. “I think it’s true.”

The Current ultimately finished fourth in the regular-season standings, a vast improvement from their league-worst finish in 2021. Their style of play proved perfect for the NWSL’s knockout playoffs, as they advanced past the Houston Dash and then Shield winners OL Reign. A collective never-say-die attitude took them all the way to the 2022 NWSL final, where their inexperience showed in a 2-0 defeat to a Portland Thorns team ready for the big moment.

The Current made the biggest splash of free agency, signing midfielder Debinha. (Jaylynn Nash/USA TODAY Sports)

Offseason moves: Building a superteam

Rather than running it back with the benefit of hard-earned experience, the Current appeared unsatisfied with being runner-up. In the offseason, Levin Ashton took a clinical approach to push the roster to the next level, re-negotiating Sam Mewis’ contract as she continues to rehab her knee and abruptly sending Lynn Williams to Gotham FC in order to make room for other players.

The Current signed Vanessa DiBernardo and Morgan Gautrat away from Chicago, traded up for No. 2 draft pick Michelle Cooper and, most crucially, won the bidding war for Brazilian superstar Debinha. They’ve since also signed top Swedish outside back Hanna Glas.

Players have noted the club’s resources and facilities as some of the best in the world. But the decision to move Williams, in a trade the USWNT forward called “shocking,” also showcased the ruthlessness the team feels is necessary to improve in the long term.

Potter said he declined to bring non-roster invitees into Kansas City’s 2023 camp — reversing a common practice among NWSL teams — because making the 28-player roster (24 first-team and four supplemental) is going to be difficult enough for draft picks and other acquisitions.

“To be perfectly honest, there was an opportunity to bring in more players, but it would only be false hope for them,” he said. “Because the reality is to make this roster even with the players that we have here, it’s going to be super competitive.”

Early in preseason, Labonta wasn’t worried about the locker room being disrupted by big-name players.

“I actually had a meeting with Matt yesterday, and I was just saying that this team already, we have great human beings,” she said. “There’s not one bad person on this team.”

As for team rules, they’re keeping it simple: “Don’t be late, don’t leave your gear around. That’s literally it. That’s all that we have to enforce,” Labonta said.

Lo'eau Labonta and the Current thrived on their team chemistry last season. (Amy Kontras/USA TODAY Sports)

2023 Outlook: Keeping the culture

While spirits are high in Kansas City, ambitious offseasons also present challenges in player management. Some players who carried the load last year were waived or traded in the offseason, and others who remain are going to see their roles on the team reduced when the roster is at full strength.

Even Labonta, one of the team’s breakout stars of 2022, has a new level of competition at her position.

“I think a lot of the people saw in the offseason signings, we signed about 12,000 midfielders — that’s my position — but it only makes it so much more competitive,” she said.

The team does have positional imbalances, having loaded up on central midfielders and wide defenders in the offseason. They lost defender Kristen Edmonds to free agency and will have to control games through the prowess of the midfield so they don’t get into high-risk shootouts. The Current should be well-positioned for the World Cup period — when they will be without Glas, Debinha and likely Franch — thanks to an influx of players who are used to participating in other teams’ systems and can get up to speed quickly.

No matter what, Kansas City players will be in fierce competition for playing time, with the hope that their deep midfield can score enough goals to compensate for vulnerabilities in the central defense.

“We talk often about competition being about striving together,” Potter said. “How can we, whoever’s out there, take the mantle of what we have as a team identity and express that for something bigger than ourselves?”

The NWSL has a history of the best team on paper not always being the squad that hoists the trophy at the end of the season. The Current are taking a very different approach than what worked for them last year, but if they can get the balance right, they might become unbeatable once the playoffs roll around.

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

The SheBelieves Cup has two different purposes for the U.S. women’s national team: Prepare the core group for a round-robin format against top competition and continue to hone the team’s depth.

With top women’s soccer nations Brazil, Japan and Canada taking part in this year’s tournament, the balance between building confidence and evaluating talent will be as delicate as ever. With a middling finish to 2022, the U.S. could use a few wins to go into the World Cup with the confidence that they can come out on top against the world’s best.

With a few key roster decisions looming at certain positions, there are at least four players head coach Vlatko Andonovski should consider giving more playing time this tournament.

Adrianna Franch, goalkeeper

To give them both tournament experience and to keep competition fresh, all three U.S. goalkeepers should see time during the SheBelieves Cup. Franch has been called into three consecutive camps off the strength of an excellent NWSL season with Kansas City, but she has yet to see the field for the USWNT for the first time since 2021.

Franch is an excellent shot-stopper at the club level and went to the Tokyo Olympics as the team’s No. 2 goalkeeper, closing out the tournament for the U.S. after Alyssa Naeher suffered a knee injury. North Carolina’s Casey Murphy has moved into a more consistent role with the team after the Olympics, and Andonovski has given very little game time to the goalkeepers pushing for the third spot. I believe Franch has the ability to compete for more than the third goalkeeping spot and should get a chance to prove what she can do against top competition in 2023.

Taylor Kornieck, midfielder

Kornieck appears to have an inside lane to making the World Cup roster as defensive midfield depth and a set piece aerial specialist. The 24-year-old is getting up to speed quickly in a position she doesn’t regularly play. For her club team, the San Diego Wave, Kornieck usually plays in more of a connecting midfield role. If Andonovski is truly committed to having Kornieck prepared to step into an unfamiliar role in New Zealand, time against top competition will be crucial.

Kornieck seeing time as the No. 6 is also part of Andonovski’s plans to tweak the midfield structure since the U.S. lost three games in a row at the end of 2022 for the first time in almost 30 years. Kornieck as a defensive midfielder requires something closer to a double pivot 4-2-3-1 formation, where either Lindsey Horan or Rose Lavelle sits further back to provide defensive cover and help in distribution. Those roles are likely just as essential as whoever plays the No. 6 (Andi Sullivan is the preferred starter), and forging that midfield chemistry will be key during the SheBelieves Cup.

Sofia Huerta, defender

The USWNT defense hasn’t felt completely settled going into 2023, with outside backs coming in and out of camp due to injury and availability. Huerta played a lion’s share of the team’s right-back minutes in 2022, but her role could become even more nuanced as other players return.

Huerta is a converted winger who is one of the best crossers in the women’s game, with an attacker’s approach to her position on defense. When the U.S. midfield tries to draw their opponents in centrally by holding the ball, Huerta is there to receive passes out wide and send the ball in quickly to set up goal-scoring opportunities.

Huerta’s progression as a 1v1 defender has been a longer process, and with Crystal Dunn back in the mix at left back, Andonovski might choose to craft his starting XI with more tactical awareness in mind. He has opted for a defensive system with Dunn at left back and Emily Fox at right back while the team awaits the return of Kelley O’Hara from injury. Huerta has the ability to hurt any team on the counter-attack and can shine when tactical priorities are clear.

Alana Cook, defender

It’s impossible to know exactly where Cook sits on the current U.S. center-back depth chart. She played the most minutes of anyone on the USWNT in 2022, but she has rotated more with Becky Sauerbrunn and Naomi Girma since the U.S. defense struggled against top attacking teams late last year. Cook’s counterparts appear to be locks for the World Cup roster, with Sauerbrunn as the veteran presence and Girma the young natural at the position.

Cook herself frequently looks like a natural, but she isn’t immune to being a step too slow in reacting to dangerous moments, leading to goals conceded. She’s joined on the SheBelieves roster by Emily Sonnett, who has been used as a hybrid center back/outside back in the past. Tierna Davidson is likely one camp away from returning to game minutes.

The U.S. can’t bring Cook, Davidson and Sonnett to the World Cup, and these games are as much about working out defensive communication as they are about looking for individual moments of brilliance. Cook has earned Andonovski’s trust as a steady contributor and deserves a chance to solidify her place with the team this week with an all-around performance.

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