Becky Sauerbrunn is returning to Portland.

The free agent re-signed with the Thorns on a one-year deal. In a statement, Sauerbrunn said she is “thrilled” to be staying in Portland.

“I’m thrilled to be continuing my career with the Thorns as we enter a new era for the club,” Sauerbrunn said. “And as we welcome new ownership and investment, I’m thankful for the opportunity to play for the city and supporters that have always made being a Thorn such an unrivaled experience.”

Her return comes after Christine Sinclair signed a one-year deal to remain with the club also through 2024. And it also comes after the Thorns were sold to RAJ Sports for $63 million, a company that is led by the Bhathal family, which also holds ownership stake in the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.

Sauerbrunn is an 11-year NWSL veteran who has established herself as one of the top defenders in the league. Four times she’s won Defender of the Year – a league best – with her most recent award coming in 2019. She’s also been named to the NWSL Best XI and Second XI a league-best eight times.

A three-time NWSL champion, she’s helped Portland to the 2020 NWSL community shield, the 2021 NWSL challenge cup, 2022 NWSL shield and 2022 NWSL championship. She’s one of just a few players in league history to have won every possible title.

She’s also a key member of the USWNT, having captained the team and helped them to the 2015 and 2019 World Cup titles, as well as one Olympic gold and one Olympic silver medal.

“We are delighted to be able to bring Becky back to Portland for this upcoming season, her leadership, on and off the field, her professionalism, and quality on the pitch will be paramount to what we are hoping to achieve this year as a team and in this new era as a club,” general manager Karina LeBlanc said in a statement.

Sam Coffey scored her first international goal in the U.S. women’s national team’s 2-1 win over China PR on Tuesday, doing so in Becky Sauerbrunn’s “borrowed” No. 4.

Coffey said after the game that she got permission from Sauerbrunn, who is her Portland Thorns teammate, to wear the jersey number.

“I did get permission. I would never just pick it without addressing Rebecca,” Coffey told reporters. “I reached out to her and I was like, ‘Would you mind? I’d just love to honor you and channel your energy.’”

Indeed, Coffey channeled Sauerbrunn’s energy, but with a different result. Sauerbrunn has yet to score a goal in 217 appearances for the USWNT, with the defender holding the scoreless streak record for the team.

As for her own milestone goal, Coffey celebrated aptly afterward.

“I don’t score a lot of goals, so when it happens, I’ve got to celebrate,” said the midfielder, who had eight assists but no goals for the Thorns this past NWSL season. “I don’t even remember what I did. It was just one of the best moments of my life.”

It wasn’t the first time this year that Sauerbrunn has loaned her jersey number. During the World Cup, Naomi Girma donned the No. 4 while Sauerbrunn was sidelined with a foot injury. Upon Sauerbrunn’s comeback in October, Girma returned the jersey number without an argument.

“Becky just takes it back,” she said. “It was no fight. I asked to wear it during the World Cup.”

The second year of NWSL free agency opened on Nov. 20.

One of the top free agents on the market is Crystal Dunn, who already has announced her intention to depart the Portland Thorns. Other top targets include OL Reign midfielder Rose Lavelle and Chicago Red Stars forward Mallory Swanson.

With the expansion draft set for Dec. 15, teams and players alike seem to be in no rush to formalize contracts for the 2024 season. Teams can protect up to nine players from selection by Bay FC or the Utah Royals, but free agents are exempt, so expect most signings to become official after the draft.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the lone signing on the opening day of free agency went to the Royals. Michele Vasconcelos signed a two-year deal with Utah, setting up her return to her home state.

Unrestricted free agents can negotiate a new contract with any NWSL club, including expansion clubs Bay FC and Utah.

Restricted free agents also can negotiate with any NWSL club, but a player’s current team will have seven days to match any offer received — in salary, bonus structure and years. If the team does not match the offer, the player can sign with the new team, as spelled out in the NWSL’s collective bargaining agreement.

Alex Morgan, Crystal Dunn and several more veteran players found themselves left off the U.S. women’s national team roster for the last camp of 2023. But don’t count them out for the 2024 Olympics.

USWNT interim head coach Twila Kilgore talked with each veteran player about the decision to leave them off the roster, she said Monday.

“None of the players that were left off the roster are out of the mix,” Kilgore said. “We want to win and we want to make sure that we bring the best players with us to the Olympics, and this is just one step in making sure that we are making the right decisions moving forward.”

Players who were called into the October camp but not the December camp include Morgan, Dunn, Alyssa Naeher, Sofia Huerta, Becky Sauerbrunn, Ashley Sanchez and Andi Sullivan.

“I did call all the players that were in the previous camp that aren’t on the roster and explain to them why,” Kilgore said. “Those conversations are between coach and player. But I will say that each and every one of them are professionals. They responded as professionals would. They understand that we’re watching everything they do, everything matters.”

The coaching staff knows what all these players “are capable of doing and what their value is,” Kilgore said. The USWNT sees in the upcoming friendlies against China the opportunity to evaluate a wider pool of players.

As the team continues to build toward next year’s Olympics, Kilgore and incoming head coach Emma Hayes wanted to get younger players some looks with the senior national team. But the veterans are still very much in the mix for the Olympics, she said.

“There’s equal opportunity moving forward to make this roster,” she added.

And as for why they called in the players that they did, including newcomers Jenna Nighswonger and Korbin Albert, their strong play at the club level contributed to the decision-making process.

“The leading factor was that these players have been performing really well in their home environments,” she said. “We’ve been consistently watching them and giving an opportunity to both challenge and support in our environment and be able to evaluate them.”

The final U.S. women’s national team roster of 2023 is here, with Rose Lavelle back in the fold for the first time since the World Cup after missing the last couple of camps with a lingering knee injury.

The 28-year-old midfielder missed all but four NWSL regular-season games but returned for the playoffs, helping lead OL Reign to the NWSL championship match. She also scored in the final for the Reign in their 2-1 loss to Gotham FC.

Despite the defeat, Lavelle looked as sharp as ever in the postseason, showcasing precisely what makes her such a huge asset both for the Reign and the USWNT. As the team looks to win its final two friendlies of the year against China, look for Lavelle to make an impact.

The USWNT will host China for two matches, the first on Saturday, Dec. 2, at 3 p.m. ET, and the second on Tuesday, Dec. 5, at 8 p.m. ET.

Several veteran players are sidelined for the friendlies, including forward Alex Morgan, defender Becky Sauerbrunn and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. Their absences, though, should not raise too many red flags, as resting veteran players for the final camp of the year is a standard practice for the USWNT.

Also absent from the December roster are defenders Crystal Dunn and Sofia Huerta and midfielders Ashley Sanchez and Andi Sullivan.

Interim head coach Twila Kilgore will continue to lead the team in the stead of newly announced head coach Emma Hayes. This is the first roster to be dropped since the USWNT named Emma Hayes as its next head coach. But with Hayes continuing with Chelsea through the conclusion of the Women’s Super League season, Kilgore will remain at the helm until Hayes joins the USWNT in May 2024.

Catarina Macario remains sidelined, and the Chelsea midfielder is not expected to return for club or country before the end of the year, according to Hayes. But another Chelsea player in Mia Fishel is back on the roster, as is San Diego Wave forward Jaedyn Shaw. Both scored their first international goals in the USWNT’s most recent match in San Diego, a 3-0 win against Colombia at the end of October.

New faces on the roster include Korbin Albert, a 20-year-old midfielder for Paris Saint-Germain, and Jenna Nighswonger, the NWSL Rookie of the Year from Gotham FC.

USWNT schedule: December 2023

  • Saturday, Dec. 2 — 3 p.m. ET (TNT, Universo, Peacock)
    • United States vs. China (DRV PNK Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
  • Tuesday, Dec. 5 — 8 p.m. ET (TruTV, Universo, Peacock)
    • United States vs. China (Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas)

USWNT roster: December 2023

Goalkeepers (3)

  • Jane Campbell (Houston Dash)
  • Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit)
  • Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage)

Defenders (7)

  • Alana Cook (OL Reign)
  • Abby Dahlkemper (San Diego Wave)
  • Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars)
  • Emily Fox (North Carolina Courage)
  • Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave)
  • Casey Krueger (Chicago Red Stars
  • M.A. Vignola (Angel City FC)

Midfielders (8)

  • Korbin Albert (Paris Saint-Germain)
  • Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns)
  • Savannah DeMelo (Racing Louisville FC)
  • Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyonnais)
  • Rose Lavelle (OL Reign)
  • Olivia Moultrie (Portland Thorns)
  • Jenna Nighswonger (Gotham FC)
  • Emily Sonnett (OL Reign)

Forwards (8)

  • Mia Fishel (Chelsea)
  • Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit)
  • Midge Purce (Gotham FC)
  • Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit)
  • Jaedyn Shaw (San Diego Wave)
  • Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns)
  • Alyssa Thompson (Angel City FC)
  • Lynn Williams (Gotham FC)

Becky Sauerbrunn is going to test the waters of free agency.

The 38-year-old defender has played for three different teams in her NWSL career, including the Utah Royals, who are set to make their return to the league, and FC Kansas City. But she’s been with Portland since 2020, and she won an a NWSL championship with the team in 2022.

Heading into the offseason, though, she will experience free agency for the first time since it began in 2022 under the league’s first-ever collective bargaining agreement with the NWSL Players Association.

“You know, our PA fought very hard for free agency,” Sauerbrunn said. “And so I absolutely am going to experience what it’s like to be a free agent and then kind of see where it all pans out.”

Of course, Sauerbrunn still could end up sticking with the Thorns. And if she does want to stay in Portland, it could behoove her to wait on signing a new contract until after the expansion draft on Dec. 15, as free agents are not available for selection and therefore do not need to be protected.

Still, Sauerbrunn also recognizes that tides can change, and that’s all just a part of the game, she said after Portland’s NWSL semifinal loss.

“I think we as just being professionals, like we know that the team that you’re with, can always change,” Sauerbrunn said. “And we have been very well aware of that through this year. It’s actually something like that motivated us. The women in this locker room will never be the same after this year.”

The Thorns really took time to appreciate “every single moment that we’ve had together,” Sauerbrunn said. But, the locker room changing in the offseason, is a “sad fact of being professional athletes.”

“Right now it hurts. Yeah, it’s tough,” head coach Mike Norris said. “I think whether you’ve got contracts or not, I think the nature of this business, when you end a season, there’s a very good chance it’s not going to be the same group.

“I think there’s hurt right now. But there’s a lot of pride. I think this group has been through a lot in my time with the club. And particularly in my role here through the offseason, through the season. It’s been bumpy, but the group stuck together. They’re a really resilient group to take pride in the excellence in terms of how they show up every day for the fans every day for each other.”

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.

The U.S. women’s national team has a short amount of time to prepare for the 2024 Olympics – just nine months – and one thing that players have said they know will help is a connection in the locker room.

Speaking after Thursday’s 0-0 draw with Colombia, veteran defender Becky Sauerbrunn has noticed is that the team is at its most successful when everyone is “so connected.”

“You feel like you’ve got options and availability,” she said.

On the flip side, the team struggles when players feel “isolated and alone” on the field.

“When we struggle is when everyone feels isolated and alone and they basically have to pass on the isolation to another player,” she said. “And that player has to do something amazing to break the pressure.”

Instead, she said, players should “be able to use one another to break the pressure.”

Despite the scoreless draw with Colombia, players have been feeling a bit more freedom to find those connections, as witnessed in the previous two matches against South Africa — a 2-0 win and a 3-0 win.

Speaking on the latest episode of “Snacks,” midfielder Savannah DeMelo said the group got comfortable around one another in the September friendlies. But both DeMelo and Lynn Williams agreed that more freedom in play will help grow those connections.

“I just thought in the last two games [against South Africa] — I mean, I only played in the second game — but I just felt like we all played more free, and we had a structure,” DeMelo said. “But then Twila allowed us to do what makes us special within that structure. I even think of you, Lynn — you were able to do what you do that makes you special. And I think it just allowed us to play more freely and confidently.

“So I think moving forward, just allowing us to do that and have consistency, whether it’s who we play with, the training, I think that is going to help us just because of the tight turnaround.”

Williams agreed, noting that there had been more “communication on the field” because players felt like they could go back to doing what makes them great.

“There was so much more communication on the field of like, ‘What can you do to help me?’ ‘How can we solve this problem?’” Williams said. “I don’t know if it was happening at the World Cup as much. I just felt like it was way more free.”

And as the team finds its next head coach and finds some stability, that will hopefully get better and players will continue to find those connections.

“I think at times we feel like we’re on an island,” Sauerbrunn said. “When we’re at our best, there’s people around, we’re bopping, we’re moving. And we can do the isolations when we need because we have amazing outside attacking players and central players. But I really think the connection will bring us back to the success that we’ve had.”

Becky Sauerbrunn has come close to scoring for the U.S. women’s national team, but has never quite found the back of the net. Thus, her 217-game scoreless streak continues – a record for the USWNT.

That doesn’t mean the 38-year-old defender isn’t thinking about it. After all, she nearly scored in her hometown of Saint Louis earlier this year. But if she ever did find the back of the net, she isn’t sure she would be able to appreciate the moment.

“Alana [Cook] and I were like, we can switch every once in a while, so we were taking turns going up there,” she said after Thursday’s 0-0 draw with Colombia. “I mean, one of these days I think it might happen. If it happens, it happens.”

And Sauerbrunn doesn’t have a celebration picked out for if that day comes.

“I think I would faint,” she said. “I don’t think it would be a celebration.”

The U.S. women’s national team remained stuck in its its 2023 World Cup rut in Thursday’s scoreless draw with Colombia.

In its final three World Cup matches, the USWNT scored just one goal, and the team finished the tournament on a 238-minute scoring drought. While two September friendlies against South Africa provided a reprieve, the struggles with finishing returned with a vengeance in the first of two October friendlies against Colombia.

While the USWNT and Colombia each finished with two shots on goal, the USWNT had nine total shot attempts to Colombia’s three. Yet the hosting team failed to deliver in a frustrating contest at America First Field in Sandy, Utah.

Just Women’s Sports staff writer Claire Watkins pointed to a need for “new ideas” for the USWNT — which is a problem that starts with U.S. Soccer. While former head coach Vlatko Andonovski has moved on, the national team is right where he left them, repeating the issues that marked his tenure.

Alex Morgan’s penalty kick chance, which the 34-year-old striker banged off the post in the 44th minute, provided the best scoring opportunity for the USWNT. She sent a follow-up chance sailing over the crossbar.

Sophia Smith returned from an MCL sprain for her first international minutes since the 2023 World Cup. The 23-year-old forward entered as a substitute in the 76th minute, and she had a look at the net late in extra time, but Colombia goalkeeper Natalia Giraldo got a foot on the ball.

Becky Sauerbrunn made her first USWNT appearance since April. The 38-year-old defender missed the World Cup with a foot injury, but she entered at halftime for Naomi Girma and played the entire second half.

Jaedyn Shaw earned her first cap, entering in the 87th minute. The 18-year-old is in her second camp with the USWNT, but while she received a call-up in September, she did not appear in either match against South Africa. Her fellow 18-year-old debutante Olivia Moultrie did not suit up for the match, but she could get her chance at 5:30 p.m. ET Sunday, when the U.S. will meet Colombia in a rematch at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego.