Rose Lavelle is hoping to return to the field soon. 

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

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

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

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

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

Reigning NWSL champions Gotham FC are adding to their remarkable free agency haul, announcing the signing of World Cup champions Rose Lavelle and Emily Sonnett on Thursday.

Sonnett and Lavelle are the third and fourth USWNT mainstays to sign with the New Jersey club this year after midfielder Crystal Dunn and defender Tierna Davidson also reached multi-year deals with the team. All four World Cup champions will remain with the club through 2026.

Both Lavelle and Sonnett join Gotham most recently from OL Reign, where Lavelle won an NWSL shield and both players reached the 2023 title game (losing in the championship match to Gotham.) 

“Rose is an amazing talent, and we are very excited to have her as a part of the club,” said Amorós in a team release. “She is a very exciting player to watch because of her creative and technical abilities.”

Sonnett is a two-time NWSL champion, first with the Portland Thorns in 2017 and the Washington Spirit in 2021. The 30-year-old flourished in 2023 after making a position change from center-back to defensive midfielder, becoming a USWNT starter at the position during and after the 2023 World Cup.

Both Lavelle and Sonnett are also well-known at the international level, winning the 2019 World Cup with the USWNT as well as a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics. They join a stacked Gotham roster, which includes Spanish World Cup champion Esther, Lynn Williams, Midge Purce, Kelley O’Hara, Allie Long and more. The club finished a storybook “worst to first” run in 2023 behind a roster refresh and the clear leadership of manager Juan Carlos Amorós.

“We are incredibly excited to have two exceptional talents like Rose and Emily join the club,” Gotham general manager Yael Averbuch West said. “Rose is a crafty and entertaining player, and our fans and club will be very excited to watch her at Red Bull Arena, and Sonnett is a true professional and competitor, who understands what success in the league looks like. The club and our fans are extremely excited to have players of their stature as we build upon the success of last season.”  

The signings coincide with a Thursday morning announcement by the NWSL that the 2024 salary cap will be $2.75 million, almost doubling teams’ operating budgets from last year. The league is also slowly doing away with allocation money, which limited the flow and usage of funds despite not counting towards a team’s salary cap.

For fans trying to understand how Gotham could possibly afford to bring in four of the biggest stars in the league, the salary cap increase alongside a few big player departures might prove to be a big part of the puzzle. World Cup champion center-back Ali Krieger has retired, and star midfielder Kristie Mewis recently finalized a transfer to West Ham United in the WSL, with an immediate severing of her contract at Gotham. 

It’s possible that Dunn could slot into Mewis’s role, or the team will rethink the midfield with Lavelle as the primary playmaker and Sonnett as a defensive midfielder. 

Long, who most recently came off the bench in a No. 6 role, is currently an unrestricted free agent out of contract with the team, as well as veteran midfielder McCall Zerboni.

Davidson will likely replace Krieger at center-back, who retired at the end of 2023. She’ll slot into a backline that includes 2023 NWSL Rookie of the Year Jenna Nighswonger, rising Brazilian talent Bruninha, and Spanish international Maitane López.

No matter how Gotham lines up on the field in 2024, all four signings should be considered a historic high in the league’s young history with free agency, only in its second year. The era of the NWSL superteam might be upon us, and all roads are leading to New York.

Tierna Davidson is in advanced talks to sign with Gotham FC in NWSL free agency, The Equalizer’s Jenna Tonelli reported Tuesday.

Davidson, 25, is a star defender who has played for the Chicago Red Stars since 2019, when she was selected by the club with the No. 1 overall pick in the NWSL college draft.

A member of the 2019 World Cup-winning U.S. women’s national team, Davidson has made 51 international appearances. She also has made 61 appearances for Chicago since 2019.

Davidson becomes just the latest USWNT player to be linked to Gotham FC in free agency. Rose Lavelle and Emily Sonnett also reportedly are in advanced discussions to join the reigning NWSL champions, and Crystal Dunn has been linked to the club as well.

The addition of Davidson would make sense for Gotham FC given the retirement of 2023 NWSL Defender of the Year nominee and captain Ali Krieger.

After winning the 2023 NWSL championship, Gotham FC is surging into the offseason, with free agents and U.S. women’s national team stars Rose Lavelle and Emily Sonnett reportedly in “advanced discussions” to sign with the club.

The news was first reported by The Athletic’s Meg Linehan, though according to her sources, no paperwork has been signed yet.

Both Lavelle and Sonnett were major players for OL Reign in the 2023 NWSL final, in which their team fell, 2-1, to Gotham.

Last month, OL Reign general manager Lesle Gallimore said the club had been in contact with both players “just about daily” since the season ended. But head coach Laura Harvey also said the club was encouraging players to explore free agency.

“I just think that free agency is something that players should live through,” Harvey said. “I said this last year with our free agents: They should live through it. And I think the expansion draft adds an extra wrinkle to that, that they know that if they’re still free, they can’t be picked. So that gives them some power [over] their own destiny outside of wherever they choose their next destination to be.”

Even with that encouragement, though, Harvey also made it clear that she wants to see midfielders Lavelle and Sonnett back on her roster in 2024.

“I think everyone knows that we really value Rose and Sonnett,” she continued. “They’re a huge part of our team. I think Sonnett’s evolution this year has been exceptional. Rose obviously had a tough year, but you saw that at the back end of the season what she can do. They know that we love them, and we want them to stay here.

Lavelle and Sonnett aren’t the only big names to be tied to Gotham in free agency. Fellow USWNT veteran Crystal Dunn has also been linked to the club, with CBS Sports reporting earlier this month that Gotham, the Orlando Pride and the Washington Spirit all are interested in her services, though The Athletic later reported that the Pride were no longer among the top contenders.

After winning the first NWSL title in franchise history, Gotham lost Ali Krieger to retirement and Ellie Jean and Mandy Haught to trades for expansion draft protection.

OL Reign are up for sale this offseason, which could throw a wrench in their free agency plans. NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman has said that the club should be sold by the end of the year.

The NWSL’s transaction window opened at 9 a.m. ET Saturday. It will remain open until 6 p.m. ET Friday before closing for a holiday break and reopening on Dec. 29.

U.S. women’s national team veteran Rose Lavelle is popular with American soccer fans. Her 11-year-old English bulldog Wilma is, arguably, just as popular. 

USWNT fans have a history of giving Lavelle creative artwork of Wilma. And at the U.S.’s final game of the year, an international friendly against China PR, the fans struck again.

Lavelle was gifted posters of Wilma and herself edited into holiday movie posters and scenes, including the “Jingle Bell Rock” dance scene from Mean Girls and a poster from Elf.

Lavelle did not make an appearance in the Dec. 6 friendly, but fans continued a tradition of gifting her art of her beloved dog. And Lavelle loves the attention that fans give to her pup. 

“I do think she’s, like, dog-famous, as she should be,” Lavelle said to Fox Sports during the 2023 World Cup. 

Wilma had 13.7 thousand followers on Instagram at the time of the matchup with China, and her profile is likely where fans source photos for their many pieces of art. Fans embrace Lavelle’s love for Wilma by loving her themselves. 

“She’s cute, she’s got personality, she’s got spunk,” Lavelle said. “She’s got everything you would want in a dog.”

Rose Lavelle is back on the U.S. women’s national team roster for the first time since the World Cup, with interim head coach Twila Kilgore saying that the 28-year-old midfielder is “in very good form.”

Lavelle was announced as part of the roster on Nov. 20 for the final two games of the year for the USWNT. She had been dealing with a lingering knee injury, having missed all but four NWSL regular-season games. But she returned for the playoffs, helping OL Reign to the NWSL championship match.

The 28-year-old midfielder looked sharp in the postseason, despite having played limited minutes in the regular season. And it didn’t go unnoticed by those at the USWNT.

“I thought she was excellent,” Kilgore said of Lavelle’s championship performance, in which she scored a goal for OL Reign in a 2-1 loss to Gotham FC. “And she’s excellent today. So we’re really excited about her being healthy, being in the environment and her feeling good, and we expect big things from her.”

While it is unclear how many minutes Lavelle will play, she did start in the Reign’s final two matches of the posteason, playing a full 90 minutes against Gotham and 82 minutes in game prior.

The USWNT will face China at 3 p.m. ET Saturday at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

Rose Lavelle and Emily Sonnett might be unrestricted free agents this NWSL offseason, but that doesn’t mean that OL Reign is going to let them go easily.

On Tuesday, general manager Lesle Gallimore said the club has been in contact with both players “just about daily” since the end of the season. The issue, she noted, was the timeline in relation to the expansion draft. Free agents who are signed prior to the Dec. 15 draft will need to be protected by their clubs – while those who aren’t signed by clubs aren’t eligible to be selected by expansion teams Bay FC and Utah Royals FC.

But head coach Laura Harvey said that she’s been encouraging both players to explore their options in free agency.

“I just think that free agency is something that players should live through,” Harvey said. “I said this last year with our free agents: They should live through it. And I think the expansion draft adds an extra wrinkle to that, that they know that if they’re still free, they can’t be picked.

“So that gives them some power [over] their own destiny outside of wherever they choose their next destination to be.”

Former Portland Thorns star Tobin Heath opened up in the latest episode of “The RE-CAP Show” about being drafted by Racing Louisville in the 2020 expansion draft, which she described as her “biggest heartbreak.” Heath and co-host Christen Press also discussed the impact that the expansion draft can have on players.

“Sometimes players are really excited about it. Sometimes players want to move,” Heath said. “So then there’s the very opposite of that, where maybe there’s a player that has signed a long-term contract with a club, has invested time there, has put down roots there, and they are left unprotected and therefore could be picked up.

“And I think there’s a little bit of chicken and egg that happens, where clubs play some games seeing which players they can leave unprotected and still have the feeling that they won’t get picked.”

The added wrinkle of free agency, which started just last year in the NWSL, has made things interesting. Still, OL Reign hopes to bring both Sonnett and Lavelle back next year, Harvey said.

“I think everyone knows that we really value Rose and Sonnett,” she said. “They’re a huge part of our team. I think Sonnett’s evolution this year has been exceptional. And Rose obviously had a tough year, but you saw that at the back end of the season what she can do.

“They know that we love them, and we want them to stay here. But I do think that every player – and we advise them this – that they should live through free agency and see what it looks like for them.”

The free agency signing period for the 2024 NWSL season has officially begun, with both restricted and unrestricted free agents now able to sign contracts with clubs of their choosing. Unrestricted free agents can sign with new teams immediately, while restricted free agents can also receive matching qualifying offers from their current clubs.

As in last year’s inaugural free agency, the players with the most freedom are established league veterans, and therefore some of the most valuable players in the league. Signings might start slowly due to free agents being exempt from the upcoming two-team expansion draft, but it’s reasonable to expect another league shake-up before the offseason is over.

Here are a few of the best-known free agents in this year’s class, as well as the journey that got them here and what they might do next.

Crystal Dunn, midfielder/forward

After winning an NWSL Championship with the Portland Thorns in 2022, Crystal Dunn announced right as this year’s offseason began that she’ll be moving on to another squad. She joked during the Skills Challenge at 2023 Championship weekend that she was “looking for a job,” and according to her Instagram, she has already moved out of the Pacific Northwest.

Dunn’s decision to tell the public about her plans right away suggests she might be ahead of the game in picking her next destination, whether it be in the NWSL or abroad. Dunn has already played for the Washington Spirit and the North Carolina Courage in her career, and she has family ties on the East Coast. It seems feasible she could choose to join Gotham’s championship-winning midfield, or even listen to an offer from the Orlando Pride, who have an excess amount of allocation money at their disposal.

Rose Lavelle, midfielder

Rose Lavelle has already taken a circuitous route to her first-ever free agency period. She was drafted into the NWSL by the Boston Breakers and moved to the Washington Spirit after her former club folded. She then was traded to OL Reign in 2020 while playing for Manchester City in England, a move she said came as a surprise to her at the time.

Despite the circumstances that landed Lavelle in Seattle, she’s thrived in her time there. The Reign have a consistent midfield that other clubs envy, and when healthy, Lavelle has had the freedom to pull the strings as the team’s midfield maestro under manager Laura Harvey. Her fit with the team was on full display during the Reign’s 2023 NWSL Championship loss, which might encourage the 28-year-old to extend her contract with the club. But Lavelle isn’t afraid to take leaps in her career, and finding a new home abroad or closer to the region of her NWSL beginnings wouldn’t shock anyone.

Mallory Swanson played just two NWSL games this season after tearing her patella tendon in April. (Daniel Bartel/USA TODAY Sports)

Mallory Swanson, forward

There are a number of reasons to believe that USWNT superstar Mallory Swanson might be open to re-signing with the Chicago Red Stars. Swanson’s husband Dansby is locked into a multi-year contract with the Chicago Cubs, and Swanson herself has flourished upon joining the Red Stars in 2021. Her play in Chicago catapulted her back into the U.S. women’s national team conversation, and she’s been working with their trainers in her slow journey back to the pitch after a patella tendon injury.

But the Red Stars have extensive roster work to do after a last-place finish in 2023, and they don’t currently have a general manager or head coach to make promises to top players who might be worried about the club’s formerly tenuous environment. New ownership appears to be steering the team back on track, but players of Swanson’s caliber will likely have to be reassured that the Red Stars will be contending for the postseason again in the future.

Emily Sonnett, defender/midfielder

Emily Sonnett might be one of the most intriguing free agent prospects in this year’s class. After being drafted by the Portland Thorns in 2016, Sonnett won an NWSL Championship as a center-back with the Washington Spirit in 2021 following a trade from the Orlando Pride (for whom she never actually suited up). Then in 2023, new Spirit manager Mark Parsons abruptly traded Sonnett to OL Reign on NWSL draft day, a move that took the 29-year-old by surprise.

Since joining Seattle, Sonnett has reinvented herself as a player, becoming a steady presence in the defensive midfield, first for the Reign and then on the international stage with the USWNT. Now a free agent, she could slot into any team’s defense or midfield and command space with confidence. As a player who has had to abide by trades in the past, she’s likely looking forward to making her own decision, whether that means staying with the Reign or landing somewhere entirely new.

María Sánchez's scoring talents were somewhat stifled in Houston this season. (Maria Lysaker/USA TODAY Sports)

María Sánchez, forward

While she is a restricted free agent, María Sánchez is the type of player any NWSL club could shape an attack around. She was originally drafted into the league by the Chicago Red Stars, but hit her stride in Liga MX Femenil, playing for Chivas and then UANL Tigres. She returned to the NWSL with the Houston Dash, first on loan and then full-time at the beginning of the 2022 season. Sánchez is a talented winger, with quality on the ball and the ability to make defenders miss and send solid crosses into teammates in the box.

Despite the talent they’ve compiled, the Dash have struggled under numerous managers to convert their style of play into a compelling attacking structure. Houston scored the fewest goals in 2023, nine fewer than the next-worst attack, even after putting together a high-flying frontline that included Diana Ordoñez and Nichelle Prince. With the Dash again looking for a permanent coach to put all the pieces together, Sánchez might be convinced to extend her time in Texas to see out the roster’s original vision. But it also wouldn’t be surprising if the Mexico national team player has her eye on a club that’s already scoring goals to optimize her potential.

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

No one can ever accuse Megan Rapinoe of following a well-trodden path, even in the final moments of her career. The pink-haired iconoclast, two-time World Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist wrote the final word in her illustrious career in a fashion no one could have expected, not even herself.

Her ending didn’t follow the fairytale story of the previous week. Instead, it went like this: She sat down in the sixth minute of Saturday’s NWSL Championship, shaking her head with a wry grin as she called for OL Reign’s trainers. She gingerly walked off the pitch in her final moments as a professional soccer player, having to watch on the sidelines as the Reign fell, 2-1, to Gotham FC.

“I wasn’t overly emotional about it,” Rapinoe said after the match of the moment immediately following the injury. “I mean, f—ing yeeted my Achilles in the sixth minute of my last game ever in the literal championship game.”

Rose Lavelle, a longtime Reign and U.S. women’s national teammate of Rapinoe, was the first person to reach her as she sat on the ground, shaking her head. Rapinoe didn’t mince words, telling Lavelle right away she was confident she had torn her right Achilles tendon.

“I think when she first said that, I said, ‘Are you effing joking me?” Lavelle told the media after the game.

After a week of buildup, wherein the battle of retiring legends in Rapinoe and Gotham defender Ali Krieger provided the banner headline for the 2023 NWSL Championship, only Krieger saw out the rest of the match. The two good friends shared a hug as Rapinoe left the field, before the restart of play required a refocus from both sides.

“I was just like, ‘You need to wrap that up and get back out here, so just take a couple minutes,’” Krieger said after the game. “I just feel so gutted for her. Honestly, I never thought that that would ever happen, and I feel so sad because you know football is such a risk, right? And you never know if it’s going to be your last game, your last moment.”

True to form, though, Rapinoe didn’t let herself hide away in the locker room while her team pushed to regain momentum. After being given a boot and crutches, she re-emerged on the sideline, cheering her teammates and giving tips even as she had to perch piggyback-style on the back of backup goalkeeper Laurel Ivory.

“I don’t wanna sit there and sulk on the bench,” Rapinoe said. “It’s not just any player going out, it’s me, and it’s my last game ever. So I just wanted to try to stay in it and keep it light, and I just wanted to be in it for myself too.”

The Reign almost completed the comeback twice, after falling behind first on a goal by Lynn Williams and then again by Esther González. Despite clearly dealing with shaken emotions, Rapinoe’s teammates stuck to their game plan, keeping the game in front of them until the very last minute of stoppage time.

The Seattle club’s title hopes remained alive in large part due to the play of Lavelle. The Reign midfielder broke the Gotham line with a piercing run in the first half, drawing Seattle level 1-1. She then played facilitator, breaking lines again with searching passes that her teammates couldn’t put in the back of the net. Even as Gotham sat deeper in their full-team defense, Lavelle could find spaces through her vision and her dribbling ability, which proved worthy of the appreciation of the 25,000-plus fans in attendance.

But in the chaotic final moments of second-half stoppage time, Lavelle herself couldn’t quite land a direct free kick from just outside the box. She was facing field player Nealy Martin in goal after Gotham keeper Amanda Haught received a red card due to intentionally handling the ball outside the penalty area.

“I just told her I was sorry we couldn’t get it done for her,” Lavelle said of Rapinoe. “And it’s just been such an honor to be able to share the field with her and sit next to her in the locker room.”

Rapinoe’s final moments as a professional might have not gone as she’d pictured, but they weren’t defined by her slow walk off the pitch, or by the Reign falling short. Her legacy remains the same, upheld by her willingness to immediately get back out in front of the crowd, and her teammates, to try to will them forward in any way she could.

“I think the energy Pinoe gave us was huge,” Lavelle said. “I can’t even imagine that moment in her head. And I think to still be having such a good attitude and cheering us on through it all was like, I mean, she’s amazing.”

OL Reign defender Lauren Barnes, Rapinoe’s club teammate of 11 years, agreed, saying: “I think you’d never expect something like this to happen, and it does. And she carries herself like she always has. She is the heart and soul of our club.”

In the aftermath of Rapinoe’s final game, her teammates reflected on her impact.

“You guys know,” Barnes said of the legacy of the leaders at the Reign, including herself, Rapinoe, and Jess Fishlock.. “You’ve been writing it for 11 years what our legacy is, and we just want to embody that, and we truly want to share it with the fans as much as we possibly can. So these [tears] are real. We love each other. So yeah, it’s hard and it’s gonna be different. It’s never the same now.”

In the sixth minute of the 2023 NWSL Championship, her final match as a professional soccer player, OL Reign forward Megan Rapinoe exited with a leg injury.

After her team’s 2-1 loss to Gotham FC, Rapinoe’s head coach, teammates and opponents reacted to the unexpected ending to a legendary career.

Ali Krieger, Gotham FC defender

(On what she told Rapinoe immediately after the injury) “I was just like, ‘You need to wrap that up and get back out here, so go take a couple minutes.’ And I just feel so gutted for her. Honestly, I never thought that would ever happen.

“And I feel so sad because you know football is such a risk, right? And you never know if it’s going to be your last game, your last moment. And to happen to such an incredible player, in that moment, when there was such a buildup and for us talking about this game for the past week, or actually since Sept. 13. It just is so sad and I feel for her and I’m gonna be there every step of the way for her recovery because I know how hard that can be and it’s devastating. … And I never wanted that to happen because I wanted to celebrate with her at the end.”

Midge Purce, Gotham FC forward

“It was when I saw her put her head back, I knew, I’ve seen Pinoe go down, and it was just really sad.

“And then one of the girls on their team started crying, and I turned to (Yazmeen Ryan) and I said, ‘Let’s go at her,’ because she was clearly upset. I mean, I think that definitely affected them a lot. I think it affected their concentration. And that’s sports.

“So I’m so sorry that that’s how it ended. But I don’t think it defines or in any way characterizes her impact that she’s had on myself, on this league, everything.”

Rose Lavelle, OL Reign midfielder

“It seems like a sick joke that it has to end that way. It’s just been such an honor to be able to share the field with her. So I wish we could’ve gotten it done today for her but yeah, she’s amazing and she didn’t deserve that. … I feel like she just takes it on the chin and she was still our biggest fan out there.”

Lauren Barnes, OL Reign defender

“You want Pinoe on the field as long as she can be. She is the tactic. … You’d never expect something like this to happen, and it does, and she carries herself like she always has. She is the heart and soul of our club.”

Laura Harvey, OL Reign head coach

(On Rapinoe returning to the sidelines on crutches to cheer on the team) “Pinoe, you know, she cares about the team. She cares about the club. She’d never have it any other way. And obviously everyone was devastated for her.”