August 20, 2022

When US Soccer announced the roster of its 23-man USA Women’s National Team for the upcoming Concacaf Championship in July, one name that didn’t make the roster seemed to get all the attention.

Christen Press has not played for the USWNT since the Tokyo Olympics last summer, when she scored a goal during the team’s bronze medal campaign. Since then, she has headlined for Angel City FC in the club’s first season in the NWSL, scoring two goals (and forcing an own goal) in 686 minutes and eight starts. The striker showed his ability to take on multiple defenders and create plays out of thin air, helping Angel City start the season near the top of the NWSL standings.

Press’s World Cup qualifying status was in question after she suffered a knee injury in Angel City’s win over Racing Louisville FC on Saturday. Amid speculation that Press was dropped from the roster due to the injury, which the ACFC confirmed on Monday as a season-ending ACL tear, US head coach Vlatko Andonovski set the record straight. Monday afternoon.

“Christen Press wasn’t on the roster even before the injury,” Andonovski told reporters. “We are very sorry for his injury and have no information confirming the extent or extent of the injury. We just hope it’s not too serious.”

Andonovski later said Press’ top priority for inclusion on future USWNT rosters was good health. Then it comes down to how she compares to other forwards on the team’s stacked depth chart. Prior to the Olympics last summer, Press had been on a tear with the USWNT, contributing heavily to the team’s scoring opportunities. The two-time World Cup champion is ninth on the team’s all-time goalscoring list, with 64 goals in 155 caps since 2013.

“I think she’s doing well, but it’s not just her,” Andonovski said. “For Christen to be back on the pitch, it’s not just to do well or perform well in his club environment. It’s also outperforming the players she’s competing against… like Mal Pugh and Sophia Smith and Alex Morgan, Ashley Hatch, Trinity Rodman. It’s not easy being a forward in the United States right now. Obviously it’s great, but it’s not easy because the competition has become bigger and bigger.

Since Catarina Macario went down with a torn ACL, there had to be some flexibility on the USWNT front line. Many speculated that Press would be given the nod alongside current NWSL leading scorer Alex Morgan due to their recent form with their club teams.

Instead, joining Morgan on the list is Megan Rapinoe, who hasn’t played for the United States since the Tokyo Olympics. The OL Reign striker has played just 154 minutes in four of the team’s eight matches. After scoring two goals at the Olympics, she is yet to start or score a goal for the Reign this season.

At the end of last season, Andonovski had a chat with Rapinoe, during which he guided her through her process of vetting young talent for the future of the national team. He told Rapinoe that if she was still in good shape at this stage, she would be named in the Concacaf squad.

The 36-year-old will play in the same position as Mallory Pugh away from home, although Pugh will retain the starting spot for now.

“You’ve got to do something absolutely amazing, and I don’t see it right now, somebody getting Mallory’s starting spot in these qualifiers,” Andonovski said.

Rapinoe has made it clear that she is up for the challenge of playing a behind-the-scenes role and using her experience to guide younger players. One of the most decorated players in USWNT history, Rapinoe scored 62 goals, won two World Cup titles and was named the 2019 FIFA Women’s Player of the Year during her 16 career years.

“She will do whatever she can to push Mal to be even better, so to push her in her own way to be even better but also to be there for Mal when the tough times come,” Andonovski said. “We all know that every player at some point in a tournament will go through adversity, every team will go through adversity during a tournament. Whatever it is, I think Megan is going to be there for Mal, she’s going to be there for Soph [Smith] to help them. When we spoke, we said her job was to improve their performance by 20%, and that’s where we think she’s going to be invaluable.

The young forwards will also benefit from playing alongside Morgan, who will be making her first national team camp appearance since September.

“The thing about Alex is that she falls into the group with Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn, who are experienced players who have been through tough times – but also good times – who know how to win and how to win in difficult times. difficult circumstances, how to get through adversity,” Andonovski said.

The USWNT will play two tune-up matches against Colombia, in Colorado on June 25 and Utah on June 28, before heading to Mexico for the Concacaf World Cup Qualifier starting on 4th July.

Jessa Braun is a contributing writer for Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.