USA Ladies vs Costa Rica 7 pm CBS Sports Network
The USWNT had to dig deep but they found a way to win 1-0 vs a very game Mexico team who was egged on by the home crowd at Monterey Mexico. The US scored on a 89th minute goal as Kristie Mewis followed a save off a great header by Emily Sonnet (a last second sub for Emily Fox who was is in Covid protocol.) The US struggled at times – as coach A continued his musical chair starting line-ups with 7 changes from last time out. This time Midge Purse started underneath Morgan in a 2 forward approach – with Purge and Sophia Smith on the wings in a slightly less attacking position – Mexico actually got the first good shot on Murphy – as she sat behind a backline of Sonnett (subbing for Fox out with Covid), Saubraum, Girma, and O’hara with Horan in the double #6 D mid role with Sulivan. To say it didn’t work would be an understatement. The US really does need to turn to the new guard and let them play. Girma in the back middle, Sanchez at midfield with Horan #6, and Lavelle and let young wingers Push and Smith fly with Alex holding down the #9 slot. It all starts tonight at 7 pm on CBS Sports Network (finally CBS – I still don’t understand why these games aren’t on big CBS – but at least ½ of the US can watch these Semi-Finals and Finals on cable without having to get Para+ (which will also broadcast them). CBSSN does start coverage at 6 pmm the game at 7, a post game show 9-19, the Canada game at 10 pm and Postgame after. Of course the final is Monday night 10 pm CBSSN with an Olympic Birth on the line! Cool Behind the Crest with the US Ladies Oh 11 Years ago 2 days ago Abby Wambach Did this to save the US ladies! I have some great stories about Alex’s comeback, Huerta’s Switch and new centerback Grima in The Ole Ballcoach.
Shane’s Starting Line-Up Tonite vs Costa Rica (Depth Chart)
Indy 11 Ladies Lose 1st Round / Indy 11 Men @ NY Red Bulls Fri 7 pm Carmel Watch Party
The Indy Eleven host a cool downtown Carmel Watch Party this Friday night in the Carmel Midtown Plaza at 7 pm. I am hoping to squeeze over and check it out for sure. Indy’s next home game is vs Memphis next Sat, July 23 7 pm at the Mike-Tix are just $15 @ indyeleven.com/tickets. Indy Eleven’s successful inaugural season of play in the USL W League came to an abrupt end in Wed nights Quarterfinal Round of the Playoffs via a hard fought 1-2 loss at Minnesota Aurora FC in front over 6,200 fans at a sold out TCO Stadium in suburban Minneapolis. The hard luck result looked to be going the other way after Ella Rogers gave Indiana’s Team the lead late in the first half, but Minnesota stormed back in the second to ultimately take the playoff affair between two of the three unbeaten teams in the 44-team USL W League following regular season action. Disappointing end but a great season overall ladies!
MLS Bush League
After building up the debuts of Garath Bale and Gergio Chiilini last weekend in El Traffico LAFC vs La Galaxy – of course neither of them played. Oh and then my beloved Seattle Sounders got swamped at home 3-0 to Portland. I am done with MLS for awhile – I will post stories and that’s it.
Around the World of Soccer
Bear puts soccer skills on display for neighborhood – gives new meaning to he played like a bear. The Euro Ladies Championships have not disappointed with some great games to fill up our afternoons this summer – we are nearing the final games of the group stage tomorrow so far England, Germany and Sweden along with the Netherlands have all looked good. Also in this summer of ladies soccer – the Copa America Ladies Championship is underway with the best teams in South America being featured in the eves 5 & 8 pm on FS1, and FS2. (See full schedule below). Of course I have the weekly best Goalkeeping Saves and Interesting Reffing Calls sections in The Ole Ballcoach. Who Remembers this classic World Cup Commercial from the 90s? Angel City FC Celebrity Owners are Best Soccer Moms.
Just 1 Week of GK Training Left
Coach Shane is offering Extra Paid Training tor the high school aged Keepers this summer Tues/Thurs email@example.com
And Coach Noelle is offering Extra PaidTraining to any age groups – this summer text 904-654-9011
Calling all High School Soccer Rec Players in Carmel!
Some of you have registered already but there are still many slow to sign up and teams are now in process at Dads Club. Tell your friends to get moving so they don’t miss a chance to play this fall. Space is limited and we cannot add more teams beyond what we have planned for. Sign up now- this league has no late fees! www.carmeldadsclub.org 317-846-1663
Calling all Middle School Soccer Players in Carmel- July 18-21!
Last Chance to Register for Carmel High School Girls – 2022 Middle School Camp – 6/7/8th Graders $90 (includes T-shirt) July 18-21 Murray Stadium 2:30 to 4:30 pm Of course high schoolers trying out for the ladies team need to attend the high school camp next week that ends with the CHS DeWayne Akin Invite next Fri/Sat at the River Road fields off 126th.
BIG GAMES ON TV
Thur, July 14
12 pm ESPN2 Italy vs Iceland Euro Women’s Cup
3 pm ESPN2 France vs Belgium Euro Women’s Cup
7 pm CBSSN CONCACAF Women’s Semi’s USA vs Costa Rica
10 pm CBSSN/Para+ CONCACAF Women’s Semi’s Canada vs Jamaica
3 pm ESPN+ Austria vs Norway Euro Women’s Cup
3 pm ESPN2 Northern Ireland vs England Euro Women’s Cup
7 pm ESPN+ Indy 11 @ NY Red Bulls (Downtown Carmel Watch Party)
10 pm para+ San Diego Wave vs Racing Louisville NWSL
Sat, July 16
12 pm ESPN+ Denmark vs Spain Euro Women’s Cup
3 pm ESPN2 Finland vs Germany Euro Women’s Cup
5 pm FS2 Argentina vs Uraguay Copa America Womens
6 pm Univision Atlas vs Cruz Azul
8pm FS1 Peru vs Venezuela Copa America Womens
8 pm ESPN+ Chicago Fire vs Seattle Sounders
10 pm FS1 Monterrey vs America
10:30 pm para+ Portland Thorns vs Gothem NY NWSL
Sun, July 17
12 pm ESPN Switzerland vs Netherlands Euro Women’s Cup
12 pm ESPN+ Sweden vs Portugal Euro Women’s Cup
3 pm ABC Atlanta United vs Orlando City
5 pm ESPN NY Red Bulls vs NYCFC
5 pm FS1 Chile vs Bolivia Copa America
7 pm para+ KC Current vs Seattle Reign NWSL
7:30 pm FS1 Columbus Crew vs Cincy
8 pm FS2 Ecuador vs Colombia Copa America
10:30 pm ESPN+ Portland vs Vancouver
Mon, July 18
3 pm ESPN+ Italy vs Belgium Euro Women’s Cup
3 pm ESPN2 Iceland vs France Euro Women’s Cup
5 pm FS1 Venezuela vs Brazil Copa America
7 pm CBSSN Para+ CONCACAF Womens 3rd
8 pm FS1 Peru vs Uraguay Copa America
10 pm CBSSN Para+ CONCACAF Women’s Finals USA? Canada
Wed, July 20
3 pm ESPN2 Euro Women’s Cup QF
8 pm FS1 Colombia vs Chile Copa America
8 pm FS2 Ecudor vs Paaguay Copa America
Thur, July 21
3 pm ESPN2 Euro Women’s Cup QF2
8 pm FS1 Brazil vs Peru Copa America
8 pm FS2 Venezuela vs Argentina Copa America
Fri, July 22
3 pm ESPN2 Euro Women’s Cup QF3
8 pm FS1 Brazil vs Peru Copa America
7:30 pm ESPN Bayern Munich vs Man City
Sat, July 23
3 pm ESPN2 Euro Women’s Cup QF4
7 pm TV23 Indy 11 vs Memphis- The Mike
8 pm EPSN? Arsenal (Turner) vs Chelsea (Pulisic)
8:30 pm ABC Houston Dynamo vs Minn United
10 pm ESPN+ Seattle vs Colorado
Sun, July 24
9:30 pm FS1 Atlanta united vs LA Galaxy
Mon, July 25
3 pm ESPN2 Euro Women’s Cup Semi 1
8 pm FS1 Copa America Semi 1
Tue, July 26
8 pm FS1 Copa America Semi 2
Wed, July 27
3 pm ESPN2 Euro Women’s Cup Semi 2
Fri, July 29
8 pm FS2 Copa America 3rd
11 pm FS1 LAFC vs Seattle Sounders
Sat, July 30
12 noon ESPN+ Liverpool vs Man City Community Shield
2:30 pm ESPN+ RB Liepzig vs Bayern Munich Supercup
3 pm ABC Minn United vs Portland Timbers
7 pm TV 8 Indy 11 vs Tampa Bay Rowdies The Mike
8 pm ESPN+ Cincy v Inter Miami
9 pm ESPN+ LA Galaxy vs Dallas (Matt Hedges)
Sun, July 31
12 noon ESPN Euro Women’s Cup FINAL
5 pm ESPN+ DC united vs Orlando City
8 pm FS2 Santos Laguna vs Atlas
The USWNT Concacaf roster
Goalkeepers: Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars).
Defenders: Alana Cook (OL Reign), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit).
Midfielders: Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon), Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit).
Forwards: Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave FC), Midge Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC).
2022 Concacaf W Championship: USA 1-0 Mexico – La Tri played hard, but the Americans stayed perfect By Parker Cleveland S&S
Analysis: USWNT keeps momentum going at CONCACAF W Championship but wasn’t easy against Mexico
Why the USWNT without Alex Morgan was an absurd idea ESPNFC Gwendolyn Oxenham, sp
USWNT’s Sofia Huerta started with Mexico, then moved from forward to defender. Is the World Cup next? hJeff Kassouf ESPNFC
USWNT to Play Niigeria in Sept Friendlies – Woopie – not sure why we play these crap teams!
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Women’s Soccer Euro’s
England Eviscerated 11th best team in the world
Austria push Northern Ireland towards Euro 2022 exit
Netherlands rally to hold Sweden in clash of Euro 2022 contenders
Portugal and Switzerland produce dazzling Women’s Euros draw
Three talking points from the first week of Euro 2022
Wayne Rooney unveiled as new DC United manager
More with less: why Wayne Rooney may just be the ideal fit for DC United
Gareth Bale says he’s at LAFC to win trophies, not to retire
L.A. was Bale’s refuge from the scrutiny of Madrid. Now it’s his home 21hKyle Bonagura ESPN
El Tráfico: New-look LAFC keeps rolling and picks up victory over rival Galaxy
2022 MLS All-Star Game: Rosters, start time, more
REFFING This Crazy Game
USWNT vs. Costa Rica, 2022 Concacaf W Championship semifinals: What to watch for
The United States Women’s National Team have completed the group stage at the Concacaf W Championship and have secured a place at the 2023 Women’s World Cup, and next up is a date with Costa Rica tomorrow night in the semifinals. The USWNT have not played particularly well despite going undefeated in the group stage without conceding a goal, but now they focus on getting to the final, where they will get a chance to go for the automatic spot in the 2024 Olympics.Standing in their way is Costa Rica, who played pretty well in the group stage, qualifying 2nd in Group B. The loss to Canada on Monday was their only blemish in group play. They have been defensively sound, and they have a couple of players that can change a game for Las Ticas. The USWNT will need to begin to play the type of soccer that they’re capable of playing in order to pass this test and move onto the final.
What To Watch For
Vlatko needs to pick his starters. It’s high time for USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski to decide what his best lineup is and go with it. The time for experimenting with lineups is over, and you go with the players you trust in the formation that best gives them a chance to succeed.
The midfield needs to be creative. The USWNT were missing some creativity in the first half, and it showed in how stagnant the attack felt. After making subs in the 2nd half, the creativity level increased tremendously, particularly on the flanks. The USWNT needs to have that creative midfield lineup out there from the stop, and it would help if Emily Fox is able to clear COVID protocols and be healthy enough to return to the lineup.
Play sharp. This match is super important, and the USWNT cannot give Costa Rica any chances to take advantage. The team has not played sharp throughout this tournament, and that sharp, mistake free soccer needs to return tomorrow night.
There is still some struggle as Costa Rica does their best to keep themselves in it. Two late goals give the USWNT a 2-0 victory and a trip to the final.
TRUST THE NEW GUARD, DITCH THE 4-2-3-1, AND OTHER NEXT STEPS FOR THE USWNT
The USWNT beat Mexico 1-0 on Monday night, finishing the group stage at the Concacaf W Championship
- With a semifinal game against Costa Rica coming up later this week, let’s talk about what the U.S. still needs to accomplish in this tournament
It wasn’t pretty, but the U.S. finished the group stage at the Concacaf W Championship with a 1-0 win over Mexico on Monday night. That result helped the USWNT secure the top spot in Group A and set up a semifinal match against Costa Rica on Thursday.Now that the group stage is over, what does the United States still need to do at the W Championship?Let’s talk about that.
QUALIFY FOR THE OLYMPICS
Qualifying for the Olympics was always one of the two results-based goals for the USWNT heading into this tournament down in Mexico. The other goal was to qualify for the World Cup, which the United States did after two games. To qualify for the 2024 Olympics, the U.S. needs to make it past Costa Rica in the semis and then take down their next opponent, likely Canada, in the final.With all of the USWNT’s quality players, they’re more than capable of winning the W Championship and earning that auto-qualification spot for 2024. But being capable of winning this tournament isn’t enough. Making it to the final – and then winning it – is a must for the United States. After finishing third at the Olympics last summer, these next two games are two of the biggest of Vlatko Andonovski’s tenure. Because the U.S. underperformed in Tokyo, it’s critical that they improve and get results over this next week. Unfortunately for the U.S., Monday’s game against Mexico doesn’t give themmuch momentum. It was the worst of their three group stage games by some distance: there were far too many sloppy touches, poor passes, and questionable tactical choices. The United States’ only goal came late in the game once Mexico had already gone down to 10 players.3235bd17138fa%3A1657578976990&width=550px KRISTIE IN THE 89TH IC.TWITTER.COM/8RHSJZ4PXJ
Overall, the game felt eerily similar to the USWNT’s matches at last year’s Olympics, albeit with much lower stakes. The U.S will need to be sharper and more consistent in the knockout rounds if they want to win this tournament.
TRUST THE NEW GUARD
It’s becoming increasingly clear that the United States’ new guard is ready to change games. That new guard includes an immensely talented group of young forwards (see: Mallory Pugh and Sophia Smith). It also includes creative midfielder Ashley Sanchez and up-and-coming center back Naomi Girma. At least one, if not both, of the USWNT’s young wingers is going to start however many games the U.S. has left in Mexico. But setting the forward group aside, I think Andonovski should continue to start Sanchez in the midfield and Grima in the back in the knockout rounds. Girma was strong defensively in both of her group stage starts, one against Jamaica and one against Mexico. Her patience and quick reads help her elevate the United States’ backline. More than that, she looks like an upgrade over Becky Sauerbrunn in pretty much every phase of play. I’m not sure if Andonovski would be willing to start Girma over Sauerbrunn, a U.S. legend, in big games at this tournament, but I think he should consider it.And then there’s Sanchez. Sanchez tries stuff, people. Her ambition on the ball, creativity in the attack, and defensive mobility make her an extremely valuable presence for the USWNT. She’s appeared in all three games for the U.S. so far, mostly playing as a No. 8, but also playing some as a No. 10 in a 4-2-3-1 against Mexico (more on that later). I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the U.S. had their best attacking performance against Jamaica when Sanchez and Rose Lavelle started together in central midfield. At this point, Sanchez has shown that she should be starting as one of the No. 8s.
STAY AWAY FROM THE 4-2-3-1
Before this tournament, Andonovski mentioned that the United States might play with a “double six”. They did just that for long stretches against Mexico on Monday, with Andi Sullivan and Lindsey Horan sitting deeper in midfield.
The U.S. had the edge on Mexico, but they didn’t play well. The 4-2-3-1 shape (or, at the very least, a super lopsided 4-3-3 with Horan playing lower on the left and Sanchez playing higher on the right) and the USWNT’s execution in that shape was poor, to say the least. With both Sullivan and Horan sitting deep, there was a massive gap between the back four/double pivot and the front three/No. 10. That gap forced Sullivan into too much distribution. In general, she struggled to control the game and her errant passing hurt the USWNT. As the game wore on, the U.S. primarily advanced the ball through long balls over the top from Sullivan and Horan, which didn’t lead to many meaningful chances. You can see that gap in midfield in this image, with Horan setting up for a ball over the top.Looking a little higher up the field, Sanchez didn’t get enough touches playing as a No. 10 or even as a second forward next to Alex Morgan. Finally, because Andonovski flipped the central midfield shape and because the fullbacks were very reserved, there weren’t as many FB-CM-W combinations. As the clock ticked towards 90 minutes, the U.S. reverted to hopeful long balls and scattered play even against a 10-player defense.With all of those attacking issues in mind, the United States should stay away from the 4-2-3-1 and go back to the 4-3-3 against Costa Rica.If the U.S. can find their attacking rhythm and create consistent chances with the possession that most opposing teams give them, they’ll be in great shape. If not…we’ll all be reliving last summer’s Olympics.
Key takeaways and standout performers of the CONCACAF W Championship so far
After eight days in Monterrey at the CONCACAF W Championship, the U.S., Canada, Jamaica and Costa Rica are World Cup-bound. Haiti and Panama, meanwhile, have booked their tickets to the intercontinental playoff in February. And Mexico and Trinidad & Tobago have ended their tournament runs in last place in their respective groups — particularly disappointing and shocking for the host country, which has now missed out on the last two World Cups.The USWNT will play Costa Rica in the first semifinal on July 14 at 7 p.m. ET, then Canada faces Jamaica in the late game at 10 p.m. ET — both are back at Estadio Universitario. The winners of these matches will face off in the final for that single 2024 Olympic qualifying spot. For all the changes to the tournament and the excitement around the results in Group A, the group stage still felt like the same old chaotic, confusing CONCACAF we all know: full of physicality, weather playing a factor and a handful of strange officiating decisions as a bonus. There’s not much of point in a direct comparison between the W Championship and Euros on pretty much any front, but it also makes sense why some USWNT fans are looking at the quality of England, France and Germany early in the group stage across the Atlantic and feeling some nerves. To be fair, the Euros being delayed to 2022 only fans the flames a bit here too — the preparation for next summer’s World Cup is going to be far more helpful for UEFA teams than anything the W Championship presents.Now, at least, the next few games will all feature World Cup-qualified teams and the stakes will be higher than CONCACAF bragging rights. But there’s plenty to consider from the group stage before we turn to the semifinals.
So what did we learn?
It’s still a little silly to call Group A the “group of death” when there are only two groups in the tournament (it hasn’t stopped us, but we know it’s silly), but Jamaica and Haiti came through with massive performances in the group stage and are as much the story for their success as is Mexico for their catastrophic elimination.Haiti should feel good about their chances in the playoff tournament in February — their opponents are still largely TBD, but they will try to hang on to all of their momentum from their matches against the U.S. and Mexico. Jamaica didn’t let the pressure of the group or the 5-0 loss to the U.S. get to them, but they can make a real statement about their World Cup hopes in this semifinal against Canada. As for the U.S., yes, they had a “perfect” group stage performance, with three wins and a +9 goal differential. But beyond the 5-0 win over Jamaica, there was no performance that will assuage concerns about the readiness of this team, and there was no real trending growth across the three matches to speak of. Part of this is due to the high expectations for the team: steamrolling their way through CONCACAF, even as those days of majorly lopsided results are probably gone. The bigger question here for the U.S. is the overall development of a team halfway through the transition between the 2021 Olympics and the 2023 World Cup.“I have to say, if you ask me if we’re ready to go into the World Cup, into a competitive World Cup tomorrow, we’re probably not ready for it,” head coach Vlatko Andonovski said in his presser. “But are we going to be ready in a year? Absolutely. I’m very happy with the development of the team and the development of the individuals in the team, as well. I think that we’re doing a good job and we’re moving in the right direction.”Captain Becky Sauerbrunn agreed, when asked the same question, saying the team was right on track.
“Vlatko, since the Olympics, has kind of changed up the team, brought in a lot of new faces,” she said. “Let go of a couple of faces. So it takes a little bit of time to really get on the same page and to start gelling. Even during this tournament, he’s played a bunch of different relationships, a lot of different people. We’re still cementing those relationships and that’s what you really need going into 2023.”Trying to accurately assess those answers from the outside, especially with the lack of games against other top-ranked teams in 2022, is a tough undertaking. And, not to beat the same drum again and again, but the same questions keep coming up about the USWNT when it comes to decision-making, finishing and their overall readiness. There’s a good, dynamic team still at the heart of this project, with a ton of exciting talent. But for all the talk about joy last summer during the Olympics, we’ve seen a lot less of it than expected so far in 2022.
Group B, on the other hand, played out pretty much exactly as expected when it came to the results. Canada, coming off their Olympic gold-medal run last year, came out on top unbeaten in three with the biggest goal differential of +9. Costa Rica right behind them.
The biggest question mark was probably between Panama and Trinidad and Tobago, with Panama emerging as the grittier team — not just in their game against T&T, but in their resolute defiance of Canada, in what ended up a 1-0 loss. Afterwards, multiple Canadian players and head coach Bev Priestman talked about their frustration with Panama’s fouls, injuries, and other time management tactics (and credited them for it, as the disruptions worked). Canada also had trouble effectively breaking Panama down, with the majority of their shots having to come outside the box. Certainly they dominated the game, but when a team is getting one goal off of 13 shots and 69% possession, it’s cause for concern.
The best performances through the group stage for the USWNT…
Naomi Girma, center back
Sauerbrunn had to glance at the USWNT press officer on Monday night to confirm she had never actually started alongside Girma before the match against Mexico — but if you were new to watching the team, you would have thought Girma had a lot more than three caps under her belt. Girma needed to be fast-tracked in terms of her role on the USWNT backline thanks to injuries befalling both Tierna Davidson and Abby Dahlkemper, but her performances so far have proven we shouldn’t worry about the first pick in the 2022 NWSL draft slotting in and performing at the international level. Hopefully, Andonovski goes all in on Girma for the semifinals and final, too.
Casey Murphy, goalkeeper
Raise your hand if you had Murphy starting two out of the three group stage games. We can’t see them, but it’s hard to think a ton of you had them raised with Alyssa Naeher back in both the USWNT roster and the NWSL. While Murphy didn’t get a huge test from Mexico, she had to make some saves against Haiti — and ultimately, this is all extremely helpful in ensuring she’s ready to either step in for Naeher, or make a run at the No. 1 spot on the goalkeeping depth chart. Andonovski has talked about giving meaningful games to his back-up in case an injury suddenly changes things, but he’s got another big opportunity here to potentially split the final two games between Murphy and Naeher. With that Olympic spot on the line, Naeher’s the safe bet for the final, but why not give Murphy a knockout game for the experience?
While players have had good individual games or halves, the team overall seems to not quite be in the groove together. Sophia Smith stood out in the second game against Jamaica. Midge Purce sometimes seemed to cruise past Mexico. Alex Morgan showed early brilliance against Haiti. Ashley Sanchez had some real moments in the midfield when she got on the field, but it’s probably not enough to change up the starting three of Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle and Andi Sullivan for the remaining games.Of note, this is the longest the national team has been together in quite a while, between their friendlies against Colombia and then coming directly to Monterrey. “I think that obviously, this is a really long time being together,” said Kristie Mewis after the game against Mexico, in which she came off the bench to score a late winner. “It’s a long tournament. But I think all of us have been through it before. We have a lot of experienced players and we’re staying busy. We’re staying in a great hotel. We’re going to practice every day, grinding. So it’s been really good. Obviously, it’s a long, hard journey, but I think all of us are ready for it.”
No comment on the team maybe going a little stir crazy at their hotel.
Melchie Dumornay, Haiti
Dumornay has been a complete and total menace in this tournament, in very exciting ways. And she’s 19! Usually, the breakout stars of CONCACAF tournaments (at least in the U.S.) are goalkeepers that stand on their heads against the USWNT, but Dumornay’s rave reviews are extremely well-deserved, and her eventual transfer fee is going to be a very fun number.
Marta Cox, Panama
Cox carries a heavy load for Panama in their midfield, asked to be both a playmaker and scorer. She’s shown her ability to distribute with both lovely threaded balls on the ground and medium-range balls over to try to pick out teammates.
Julia Grosso, Canada
Grosso has been a bright spot for a Canada team that is still not sure of how to get where they want to go, at least when it comes to converting possession into goals or having the willingness to shoot the ball more and think less. Grosso is the one who really broke things open for Canada against Trinidad & Tobago and she scored their lone goal against Panama. It’s not surprising that Canada would rest her against Costa Rica, looking ahead to the knockout rounds; she’s clearly been essential as a gamechanger and tempo-setter in this tournament.
It’s the hope that kills you
For a few moments on Monday night, all Mexico needed was a single goal to somehow salvage their W Championship performance. With Jamaica up 4-0 on Haiti at BBVA Stadium at the same time, a single goal and a win over the USWNT would have been enough to catapult them into third place in Group A and send them to the intercontinental playoff. For so much of the game, their focus was on limiting the U.S. and minimizing the risks of any forward attack of their own, but as the end of regulation time approached and Jamaica ran up the score, there was suddenly a new hope — and a tangible one that spread throughout the crowd as La Banda de Tigres helped soundtrack the supportive chants — that a result could maybe come through for La Tri.
And despite the red card issued to Jacqueline Ovalle in the 73rd minute after video review of her tackle on Rose Lavelle (side note: not sure we needed to see Lavelle’s ankle bend like that as many times as we did on replay, and she walked gingerly with a slight limp through the mixed zone on the way to the team bus after the game), Mexico had their chances until the final whistle. The crowd held up their phones with flashlights lit, a constellation of their continued hope. Instead, it was another deflating wait for VAR to determine if Kristie Mewis’s goal in the 89th minute would stand. It did. Despite the eight minutes of stoppage time, despite the final turn to desperation on the attack, Mexico ended their group stage without scoring a single goal.The frustration with head coach Mónica Vergara hasn’t exactly been a secret over the past couple of matches, especially after the loss to Haiti. On Monday night, the crowd booed her name after the announcement of the starting XI. The tone of her postgame press conference was far more polite on both sides, though she entered the room on a clear mission to underline the greater project of women’s football in Mexico and the need for support, rather than dissect the team’s performance through the group stage. With every tweet from Mexico’s account awash with replies of #FueraMonicaVergara, from the front row it felt like a coach who clearly knew her fate but hoped to get her message through. Vergara spoke like a person who had plenty of reason to worry that this performance wouldn’t just affect her own job security, but the support for the national team, even the idea of women’s football itself.
The best atmosphere of the tournament so far
The late game on Monday at Estadio Universitario featured the best crowd of the tournament, with 20,522 fans in attendance for USA vs. Mexico. Generally, the crowd was extremely supportive of Mexico, rather than outright hostile toward the U.S. (and they weren’t shy about cheering for Alex Morgan or Megan Rapinoe at a few points during the night, though never while they were on the ball).“As the atmosphere was getting fired up, our team started losing the focus of the tempo,” Andonovski said after the game. In the mixed zone, the players didn’t quite make that same leap, but had a common theme of appreciation for the environment and what it provided the team in terms of preparation.“It’s absolutely critical to have games like this,” Sauerbrunn told reporters. “The last time I played Mexico in Mexico was 2010 qualifiers, and it did not go well that night. It’s really hard to replicate these types of games with this type of crowd. The home crowd wasn’t exactly hostile, but it definitely wasn’t cheering for us. I think this is great; the more experience the younger players can get in this kind of environment is crucial going into 2023.”As one of those younger players, Purce could only smile when asked about the experience of playing on Monday night. “Oh, that’s a dream,” she said. “When you’re young and you see the national team playing, you want to play at Wembley, you want to play in Mexico in front of the best fans in the world. They were fantastic, and I hope I get to do it again one day.”
As absent as the promotion of the tournament has been, the vibe inside the stadiums has been pretty fun. On Monday night, the playlist remained the same before both matches, but it’s hard to go wrong with classic Shakira and Selena songs, though at one point the new CONCACAF anthem from Skip Marley got put on repeat. It’s one of the better offerings for a tournament, but the true test of any soccer anthem is how it holds up to repeat listens. “Lions” is still good, but maybe not three-times-in-a-row good.
Thought Alex Morgan’s USWNT career was done? Think again. The star reflects on her return
Gwendolyn Oxenham, special to ESPN
Sometime in 2010, Heather O’Reilly and Abby Wambach were standing behind the goal during a U.S. women’s national team five-a-side tournament, watching the new addition to the team, 21-year-old Alex Morgan. The kid was still in college; they’d heard about her before she arrived, the youth national team sensation with lightning speed and the ability to score.Standing there, perhaps with folded arms, maybe a finger to their chins, heads cocked toward one another, O’Reilly and Wambach studied Morgan, going back and forth, trying to find words to describe what they were seeing:
“She’s lively. Raw. Limbs in all directions.””Like a newborn animal.””Like, say, a baby horse.”That’s the moment Alex Morgan was christened “Baby Horse.””She doesn’t love the nickname, but she’s a trooper about it — she knows it’s said with affection,” O’Reilly said. Any hint of gangly foal is long gone, anyway. No player in the world has a more iconic stride: powerful, graceful and, yes, gazelle-like. She bursts forward, long ponytail whipping behind her.But speed alone won’t make you a global superstar. Since the very beginning, Morgan has scored major goals in major moments. She’s been on just about every magazine cover you can name and amassed 9.5 million Instagram followers. She’s won nearly everything there is to win.And maybe that success is due to one perhaps under-noted quality: Alex Morgan is brave. She’s a seeker, someone with both the hunger to get better and the nerve it takes to put herself in the middle of new, unfamiliar environments — whether that means going to Lyon to fight for a starting spot against the world’s best, or bringing her 5-month-old baby to a different continent during COVID, to play for Tottenham, a team dreaming of more.Every year she’s added to her game a new layer of sophistication, creativity, understanding and verve. Yet, for the past eight months, the global superstar was left off the U.S. roster. For someone who has been on the national team since she was in college — for a little over a decade — this was the first time she found herself on the outside looking in.Morgan only recently found her way back to the U.S. team — she is now at the CONCACAF W Championship, the double-qualification tournament for the 2023 World Cup and 2024 Olympics, and she scored a brace in her first qualifier back in the squad, putting the U.S. on an easy path to later qualify for the World Cup. But for months, the talk around the U.S. included the notion that maybe Morgan’s time with the team was done. Maybe the team had moved on without her.That could be the beginning of Alex Morgan’s most interesting chapter of all.
First, let’s rewind to July 25, 2012 in London: Morgan’s first Olympics. Her roommate was Heather O’Reilly. “Heather was one of the first players to take me under her wing,” Morgan said. “She’s just such a good person, a good teammate, a good leader — and she was someone that I would follow and just do as she did — just think as Heather does.”Even though it was O’Reilly’s third Olympics, she was still the type to get excited about the opening ceremony. “Maybe that’s why I was often put with the rookies — because I’m a veteran who still has childish energy for stuff like that,” she said.The team didn’t get to attend because their first game was in a different city, but Morgan and O’Reilly put the ceremony on the TV, turned up the volume and made their own parade. They put on their Ralph Lauren outfits — berets, navy blue blazers, neck scarf, skirts — and strutted through the hotel hallways with their teammates, taking pictures, doffing their berets. This is the Olympics, the thing you’ve dreamed about since you were kid.”It’s important to make it fun,” O’Reilly told me in a phone call as she simultaneously had a kick-around with her toddler. “You can’t take yourself so seriously — people get tight, too sucked into this world that’s not even reality.”O’Reilly tried to describe the longstanding USA mentality: “It’s like, first thing’s first, get our s— done on the field, but you’re not going to get your s— done unless you’re having fun, and you’re not going to have fun if you don’t get your s— done.””Mostly, you find out that winning is fun,” O’Reilly added. “None of those other shenanigans will be as meaningful if you’re not winning.”
In the tournament opener, Morgan came off the bench to score two goals and lead the U.S. to a come-from-behind victory against France. Then, in what is perhaps the most epic game in Olympic history, the semifinal against Canada, Morgan scored the game-winner in the 123rd minute of overtime — the latest goal in Olympics history for a 4-3 finish. The U.S. went on to win Olympic gold.That Olympics feels startlingly different from the most recent one, 2021’s delayed event in Tokyo. Because of COVID, there were no opening ceremonies. International fans were banned. Morgan wasn’t allowed to bring her baby daughter. The U.S. played poorly in front of empty stadiums.Maybe that first 2012 Olympics is in the back of Morgan’s mind when she reflects on the 2021 Olympics. “It wasn’t the Olympics any of us had hoped for — just not really creating a fun environment — or an environment that I necessarily even felt like I was bringing my best self to,” Morgan said. The U.S. lost their opening match to Sweden, 3-nothing. Morgan got injured and played only a few minutes in the bronze medal game — a disappointing finish for a player and a team accustomed to being at the top of the world.
That’s when the questions started. Head coach Vlatko Andonovski had recalled 17 of the players from the 2019 World Cup champion team for Tokyo — maybe he’d stuck with the veterans for too long? Come the 2023 World Cup, he will need to turn to the next generation. For the next few national team camps, Andonovski focused on giving the younger players their time. He also made it explicitly clear that no one’s spot is guaranteed — just because you played well two years ago doesn’t meant you’re coming in today, he said. You’ve got to show that you are performing right now.
So, for the next string of national camps — in October, November, January and February 2022 — Alex Morgan was not called in. In April, ahead of yet another national team camp, Morgan was at home with family when she got Andonovski’s call. She stepped into her bedroom, and he told her she’s not coming to camp.This one took her by surprise.”It was a hard discussion,” Morgan said. “But one of the things I really respect about Vlatko is just his honesty — having those hard conversations is not easy for anybody. I was disappointed, but at the same time, it wasn’t about pointing fingers, it was just: OK, if my name’s not on the roster, now I need to make sure it’s going to be the next time.”She started the 2022 National Women’s Soccer League season for her new club, San Diego Wave FC, playing with something to prove. But, she clarified: “It’s not a bitter, I’ll-show-you sort of response. I can’t have in the back of the mind that I’m playing to get myself back on the national team. I’m playing to prove Jill [Ellis, Wave president] and Casey [Stoney, Wave coach] right in why they traded me and why I’m here — and to prove to myself right that I am worthy of scoring goals in the NWSL and being on the national team.”But my end goal wasn’t: I want to make it back on the national team. It’s: I’m playing to make San Diego the best and most successful expansion team that there’s ever been in the NWSL. I am on one team and one team only and that’s San Diego.”Never in her professional life had Morgan had the chance to focus all her energy on one team, one city. “I’m going to make the most of this time that I wouldn’t have had if I were going to camp,” she said.To know just what it means for Morgan to stay put in one place and make a home, it’s worth considering her last 15 years and her tendency to pursue the unfamiliar. After college at Cal-Berkeley, where she was always looking for extra ways to get better — training on her own, with her coach and in pickup games with the men’s team, which included Servando Carrasco, the man she’d eventually married — her professional career took her all over the world. She’s played for the Western New York Flash, Portland Thorns, Orlando Pride, Olympique Lyonnais and Tottenham Hotspur. Meanwhile, her husband, also a soccer player, has his own list of cities and teams. They’ve spent years doing long-distance. And, of course, Morgan also simultaneously traveled the world for the national team.
Morgan’s most recent European jaunt, Tottenham, was a decision that happened fast — and it affected her more than she’d anticipated. Fresh off giving birth to her daughter, Charlie, she’d scrambled to figure out how to get game fit for the delayed Olympics in 2021 because the next NWSL season wouldn’t start up until March.”My husband, possibly jokingly, said, ‘Why don’t you look at playing abroad for the rest of the year?’ … I don’t think he realized how seriously I was going to take that suggestion,” she says with a laugh. “Yeah,” she said to Servando, “that is a great idea.”Her agent called every team, trying to figure out where she could play for four months and get back game fit so that she was ready for the Olympics. Joined by her 5-month-old baby and her mother-in-law, Morgan went to north London.Players who have a baby and return to the game often face a climate of doubt. (The most recent episode of the new audio docuseries “Hustle Rule” takes a look at what mothers are up against.) In Tottenham, Morgan began her comeback.She describes the experience in one excited rush: “I am so grateful to them for being so accommodating of me. Here I am, still breastfeeding, going over there, not 90 minutes fit, not even 30 minutes fit, thinking that I am because I’d been training, just on my own. Little did I know, I still I had long way to go.”I got a little knee injury, a little cartilage broke off, which is not uncommon after pregnancy, after having a baby inside you. And all of a sudden, I’m away from my daughter seven to eight hours a day, which I’d never been before. I couldn’t really breastfeed after that — my milk dried up. I couldn’t produce enough being away from her that long, not having an area or time to pump … although I tried initially to bring ice and a lunch bag to put the milk in. I would pump before training and after meeting.”And I’m so grateful to my husband for supporting me because he was away from me and my daughter for seven, eight weeks. But it was the step I needed at the time. And a lot of people called me crazy for it — and I think I was a little crazy to make that decision, but the team was so welcoming to me and I had the best time there.”Tottenham, a club founded in 1865, has a storied history and loyal supporters. When people saw Morgan walking down the street in her Tottenham gear, they cheered and gave her a nod of approval or they booed — London is a city of divided loyalties. And the women’s side has about as good of a Cinderella story as you get: In the course of a decade, managers Karen Hills and Juan Carlos Amoros took the amateur, fourth-division team through three promotions all the way to the top division of English women’s football.In the beginning, Hills had coached kids during the day, voluntarily trained the women at night, drove the team bus and made jam sandwiches — all the things you do in amateur football. Now, Hills was coaching Alex Morgan, and this woman cared. Hills had nursed this dream and this team for 11 years (“for years and years,” says Morgan), and now Morgan had the chance to help her carry it still farther.Tottenham practiced on what felt like a forgotten schoolyard field: rocks, holes, half-dirt. “I hadn’t played on a field like that since I was 12,” says Morgan, and not in a complaining kind of way — she sounds excited. The team didn’t have its own weight room either. “You were working out next to anybody with a gym pass,” Morgan says.The team had to lock up its locker room after they used it because it was a public area. But these circumstances brought them closer: they were playing on a questionable surface together, and they were hoping for more together. “It was just challenging — and I think that’s what created a camaraderie between the players and the coaches. The challenge was what was so fun,” Morgan says. She doesn’t mean the challenge of playing on rocks — she means the challenge of seeing whether together they could take the team to a new horizon.And when a world-class player like Morgan shows up on your team, things happen. She was instrumental in the push for better training facilities — she and a group of players talked with the director of women’s football about it. “It wasn’t as professional as it should’ve been. I pushed the club to do better — not the players, not the coaches, but the club — and they did. Now, the women play in the same exact training facilities as the men, full time. I am proud of taking part in that. To see that evolution in front of my own eyes … it was incredible.”After one training session penalty kick, a teammate was quick to celebrate, parroting Morgan’s goal celebration against England at the 2019 World Cup — one that had stirred some minor outrage overseas. She sipped from an invisible cup of tea, raised her pinky and looked cheekily at Morgan as her teammates broke into laughter.After seasons combining with Canada’s Christine Sinclair in Portland and Marta in Orlando, winning World Cups and an Olympics, and even traveling with the U.S. State Department’s Sports Diplomacy program and kicking handmade balls around with kids in Tanzania, she has come home to San Diego. It’s her dream city; it’s also where her husband’s family is from, and not too far from where she too grew up in Diamond Bar, California. Like at Tottenham, she once again got the chance to take part in building a club.Here, living in the same city in her husband, she has gotten to know San Diego in a way that was never possible while crisscrossing the world. With Charlie in tow, they go to street markets and local fairs, ride their electric bikes down to the beach and build sand castles, and go to see the lions at Safari Park. Morgan wants to be a part of her community, a supporter of others — she partners with local, women-owned businesses and promotes them on her social channels. Before preseason, she played in pickup games with old friends, with guys from the USL’s San Diego Loyals and with her husband.”I always try and be on Servando’s team so he doesn’t two-foot me,” Morgan says. “And also because he’s really good.” Ten or so years after it all began — their relationship, her international soccer stardom — they are still playing together, still finding each other on the field.When the NWSL season began, her family and Servando’s family both got to come to the Wave FC games. The beginning half of the season, they played at the 6,000-capacity Torero Stadium. It has an intimate and special feeling — and they packed the house. Every home match, Morgan gifts 20 tickets to youth girls’ teams across San Diego, focusing on underserved areas. The section of the stadium is called Alex’s Home Break — a surfer’s term that refers to your regular spot, the place where your face is easily recognized and you feel welcome.On the field, she has been on a goal-scoring tear, leading the league with 11 goals. After she scored four goals against Gotham FC on her daughter’s second birthday, Wave supporters hung a banner on the rails — it’s a portrait featuring the back of her jersey, but instead of MORGAN, it says FOUR-GAN.When each game has ended and the fans have cleared out, Morgan always takes the field again, this time to kick the ball around with her daughter. “I mean, it’s cool watching me play and all, but, like, she is just waiting for her time,” Morgan says.
In June, Andonovski texted Morgan and asked when she would be free. She responded, “I’m free any time.” But she was actually about to drive home, so she immediately started fretting: “I was like, oh my God what if he calls while I’m driving, thinking, like, what’s the news going to be, because honestly I had no idea.”He did call her while she was driving. She pulled off the freeway and parked — this is not the kind of conversation you have while you’re driving. But this chat was easier than the last one: For the first time in eight months, she had been invited back with the national team. You’re coming to the World Cup/Olympic qualifiers, he told her.On Instagram afterward, she posted a picture of her and teammate Megan Rapinoe — the other veteran called back into camp after months away. “See ya in camp,” she wrote with a sly, half-smile emoticon.Morgan has been a veteran for a long time now. But while there were 17 World Cup veterans on the 2020 Tokyo Olympic team, now the veterans are surrounded by 22- and 23-year-olds. And yet it’s the veterans who are like kids out there: playful, a little mischievous, full of grins.While the young players are feeling the pressure of showing they have what it takes, all this looking-to-the-next-generation talk appears to have really freed up the veterans. They look buoyant out there, ecstatically confident.There is plenty of banter: When Kelley O’Hara ripped a beauty into the side-netting during the Colombia friendly, after the game she joked to the camera, in an old-lady voice, with a wagging finger, “Watch out, Alex and Pinoe, I’m coming for you!” In the Haiti game, when Rapinoe was about to sub in, O’Hara called out to her and Rapinoe then broke out into the dance known as the whip — a little shoulder-shimmy — right before trotting out to the field. Once in the game, Rapinoe immediately played the ball to Morgan, showcasing their connection and their understanding of one another.This zest, this fun, also feels intentional — like Rapinoe, Morgan, O’Hara and captain Becky Sauerbrunn are trying to coax the rookies toward playfulness, in the same way that O’Reilly and crew once did for them. “Heather, Abby, Shannon Boxx, Christie Rampone — those are all players who I was like, OK, if I could follow in their footsteps, if I don’t curve to the left a little bit while they’re going right, I’m going to be OK,” Morgan says.If in the last Olympics, Morgan believed she didn’t bring her best self and didn’t make it fun, she’s moving in the opposite direction now.”Getting removed from the national team gave me a reset,” Morgan says. “At this point in my career, I’m playing soccer because I genuinely love it. And I’m having fun. It’s not that I need it to fulfill myself, or need it to feel value in myself, or that I need it financially — I’m playing because I want to keep playing.” That happiness — that genuine thrill in playing — can be felt all around.”The veteran’s job is tricky — you want to usher in this new generation but you also care about your job,” O’Reilly reflects. “You care about starting — Alex’s a fierce competitor. She wants to put a stamp on her career in this final stretch. It’s critical to her legacy — she wants to prove she’s in the top three of all time. So, it’s like, you want to take my starting job? You’re gonna have to do better than this. That’s what it means to care about the team — you make it challenging for the next generation … not by pushing anyone down but by bringing them up with you.”
In the NWSL, after Alex Morgan scored her 10th goal of the season, Sophia Smith, the 21-year-old who is the second-leading goal scorer in the league, and who scored two goals on the same day Morgan scored her 10th, tweeted at her: “Slow downnnnnn” with an exasperated emoticon, as if to say, how am I supposed to catch you if you keep up this pace? Morgan responded, “Omg coming from the brace queen!! (Crown emoticon) Brings those goals to qualifiers ok thanks.”In the first qualifier against Haiti, Smith was quiet on the night, stiffer than normal. Meanwhile, Morgan scored twice. The first goal was a beauty, an insouciant outside-of-the-foot toss, a casual act of brilliance. In the 2022 edition of Alex Morgan, she’s as likely to wow you with her creativity as she is with her speed. In the next qualifier against Jamaica, it was Smith’s turn: five minutes into the game, she flew up the wing, lobbed the ball around one side of the defender, flew by the other side, then bent the ball into the side netting with the outside of her foot. It is, she thinks, her first time scoring with the outside of her foot. And then she scores again.This is what bringing-them-up-with-you looks like. And Morgan is taking this idea beyond her own team.You could see it in an interaction that happened right after their W Championship game against Haiti in Monterrey, Mexico. Kethna Louis, the talented 25-year-old Haitian center-back, asked Morgan for her jersey. In the video clip, you see Morgan peel off her shirt and say, “I want yours, too.” Louis looks taken aback, momentarily confused — like, you want mine? Morgan smiles and repeats her request, “I want yours, in return.” Morgan holds out her palms, her body language playful, like bring it, let’s do this. In the background, you can hear Louis’ teammates laughing and cheering in French — and assuring her that Morgan is serious.With that request, Morgan changes the dynamic. Now Louis goes home not just having Alex Morgan’s jersey but also knowing Alex Morgan has hers. It’s not a superstar bestowing someone with her jersey — now it’s a star of one team trading with a star of another. As Morgan walks away, she passes a dozen or so teenage ball girls who are aflutter with giggles at their proximity to Morgan.Alex Morgan is not just a leader on the U.S. team. She’s a leader for the world over. And this idea that floated about just a few months ago, that Morgan might not make the national team? It seems like the most preposterous thing anybody’s ever heard.
USWNT’s Sofia Huerta started with Mexico, then moved from forward to defender. Is the World Cup next?
MONTERREY, Mexico — For the past decade, Sofia Huerta has actively practiced the concept of living in the present, but her recent past — and how it informs her immediate future — is intrinsically tied to where she now finds herself.Sitting in the lobby of the team hotel on the day before the United States‘ 1-0 victory over Mexico on Monday at the CONCACAF W Championship, Huerta is keenly aware of the stops and starts in her journey, one filled with critics and self-doubt at times. It has been a process that required her to recalibrate how she viewed her worth as a soccer player and a person. There were moments in the past when it seemed Huerta would be preparing to play this game for Mexico. After all, the Boise, Idaho, product was eligible to represent both countries, thanks to her Mexico-born father and U.S.-born mother. As Huerta thrived playing college soccer at Santa Clara University, Mexico expressed interest in her and called her up to the senior team as a teenager in 2012.Huerta found early success, scoring a pair of goals in her first few caps with Mexico. However, that experience of representing Mexico on the soccer stage reinforced to Huerta what she had thought all along: The U.S. national team is where she belongs.”I thought, well, if I can have these moments against these top international teams, that means that I can compete at this level,” Huerta told ESPN. “Playing for Mexico helped me realize I want to play for the U.S., no question. I think I always, deep down, knew that, but I wanted to take that opportunity [with Mexico].”In 2014, Huerta made it known that she would no longer accept call-ups from Mexico to pursue opportunities with the United States, the perennial world No. 1. It wouldn’t be until 2017 that it became reality — and then another three-year stretch without a call-up before finally finding a regular place on the U.S. national team.
A USWNT opportunity, followed by regret
Huerta stands alone as the only player to have competed for and against the United States women’s national team.In 2017, then-U.S. head coach Jill Ellis was in the middle of an extensive search to improve the player pool and her team ahead of the 2019 World Cup after an embarrassing quarterfinal exit at the 2016 Olympics. Full-back depth was (and remains) an area of need for the United States, and Ellis was impressed with Huerta’s crossing abilities in her more attack-minded roles for her National Women’s Soccer League side, the Chicago Red Stars.Ellis thought those skills could translate well to an attacking full-back role at the international level. Huerta was happy just to get the call and willing to play where she was needed. Two days after the announcement that her one-time FIFA switch was approved in September 2017, Huerta made her senior U.S. debut off the bench and served a looping cross to assist a spectacular finish by Alex Morgan.Back in Chicago, however, Huerta was still being deployed as a forward. The Red Stars already had a deep back line, so in another effort to advance her national team career, she asked for a trade. In June 2018, Chicago dealt her to the Houston Dash, with whom Huerta thought she would play full-back. As soon as she arrived, however, the Dash made Huerta the No. 10 in midfield. With Huerta not playing full-back for her club, the calls from Ellis stopped.
The 2019 World Cup was around the corner, and the closer it got, the clearer it became that Huerta was not in the picture.”I had some anger there,” Huerta said of how the situation in Houston unfolded.Huerta had a choice to make about how she would view herself. She could be Sofia Huerta, successful professional soccer player, or she could be Sofia Huerta, not good enough for the U.S. national team.”I had to change the narrative of, just because I’m not on the national team doesn’t mean that I’m not a good player, doesn’t mean that I’m a failure,” she said. “Actually, this is amazing, and I’m still in the 1% and I’m so grateful for my life. That really helped me stay present and do what I can do, and then I got the call from Vlatko [Andonovski] (current U.S. head coach).”That call came in November 2021, three years after her most recent call-up. The time in between made her question herself and whether she could have performed better in her first opportunities with the United States. Huerta allowed herself, even momentarily, to wonder if all those who urged her to take the opportunity with Mexico — implicitly, the easier road — were right.”It was just a really big struggle for me because I was so regretful of how I handled my first opportunity with the U.S., and I felt like maybe I didn’t make enough sacrifices and maybe I wasn’t being as professional as I should have,” she said.”That was difficult to deal with, but then also having the thought of, I might never get this opportunity again. It’s one thing to not get that opportunity because you just have a coaching staff who might not like your playing style. But to feel like I lost that opportunity solely because of what I should have done differently, it is a really hard thing to sit with. It’s really hard to sit with. It’s uncomfortable to sit with.”I had many days, nights where I was just so uncomfortable, where I thought, ‘Wow, I had this opportunity, I did not take advantage of it and now I may not get it again.’ I thought that for a long time. And what I’ve said before, I had to start asking myself: ‘How is that serving me?’ “For the past seven years, Huerta has worked with a life coach, Lisa McClenahan, who she connected with through Santa Clara. They speak regularly as Huerta navigates an ongoing process that she describes as being kinder to herself.”Sitting here and sitting in this regret and having anxiety about the future, that’s not feeling good,” Huerta said. “So, I had to work a lot on my mental side and figure out what really worked for me. And I think in general, in life, and also in soccer, really trying to stay present is really just what’s best. It’s what everyone should try to do. It’s so easy to look back and regret and look in the future and have anxiety.”
Embracing a different role
There is another narrative that Huerta wishes to squash, one that pigeonholes her as a forward who was converted to play defense. She sees some of the discussion that her defensive abilities are lacking.”I actually feel like that’s not true,” Huerta said. “I actually played center back growing up, so I do think I have the defensive skill sets. I just think it took me a little bit to relearn some things because, obviously, I’ve been a forward and attacking player for years. Moving back to that position, it just took me a little bit to adjust.”Of course, there’s always room to improve, but I just think since I’ve been there for a year now, I really do feel like I’m a good outside back and I think it is natural to say I’m a full-back.”Huerta grew up as a three-sport athlete, playing basketball and running track. She won four state titles in hurdle events, setting a pair of state records. There was no questioning her athletic ability. When she played soccer, she was in the typical best-player-on-the-field role at that age level, playing wherever she was needed.”I’m from Idaho, so it was a little different,” she said with a smile. “I’d start up top, I would sometimes score and then be moved back to center back.”Center back is where Jerry Smith discovered her. The longtime Santa Clara coach, whom Huerta keeps in touch with today and singles out as one of the most influential people in her journey, recruited Huerta to play for the Broncos’ defense. Not long into Huerta’s freshman season, however, her ability to play as a striker became clear. She kept scoring in practice, and Smith knew he needed to move her up top. Huerta went on to tally 47 goals and 19 assists in 81 NCAA games and gained attention from professional teams as a forward.The abrupt disappointment of not playing full-back at either Chicago or Houston left Huerta immediately scrambling to figure out her next step. She spent the 2018-19 NWSL offseason on loan to Sydney FC in Australia, and this time she made sure that her position was part of the agreement before she joined a team. Huerta’s plan was to get regular minutes at full-back, and doing so during the NWSL offseason, while many other players were dormant, offered her an outside shot of getting back into the national team picture before the 2019 World Cup.It didn’t work out that way, but Huerta’s time in Australia still served a purpose. Huerta played all 14 games for Sydney that season as the side marched to a championship trophy. She scored the game-winning goal in the semifinal and then, in the final against Perth Glory, she scored six minutes in and defended Sam Kerr — now at Chelsea and ESPN FC’s second-ranked player of 2022 — throughout.Without that stint in Sydney, perhaps Huerta isn’t here in Monterrey helping the U.S. qualify for the 2023 World Cup. Regardless of what it meant for her international career, it was a standout professional moment for Huerta. Crucially, she says, she was finally playing soccer year-round, rather than staying idle during the NWSL’s four-month-plus offseason at the time.”That’s when I started noticing a difference in my game,” she said.Houston traded Huerta to the OL Reign ahead of the 2020 season, and she endured another 18 months of positional uncertainty, mostly playing on the wings up top. But Laura Harvey’s return as head coach of the Reign in August 2021 sparked the current chapter of Huerta’s career.Harvey called Huerta and said she wanted her to play full-back. The first game on the schedule: a home match against rival Portland Thorns FC. Huerta played the full game at right full-back, helping the Reign to a 2-1 victory in front of nearly 28,000 fans at Lumen Field.”I thank her so much because she had so much confidence in me,” Huerta said of Harvey. “Even when I wasn’t sure what it was going to look like, and my first game back was against Portland … I just feel like it was a hard game to go back into, but I had all the confidence from her and my teammates.”
World Cup dreams inching closer
Huerta’s father, Mauricio, worked as an engineer for Hewlett-Packard in Guadalajara, Mexico, but the lure of the U.S. was significant. Huerta’s mother, Jody, was from the U.S. and missed home, and there were greater financial opportunities in the United States. Mauricio applied to every HP location in the U.S., with Boise being the first to offer a position. So, the family packed up life, rented an apartment and bought a car. They had $500 left in their pockets when they arrived, as Huerta tells the story.Huerta said she is proud of her Mexican roots. Here in Monterrey, she has loved ones — including extended family from Puebla — in attendance to support her during the two-week competition, which doubles as a qualifying event for the 2023 World Cup and the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.That her first major tournament is being played in Mexico — including a match against her former national team — is not lost on her.”I definitely think there’s something extra about it,” she said. “Simply because I played for Mexico, a lot of people didn’t think that I was ever going to be on the U.S. team. And now I’m here on the U.S. team, in Mexico. I have roots and I have ties here. That’s really special and it means a lot to me.”
Huerta came off the bench on Monday to play the final 26 minutes in the win. She still has a few friends on her former team, all of whom supported and understood her decision to chase the American dream, she said.The U.S.’s 5-0 win over Jamaica on July 7 was the team’s best performance of the tournament thus far. Huerta registered one assist and wreaked havoc on the right flank, including a pinpoint cross to Mallory Pugh, whose would-be goal was negated by an offside call.”I thought Sof was very good,” Andonovski said after the game. “She was not as aggressive as we are used to going forward, but she had certain tasks to fulfill, which I thought she did a very good job. Positionally, she was spot-on. She was able to draw players from and unbalance players from their midfield line and forward line … “Overall, very good performance and I am happy that she is growing in this role.”Huerta might be the team’s best crosser; she was second in the 2021 NWSL regular season with six assists.”Whenever I have an opportunity to cross, I do it,” she said. “I mean literally every time, so that’s probably something I should work on, having more patience in the attack. Offensively, that’s obviously something that is my strength. I think defensively, I do think I’m a solid defender but there’s always room to improve. You’re playing against the best players in the world, so regardless of how good you are defensively, there are going to be times that you are exposed, or you should have made a different decision.”The message from the U.S. coaching staff to players on this roster is that they are clearly part of the picture for the 2023 World Cup. Huerta is very much in that discussion, a position that challenges her mantra of living in the moment. She lets out a huge exhale and smirks at the thought of representing the United States at the World Cup next year, co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand. It is the destination she envisioned when she started this circuitous journey a decade ago.”So, of course the goal is to be super present,” she said. “It doesn’t always happen. It’s much easier said than done. I think the reality is that the World Cup is still really far away, a lot of things can happen, but it does feel good to be in the conversation.”She continued: “When I think about it, I literally get so excited and so happy. At the end of the day, still you’re a year away. I know that if I continue down this path and I do what’s in my control and I keep working hard, that that is a dream that can become reality.”
Historic Inaugural Season for Girls in Blue Ends After Defeat in Playoff Opener 1- loss to Minnesota
EAGAN, Minn. (Wednesday, July 13, 2022) – Indy Eleven’s successful inaugural season of play in the USL W League came to an abrupt end in tonight’s Quarterfinal Round of the W League Playoffs via a hard fought 1-2 loss at Minnesota Aurora FC in front over 6,200 fans at a sold out TCO Stadium in suburban Minneapolis.The hard luck result looked to be going the other way after Ella Rogers gave Indiana’s Team the lead late in the first half, but Minnesota stormed back in the second to ultimately take the playoff affair between two of the three unbeaten teams in the 44-team USL W League following regular season action.The energetic opening of the match was indicative of the quality and evenness of the two sides. Both proved difficult to break down during a back-and-forth first 20 minutes, their organized defenses thwarting numerous chances once repeated forays moved into the final third.Indy Eleven seized the momentum from there with a flurry of chances midway through the half, attempts on goal by Addie Chester and Maddy Williams followed by a Rogers blast that missed wide. Indy earned a golden opportunity to take the lead when another saved shot off the foot of Williams bounced into the outstretched arm of a defender in the 23rd minute to earn a point to the spot, but Aurora goalkeeper Sarah Fuller did well to stop Williams’ ensuing penalty kick, keeping the proceedings scoreless.Indy Eleven goalkeeper Mackenzie Wood countered with a clutch save of her own in the 31st minute, when she got just enough of Kat Rapp’s close range shot to send it wide of the far post. The ensuing corner kick also threated, but Mariah Nguyen’s 15-yard shot rose over the crossbar. Shortly thereafter in the 34th minute Indiana’s Team took the lead, Jenna Chatterton’s short pass that split two defenders setting up Rogers to get on her left foot and place a shot from near the top of the area inside the far right post to move the scoreboard.Aurora pushed to find an equalizer before the end of the half, with Mayu Inokawa’s blast from 25 yards that forced Wood into an acrobatic, one-handed diving punch in the 40th minute proving the most dangerous of numerous looks in the final 10 minutes of the half for Minnesota. Williams felt she had a second PK claim in the 42nd minute when she went to ground under contact after gaining an angle inside the area, but the referee motioned to play on. As the match crossed into first half stoppage time, Aurora’s Eli Rapp squandered a ball that found her feet in space eight yards from goal, spraying the chance high to further frustrate the home side and send the Eleven into the locker room with a 1-0 advantage. Indy nearly doubled its lead less than a minute into the second off a free kick, but a header in traffic near the six came back off the crossbar and was cleared from danger. That allowed Minnesota to equalize in the 50th minute through a brilliant individual effort by halftime substitute Morgan Turner, who gave Wood no chance to reach a bending 21-yard effort that curled into the upper left corner. A lunging cross by Minnesota on the endline in the 58th minute turned into a shot when it brushed the top of the crossbar and remained in play, allowing Indy to dodge a bullet heading into a tense final half hour.Minnesota drew the benefit of a point to the spot in the 66th minute when Maya Hansen made the most of contact inside the area, and Aurora FC took the lead despite Wood diving low and right to get a fingertip to Inokawa’s spot kick. Wood stepped up big to keep Indy within arm’s length in the 70th minute, getting a big hand to send Turner’s free kick from a few yards outside of the area over the bar. Minnesota kept increased numbers behind the ball and held the Indy attack at bay across most of the last final quarter-hour, leaving the Girls in Blue unable to put Fuller under serious duress with any of its chances down the stretch.While the final whistle brought a disappointing end to the campaign, this inaugural Indy Eleven W League squad will be remembered for writing a historic and groundbreaking new chapter for the women’s game in the Hoosier State. As always, fans can stay tuned to the club’s @IndyEleven channels on social media and indyeleven.com/wleague for the latest news and updates on the Girls in Blue.
2022 USL W League Playoffs – Quarterfinal Round
Minnesota Aurora FC 2 : 1 Indy Eleven
Wednesday, July 13, 2022 – 8:00 p.m. ET
TCO Stadium – Eagan, Minn.
Indy Eleven: 10W-1L-2D (Great Lakes Division champion)
Minnesota Aurora FC: 12W-0L-1D (Heartland Division champion)
IND – Ella Rogers (Jenna Chatterton) 34’
MIN – Morgan Turner (Kat Rapp) 50’
MIN – Mayu Inokawa (penalty kick) 66’
IND – Karsyn Cherry (yellow card) 69’
MIN – Jill Bennett (yellow card) 72’
IND – Jenna Chatterton (yellow card) 79’
MIN – Jill Bennett (second yellow card/red card) 92+’
Indy Eleven lineup: 1-Mackenzie Wood, Karsyn Cherry, Robyn McCarthy, Grace Bahr, Nikia Smith (Milica Bulatovic); Jenna Chatterton, Molly McLaughlin (Julia Leonard 45) (Reese Sochacki 82’), Ella Rogers, Addie Chester, Katie Soderstrom; Maddy Williams
IND substitutes: Taylor Beard, Abby Foulk, Isadora Gajdobranski, Emma Johnson
Minnesota Aurora FC lineup: Sarah Fuller; Eli Rapp (Jill Bennett 45’), Rachel Preston (Abby Ostrem 63’), Kelsey Kaufusi, Kenzie Langdok; Mariah Nguyen, Addy Symonds, Cat Rapp, Mayu Inokawa (Kristelle Yewah 84’), Jelena Zbiljic (Morgan Turner 45’), Maya Hansen
MIN substitutes: Taylor Kane, Rami Rapp, Arianna Del Moral
Hard Luck for Boys in Blue Continues in Team’s Third Consecutive 1-0 Loss
INDIANAPOLIS (Saturday, July 9, 2022) – Indy Eleven’s recent rough luck continued tonight in its third consecutive 1-0 defeat, this time at the hands of Detroit City FC in front of a season-high crowd of 9,462 at IUPUI Carroll Stadium. The match was the nightcap of a historic men’s/women’s doubleheader for Indiana’s Teams against DCFC that saw the Girls in Blue down DCFC, 3-0.Detroit had its foot on the gas from the onset, and it paid off just five minutes in through Connor Rutz, whose header of Deklan Wynne’s cross to the six nestled into the upper right corner to move the scoreboard for the visitors. Rutz went searching for a second in the 11th minute on a volley that just missed the crossbar, and Eleven goalkeeper Tim Trilk did well to adjust to Rhys Williams’ deflected shot from the top of the area in the 24th, going low to steer around his right post.Indy started to find more of the ball as the half progressed, although its looks were limited to Ayoze’s blocked shot in the 39th minute and a pair of Nicky Law shots that were sent into Detroit’s wall from 25 yards out in the 43rd minute.The lack of shots was clearly an emphasis coming out of the locker room for Indy Eleven, as Solomon Asante and Neveal Hackshaw both uncorked efforts from distance within the opening 30 seconds of the stanza, but neither challenged DCFC ‘keeper Nathan Steinwascher. Another wide effort by Asante and another blocked shot from Law around the hour mark kept Indy threatening.Rutz hunted his brace again with a turn-and-fire from the penalty spot in the 64th minute, but Trilk was on the spot and did well not to spill, and the Eleven ‘keeper guarded his near post well in the 76th minute when Pato Botello Faz fired on frame. Detroit did well to clog its defensive third across the final half hour, with substitute forward Aris Briggs’ 89th minute header the only shot the Boys in Blue could muster down the stretch. The result pushed Indy’s losing streak to four games, and its goalless streak to 360 minutes.Indy Eleven will take to the road in search of success next Friday, July 15, when it travels east to take on New York Red Bulls II one final time in USL Championship play (7:00 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+). Then the Boys in Blue return home on Saturday, July 23, for the first of three straight home Saturday affairs against Memphis 901 FC (live on MyINDY-TV 23, ESPN+ & Exitos Radio 94.3 FM/exitos943.com) on International Night at The Mike. Fans can secure tickets starting at just $15, which can be purchased online at indyeleven.com/tickets or over the phone at 317-685-1100; more details on the Eleven’s promotional nights through the rest of the season can be found at indyeleven.com/promotions.
2022 USL Championship Regular Season – Matchday 18
Indy Eleven 0 : 1 Detroit City FC Saturday, July 9, 2022 IUPUI Michael A. Carroll Stadium – Indianapolis, Ind.
Indy Eleven: 6W-9L-3D, 21 pts., 8th in Eastern Conference
Detroit City FC: 9W-4L-6D, T-33 pts., 4th in Eastern Conference