Lori Chalupny and the U.S. national team: More details on the eternal impasse


There’s a really good chance you don’t know who Lori Chalupny is. Most of you don’t follow women’s soccer. Those that do may have come to the sport recently. If you fall into either of those groups, her name won’t ring a bell.

But Lori Chalupny isn’t just another women’s soccer player toiling in professional anonymity. She shouldn’t be anonymous at all. At 29 years old, she’s appeared for her country 92 times, at one time wearing the armband for a spell with the United States. A midfielder, she’s scored eight times, won an Olympic gold medal, and was a national title-winner during her days at North Carolina. Called one of the top five players in the NWSL by her club coach, Chalupny is among the most well-respected players in her league, a stature that allowed her to finish third in this season’s Most Valuable Player voting.

Chalupny’s anonymity to all but hardcore women’s soccer fans is owed to her status with U.S. Soccer, a status Charles Boehm at Soccerwire.com labels a “purgatory.” Cleared by four different clubs to play professionally after concussion issues dogged her from 2006 to 2008, Chalupny has not appeared for the United States since 2009. And despite the U.S.’s lack of depth in central midfield — despite her status as one of the best players in a league almost all of her would-be teammates play in — she’s unlikely to make another appearance any time soon.

From Boehm’s story, Chalupny’s words on her status as well as the medical opinion of U.S. Soccer’s Dr. Ruben Echemendia:

“Nothing’s really changed at this point. I guess their neurologist that they use doesn’t – won’t – clear me to play …

According to Chalupny, Echemendia hasn’t even seen her firsthand to ascertain her current status.

“No, he’s never actually seen me,” she said. “I went and saw two of the top neurologists in the country, Dr. [Robert] Cantu and Dr. [Michael] Collins, the guys that Sydney Crosby [the National Hockey League star who has grappled with his own concussion problems] and the top-level athletes see, and they’ve all cleared me.

“It’s just a matter of this one neurologist, and he’s entitled to his opinion. But I guess until that changes, my status won’t change.”

Lori Chalupny had make 92 international appearances for the United States by the time she was 25. She hasn’t appeared since despite continuing her career for the St. Louis Athletica (WPS), Atlanta Beat (WPS), AIK (Sweden), and the Chicago Red Stars (WPSL Elite/NWSL). He was an all-league midfielder this past season in the NWSL, finishing third in MVP voting.

That is incredible. Four teams and two specialists have signed off on Chalupny’s health. The men who worked with hockey’s most famous player think she’s good to go. Yet one man who has never physically examined Chalupny continues to keep her from playing for her national team?

If that’s the case, that’s inexplicable. Why is Echemendia’s opinion held up above the other specialists? Why isn’t there an avenue to appeal? A way to seek a second opinion or be evaluated by a panel who can augment Echemendia’s opinion?

Perhaps there were second opinions. U.S. Soccer alludes to specialists (plural) when discussing Chalupny’s situation. Still the broad question remains: Why is a player’s career being held up by a process that leaves so many unanswered questions?

This is a health issue, so we’re not going to hear much from U.S. Soccer on this. To them, the player’s privacy must be observed, an unfortunate pickle since the player is under no such limitation.

Here’s all U.S. Soccer had to say to Boehm:

“She has not been cleared to play for the National Team … As for the league [NWSL], it is a separate entity from U.S. Soccer. A few years ago when Chalupny was being considered for the National Team she was not medically cleared to play by U.S. Soccer after broad consultation with U.S. Soccer medical consultants.

“Our stance has not changed.”

Neither has ours. Through our season-long NWSL coverage, many discussions of Chalupny were laced with regret that she wasn’t being considered for her national team. Boehm’s reporting provides some more details, but the tensions remain.

On one side, we have one of the U.S.’s best midfielders, somebody who would compete for a starting spot on almost any team in the world. On the other side, you have an organization not at liberty to discuss a medical evaluation that flies in the face of a clean bill of health, with the player now going four years without reoccurrence.

It’s one of the saddest, most confusing stories on the U.S. Soccer landscape, leaving her final words on the situation enough to prompt a tear:

“I don’t know,” said Chalupny when asked if she saw any potential for resolution in the near future …

“But I would love to play on the team again. It’s such an honor. But it’s out of my hands, I guess.”

MLS Cup Playoffs: LA Galaxy 3-1 Real Salt Lake (video)

Los Angeles Galaxy defender Jelle Van Damme (37) congratulates forward Alan Gordon (9) for scoring against the Real Salt Lake during the first half of a knockout round MLS playoff soccer match in Carson, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
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The game in 100 words (or less): The LA Galaxy are through to the conference semifinals of the MLS Cup Playoffs, where they’ll take on the Colorado Rapids beginning Sunday, for the seventh time in eight years with a 3-1 knockout-round triumph over Real Salt Lake at the StubHub Center on Wednesday. Alan Gordon put the home side ahead inside the first quarter-hour before RSL drew level seven minutes later, but Emmanuel Boateng bagged a quickfire brace to complete a pair of brilliant individual exhibitions of dribbling inside the penalty area. With Steven Gerrard unavailable and Robbie Keane only fit to feature off the bench, Bruce Arena turned to Gordon, who gave way to Keane early in the second half after picking up an injury of his own, to play the fulcrum of the Galaxy attack, and it worked to near-perfection during the opening half-hour. Landon Donovan started the game and played 87 minutes, providing the kind of defensive work rate that’s been missing up and down the flanks of LA all season. Sebastian Lletget put in a near-flawless passing performance while playing deep in midfield. Don’t look now, but those are the Galaxy’s biggest question of 2016, all just about answered as the playoffs begin. I won’t say, “I told you so” if/when they win MLS Cup 2016, but…

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three Four moments that mattered

14′ — Gordon finishes from close range for 1-0 — Landon Donovan -> Giovani dos Santos -> Alan Gordon. Just like Bruce Arena drew it up in preseason midseason last month this week this morning.

21′ — Plata converts from the spot after Morales’ dive — Javier Morales was angling for a penalty from the moment he entered the penalty area. All Emmanuel Boateng had to do was look at him, and Morales was going down.

26′ — Boateng weaves through to make it 2-1 — Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Boateng took advantage of some poor defending, and the Galaxy were back in the lead.

34′ — Boateng cuts inside, blows past his man, makes it 3-1 — There’s playing in top gear, and there’s having an extra gear that you rarely have to use because no one else on the field has it. Boateng falls into the latter category.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Emmanuel Boateng

Goalscorers: Gordon (14′), Plata (21′), Boateng (26′, 34′)

MLS Cup Playoffs: Toronto FC 3-1 Philadelphia Union (video)

Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC
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The game in 100 words (or less): 10 years later, Toronto FC are MLS Cup Playoffs victors. For eight seasons, the playoffs eluded them altogether. Last year, they were one-and-done in embarrassing fashion at the hands of their local rivals. In 2016, it was  their year — a proclamation we’d heard plenty times before — and so far, they’ve lived up to the hype. Wednesday’s 3-1 home victory over the Philadelphia Union in the knockout round gets the monkey off the Reds’ back, but more importantly, afforded Sebastian Giovinco, who bagged a goal and an assist on the night (his second straight game with such a line), 90 more minutes of game time after missing more than a month through injuries as the regular season wound down. After 270 minutes of action, the Atomic Ant looks sharp as ever, and destined to terrorize New York City FC, whom TFC will face in the conference semifinals, beginning Sunday.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three Four moments that mattered

15′ — Atlidore feeds Giovinco for 1-0 — The first playoff goal in TFC’s 10-year history. Poor goalkeeping, ball-watching defending, terrible touches, an overhead cross, and a strike off the crossbar. There’s a lot going on here. Watch it all right here.

49′ — Osorio slams home from the corner for 2-0 — The Union have been bad at defending set pieces all season, so is it at all surprising a set-piece gaffe effectively ended their season? No, it’s not.

73′ — Bedoya puts the loose ball home for 2-1 — Speaking of failing to effectively clear a corner kick, the Union were gifted a lifeline 15 minutes before full-time.

85′ — Altidore puts it out of reach, seals it for TFC — Ken Tribbet did not have the best night a center back has ever seen. His final blunder resulted in Jozy Altidore reclaiming TFC’s two-goal lead, and ending the Union’s 2016 season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Sebastian Giovinco

Goalscorers: Giovinco (15′), Osorio (49′), Bedoya (73′), Altidore (85′)

Men In Blazers podcast: Mourinho’s Chelsea return; Bradley’s 1st point

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Rog and Davo break down Jose Mourinho’s return to Chelsea with Manchester United, another stumble for Manchester City and Bob Bradley’s first Premier League point.

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VIDEO: Altidore, Giovinco combine for TFC’s first-ever playoff goal

Sebastian Giovinco
Chris Young/The Associated Press via AP
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It’s been 10 years in the making, and Toronto FC finally have their first-ever goal in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

After failing to qualify for the playoffs in each of their first eight seasons, 2015 saw the Reds venture into the postseason for the first time ever, only to be thumped in the knockout round, 3-0, by their 401 derby rival Montreal Impact, of all sides.

This is the year, though, or so we’ve said and been told all season long. While it remains to be seen how deep of a run TFC can muster in 2016, they’ll always have the Jozy Altidore‘s terrible first touch; Altidore’s wayward second and third touches; Altidore’s overhead cross; and Sebastian Giovinco’s strike, all of which you can watch in all its hilarity glory below.

[ MORE: Power rankings — Playoffs edition | MLS Cup predictions ]