Christen Press

Megan Rapinoe NWSL
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USWNT’s Rapinoe, Heath among players opting out of NWSL tournament

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U.S. national team players Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath and Christen Press have opted out of the National Women’s Soccer League tournament kicking off this weekend in Utah.

Heath and Press, who played with Rapinoe on the champion World Cup team last summer in France, cited concerns about the coronavirus for their decisions not to play.

“Although I want to be on the field with my teammates doing what I love, because of the uncertainty and risks created by COVID-19, I have chosen not to participate in the NWSL Challenge Cup,” Heath, who plays for the Portland Thorns, said in a statement released by the team.

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The Challenge Cup opens Saturday with a game between the Thorns and the defending champion North Carolina Courage. The league’s teams announced their rosters on Tuesday.

Among the national team players taking part in the tournament are Chicago’s Julie Ertz, U.S. Soccer’s Player of the Year, and teammate Alyssa Naeher, North Carolina’s Crystal Dunn and Portland’s Becky Sauerbrunn.

The league was rocked by the announcement Monday that the Orlando Pride were dropping out of the tournament after six players and four staff members tested positive for COVID-19. The withdrawal leaves eight teams participating in the monthlong tournament.

A new schedule was released Tuesday following the Pride’s withdrawal. In addition to Portland’s game against the Courage on Saturday, the Chicago Red Stars will play the Washington Spirit in the late match.

Rapinoe’s team, OL Reign, did not provide a reason for her decision to sit out.

“Megan let us know that she has decided not play in the tournament. Like all NWSL players, she was given the option to participate. Farid (Benstiti, coach of the Reign) and I would love to have her with the club for the tournament, but we understand and respect her decision,” Reign CEO Bill Predmore said in a statement.

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Press released a statement through her team, the Utah Royals, that said: “It is deeply painful not to be able to play the game I love, and to watch the broader effects of the global pandemic on our league, sports, and our world. Regrettably, given the uncertainty created by COVID-19, I must elect not to participate in this tournament. I know how fortunate I am to be able to make this choice. I have enormous respect and gratitude for those who do not have the luxury to choose whether to report to work, including our selfless and heroic first responders.”

Sky Blue previously announced that Carli Lloyd would not take part in the tournament because of a minor left knee injury. Teammate Mallory Pugh won’t play because of a hip injury.

The NWSL is the first team sport in the United States to return after sports were shut down because of the coronavirus outbreak. Players were given the option of opting out without losing salaries or insurance.

Teams will be sequestered during the tournament and games will be played at stadiums in Herriman and Sandy, which are suburbs of Salt Lake City. The tournament will run through July 26.

The opener and the final will be broadcast on CBS.

USWNT wins third SheBelieves Cup

SheBelieves Cup
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Megan Rapinoe and Christen Press scored early goals to help the USWNT to a 3-1 win over Japan, reclaiming the SheBelieves Cup in the process.

Lindsey Horan added a goal in the 83rd minute to salt away the win after a short dicey period.

Vlatko Andonovski improves to 10-0 as USWNT coach and leads the Yanks to their third SheBelieves Cup crown (2016, 2018).

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Japan’s Mana Iwabuchi scored in the 57th minute, ending a shutout streak that ran 788 minutes since conceding twice to Sweden in Andonovski’s debut as head coach on Nov. 7.

The U.S. players took the field for warm-ups with their shirts inside-out, hiding the federation logo due to an ongoing and fierce dispute with president Carlos Cordeiro’s administration.

Rapinoe spun home a free kick in the seventh minute after a dangerous Japanese foul on Lindsey Horan left the star favoring her shoulder.

The goalkeeping was suspect, but we can thank it for giving us an even better highlight.

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It wasn’t 1-0 for long, thanks to a ruinous giveaway from Japan.

One pass, one chip, 2-0.

Press is on fire, scoring a wondergoal in the tournament opener before assisting the match-winning goal in the second contest.

Goalkeeper Adrianna Franch made a few saves as Japan found footing in the second half, including a fine double stop in the 51st minute.

Japan seized momentum after Iwabuchi’s goal, consistently driving down the right flank to try and find receivers in front of goal.

Franch made a big save late, and Narumi Miura plunked the post with a bid as the match entered its final 15 minutes.

But Horan turned a header inside the near post off a late corner kick to end the Japanese threat.

Ertz late header pushes USWNT past Spain (video)

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On International Women’s Day, Julie Ertz’s sublime header in the 87th minute handed the United States women’s national team a crucial victory over Spain.

The USWNT’s 1-0 win over their European counterparts consolidates their position atop of the SheBelieves Cup standing, with the home side at six points after two games. Both Spain and England, who edged Japan by a goal on Sunday, trail the Yanks by three points.

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Spectators at Red Bulls Arena saw the USWNT loss the possession battle by 20 percent, despite registering more shots on target (4) than Spain (3). Midway through the first half, Jenni Hermoso hit the post with a stealthy header, surprising Vlatko Andonovski’s backline.

No header, however, captured as much attention from the reflectors as Ertz’s, who simply had to put her head on the ball following Christen Press’ perfectly-placed cross.

 

The USWNT, who can win the SheBelieves Cup with a draw, close out the annual round-robin competition against Japan on Wednesday night in Frisco, Texas.

Press wonder goal leads USWNT past England (video)

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The United States women’s national team opened the 2020 SheBelieves Cup with a 2-0 defeat of reigning champs England in Orlando on Thursday.

Christen Press and Carli Lloyd scored goals in the win.

The Yanks finish the evening just behind Spain on the table after the latter beat Japan 3-1. Lucia Garcia scored twice for Spain after Japan leveled the score before halftime.

The tournament moves to New Jersey for Sunday’s second match day, where Japan will host England before the Yanks entertain Spain.

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The U.S. out-attempted England 23-8 to get a measure of tournament revenge from the 2-2 draw last season. The USWNT, of course, beat England in World Cup semifinal. Press scored in that 2-1 win, too.

Lloyd scored her goal off a nifty scoop pass from Lindsey Horan, and Julie Ertz had a goal ruled offside late in the match.

Press’ goal was dynamite stuff with spin rate like a top MLB pitcher, giving her six goals already since the calendar turned to 2020.

USWNT guarding against letdown with Olympic berth on line

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Carson, Calif. — The United States isn’t really motivated by what happened four years ago in the Rio Games as the team heads into an all-important Olympic qualifying match Friday night.

Coming off a World Cup championship in France last summer, the United States just wants to guard against any letdown.

Christen Press said it’s difficult after all the attention that comes in the wake of winning soccer’s premier tournament to transition so quickly to preparation for the Olympics.

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“I think that the mentality the group that was a part of 2015 and 2016 is bringing into this transition is that we have to have a short memory,” she said. “We have to let go of the World Cup and we have to go into this like this is our big tournament for the next three years. And so I think that that’s a good lesson to have learned.”

The United States had also won the World Cup in 2015 and went into the Rio Games brimming with confidence – only to be ousted in the quarterfinals by Sweden. It was the U.S. team’s earliest ever exit from the Olympics.

On Friday, the top-ranked United States will play Mexico in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying tournament with one of the region’s two berths in the Tokyo Games on the line. Canada faces Costa Rica for the other spot.

The U.S. and Canada won the Olympic berths four years ago. The Canadians went on to win their second consecutive bronze medal in Brazil.

Canada is led by captain Christine Sinclair, who surpassed retired U.S. star Abby Wambach’s international goals record in the group stage. Sinclair, who has been on the national team since 2000, has 186 career goals heading into the semifinals. That’s the most among men or women.

Canada coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller said it was important that his team avoids complacency during qualifying. And indeed, the team swept group stage play without conceding a goal.

“No matter who we play, we need to play to Canadian standard. It has to be our level of performance that we play to. It’s so easy to play a team that you’re better than, and then drop to their level,” he said.

By winning its group handily, eighth-ranked Canada avoided facing the United States in the semis. Costa Rica, ranked No. 37 in the world, has never made the 12-team field for the Olympics, although Las Ticas did play in the 2015 World Cup.

The Canadians are undefeated in 13 previous meetings with Costa Rica. In the 2016 qualifying tournament, Canada defeated Las Ticas 3-1 in the semifinals.

“It was a close match. It was a match where we made many mistakes, but it is in the past,” Costa Rica coach Amelia Valverde said. “We’re focusing on right here, right now.”

Mexico, ranked No. 26, made the field for the 2004 Olympics but has not been back since. However, Mexico is on the rise, boosted by a domestic women’s league. The team won its first two group-stage matches before falling 2-0 to Canada.

Like Canada, the United States swept its group stage matches without allowing a goal. Lindsey Horan led the way with five goals and Press added four.

U.S. midfielder Rose Lavelle emphasized that the team can’t get ahead of itself.

“I think that we know that what we did in France is kind of meaningless now. It doesn’t dictate how the rest of the year goes or dictate right now what our future is,” she said. “So while last year was so fun, we know that we have to set our sights on new goals. And I think before we even talk about the Olympics, we have to talk about our game versus Mexico and qualifying there.”