Lori Chalupny

US coach Ellis won’t respond to Sundhage’s comments, other distractions

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba – The message is clear from United States women – and especially from their coach: They aren’t distracted.

“For me, all I do is focus on my players and my team and our preparation,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said Wednesday. “That’s really kind of where my mind is at, so I think I’ve made it pretty clear that distractions don’t really creep into my mind when I’m trying to prepare my players and my team for the game.”

Ellis’ message is the same one that she has echoed for weeks as the amount of media attention on the world’s No. 2 team has increased ahead of the 2015 Women’s World Cup, but the subject was different on Wednesday.

[KASSOUF: Women’s World Cup notebook – Morgan makes big return]

Sitting in front of an overflow media crowd of Swedes and Americans packed into a room unfit for the size of the eager crowd, the first two questions to Ellis revolved around Sweden coach Pia Sundhage’s comments in a New York Times article published on Tuesday.

Sundhage coached the United States from 2008-2012, winning two Olympic gold medals and leading the team to the 2011 World Cup final. On Friday, she will sit on the opposite bench to coach her native Sweden against the United States in a crucial match for the Swedes, who twice blew leads on Monday in a 3-3 draw with Nigeria.

[ MORE: Complete coverage of 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup ]

Sundhage was quoted in the Times piece as saying U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd was a “challenge” to coach because she is so “delicate.” Sundhage said Abby Wambach would be a substitute if she were still coaching the team and she noted that goalkeeper Hope Solo was a challenge herself, “especially when it comes to trouble.”

Ellis, who frequently discusses keeping herself and her players in a “bubble” to shield them from media distractions, said she was briefed on the article by her press officer. She says she did not talk to the team about the article.

The latest distraction comes days after an ESPN report yielding new details on Hope Solo’s domestic violence arrest in June 2014. Solo is alleged to have assaulted her half-sister, Teresa Obert, and teenage nephew in a confrontation. The case was dismissed on procedural grounds in January, but Obert and the prosecution are appealing the decision, bringing the subject back into the spotlight on Sunday, the day before the United States opened the World Cup against Australia. The Americans won 3-1 and Solo made several game-changing saves. Asked after the match if she was distracted, she said she is “perfectly focused.”

Ellis was peppered with questions about Solo on Sunday. She also said then that she was briefed on that report but hadn’t paid attention to it. Ellis reiterated that message on Wednesday about the quotes from Sundhage, under whom Ellis was an assistant coach at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

“We’re an incredibly professional group and the only focus for us is 3 points and our preparation to try to advance,” Ellis said Wednesday.

Lloyd told SI’s Grant Wahl that she “plans to respond on the field” on Friday.

U.S. defender Lori Chalupny, who was part of Sundhage’s 2008 Olympic team, was succinct in response to an inquiry about the report.

“I think when you’re in the World Cup, there’s no extra motivation needed,” she said.

Bubble or not, expect the U.S. to be extra fired up on Friday against their old coach.

Meet the US Women’s World Cup team: Defenders

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Four years ago the United States women were on the verge of a third World Cup title in the final against Japan, but twice conceded equalizers before losing in penalty kicks.

Fast-forward to 2015 and the starting defensive unit has changed drastically, including a very recent injection of youth.

[ NEWS: Latest on Women’s World Cup

Julie Johnston was opportunistic while filling in for injured teammates this spring and has solidified her spot as a starting center back alongside Becky Sauerbrunn. Meghan Klingenberg is likely to start at left fullback and Ali Krieger will likely start at right back as the only returning regular of the four from 2011 (Johnston and Klingenberg weren’t on the roster, and Sauerbrunn only played in one match after Rachel Van Hollebeke (then Buehler).

Buehler, Amy LePeilbet and Heather Mitts are out of the picture and Kelley O’Hara is a reserve now.

Lori Chalupny

Lori Chalupny is one of the most interesting stories on the United States national team. In 2008 she was widely heralded by her peers as the best left back in the world, helping the U.S. win a second straight Olympic gold medal. But she suffered several concussions and did not gain clearance from U.S. Soccer to play for the national team…until November. Five years later, she returned to the U.S. national team after obtaining medical clearance. Chalupny is versatile, capable of playing outside back, forward or in the middle of the park. In league play for Chicago and in the past professional league for Atlanta, Chalupny is often the best player on the field, regardless of which position she is in.

Whitney Engen

One of a handful of U.S. players to find their form abroad, Whitney Engen credits her first trip to Sweden to play for Tyreso as reason for her still playing the game. She played in a UEFA Champions League final with the team last year and won a league title with Liverpool in between. She’s a tall center back who provides the United States depth. Engen was a large part of three NCAA national championships in her four years at North Carolina and she seamlessly stepped into the professional circuit, helping a world all-start Western New York Flash team win the (now defunct) WPS title in 2010.

Meghan Klingenberg

‘Energy’ is the first word that comes to mind regarding Meghan Klingenberg. She brings it both on and off the field, and it is particularly evident when she scores. She has two career international goals heading into the World Cup and both were highlight-reel stunners. Over the past year, Klingenberg has solidified herself as the starting left fullback, a position the U.S. coach Jill Ellis asks a lot of defensively and in the attack. Klingenberg played with Engen and forward Christen Press at Tyreso. And she has a black belt in Taekwondo, so….watch yourself.

Ali Krieger

Ali Krieger was the best right fullback at the 2011 World Cup and a big reason the U.S. found success in there in Germany, where she played for over five years in the Frauen-Bundesliga for Frankfurt, where she won a UEFA Champions League title. She missed the 2012 Olympics after tearing her ACL in qualifying (in Vancouver, where the U.S. will play in the group stage; it’s also the site of the final). She has slowly worked her way back to form and she is healthy despite and early April concussion. Krieger now wears protective head gear made of the same material as bulletproof vests.

Julie Johnston

Julie Johnston is something of an anomaly for the U.S. women, who generally have a tough lineup to crack. Johnston was left off the World Cup qualifying roster in October but was soon re-added after an injury to Crystal Dunn. Johnston didn’t play at qualifying and only started earning more minutes in March at the Algarve Cup. Veteran Christie Rampone, the team’s longtime captain who turns 40 this month, was injured through much of the winter and spring. A hamstring injury to Engen then meant it was Johnston’s time to step up and she did exactly that, scoring in an Algarve Cup final win over France to start a three-game scoring streak. Johnston captained the U-20 team to a World Cup title in 2012 and she was named NWSL Rookie of the Year in 2014.

Kelley O’Hara

Once the NCAA’s leading scorer and record-breaking forward at Stanford, Kelley O’Hara is now a defender, although her versatility could also see her push into a higher role at times. O’Hara won the MAC Hermann trophy as college soccer’s best player in 2009, tallying 26 goals and 13 assists. She played every minute at the 2012 Olympics for now Sweden coach Pia Sundhage, but O’Hara’s time on the field with Jill Ellis in charge has been more limited as Meghan Klingenberg has locked down the left fullback spot. Ellis has talked about rotating her outside backs throughout the tournament, which should see O’Hara earn minutes.

Christie Rampone

Christie Rampone turns 40 years old during the tournament and she is the last remaining link to the 1999 team, the last U.S. squad to win the World Cup. Rampone has appeared for her country over 300 times, most among active players in the world and second only to former teammate, Kristine Lilly. Rampone, the team’s longtime captain, had been seemingly ageless throughout the past four years, but a back injury followed by an MCL sprain this winter and spring limited her pre-World Cup minutes to just 75 minutes. Johnston emerged as Rampone’s immediate and seemingly long-term successor in in the veteran’s absence. Expect Rampone to still play a vital role in this World Cup on and off the field. (Buehler’s red card in the quarterfinals in 2011 serving as a prime example of the need for several good center backs.)

Becky Sauerbrunn

Two-time reigning NWSL defender of the year, Becky Sauerbrunn over the past couple of years has gained backing from many as the world’s best defender. Her abilities to read the game and make intelligent decisions – on the ball and off – are second to none and she is sneakily dangerous going forward, known to make long adventurous runs at times, a common trait historically among American center backs. The success of the United States’ defense will largely be dictated by this general, who turns 30 on the opening day of the tournament.

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

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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.”

source:
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.”

State of the NWSL after Week 18: Saying goodbye to four, Rankings of Power, and a look at Week 19

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In the three days since we last talked NWSL soccer, the only changes on the local women’s soccer league’s landscape are four teams being closer to a 23rd game, four others falling 72 hours closer to the ends of their seasons. While we’ll get at least one more week with Kansas City, Western New York, Portland and Sky Blue after this weekend’s games, we’ll have to say goodbye to Boston, Chicago, Seattle, and Washington.

And rather than coming back next year, restarting these NWSL posts, regretting that I never thanked these teams for their parts in the NWSL’s first season, I want to summon the spirit of Alanis Morrissette and …

thank you India,
thank you terror,
thank you …

… all the teams that we’re not going to see after Sunday’s games:

FOR DIANA MATHESON, THANK YOU, WASHINGTON SPIRIT – It’s a shame Diana Matheson didn’t have much of a profile among American soccer fans before this NWSL season (what do we care about a Canadian star with 152 caps, am I right?). At least, it seems like she didn’t have much of a profile down here, because few talked about Matheson’s allocation to Washington as being a boon to the otherwise dispersal-deprived Spirit. Coming into the final week of the regular season, she’s scored eight of her team’s 15 goals.

More generally, her success is a reminder of how insular U.S. women’s soccer culture can be. Matheson has been Washington’s best player. Desiree Scott and Lauren Sesselmann have been crucial to FC Kansas City’s success. Sophie Schmidt’s provided valuable goals for Sky Blue. Portland’s Karina LeBlanc has been the league’s best goalkeeper, and Kaylyn Kyle’s been transformed into a valuable central defender for Seattle.

Canada is more than Christine Sinclair, which we all knew. But in the buildup to this season, we were so focused on the U.S. allocations that we overlooked the extent to which Canada’s allocations would influence the campaign. And Australians, too, for that matter! So thank you, Washington, for providing the platform from Matheson’s success.

thank you frailty
thank you consequence
thank you Diana Matheson!

FOR REINCARNATION, THANK YOU, SEATTLE REIGN FC – Because I’m based in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle’s horrible start caused a lot of curious, well-meaning colleagues to inquire about the future of Reign FC. Would Laura Harvey be fired? Would owner Bill Predmore just walk away? Would the NWSL revoke their franchise and give it to the Sounders?

And of course, the right answer at that point of the season was:

Over the summer, Seattle not only improved on the field but off. The crowds at Starfire Sports started to come around. The energy around the franchise changed.

Missing Megan Rapinoe, Hope Solo, and Amy Rodriguez (otherwise known as their entire original U.S. women’s national team allocation) ultimately left Seattle’s season D.O.A., but come summer, the team was reincarnated as something that defined itself by something other than playoff ambition. So Seattle, thank you for not defining yourselves by your spring results.

thank you `Pinoe’s hair
thank you Solo’s glare
thank you, thank you Fishlock!

NWSL Standings

Pos. PST
Rank
Team GP Pts. +/-
1 1 Kansas City 21 38 +13
2 2 W. New York 21 35 +15
3 4 Portland 21 35 +6
4 5 Sky Blue 21 35 +5
5 3 Boston 21 30 +2
6 6 Chicago 21 27 -5
7 7 Seattle 21 18 -13
8 8 Washington 21 13 -23

FOR THE CHALUPACABRA, THANK YOU, CHICAGO RED STARS – During the year without a women’s professional league, some of us forget how good Lori Chalupny is. We remembered how goos she was, but as the Red Stars became more dependent on her throughout season, we were jolted awake, as if a 5’4″, red-headed dervish had wedged a shoulder into our rib cage, knocking us out of our WPS-induced slumber.

And it’s no coincidence that Chicago, as they allowed themselves to rely more-and-more on Chalupny, climbed the table. It’s also no coincidence their playoff hopes effectively ended the moment Chalupny’s ankle was hurt in Portland.

Most media members’ MVP ballots are going to have Lauren Holiday one, Abby Wambach two. After that, Lori Chalupny may have been as good as anybody in the league. And for giving the former U.S. international a chance to show she’s still international-quality, thank you, Chicago.

how `bout unabashedly bawling your eyes out?
how `bout, Tom, giving Lori Chalupny a try out?

FOR SURVIVING THE ONSLAUGHT, LEARNING A LESSON, THANK YOU BOSTON – Despite a roster with talents like Sydney Leroux, Heather O’Reilly, and Lianne Sanderson, Boston’s first season is going to be be remembered for charge people to access their games online. While other teams made streams free, the Breakers charged for theirs, a decision only made worse when NWSL mandated teams to make games available online.

Boston entered a agreement with their broadcast partner, MediaBoss Television, before the NWSL sent out its mandate. From their point of view, they felt locked into a commitment, and while the situation created a ton of negative publicity, the club told Equalizer Soccer that pay-per-view helped them offset costs.

But these clubs are getting major subsidies from U.S. and Canadian soccer. It’s not unreasonable for the fans or federations to demand things like free streams, implying some of the subsidies go to things like quality equipment, consistent internet connections, and a certain standard of on-air personnel (all of which have been a problem with Boston’s pay broadcasts).

To the Breakers’ credit, it appears they’re shooting for a free stream next year. And at times, it seemed like they were more frustrated by this year’s arrangement than the casual fans who tweeted their displeasure with even pay-walled Breaker broadcast.

Regardless, thank you, Boston, for surviving the swell of negativity. And thank you for making it a learning experience (potentially).

Aaaaaaye yeeeeeeaaaaaah!
Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeah!
Yeeh, yeaaaah!

RANKINGS OF POWER

In reverse order. The underlying logic: Tomorrow, neutral site, who do we think is more likely to win:

8. Washington Spirit (last week: 8) – This was tough. Keeping the Spirit eighth after a six-point week? That hardly seems fair, but in my heart of hearts, I believe that if they played team number seven on at a neutral site, they’d likely lose.

But let’s stop being such bummers about this. For weeks, I’ve been writing nothing be negatives about the Spirit, recycling the same analysis, the same point of view, because nothing was changing.

Now something’s changed. Two games! Two wins! Two home shutouts! Who cares about some stupid power ranking when your win column goes from “1” to “3” in four days.

“Keep your rankings, Farley,” I’d say, if I were them. “We’ll take our wins.”

7. Seattle Reign (5) – Between kickoff in Rochester and Matheson’s late goal in Maryland, Seattle’s run-in went from “playing for pride” to “yeah, I guess.” A season-ending derby on Saturday against Portland could charge the batteries.

6. Chicago Red Stars (4) – Jackie Santaceterina’s second half brace salvaged a point against visiting Sky Blue, but the reality of their week was still bleak. They lost at Washington and didn’t get full points at home against a previously struggling Sky Blue.

5. Sky Blue FC (7) – We’re giving them major credit for taking a point at Chicago, but more importantly for Jim Gabarra’s side, this weekend represented progress from their previous performances. Remarkably, the team still has a chance at a home playoff game.

4. Portland Thorns FC (3) – Portland seemed happy with a draw in Rochester, and after losing three days earlier in Boston, that feeling was understandable. The change of approach, however, was a bit concerning for Portland fans, as the Thorns shouldn’t have to completely shift gears just because Alex Morgan is out of the lineup. Christine Sinclair and Tobin Heath is more than most teams have at their disposal.

3. Boston Breakers (6) – Cat Whitehill’s got seven points from three games as Breakers’ coach, and in taking wins over Portland and Kansas City, the Breakers are playing better than they have all season.

2. Western New York (2) – Didn’t play particularly well against either Boston or Portland but managed to hold on to second place. A full week off should recharge the team head of a tough finale against the Breakers.

1. FC Kansas City (1) – They’re 10-match unbeaten run is over after their worst performance of the season, but it’s going to take more than one banana skin to knock them off this list’s top spot.

League Leaders

Goals Assists
Lauren Holiday (FCKC) 12 Lauren Holiday (FCKC) 9
Sydney Leroux (BOS) 11 Lianne Sanderson (BOS) 7
Abby Wambach (WNY) 10 Abby Wambach (WNY) 7
4 tied at 8 Heather O’Reilly (BOS) 6
Katy Freels (SBFC) 6

COMING UP THIS WEEK

Saturday, August 17

Western New York Flash vs. Boston Breakers (8:00 p.m. Eastern) – A Flash win gives them home-field advantage in the semifinals (and the entire playoffs, if Kansas City loses). The only problem: They’re 0-1-2 against Boston this season, their loss coming in Rochester earlier this season (2-1, Apr. 27).

Seattle Reign FC vs. Portland Thorns FC (11:00 p.m. Eastern) – By the time the teams kick off in Tukwila, Portland will know if their quest for a home playoff game’s alive. They need to out-point Western New York to have a chance at the second seed, and since goal difference will be important should they end up tied with Sky Blue, Portland can’t settle for merely a victory. But given how Thorns FC have played over their last four games (1-2-1), any win is a good one for Portland.

Sunday, August 18

FC Kansas City vs. Chicago Red Stars (4:10 p.m. Eastern) – This one only matters if Western New York wins on Saturday. If not, FC Kansas City will have already clinched the league’s top seed. And if the Flash beat Boston, the Blues need only a point to stay in Overland Park throughout the playoffs.

Washington Spirit vs. Sky Blue FC (5:00 p.m. Eastern) – Whether they have a chance at something beyond the postseason’s fourth seed, Sky Blue has work to do. Last week in Chicago was progress, but they’re still not ready for the playoffs. Jim Gabarra has 90 minutes to find a postseason solution.