U.S. Women’s National Team

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U.S. Soccer stands ground in face of USWNT federal lawsuit against federation

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U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro said the federation was blindsided when, on March 9, the U.S. Women’s National Team players filed a federal gender discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer itself.

In an open letter to fans, and likely, members of the USWNT, Cordeiro touted the financial investments U.S. Soccer has made in women’s soccer. This includes adding additional members to the USWNT technical staff, creating additional U.S. women’s youth national teams, and the creation of the SheBelievesCup. However, Cordeiro appears to have misunderstood, or refuses to understand, the underlying reasons behind the USWNT lawsuit. It’s related to the terms equal v. equatable.

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The USWNT players believe that U.S. Soccer is discriminating against their team on the basis of gender. For example, even though U.S. Soccer audits show that the USWNT earned more money in profit and revenue for the federation than their male counterparts over the past four years, the USWNT players are compensated well below the men’s team, per an article from Caitlin Murray on Yahoo!

In his open letter, Cordeiro stated that, “U.S. Soccer believes that all female athletes deserve fair and equitable pay, and we strive to meet this core value at all times.” In theory, if this belief was enacted, the USWNT players would be earning much more than their male counterparts, which failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Even in its 2017 CBA with the USWNT, which both sides are reportedly not happy with, according to the New York Times, the USWNT players, which had earned more than the USMNT players in the past year, did not receive “equitable,” or fair compensation, in comparison to the USMNT.

Ultimately, it’s unclear whether the USWNT will succeed with their lawsuit. It’s reportedly a high bar to jump over to prove that U.S. Soccer intentionally discriminated against the USWNT due to their gender. But with all the smoke, allagations and proof that exists in the wildly different compensation structures, the USWNT does have an argument to make that they at the least deserve truly equal treatment with the USMNT, if not better.

Cordeiro closed his letter stating he’s had initial conversations with some veteran USWNT players (those players were not disclosed), and he’s looking forward to more discussions with the players to work out a deal. But if U.S. Soccer continues to fight over the equal v. equitable label, it’s unlikely there will be a lot of progress made.

Late bloomer Zerboni eyes the Women’s World Cup

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McCall Zerboni is so dedicated to her soccer career that she once hawked random products to beachgoers in Southern California to make ends meet.

While Zerboni’s worst job ever paints a depressing picture of what some pro athletes must do to support themselves just to play the sport they love, it also shows how determined she has always been.

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Now 32, the savvy midfielder is getting her shot at the U.S. national team and a chance to make the roster for the World Cup this summer. She was named this week to the 23-player roster for the upcoming SheBelieves Cup tournament that kicks off Wednesday in Chester, Pennsylvania.

She’s come a long way from the days of having to work multiple jobs – including that one dreadful offseason she spent wandering the beaches back home while trying to sell stuff to strangers – all to support her playing career.

“I’m just sort of one of those people where I wake up every day and just say that I want to maximize the day and my potential,” she said. “Just to live a day at a time and step by step. I think it’s easier to persevere through 24 hours – and then that turns into a week, a month and a year.”

Zerboni got her first call-up to the national team as an injury replacement in October 2017 and became the oldest player – at 30 – to earn her first international cap. She became something of a regular last year, playing in five matches before fracturing a bone in her elbow.

It was a devastating blow in Zerboni’s mind, to come so far and then to suddenly be sidelined. But she refused to wallow in misfortune and returned to the team for January training camp, playing in the team’s 1-0 victory over Spain as a sub for Julie Ertz.

Naturally it makes sense to ask Zerboni if she considers herself a late bloomer.

“Yeah, of course, when you look at the number 32, it’s like `Wow, that’s old,”‘ she said, laughing. “But honestly, I don’t feel old. In some ways I feel like I’m just hitting my stride, and that goes back to perseverance and the desire and will to challenge myself every day.”

Zerboni currently plays professionally for the North Carolina Courage, which won the National Women’s Soccer League championship last season.

After playing college soccer at UCLA, Zerboni began her professional soccer career with Women’s Professional Soccer, a league that existed for three seasons between 2009 and 2011.

Her last team in WPS, the Western New York Flash, joined the NWSL for its inaugural season in 2013 and brought Zerboni along. She also played for the Portland Thorns and the Boston Breakers before returning to the Flash in 2016. That team became the Courage the next year.

Last season, she became the first NWSL player to play 10,000 regular-season minutes.

“To see her on the verge of her first World Cup is just fantastic. She has followed a long and winding path but that process has made her the player and person she has become,” Courage coach Paul Riley said. “If you do enough small things right, big things can happen. She has been relentless and when she steps out on the greatest stage in women’s soccer it will signify what work ethic, determination, natural ability, never-say-die attitude can do.”

Zerboni has not been an allocated player for the U.S. national team, meaning her NWSL salary has not been paid by the U.S. Soccer Federation. That has limited her earning potential in the league, where the top salary is $44,000. The league minimum is $15,750 a season.

Because at times she hasn’t been paid a living wage, Zerboni has had to borrow from family and work part time at other jobs to make ends meet, something she says has humbled her.

“I’ve thought about quitting numerous times, mostly because of the heartbreak I’ve experienced, whether it’s teams folding, or leagues folding, or all the things you miss, the important things like birthdays, weddings, graduations, births of nieces and nephews. And getting paid pennies,” she said. “You’re constantly evaluating the sacrifice. Is it outweighing the satisfaction from playing football to miss out on all those things?

“So yeah, I’ve thrown my hands up and said `What am I doing?’ But there was always something still stirring in my heart to keep going. Now that I’m at the top level and on the biggest stage, all of those pieces are starting to come together for me. Something inside my spirit said, `Don’t stop. Don’t quit.”‘

Zerboni is hoping for call-ups to the remaining exhibition matches the United States will play heading into the game’s premier tournament, which opens in France in June.

The U.S. team is the defending World Cup champion and is loaded from top to bottom, but Zerboni hopes there’s room for her.

“Of course I’m hopeful. If we lose hope what do we have?” she said. “Right now I have everything. I’m full of hope, I’m full of desire, I’m full of passion. I want to be on that squad and get in there and help.”

Horan injured, left off U.S. roster for SheBelieves Cup

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CHICAGO — Lindsay Horan was left off the U.S. roster for the SheBelieves Cup tournament because of a quadriceps injury.

It was unclear when the Portland Thorns midfielder was hurt.

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Coach Jill Ellis announced 23 players for her roster on Tuesday. The United States opens with Japan on Feb. 27 in Chester, Pennsylvania, plays England on March 2 at Nashville, Tennessee, and closes group play three days later against Brazil in Tampa, Florida.

All four teams are among the top 10 in FIFA’s rankings and will play at this year’s Women’s World Cup in France.

“These are all teams that can go deep in the tournament this summer and provide the kind of tests we need as we continue to work to crystalize our lineup and our final roster for the World Cup,” Ellis said in a statement.

All 23 Americans were on the roster for the team’s exhibition games against France and Spain last month.

The United States will hold a pre-tournament training camp in Tampa, that includes four additional players: goalkeeper Jane Campbell, defenders Merritt Mathias and Emily Fox and midfielder Allie Long.

The roster:

Goalkeepers: Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars).

Defenders: Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (NC Courage), Kelley O’Hara (Utah Royals), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns).

Midfielders: Danielle Colaprico (Chicago Red Stars), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit), McCall Zerboni (NC Courage)

Forwards: Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue), Jessica McDonald (NC Courage), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Utah Royals), Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit), Megan Rapinoe (Seatle Reign)

Becky Sauerbrunn reflective as US sets sights on World Cup

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To hear Becky Sauerbrunn reference the “twilight” of her career is a bit unsettling. It’s abundantly clear from watching the 32-year-old defender on the field that she’s still at her peak.

But Sauerbrunn is thinking about a legacy as the U.S. national team readies for World Cup qualifying this fall. If the defending champions make the field for women’s soccer’s premier event in France next year, it will be her third World Cup.

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For Sauerbrunn, that legacy means using her voice to effect change. It includes her team’s public push for equitable pay – which culminated with a new contract last April with U.S. Soccer.

And more recently it includes her effort to send a team of underprivileged girls to the Street Child World Cup in Moscow this summer.

“I’ve been given a platform and I want to do good with it. I’ve been playing sort of in the twilight of my career and I’d really like to leave the game better than when I found it,” she said.

Sauerbrunn spent the beginning of the year recovering from a foot injury. She made her first appearances of the season in a two-game series against Mexico, coming in as a sub in the opening game, a 4-1 U.S. victory, then starting the second, a 6-2 win on Sunday.

“The stress reaction I had in my foot is better. I’ve been getting MRIs and it’s healing, which is great,” she said. “I really feel like I’m coming back healthy and now it’s about getting back into soccer form.”

A center back, Sauerbrunn helped anchor the stellar backline that was key to the team’s title run at the 2015 World Cup in Canada. The difference this time around is that the United States won’t have goalkeeper Hope Solo, who set records during her lengthy career but left the team on bad terms following the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

The search for the team’s new goalkeeper continues, with Jane Campbell of the Houston Dash getting the latest starting nod in Sunday’s friendly.

“We’re feeling really good,” Sauerbrunn said about the team’s mentality. “It’s unfortunate because we have quite a few injuries, so we’re missing four or five of our core players (including Tobin Heath and Julie Ertz). But what’s good about that is that it provides the opportunity for other players to show what they have and gain some valuable experience.”

Coach Jill Ellis continues to experiment with the backline although the dependable Sauerbrunn is a lock as a starter if she’s healthy. Crystal Dunn started as a fullback in Sunday’s game but moved up to an attacking position and Ellis indicated she liked versatility.

“I think overall what we’re looking for – these players obviously have to do the job defensively, but it’s also looking at what they can bring to our attack,” Ellis said.

For now Sauerbrunn is busy helping the Utah Royals open their first National Women’s Soccer League season. Sauerbrunn, a three-time NWSL Defender of the Year, played for FC Kansas City since the league’s inception in 2013 – but that team folded earlier this year and the players collectively went to the Royals.

The Royals will be looking for their first win of the season Saturday when they host the Chicago Red Stars.

She’s also lending her voice to raising funds for the Street Child World Cup team. The event in Moscow prior to the men’s World Cup this summer seeks to draw attention to the plight of homeless and orphaned children across the globe.

Sauerbrunn caused a stir recently on social media when she posted a photo of a baby soccer jersey and shorts, along with her cat. The tweet sent shockwaves through soccer fandom with speculation that she was pregnant.

“I’m like internally cringing just thinking about that. That was a prank gone awry. Do not use Twitter as a format for pranks,” she said. “I was cleaning out my apartment and saw this little Nike uniform and I thought, `Wow, it would be so funny to pull a prank.’ Such a backfire. Mia Hamm texted me and said, `Congratulations,’ and I thought, `I’m a terrible, terrible person, I just tricked Mia Hamm.’ Never again.”

For the record, she’s not pregnant. She’s got some things she’d like to accomplish on and off the field first.

Rapinoe, Morgan, Ertz lift US past South Korea, 3-1

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) Alex Morgan scored in a fourth straight game, Julie Ertz scored for the fourth time in five games, and the United States women beat South Korea 3-1 on Thursday night.

Megan Rapinoe added her 34th international goal and her 42nd assist.

Having assisted on Ertz’s diving header in the first half, Rapinoe scored on a penalty kick she drew in the 49th minute when pounced on a loose ball about 12 yards in front of the goal and was tripped by Ji Sohyun.

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Han Chaerin scored her first international goal in her South Korea debut to make it 2-1 just before the end of the first half.

U.S. forward Mallory Pugh had to leave the game late in the first half with a right hamstring injury. There was no immediate word on the severity of her injury after she was helped off the field by trainers.

Meanwhile, Carli Lloyd returned from a nine-week absence because of ankle injury, entering the game as a substitute in the 77th minute.

Midfielder Andi Sullivan started for the U.S. about 11 months after having reconstructive knee surgery. Her third minute shot narrowly missed the far post from about 18 yards. She was substituted out, as planned, at halftime.

South Korea began the game in a defensive posture and the U.S. maintained a decisive edge in possession, forcing Kang Gaae to make several sprawling saves before breaking though on Ertz goal in the 24th minute

Ertz dove in front of two defenders to redirect Rapinoe’s hard, low corner kick between the legs of Kang as the goal keeper tried to respond at the near post.

Morgan scored in the 40th minute, using her right foot to settle Kelley O’Hara’s bouncing pass from the end line, then pivoting and whipping her left foot through the ball from point-blank range. The goal was the 28-year-old Morgan’s 78th for the national squad.

Han scored against the run of play with a hard shot from about 25 yards that sailed beyond U.S. goal keeper Alyssa Naher’s reach before dipping under the cross bar.

Lloyd’s introduction drew an enthusiastic response from nearly 10,000 spectators in the Superdome. The two-time FIFA World Player of the Year missed a pair of U.S. exhibition wins over New Zealand last month because of an Aug. 13 ankle sprain in a National Women’s Soccer League match.

Forward Tobin Heath, who has an ankle injury, and defender Taylor Smith, who has an injured shoulder, were not in the lineup and are not expected to play in a second friendly scheduled between South Korea and the U.S. on Sunday in Cary, North Carolina.

Both women were hurt in the NWSL championship match.