NWSL Challenge Cup’s hottest trend: Injuries — Must-click woso links — Hear from Vlatko Andonovski about the upcoming Uzbekistan matches

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, April 4, 2022

Personal note: Sorry everybody about my absence last week! I went to visit my daughter at college for some much needed “us” time. Sometimes you gotta just step back from all-sports-all-the-time, especially with the tournaments, the men’s World Cup qualifying and everything else.

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A concerning trend emerged in the NWSL preseason: Serious injuries.

Lynn Williams hurt her right leg in the Current’s Challenge Cup opener. While the team did not reveal the nature of the injury, but said it required surgery and it will keep her out for the season. Vlatko Andonovski indicated it was a hamstring injury.

Marta tore the ACL in her left knee in the Pride’s match against the North Carolina Courage. She’ll also need surgery and she’s out for the season.

“We’re absolutely heartbroken for Marta. She’s an incredible leader and we’ll of course miss that on the field this season. But if you know anything about Marta, she will face this challenge head on like she does with each training or game, and we know she’ll do all she can to continue leading the team off the field. We look forward to helping her through this recovery so she’s back even stronger.” — Orlando Pride General Manager Ian Fleming said.

Chicago Red Stars defender Tierna Davidson tore her ACL in practice and is out for the season.

Defender Sarah Gorden’s torn ACL ended her first season with Angel City before the Challenge Cup games began.

Additionally, Casey Murphy and Morgan Gautrat both picked up minor injuries. And Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn are out for the time being.

It seems like a lot, right?

There have been numerous theories: The NWSL preseason is too crowded with the Challenge Cup and international breaks. The offseason is too short. There are no consistent training and treatment standards across the league. Field conditions are sometimes substandard.

Another interesting suggestion: The Challenge Cup should not be held at the start of the season, the games should be played within the season, like the U.S. Open Cup in men’s leagues.

Here’s what U.S. national coach Vlatko Andonovski had to say about it:

We look very detailed at everything, anything that happens or has the misfortune to happen, and we cannot put any any connection between all these injuries. They happen to be players on different teams, different environments, different setups. It seems like it’s just an unfortunate that they happened to get injured, some of them in training, some of them in games, some of them with the national team — actually we had Morgan Gautrat, who had a little bit of an injury that she picked up with the national team. So there’s no connection between them. One thing I can say is that I’m really sorry for what is happening because I’m sure it is really hard for the players. It’s hard for the staff. I mean anytime we get a call from from the medical medical team, we know it’s not good. We’re just hoping that they recover and get back on the field stronger.”

Here’s what I come back to: The Challenge Cup is a preseason tournament. Yes, there’s a trophy, but it’s still a time for players to build fitness and for coaches to analyze both talent and tactics. I don’t like the idea of putting players in highly competitive situations this early in the season.

Couple of other things: The heat is still on the Timbers and Thorns to their response to both the abuse allegations against former player Andy Polo, and the harassment/sexual coercion accusations leveled at former coach Paul Riley.

Madison had the guts to do this.

I know the club wishes this would go away, but it’s just not. Even the release of the MLS investigation into Polo and a 12-point plan of action didn’t quiet the critics.

I have no sway in all of this, but I’d personally like to see the team give a sizeable donation to a domestic violence shelter. There’s a good one in Portland: Bradley Angle. It’s been around longer than any other such shelter on the West Coast. Here’s the website if you are so inclined to give.

Oh and also: Gay.


Hope Solo was arrested, and the initial reports don’t look good. Let’s hope she gets any help she needs and that those babies are safe.

Paul Danzer for the Portland Tribune with a nice story on Natalia Kuikka.

Seriously, who didn’t see this coming? Qatar will take away rainbow flags from fans.

My wonderful AP colleague Tales Azzoni on the massive crowd at Camp Nou

The Equalizer’s Dan Lauletta on the injuries in the Challenge Cup.

Here’s Sandra Herrera’s story on Lynn Williams for CBS Sports.

ESPN’s Caitlin Murray on the all the injuries

Current falls to Racing from the Kansas City Star

CBC on Janine Beckie’s move to Portland.

The Washington Post on the sale of the Spirit to Michele Kang closing.

Nice Column in the San Diego Union-Tribune on Jill Ellis.

The Athletic’s Meg Linehan on how the injuries impact the national team.

LA Daily News on Angel City working through things.

Danielle Lerner for the Houston Chronicle with a nice story on Rachel Daly.

Five at The IX

We have in-person access to players after Thorns matches! So Here are a couple of post-game videos from Saturday night’s game between the Thorns and the OL Reign. The Reign won 1-0 on Rose Lavelle’s goal.

First up: Rocky Rodriguez

Here’s Emily Menges:

Andonovski on Uzbekistan roster!

Finally, here’s a bit about what Vlatko Andonovski had to say about the roster for the upcoming games against Uzbekistan. My story on the roster is here.

Question: Is the timeline for bringing the veterans back?

Andonovski: First, I’m very happy to see some of them back on the field. Obviously, Alex, Christen, Tobin started playing, some even 90 minutes, some not quite. Pinoe’s still injured. Becky’s injured but in terms of calling them in, as of right now, all I can say is that they’re definitely they’re not out of the picture by any means. But for this particular camp or these particular games, we felt like this is the group that we want to go forward with and will give us the best chance to go to be successful.

Question: This is Bella Bixby’s second call up I was just wondering if you could tell us what she showed you in the November camp in Australia.

Andonovski: Bella is someone that we’ve been watching out for a long time and we felt like when she was in in November, we didn’t have a chance to see as much as we wanted to. But then we were watching in the tournament, watching a live tournament in Portland, and I was at those games. The goalkeeper coach was actually coaching the U-23 national team, was on the staff of the U-23 national team, so he had a chance to watch Bella as well. With everything that we that we saw, we want to bring her in, we feel like she she needs more opportunities and we feel like she’s one of those players that needs to be in the system anytime we have a chance to bring her in, just so that she gets familiarized and gets more comfortable.

Question: Aside from just being healthy, like what do you think have been the keys to Mallory Pugh’s return to form and return to prominence with the national team?

Andonovski: First I want to say I’m so happy with Mal’s performance, I’m so happy with her form. I know I was sitting in the same spot a year and a half ago, trying to explain what what Mal needs in order to be back on the national team. And it was hard for me because we knew how much potential she has but we felt like she needed a little bit of a wake up call at that moment. And I’m so proud of her, the way she took it, she accepted the challenge and came back and proved that she can do this. Very proud of Mal, very happy for her because it seems like she enjoys the game more, she’s more enthusiastic, she’s more mature, plays a lot more mature. And in the last camp, when we could see a little bit more, even her leadership qualities. In several instances, we saw her directing traffic in the middle of the field, talking to the players. And if you look at the group of players that were on the team, or on the field in the SheBelieves game, she was probably one of the most experienced ones in terms of caps or even time on the national team. So once again, I’m very happy for her and excited to see her in the next camp as well.

Question: It looks like we have maybe one more FIFA window after this and then CONCACAF qualifying. Does that timeline influence your timeline for evaluating players?

Andonovski: We do take in consideration how many games we have ahead of us how many windows. We only have four games, 20 days together to make the right decision. Sometimes it’s not enough. So that’s why we take in consideration what the players do in their markets, the form that they’re in, how they perform. If they are forwards, how they influence the team in the attacking side, the scoring goals, are they assisting on the goals, how they bring the players around them into the game. If they’re defenders, what they do individually or how they work with the lines, or the group of players around them. So everything that is happening, we are monitoring, evaluating, analyzing. For that reason, I’m very thankful for the Challenge Cup because we were able to see so many games and players in their environments that it is exciting.

Question: Some of the reaction to the team going up against Uzbekistan, a lot of was made about a No. 1 going up against No. 48. For you as the head coach and this roster, that you’re continuing to get evaluations of what are some of the challenges that you’re going to be presenting to these players ahead of this match?

Andonovski: Obviously, we know that there was a different opponent lined up in this window, but for different reasons that didn’t happen. So I’m happy that we were able to get these games in, and Uzbekistan was the highest ranked of the teams that was in front of us. But we’re going to take this game no differently than any other game, or opponent. We’re taking this game very seriously and I know that the players look at this game as an opportunity to showcase themselves, to prove themselves or to prove that they belong on this team. With Uzbekistan, we have a couple of objectives ahead of us and we’re hoping to we’re hoping to achieve those. One of those objectives is, there’s a group of players that we want on the field in same time, as much as possible. We’re going try to do that. We did that in the SheBelieves Cup. We had players like Mal, and Soph and Cat on the field together, just so they can get on the same page, they can learn how to work with each other. So we have certain relationships that we want to see and we want to see them on the field as much as possible. There are certain tactical objectives that we want to achieve. So regardless of where the opponent stands on the rankings, this is a game and opportunity for us to get better.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
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Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Annie Peterson