Solo and Boxx are Hall of Famers — More Spirit turmoil, Thorns questions — Interview with Alyssa Naeher

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, January 31, 2021

Congrats to Hope Solo, Shannon Boxx and all the others who were named to the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame. Disclosure: I’m a voter, and voted for both women. I also voted for Lauren Holiday, who just missed the cut.

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Jeff Kassouf from The Equalizer wraps up the Hall’s newest members.

Just when you thought things with the Washington Spirt were about to be resolved, it got uglier.

As you recall from last week, the NWSL Board of Governors appeared to clear the way for Y. Michele Kang to assume control of the team.

But then Baldwin emailed his fellow investors this past week that leveled a series of accusations against Kang. The letter was first reported by Sportico (note paywall), and also obtained by The Athletic. He claims, among other things, that Kang has cost the club $1.5 million in revenue, but doesn’t say how.

His accusations were also personal, pointing out political contributions. He also weirdly says that Kang offered Burke a Maserati if he won the NWSL championship.

It should be noted that Kang has the support of the Spirit players.

On the other side of the country are the Thorns players, who released a statement saying that the front office investigation surrounding the team’s actions surrounding former coach Paul Riley’s tenure in Portland. Riley was accused of sexual harassment and coercion by former players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim, and the fallout rocked the league last year.

One catch: The “internal business review” did not allow for interviews of former or current players, at the request of the league and the players’ association.

Becky Sauerbrunn addressed the issue on Twitter.

The results and limitations of this investigation were shared with us and we now share them with you. When allowed, I truly hope that the players comfortable to do so will speak to the firm. No one will be satisfied until all voices are heard — all anyone wants is the entire truth.”

The Thorns’ players also asked that club employees be treated with respect, given the emotional nature of the issue. THEY’RE RIGHT.

We truly appreciate your understanding as we all continue to work our way through a very emotional and complex situation. If we have one ask of you right now it would be this: please be respectful to all club employees, their friends and families. We understand that this situation is highly charged and deeply personal for everyone but let’s do our best to not make a difficult situation more painful.”

It is notable that Gavin Wilkinson has been reinstated as President of Soccer for the Thorns, after being placed on a leave of absence. The team did not have a statement.

Meanwhile, there’s still this hanging over the start of the season.

Kassouf took a look at the status of the negotiations.

(LATE Editor’s note: it just got ratified!)

And one more newsy item before I go: We’ve got teams qualified for the 2023 World Cup! Congrats to first-timers the Philippines. China, Japan and South Korea also qualified.

Lots of NWSL teams have been signing players ahead of the season, and I couldn’t include them all here. Apologies.

We knew Sinclair wasn’t retired because of what she said following her FIFA award (It was in the IX!) but she signed with the Thorns for another year.

Rapinoe and Lavelle re-sign with the Reign. Guess Rapinoe isn’t quite ready to call it quits either.

But Amy Rodriguez decided to move on to the next phase of her career. She’s joining the coaching staff at USC (Go Trojans!) From Sandra Herrera at CBS Sports.

Another good story here from Herrera on Maria Sanchez.

The IX’s fearless leader Howard Megdal with his story for Forbes on A-Rod.

Lindsey Horan is headed to Lyon, which was the worst kept secret in the NWSL.

Jess Fishlock spoke to Jayda Evans from the Seattle Times about the upcoming season.

Interesting story from the BBC on Fishlock eying a political career.

The BBC also did a story exploring player/coach relationships in women’s soccer. This one is a must-read.

ESPN’s Caitlin Murray on the Thorns’ situation.

While the USWNT was holding training camp in Austin, fans were rallying for a women’s team.

The Courier-Journal with a story on Jess McDonald joining Racing.

Steph Yang of The Athletic spoke to the Wave’s Sofia Jakobsson.

Craig Harrington, remember him?

Rachel Corsie is headed off to Aston Villa.

The Manilla Times on the women’s national team making the World Cup field. Another one is here. First time the Philippines has earned a World Cup berth, men or women.

Players in England now get maternity leave, from Suzanne Wrack.

I wrote about Alyssa Naeher and her return to the team after that disappointing Olympic injury for the AP

Oh and that provides a good segue to…

Five at The IX: Alyssa Naeher

Question: How are you easing into camp and what are the goals you might be setting for yourself and with the training staff like what what goals are you looking to hit here?

Naeher: My goals for looking ahead are — I’m 100% No restrictions Not holding anything back from that perspective. So now it’s just getting back up to speed, now it’s just cleaning back up the technical pieces and obviously I think the biggest thing is there’s always going to be you know, little habits or things that that pop back up after some time away. So obviously identifying those and working to kind of work those things back out. But I think for me, after a long time away, it’s been I think almost six, seven months now. So I’m excited to be healthy. It’s been a long, long recovery and I’m excited to get back in with the group to put my head down and just get back to work. I think it’s an exciting group. You know, the January camp is always that where it’s just a grind. And for me, it’s just that’s my goal with this, is just to get back in and get back to playing like I know that I can. Obviously that’s going to take a little bit of time just to get back up to full speed. But I feel great, 100%, no restrictions and excited to get through this week.

Question: I was curious to know what it’s been like with Aubrey and Casey in camp?

Naeher: They’ve been great. You know Aubrey is reigning NWSL champion goalkeeper of the year. Casey had a great year with North Carolina and finished with two great games against Australia in November. So they they bring a high level to the training sessions. It’s a competitive environment and we’re all gonna just keep pushing each other. I think that’s the biggest thing is, the competitiveness of it just makes everybody in the group better. It’s a high level of training and high level of focus. I’m excited for the two of them.

Question: Is there anything that you learned about yourself either as a player or just a person during your recovery from injury that you’re hoping to take forward with you?

Naeher: I think the biggest thing is not taking anything for granted. I think, especially when the injury happened, the timing of it, coming off the quarterfinal game against the Netherlands, being on such a high. This game can be kind of cruel to go from such a high to such a low that quickly. So, for me, it’s just not taking anything for granted. You never know when an injury is going to pop up. It’s just a little bit more of enjoying every part of it, enjoying every training session again, enjoying every meeting, all the PT sessions. I had a fun little group of swimmers that kind of took me under their wing in my rehab process. So, able to keep fit in other ways that I wasn’t throwing my body all over the ground. So grateful for the people that I had around me, and the people that helped me over the last six months, to get back to get back to me and get back to who I am and kind of re energize my motivation going forward.

Question: Were you much of a swimmer prior to that rehab process?

Naeher: I was not. I was told I couldn’t do anything and just had to sit still and recover. Which I don’t do very well at. So I was like `Can I swim? Can I do anything?’ So I swam a lot. At the gym was at there’s a group of — they’re all triathletes or former college swimmers and they were watching me struggle in the pool. I was trying to stay afloat, and they were giving me tips along the way. It’s cool. It kind of turned into its own little community and I enjoyed it, I look forward to going. It was like, three days a week, and I was like, `You guys going to be at the pool today.’ It was just kind of something fun to look forward to. It’s never easy to kind of grind through recovery from an injury.

Question: With the national team being back here, it shines the national spotlight on Austin, but what that also does is expose the lack of a women’s team here. So I’m wondering what you make of the facilities here in Austin, and do you think Austin would be a good fit for the NWSL?

Naeher: I think Austin would be a great fit for the NWSL. I think the facilities here are great. They’ve done a phenomenal job with the resources that they have in the fields and training grounds and locker rooms and weight rooms and everything like that, and I would love to see a women’s team here some day. It would be an ideal location.

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
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Annie Peterson