Tobin Heath’s back — Olympic roster flexibility and Julie Ertz’s availability — Must-click women’s soccer links

The IX: Soccer Mondays with Annie M. Peterson for July 5, 2021

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Just like last week, I’m going off on a bit of a track tangent again. It connects (OK, maybe only loosely) to the IOC and soccer. I swear. Really.

It’s a shame about Sha’Carri Richardson, who I mentioned last week.

I understand the arguments both for and against including marijuana among the list of banned substances. And I understand the idea that if you allow for exceptions, it could lead to problems.

But let’s be real, track and field is struggling for a fanbase right now. The ACTUAL doping scandals have done massive damage to the sport’s appeal.

Sha’Carri is a tremendous athlete and a larger-than-life personality. She’s good for the sport — someone who could attract new fans, generate lots of excitement.

The Onion nailed it, as usual.—%20The%20Onion%20(@TheOnion)%20a%20href=

I did a story for AP last fall on CBD and how many of the major sports have loosened restrictions on cannabinoids, recognizing that it is a non-opioid way to help with pain management and recovery. (Shoutout here to Rachael Rapinoe and Mendi for speaking to me!)

Surely there’s a way to recognize what is performance enhancing and what is not, and what is safe and what is not.

Which leads us in a really, really roundabout way to the International Olympics Committee (IOC), which has been maligned for a lot of reasons, doping rules among them. Probably of interest to no one except me: Here are the IOC’s doping rules for Tokyo.

And it’s not the only case of a talented woman falling afoul of the “rules” surrounding doping.

Olympic gold medalist Brianna McNeal lost her appeal on Friday of a five-year ban for breaking anti-doping rules. So she won’t be able to compete in Tokyo.

She said the case was related to missing a doping control in January 2020 while recovering from surgery to terminate a pregnancy. She got the date of her abortion wrong on paperwork.

Yes, I understand rules. But this just feels wrong. And the optics are horrible. It paints the IOC, WADA and the CAS as punitive organizations, rather than doing what’s best for sport.

Oh, and don’t get me started on this:

But one thing the IOC got right this week was allowing the soccer rosters to be expanded from 18 to 22 players.

(See, I told you it was roundabout!)

That means that the four alternates named by coaches can now be considered rostered players. But only 18 players can be listed on team sheets for each game.

Here’s what that means in terms of Julie Ertz. Say she’s not available for the opener against Sweden. Another player can be added from the 22 to take her place on the team sheet. In the past, that would disqualify Ertz for the rest of the tournament. But now, Ertz could still play in the gold medal match, should she be fit.

Netherlands coach Sarina Wiegman was among the first to call for the changes because of coronavirus. The concern was that some players might not have had the opportunities amid global restrictions to be fully game-fit, and some national teams have not had equitable opportunities to prepare for the competition.

My colleague Rob Harris and I wrote about it, and you can read the story here. FIFA confirmed the change.

One player the USWNT won’t have to worry about is Tobin Heath, who not only returned to the pitch against Mexico, but also scored on her first touch, less than a minute after subbing in.

Y’all can read what she said below.

In the meantime, the USWNT plays Mexico tonight. Here’s Front Row Soccer’s injury report.

I’m covering the match (from afar) for AP. Oh, and I sold my house. Now I just have to get to Tokyo in less than two weeks, which may be easier said than done. When I get back I’ll have to move. Why am I doing this again?


(Reminder: First, the underlined words are the links. Second. CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. ESPECIALLY NOW, as newsrooms are forced to make difficult choices. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me!

Our friend here at The IX, Matt Privratsky, sends this excellent Equal Time Soccer podcast with Dani Foxhoven.

Also, Caitlin Murray did a deep dive into the USWNT roster for the Olympics for The Guardian.

Caitlin also wrote for The Oregonian on Olivia Moultrie’s debut for the Thorns.

NPR takes a look at LFG.’s Ameé Ruszkai with a feature on Simone Charley.

Cute story on Yuki Nagasato from WDRB.

Newsday wrote about Crystal Dunn ahead of the Olympics.

Story from FanSided on Julie Ertz. Think this was aimed at the football crowd.

The Orlando Sentinel’s Julia Poe on Ali Riley heading off to join New Zealand at the Olympics.

A handy viewing guide for women’s soccer at the Olympics. Lots of people gonna be putting in some early mornings/late nights to watch in the U.S.

Why the Equal Pay banner came down, from Jeff Carlisle with ESPN.

My women’s soccer preview for the Olympics! The first in a series of stories.

Emma Hayes is staying with Chelsea, from AP.

Also me on the Thorns signing Moultrie.

The Kansas City Star’s Cora Hall writes about supporters.

The Equalizer’s Jeff Kassouf on Tobin’s return.

The Washington Post’s Thomas Floyd with a nice feature on Spirit rookie Tara McKeown.

Annie Costabile for the Chicago Sun-Times on Casey Krueger heading to the Olympics.

Stephanie Yang with this week’s must-read on API players in the NWSL for The Athletic.

Yang also did a deep dive on the new Angel City branding.

Five at The IX: Tobin Heath

Question: From a mental side, what does it mean to be back in an international game?

Heath: Yeah, it was huge. I mean, I didn’t know if I get back to this place, and obviously it took a lot of work and patience, and honestly I had a lot of help. I have a lot of people to be thankful for that helped me along the way. But I just had to take every single day and, you know, I didn’t have much time so I had to make the most of it all. It was hard, but I was really happy to get back.

Question: Can you speak to your training with Laura Harvey in LA?

Heath: Laura was great. It actually was like two-on-one because Christen Press was out there also, and a couple other people from the staff as well. But Laura was instrumental. It was the first time personally I’d worked with her. I obviously had heard really great things about her. But she was really great on kind of the football side of the return and it’s always great to have the professionals around you really pushing you.

Question: I’m curious if you could talk through just like specifics of the injury and your timeline and return and just kind of how it progressed these last few months.

Heath: Honestly, I don’t really want to talk about the specifics or even think about it anymore. I just kind of want to focus on my football going forward.

Question: What or who kind of helped you push through to the finish line to where you are now?

Heath: A lot of people. I did have one moment and then you just kind of get up and you get on with it. My mom actually came to Manchester as soon as she heard, which was a pretty big journey considering the circumstances going on in the world. And I’ll never forget that and at the time, you know, I obviously didn’t know I’d be sitting back here talking to you guys, so it was a special moment that I got with her.

Question: Can you talk about scoring so quickly and also playing so close to your home state in New Jersey?

Heath: Yeah I love Jersey. The crowd was awesome today, especially in the rain. They came prepared with all those ponchos. But any time you get to play close to home, it’s always a nice feeling. I love it here. And the goal was great. Like I said, I had a long time to think about what it would be like to be back on the field. You play the game a lot in your head while you’re not doing it, so it was one of those things that kind of slowed down and it was picture perfect. It was a great transition ball from Alex [Morgan] and I just took a little look and saw that I could do it.

Question: What is your mindset when the ball comes to you?

Heath: I mean, the game kind of dictates so much of that and those decisions and the players. I think with this team in particular you know we have a lot of different weapons, in the final third in particular. So trying to make the right decision to get to where we want to be on the field to be successful and to create chances is important, and I think the team knows those actions and those movements and the place that everybody needs to be in. Obviously been in studying and watching a lot of what goes on, once you get on the field you just have to kind of be able to technically do it. Obviously need to get my own speed back up to play; I haven’t played in a while. But in terms of like actually knowing what’s supposed to happen, that’s the easy part. The execution, that’s always the hard part but the fun part.

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: Sarah Kellam, @sarahkellam,
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08, NWHL Broadcaster
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Jessica Taylor Price, @jesstaylorprice, Freelance Gymnastics Writer

Written by Annie Peterson