Sauerbrunn unavailable for World Cup — How does that change things? Plus, the Courage rises

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, June 19, 2023

As most have you have seen, Becky Sauerbrunn won’t be going to the World Cup because of a right foot injury.

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Meg Linehan and Steph Yang broke the news in The Athletic. The rest of us in the media followed. Including me! And Sauerbrunn released a statement shortly thereafter.

The Athletic also reported three players will be included on the roster: goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury, midfielder Savannah DeMelo, and defender Kelley O’Hara.

Obviously O’Hara provides a veteran defensive presence to make up for the loss of Sauerbrunn. Kingsbury means that Adrianna Franch is out as the third keeper.

DeMelo is having a fantastic season in the NWSL — she scored again on Sunday in Racing’s 2-0 victory over Gotham FC — and deserving of a spot.

There’s a ton of speculation, but we’ll know soon enough. The roster is expected this week. Steven Goff from the Washington Post says it’s due Wednesday.

One other issue I wanted to address: Jamaica.

With the World Cup starting next month, Cheyna Matthews and Khadija “Bunny” Shaw were among the players who posted on Thursday about pay issues and other problems that they hope will be addressed by the Jamaican Football Federation.

The Federation has not returned my calls and emails for comment.

Jamaica, playing in just its second World Cup, opens tournament play on July 23 against France. The Reggae Girlz also have Brazil and Panama in their group at the tournament.

The situation is so bad it’s unclear whether the team will have a preseason camp, which doesn’t make any sense given that FIFA is fiving each team a lump sum to participate.

We’ve seen in the past that often times these funds are simply pocketed by federations, and never reach the players.

It will be interesting to see what repercussions this has. FIFA has pledged that each player to takes part in the World Cup will earn at least $30 in prize money for participation.

On a conference call Friday with FIFPro, the global players’ union, officials said there would be mechanisms in place to make sure this money actually goes to the players. I wrote about it for The AP.

It sure seems like much more oversight is necessary.

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Is Alessia Russo coming to the NWSL?

Interesting data analysis of what it will take for some NWSL’s bottom dwellers to make the playoffs, from The Equalizer.

ESPN looks at the tactical identity of ever NWSL team.

Naomi Girma signs new max deal with the Wave.

NBC’s On Her Turf took a look at Rocky Rodriguez, and her chat with the new podcast My New Favorite Futbolista, co-hosted by Meghan Klingenberg. Worth a listen!

Nice story from The Equalizer on Cece Kizer.

The Oregonian’s Ryan Clarke spoke to Olivia Moultrie about her expanded role.

Lucy Rushton is Bay FC’s new GM.

Emma Hruby of Just Women’s Sports makes the case for Crystal Dunn as the NWSL’s most essential player.

Nigeria’s Onomi Ebi is preparing for her sixth World Cup. She’s 40!

AFP reports Japan fans still may not be able to watch the World Cup.

Matildas goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold realized she was losing her hearing during the pandemic.

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Let’s take a quick look at the NWSL: Oh look! North Carolina is making a move, with three wins in its last four matches.

It’s been a steady progression since the Courage dropped three straight early in the season. They’ve only dropped one match in their last seven.

The surge has put the Courage in the cluster behind the first-place Thorns of teams with 20 points. After Saturday’s matches, the Courage were joined by OL Reign, the Wave and the Spirit, two points below Portland.

The team’s latest outing was a 3-0 victory over the Orlando Pride on Saturday. Kerolin scored twice (OK, one was officially an own goal but we’re giving it to her. Meredith Speck got the other one. Here’s what Speck and Ryan Williams had to say afterward:

Question: Meredith, first goal of the season kind of take us through what you saw there and how it felt to get on the scoresheet for the first time?

Speck: Yeah, it always feels good. It’s always very exciting. Honestly, I thought Liv was gonna pass to Kara wide and then she played a very good ball inside and I looked around and I was like, this is to me. So I took a touch and I was on the right foot so I tried to pass it into the back because it’s not necessarily my strong foot. So I was like, just make contact and place it.

Question: Orlando’s, got a really strong frontline you hold them to a clean sheet. That’s the sixth clean sheet 12 games in the regular season.

Williams: I think that we’ve just kept it really tight. We’ve worked on a lot of different things in practice and just blocking shots, being really organized, communicating with each other. And I think that it’s really starting to click for us defensively and offensively, I guess. But yeah, we’re always really happy to get a clean sheet.

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Question: It’s been a long week with three games, how have you adjusted?

Speck: Yeah, I think it’s been a heavy week and we’ve asked a lot of a lot of players and I think people have stepped up to everything that’s been asked of them. (The coaches) even said to us when we were subbing in, we just need a little bit of energy so work hard. I think the people that subbed in at that time, myself Rikke and live, those are definitely actually all of our strengths. So it was an easy request for us.

Question: Tthe team seems to be clicking.

Speck: I think it’s really nice. I think you can see everyone settling in. I mentioned a few times now, people keep asking what’s what’s clicking all of a sudden. I was just a patient, we have a new team, we have a young team and you don’t want to have your best game of the season, the first game of the season. So I think that patience is really what’s been on our side recently because we’ve stayed true to what we’re trying to do and we’re starting to come together.

Question: How have you been able to impart some wisdom to the younger players?

Williams: Going off what Meredith said, it’s really about patience. And I think that for both of us, we’ve had to be really patient and work really hard to get better year after year. And I think that whether you’re starter or you’re sub or you’re not dressing you’re really important to this team and it’s really what makes our team so good and so special is the non-starters pushing the starters every day and everybody really doing their best day in and day out. And I think that just knowing that everybody has an impact on this team, whether it’s through game minutes or training really hard in practice or being a really good teammate in the locker room. I think that I think that all of that is really important. So just knowing that everybody has a place on this team and has a really important role no matter what that role is.

Question: Meredith, along those same lines …

Speck: I think right now, we honestly are a team that has a lot of very good examples of what patience, hard work and resilience are. I’m very grateful. I talk it about all the time. Four years ago, we had really good people to learn from and hopefully now the younger girls feel the same way and they can look at my role, is constantly changing still but they can look at someone like Ryan or KK and know that you can, with time, that’s something that you can come to. And I think for me now, still I’m trying to be an example regardless of what my role is.

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