The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, January 18, 2021

O Captain, my captain! Becky Saurebrunn is all that's right and good in this world. She just needs a goal — Woso links — Megan Rapinoe meets the press

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Today we recognize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Reflecting on the man and his legacy is much more sobering today than it has been in the recent past, given the white supremacy and white supremacists that were on display in the attack on our nation’s Capitol. I’ll refer back to my The IX colleague Erica’s post on Friday: We cannot be satisfied. There is so much work to do.

Reminder: The USWNT match against Colombia is tonight on FS1! I’ll be tweeting along with the action, as I’m sure a bunch of us will.

Let’s start with the big news that Vlatko Andonovski announced on Sunday: Becky Sauerbrunn is now the U.S. national team’s captain.

For those of you unfamiliar with this, the captain’s armband for the national team has kind of rotated on a game-by-game basis among the team’s other veterans in recent years.

“I’m going to work my butt off and follow in the legacy of all the people that have worn the armband and been in this role before, Sauerbrunn told reporters on a conference call yesterday. “I also consider myself extremely lucky and that I am on a team that is just full of leaders, and I’m fortunate that the veterans on this team are as experienced as they are.”

Andonovski said he discussed his decision Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd. Sauerbrunn, some of you remember, was captain for the team’s final match last year against the Netherlands.

Sam Mewis said Sunday that Sauerbrunn was the team’s moral compass.

Yes, yes she is.

In addition to her unquestioned leadership on the field, Sauerbrunn has been increasingly using her voice to speak out on issues that are important to her, including equal pay and racial inequity. As I wrote about for The IX last month, she lent her name to an amicus brief protesting Idaho’s law banning transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports.

Now I think her USWNT teammates need to make sure she gets a goal. Seriously, we could all use this after the sh*tshow that was 2020.

Here’s some other stuff that happened over a news-filled week.

  • Catarina Macario got permission from FIFA to play for the United States.

  • Abby Dahlkemper is bound for Manchester City.

  • Lisa Baird had an unusually newsy press conference before the draft. She talked about how the NWSL was no longer being managed by US Soccer. The Equalizer had this tidbit in Jeff Kassouf’s Kickin’ Back podcast earlier. US Soccer told me that that its financial support of the league is unlikely to drop.

  • Emily Fox was the top overall pick in the NWSL draft. Trinity Rodman was second, and understandably got quite a bit of the attention because of her larger-than-life dad. She’s a very talented soccer player, and I am kind of bummed she decided to skip college, because I was going to follow her across the Pacific Northwest. State guru Chris Henderson took a look at her numbers.

The Athletic’s Pablo Maurer had this wonderful story on Rodman back in May. Worth a read.

Gotta be honest, and this is not to take anything away from Rodman, but I felt a bit sad that she stole a bit of Emily Fox’s thunder as the top draft pick. Fox is a tremendous player with a bright future.

In fact, when she’s done in camp, she’d be a good subject for The IX, don’t you think?


(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!

Hope Solo and Carli Lloyd appear on the BBC’s “The Players” podcast and Solo calls the USWNT a “Mean Girls” club. Lots of other interesting stuff here, too. Worth a listen. NBC Sports with the summary here.

I wrote about Megan Rapinoe’s return to the national team for the AP after taking much of last year off. While a lot of people wrote about her reaction to the Capitol riots, I kind of looked across the sports landscape and saw so many athletes (LeBron, Pop) were condemning the attacks, and I wanted to do something a bit more over-arching about her year.

Oh hey, I also wrote about Lindsey Horan’s battle with coronavirus last November. Turns out it was pretty serious.

Also from me: Catarina Macario was granted approval from FIFA to play for the United States.

And finally, the NWSL draft was held Wednesday night. Here’s my story for AP. And of course, Lisa Baird’s pre-draft State of the NWSL media call.

Alex Coffey wrote a great story for The Athletic about watching her sister get drafted. Sam is a Thorn!

The Athletic’s Katie Whyatt catches us up with the Americans in the WSL.

The Equalizer’s Jeff Kassouf wrote about Captain Sauerbrunn.

The Equalizers Blair Newman considers the second half of the WSL season.

One more Equalizer story I thought was good from Pardeep Cattry on how the NWSL fits into the changing landscape when it comes to American talent.

Jonathan Tannenwald from the The Philadelphia Inquirer writes about the piles of cash that Alyse LaHue has amassed for Sky Blue. Tannenwald also did a nice story on Brianna Pinto.

Seth Vertelney from with his take on Becky Sauerbrunn’s captaincy.

Ann Killion from the San Francisco Chronicle wrote about Rapinoe’s reaction to the woman wearing the USWNT sweatshirt for the Trump rally.

Julia Poe from the Orlando Sentinel previews tonight’s match. Julia is getting ALL THE SOCCER. Seriously.

Abby Dahlkemper is off to Manchester City, from ESPN.

Tobin Heath didn’t play for Man U against Chelsea on Sunday after picking up an injury this week, from

The Athletics Matt Pentz wrote about Tziarra King’s new start with the Reign.

Three Washington State Cougars were taken in the NWSL draft. What fun it’s been to watch WSU soccer, and now the basketball team is doing well too. Must be something in the water up there in the Palouse.

Tweet of the Week

Five at The IX: Megan Rapinoe meets the press!

Megan Rapinoe spoke to the press about returning to camp, but mostly it was her thoughts on current events. 🙂 Anyway, there have been several of media sessions with USWNT players so I’ll be rolling them out as the weeks go on. But I’ll probably include excerpts from Lisa Baird’s State of the NWSL address next week. Stay tuned.

Question: You’ve never been shy about expressing your thoughts on the social issues and wanted to get your take on what’s been happening in our country and our society.

Rapinoe: We’re, I guess, almost a week out from January 6, which will certainly and rightfully so, live on in the echoes of American history forever. It’s just striking how horrible it was and just how insane it was. The climate in the country being such that we have our political leaders, our chief political leader, inciting an actual real-life, murderous and deadly insurrection against his own government, against his own people, against his own party — the vice president of the United States was in the halls of Congress, as were Congresspeople and Senators alike and all the people that work in that building as well, from the staff to the Capitol Police — to see where we’ve come in these four years has been devastating.

Hopefully the final straw for so many people to really understand that the reason that we’re here is because we never have actually had a reckoning with what our country really is like. This is America. Make no mistake about it. I think we showed very much our true colors. This is not the first time we’ve seen a murderous mob like that. Unleashing a white supremacist mob is nothing new to America, as people of color, black and brown, know very well.

All the calls for unity and a sort of moving forward cannot come without justice. If we do not punish this and investigate this to the fullest extent, it only encourages more of this to happen. I think too, we should not underestimate what could have happened. I think that we are very lucky that officer led them away from the Senate halls, that mob. I mean, we saw people with weapons and people with zip ties and like, why would they put up a gallows outside the Capitol building where they were chanting to hang the vice president? .

I think that we should make no mistake about what the intent was behind it. It was a murderous mob. Five people are dead and we can’t bring them back. So this week certainly will be hugely consequential in the history of our country. It’s going to be very intense. But just from a personal standpoint, it’s a very unsettling and scary. I think the courage of the lawmakers to get back in there and continue their work, and the utter bottomlessness of some of these lawmakers to continue to incite violence and still call for overturning the election when the mandate’s been given by the United States and by the people of United States is just absolutely insane. They should be held accountable. I think in order for us to move on that, that has to happen.

We obviously have an extremely long road — amidst a global pandemic where you literally have people sheltering from an insurrection happening on the Capitol and they still will not wear a mask. And we’re seeing outbreaks happening, a few lawmakers have tested positive. Hopefully, this is the last layer that we needed to rip off, although it’s been abundantly clear for a number of hundred years what the real issue is, this was about white supremacy and holding up white supremacy. And I hope that we can see this and move forward with justice. I think that’s the only way that we can actually move forward. I think it’s all out in the open. It’s all stripped bare at this point. So hopefully the lawmakers will have the courage to do what needs to be done. And everyday citizens, as well, will understand that we have a part to play in it, just as everybody else does. So this is a huge stain on the country, but hopefully an opportunity for us to to move forward in the way that we need to.

Question: As you’ve watched your colleagues on the national team step up on anti-racism activism, what’s it been like for you to to watch them do that and now to be back in the national team environment and have the opportunity to again be part of it.

Rapinoe: I feel like emotional talking about it. I mean, I have just a huge amount of pride and respect for so many people going through the journey and learning and growing, and feeling more comfortable speaking out about things. What we saw through the summer and just through the pandemic, with the protests, hopefully a lot of people’s eyes are opened up, particularly my fellow white teammates. It is in fact OUR responsibility to stand in unity with our black teammates, to make them feel that this is an open space to talk about things.

I think that we have not done a good enough job as a whole team, as a whole country, obviously. But, just speaking for our team, we can always do better. Just hearing about a lot of the conversations that have happened. A lot of the progress that has been made, the different players stepping up. And knowing how different it is now, as opposed to four years ago when I first knelt, seeing the growth and reconciliation start to happen with the federation as well, with the repeal of the kneeling ban, and an apology for that. I think that’s a huge step, one I know appreciated by myself, but appreciated by the black players on our team as well. And I’m sure members of the media, people of color and black people, our fans, everybody, I think it’s it’s a necessary first step.

So I’ve been just super happy, excited and proud of the way that the team has taken this on and we’ll continue to have these conversations. I think that’s the most encouraging part, is that we know that this is something that’s going to be a constant conversation for us and a constant learning process and areas where we can grow and use our platform in the most effective way. We are in an incredibly unique situation to be able to represent the United States of America via our sport and have such a cross-section of culture and race and sexuality and personalities on this team.

This is just one more area that we will continue to try to shine light and do the best that we can use our voices the loudest way possible. But to think of obviously where we were four or five years ago to where we are now as players and as a federation, and now we can start to move forward together, I think is huge and shows a big shift in leadership at the top of US soccer and shows a lot of growth from the players in the team right now.

Question: I feel like this is a topic we’ve talked about a lot over the years and have brought up from a national team point of view, but when you are now back in camp and putting on the crest of the national team, especially for some of these topics that we’ve talked about so far, what are you thinking about when you have a designation of this country on your body?

Rapinoe: I mean, I feel it is my personal responsibility to make the world a better place in whatever way that I can, and I am very lucky and fortunate and have been a part of building this incredible platform that is the US women’s national team. The last time I put the crest on, I put it on inside out. And I feel like we’ve come a long way from that, in a lot of different ways. Clearly, we still have ground to gain on that. But I think that we are definitely heading in the right direction. And so being able to come back, especially after what we saw last week, to have this team represent red, white and blue, and a crest and an American flag, in essence, for what we stand for and the future that we’re fighting for, and inclusion and using our platform to speak out about the right things. It’s going to be a really special moment, I think, for a lot of us and the first of many in this new journey and this continued journey of fighting to make the world a more equitable place, a safer place, and frankly, a less racist place than it is today. So I’m looking forward to being back out on the field with my teammates and putting the crest on, as of now, right side out — barring anything crazy happening, I’m just kidding — will be a very special moment and I think a proud moment for everybody on this team. I know it will be for me.

Question: There was a pretty well spread photo of someone trying to return back home following the attempted coup at the Capitol, wearing U.S. national team shirt with the Trump mask. Just wondering if you have a reaction to that, if you have a message for people who might trying to have both of those identities at the same time somehow.

Rapinoe: I mean, just from a personal standpoint, I feel like I can probably speak on behalf of a lot of my teammates, that is not the kind of fan that that we will welcome. The US crest is not to be confused with anything that has to do with white supremacy, anything that has to do with the Trump administration, anything that has to do with that divisive culture that we saw on the Capitol. So don’t take any comfort in thinking that the crest is synonymous with that, or the red, white and blue, or the the stars that we have above it. I saw the picture. We want to create and continue to create a place that’s inclusive and safe and diverse for our fans to be and for our players to play in front of, and for people to watch on TV and for the media to cover. So don’t bring that bullshit here.

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, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by Annie Peterson