The roster for the United States Women’s National Team’s upcoming friendly and CONCACAF W Championship matches were released, and the absence of one name made more waves than it needed to.
Given the injury crisis going around (Sam Mewis, Lynn Williams, Abby Dahlkemper, Tierna Davidson, Morgan Guatrat and Catarina Macario), fewer chaotic decisions than usual were expected. In fact, without context, the names on the list are not controversial. But context matters, and head coach Vlatko Andonovski and the U.S. Soccer Federation still have some explaining to do.
After the release, it was reported by The Washington Post’s Steven Goff and L.A. Times’ Kevin Baxter that Angel City forward Christen Press would not have made the squad even if healthy (Press injured her knee over the weekend, and would later tweet that she tore her ACL).
Andonovski was asked about Press and stated two curious pieces of information. First, that Press was in direct competition with Sophia Smith, Mallory Pugh and Trinity Rodman, a trio of the youngest and brightest players in the NWSL. The second piece of information shed light on a conversation he had with 36-year-old Megan Rapinoe, who has yet to play more than 45 minutes this season.
“Within the conversation, [Megan Rapinoe] understood that we are going to bring a lot of players, we are going to test a lot of players, we want to give the young players lots of minutes and opportunities to play,” Andonovski said, “and give us a chance to evaluate them as much as possible. But after everything is said and done [I said] that if she’s healthy, and if she’s fit to get minutes that she will be on the roster.”
This, plus USSF and Andonovski’s decisions to make sure everyone knew all of this, leads to a thousand more questions.
An important change in the landscape of the USWNT has been the transition away from the federation paying players’ salaries. Instead, player salaries are now paid by their club teams. In theory this is supposed to allow for a more meritocratic selection process. The inclusion of Kristie Mewis and Sofia Huerta — the former for her play with Houston Dash and the latter for stellar performances at right back for OL Reign — suggest it’s been working.
However, all of this makes it even more curious that Christen Press was held to a standard that Megan Rapinoe was not. As the USWNT youth transition continues, spaces for veterans are going to become limited. Creating an unbalanced playing field, without much explanation, is a problem.
Another problem is why U.S. Soccer and Andonovski wanted us to know that Press wouldn’t have made it when a serious-looking knee injury was already going to rule her out. Credit to them for the initial honesty, but the decision-making and stated decision-making processes only add further questions which they are unlikely to answer, leaving fans and media to fill in the gaps.