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Alex Morgan Jersey

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Corrections & Clarifications: An earlier version of this story misidentified the high school where Alex Morgan held an event with the girls soccer team. It was Gardena High School.

GARDENA, Calif. — Alex Morgan, co-captain of the U.S. women’s national soccer team, said she plans to play in the 2020 Summer Olympics even though she’s pregnant and expecting a baby girl in April — less than four months before the Games begin.

The Opening Ceremonies for the Tokyo Games are scheduled for July 24.

“I hope to get back on the field as soon as possible,’’ Morgan, 30, told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. “After having a healthy baby, I want to get back with the national team and look forward to playing in Tokyo.’’

This will be Morgan’s first child, and she said motherhood will not derail her soccer career. She has developed into a star as a member of the U.S. women’s teams that won 2019 World Cup, the 2015 World Cup and the 2012 Olympic gold.

“There are so many women that have been able to come back to their respective sport after pregnancy and continue to have a successful family while playing their sport that they love at the highest level,’’ she said. “I plan to follow in those footsteps and be one of those women who have a family and carry my daughter around as I’m going to the next city to play. And I still want to continue to enjoy the sport that I’ve been playing for all my life.’’

On Tuesday afternoon, Morgan was at Vincent Bell Park in Southern California to unveil a mini soccer pitch. She joined members of the girls soccer team at nearby Gardena High School during light drills on the new pitch — 84 feet long and 40 feet wide on an acrylic surface similar to a tennis court.

Powerade, the official sports drink of the U.S. women’s team, partnered with the U.S. Soccer Foundation on the project that will feature programming specifically designed for young girls.

Alex Morgan talks with Gardena High School girls soccer players inside of her newly built soccer field in Gardena, California. The U.S. Soccer Foundation is working to build 1,000 soccer fields across America by 2026.

OPINION:Just win, baby! Standards, expectations high for new USWNT coach

OLYMPICS 2020:Here are 15 Americans who could become stars in Tokyo

DAILY SPORTS, DELIVERED:Get the best Sports news in your inbox!

“More access to the sport, especially in an underserved area of Los Angeles, is important to me,’’ Morgan said.

She expressed just as much passion when asked about the U.S. women team’s lawsuit against U.S. Soccer seeking to be paid as much as members of the U.S. men’s national team. A trial date has been set for May 5, but Morgan said she hopes the case will be settled out of court.

“A lot is going on behind the scenes,’’ she said. “There’s been a lot of progress made …

“But we’ll continue to fight for what is right and what we deserve and we continue to say the same thing. It’s not just about equal pay. It’s about equal investment in the sport. It’s about equal marketing, advertising and along those lines it’s about equal opportunity for us to make similar or the same income as the men’s team.’’

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Since the U.S. women won the World Cup with a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands on July 7 in France, Morgan said, life has been a whirlwind.

“Starting with the ticker tape parade in New York City, which is one of the best moments ever,’’ said Morgan, who won the Silver Boot during the 2019 World Cup as the tournament’s top scorer behind only teammate Megan Rapinoe. “Just seeing hundreds of thousands of people come out and support us. Chanting our names, chanting ‘Equal Pay,’ we’ve heard a lot of that. And just supporting us was incredible.

“Then from there, I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of speaking engagements where I”ve been able to speak on behalf of the team and what it was like to go through a World Cup on leadership and teamwork. So that’s been exciting and a little new for me as well.’’

In addition to cutting back on her training, Morgan said, she has made another concession to pregnancy: she’s more flexible with the vegan diet she said she started 2 1/2 years ago.

“I’ve dipped into the more vegetarian lately,’’ Morgan said. “With the pregnancy, it’s whatever kind of cravings I have that day. But I try to stick to primarily plant based.’’

With motherhood and the Olympics ahead, Morgan said she’s refraining from making too many plans. She and her husband, professional soccer player Servando Carrasco, announced the pregnancy on Oct. 23.

“I have another big year ahead of me and I think whatever I’m planning to do, the plans will probably dissolve,’’ she said. “It always happens where nothing happens according to plan. So I just am taking it week by week, enjoying my time with my husband and my family in the city of L.A. and just eagerly awaiting the arrival of our baby girl.’’

Lynn Williams Jersey

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Nov. 10, 2019) – The U.S. Women’s National Team closed out an historic 2019 that saw the team win its fourth World Cup title with a 6-0 win vs. Costa Rica in front of 12,914 fans at TIAA Bank Field.

Lynn Williams had a pair of second half strikes while Carli Lloyd, Morgan Brian and Christen Press also scored. The final tally came via Costa Rica own goal.

The USA heads into 2020 on a winning note after compiling a 20-1-3 record this year, marking 12th time in 35 years of WNT play the team has won 20 or more games in a calendar year.

Like in many matches this year, the USA once again wasted no time taking control of the match. For the second straight game captain Carli Lloyd scored an early goal, this time in just the fourth minute. With 16 goals in 2019, Lloyd finishes the year as the WNT’s top scorer, marking the third time she has led the team in scoring during a calendar year. She tied as the leading scorer once.

Brian, who was playing in the city where she spent almost her entire youth soccer career, then doubled the USA’s advantage in the 10th minute and the USA cruised into the break sporting the 2-0 lead.

U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski, who handed debuts to defenders Midge Purce and Alana Cook when he included them in the USA’s starting XI, made a trio of subs at half time, bringing on goalkeeper Adriana Franch for Ashlyn Harris, Andi Sullivan for veteran defender Becky Sauerbrunn and Williams for Lloyd.

Within five minutes of the restart, Williams had made an impact by scoring the USA’s third and Press added a tally for a second consecutive game with a solo effort in 56th minute to put the U.S. up 4-0. Williams would add her second and the WNT’s fifth in the 68th and nearly had a hat trick but her attempt was cleared off the line by Costa Rica goalkeeper Noelia Bermúdez.

Costa Rica was not without its opportunities throughout the game, twice hitting the cross bar and at times possessing the ball well, but ultimately Harris and Franch record just one save a piece while in net for the U.S.

The USA did not let up as the curtain began to come down on the match and their triumphant year, continuing to attack until the final whistle. The pressure paid off in the 86th minute when a Purce cross was deflected for an own goal by Costa Rica defender Stephanie Blanco to provide the final 6-0 margin of victory.

Next on the Schedule: The WNT’s first games of the team’s 2020 schedule will be at the 2020 Concacaf Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship, which will begin on Jan. 28 with group play in Houston and Edinburgh, Texas before culminating with the semifinals and title game in Carson, California. The USA will hold its traditional training camp in January to begin the year and prepare for Olympic qualifying, which will send two teams to the 2020 Olympic Women’s Football tournament in Japan next summer.
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USA – Carli Lloyd (Rose Lavelle), 4th minute: Rose Lavelle evaded a defender near midfield and from the center circle sent a sumptuous pass scything through the heart of the retreating Costa Rica defense that deflected into the stride of Lloyd who was making a run around the left flank. The USA’s leading scorer lifted a one-time shot over the charging goalkeeper into the upper right corner to give Lavelle’s amazing pass a worthy finish. USA 1, CRC 0 [WATCH]

USA – Morgan Brian (Rose Lavelle), 10th minute: Julie Ertz won the ball in midfield and pushed it forward to Lavelle, who danced past a few defenders before slipping the ball into the path of the overlapping Brian. She took one touch into the left side of the box before picking out the lower right corner with a textbook left-footed finish. USA 2, CRC 0 [WATCH]

USA – Lynn Williams (Tobin Heath), 50th minute: The USA countered Costa Rica with Heath collecting the ball in midfield and sending a perfectly weighted ball behind the visitors’ defense for Williams to run down. With a burst of pace, she zipped by one defender to reach the ball before cutting into the middle of the box, drawing out the goalkeeper and then snapping a low drive into the lower left corner. USA 3, CRC 0 [WATCH]

USA – Christen Press, 56th minute: Margaret Purce beat two defenders in the right side of the box and got to the end line to hit a low cross into the heart of the box that was cleared directly to a lurking Press. Having missed an a closer-range opportunity seconds earlier, Press left no doubt by faking to her right before cutting to her left past a defender and drilling a left-footed shot into left corner of the goal. USA 4, CRC 0 [WATCH]

USA – Lynn Williams (Jessica McDonald), 68th minute: Emily Sonnett lofted a cross from the left touchline toward the back right post when McDonald outjumped her defender to nod the ball down to the feel of Williams in the middle of the box. The speedy forward crushed a first-time shot into the underside of the crossbar and it bounced down into the right side of the goal. USA 5, CRC 0 [WATCH]

USA – Own Goal (Stephanie Blanco), 86th minute: As she had throughout the night from her right back position, Margaret Purce made an overlapping run, received the ball and beat a defender in the Costa Rica box. After driving to the end line, her cross attempt was deflected by Costa Rice defender Stephanie Blanco and arched high through the goal box before falling perfectly into the left side netting. USA 6, CRC 0 FINAL

With the win, the USWNT is now 15-0-0 all-time vs. Costa Rica, which the USA will play in the final match of Olympic qualifying group play on Feb. 3, 2020 in Houston.

With her goal, Carli Lloyd now has 121 in her WNT career and finishes 2019 with 16 total, the most on the team. It is third most goals she has scored in a calendar year and the third time she has let the team outright scoring in a calendar year. She had 18 goals in 2015 and 17 in 2016 to lead the team.

Morgan Brian scored her second goal of 2019 and eighth of her career.

Lynn Williams scored her fifth and sixth career goals. They were her first tallies for the USA since she scored against Korea Republic on Oct. 22, 2017. Tonight marked her first multi-goal game for the USA.

Christen Press’ goal is her fifth of 2019 and 51st of her WNT career.

Today, two players will earn their first cap as starters: Margaret Purce and Alana Cook.

The last time this happened was Oct. 29, 2016 against Switzerland in Utah when five players earned their first caps: Casey Short, Andi Sullivan, Ashley Hatch and Abby Dahlkemper. Two of them started: Short and Sullivan.

The last time before that was 1/16/08 against Canada in China when Ali Krieger & Becky Sauerbrunn earned their first caps.

In making her debut in the starting XI for the USA, Purce became the first player to have played collegiately at Harvard to earn a WNT cap.


Match: U.S. Women’s National Team vs. Costa Rica

Date: Nov. 10, 2019

Competition: International Friendly

Venue: TIAA Bank Field; Jacksonville, Fla.

Attendance: 12,914

Kickoff: 8:08 p.m. ET

Weather: 60 degrees; clear

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F

USA 2 4 6

CRC 0 0 0

USA – Carli Lloyd (Rose Lavelle) 4th minute

USA – Morgan Brian (Rose Lavelle) 10

USA – Lynn Williams (Tobin Heath) 50

USA – Christen Press 56

USA – Lynn Williams (Jessica McDonald) 68

USA – Stephanie Blanco (Own Goal) 86


USA: 18-Ashlyn Harris (21-Adrianna Franch, 46); 30-Margaret Purce, 28-Alana Cook, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (25-Andi Sullivan, 46), 14-Emily Sonnett; 8-Julie Ertz, 16-Rose Lavelle, 6-Morgan Brian (20-Allie Long, 63); 17-Tobin Heath (2-Mallory Pugh, 63), 10-Carli Lloyd (capt.) (27-Lynn Williams, 46), 23-Christen Press (22-Jessica McDonald, 63)

Substitutes not used: 26-Casey Short

Head coach: Vlatko Andonovski

CRC: 1-Noelia Bermudez; 2-Gabriela Guillen, 6-Carol Sanchez, 15-Stephanie Blanco, 12-Lixy Rodriguez; 7-Melissa Herrera, 16-Katherine Alvarado, 10-Shirley Cruz (capt.), 14- Priscilla Chinchilla; 9-Gloriana Villalobos (17-Maria Paula Salas, 66), 11-Raquel Rodriguez (4-Mariana Benavides, 86)

Substitutes not used: 3-Maria Paula Elizondo, 5-Maria Jose Morales, 13-Dinnia Diaz, 18-Priscilla Tapia, 19-Valery Sandoval, 20-Viviana Chinchilla

Not eligible: 8-Daniela Cruz

Head coach: Amelia Valverde

Stats Summary: USA / CRC
Shots: 17 / 6
Shots on Goal: 7 / 2
Saves: 2 / 0
Corner Kicks: 12 / 1
Fouls: 5 / 7
Offside: 6 / 0

Misconduct Summary:



Referee: Karen Abt (USA)

Assistant Referee 1: Brooke Mayo (USA)

Assistant Referee 2: Deleana Quan (USA)

4th Official: Katja Koroleva (USA)

Rose Lavelle Jersey

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United States women’s national team and Chicago Red Stars midfielder Julie Ertz has been voted USA Soccer’s 2019 Female Athlete of the Year ahead of Megan Rapinoe.

Ertz was announced as the winner on Friday:

U.S. Soccer WNT

The 27-year-old also won the award in 2017.

Per ESPN FC’s Jeff Carlisle, Ertz received 42 percent of the votes to finish ahead of fellow nominees Rapinoe, Alyssa Naeher, Alex Morgan, Rose Lavelle and Carli Lloyd.

Ertz said 2019 has been “a whirlwind of a year” and thanked her teammates, coaches and family:

“All of my teammates just had such an amazing year, and we all know it takes an entire team to win a World Cup or have a successful club season.

“We are all a sum of the people around us, so I want to especially thank [my husband] Zach and my family, all my coaches for the national team and the Red Stars, and all my teammates for their never-ending support.

“It’s emotional to be recognized in this way, and it’s a cherry on top of a beautiful 2019. It’s incredible.”

Jill Ellis, who managed the USWNT to their fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup in the summer, said Ertz, who was also part of the World Cup-winning team in 2015, was a “critical part” of their success.

The midfielder started six of the Americans’ seven games in France and scored in their 3-0 win over Chile in the group stage. Her biggest contributions came in protecting the United States’ back line and pressing opponents when they had the ball.

When the USA were in possession, her eye for a pass and tireless running helped them get the ball forward. In the 474 minutes she spent on the pitch in the tournament, she covered 53 kilometers.

Her husband, Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, congratulated her on the award:

Despite being one of the USWNT’s top performers throughout the year, it’s something of a surprise for her to have beaten Rapinoe, who won the Golden Ball at the World Cup, was named FIFA’s The Best Women’s Player and won the women’s Ballon d’Or.

The Athletic’s Kieran Theivam and the Guardian’s Suzy Wrack felt Ertz was under-represented at the latter, though:

What KT said. I’d have Ertz at least top five, if not higher.

Ertz is the 10th player to win this award on more than one occasion, though she’s still some way behind record-holder Abby Wambach, who picked it up six times.

However, per Carlisle, she is the first recipient of the U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year—which she won in 2012—to win the senior award.

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About five months ago, Mallory Pugh and Lindsey Horan competed on soccer’s biggest stage. They played for the U.S. Women’s National Team and helped the team to its fourth FIFA World Cup title and back-to-back championships.

On Sunday, they were more anxious to pump up the more than 50,000 fans at Empower Field at Mile High than they were to compete against the best soccer players in the world.

“I think we were more nervous about pumping up the crowd than playing a soccer game at the World Cup,” Horan said laughing.

“I would definitely say the same,” Pugh said.

When asked how two world champions could be nervous to encourage Broncos Country to pound their chests and get loud, the pair offered a simple explanation for their nerves.

“We’re not used to pumping up the crowd,” Horan said and laughed. “It was nerve-wracking.”

“We’re better at [playing soccer] than pumping up the crowd,” Pugh said.

Though they felt out of their element, Horan and Pugh were as successful on Sunday as they were in July in France — they successfully riled up thousands of Broncos fans, just as they successfully won the FIFA World Cup with the USWNT.

Trading their white U.S. soccer jerseys for personalized blue Broncos’ jerseys — gifts from Broncos President and CEO Joe Ellis — was a homecoming of sorts for the Colorado natives.

Horan grew up in Golden and played for the Colorado Rush Soccer Club. Pugh grew up in Highlands Ranch and competed on the rival Real Colorado Soccer Club.

“It’s awesome, us being home in our hometown and seeing all these fans and a team that we’ve supported our whole life,” the 25-year-old Horan said. “Getting to celebrate with them was really cool.”

Pugh, 21, echoed Horan’s statements about the raucous cheers that came from the Broncos’ fans when they were introduced as USWNT players and Coloradans.

“We have so many fans here, and just to come back home and be surrounded and feel the support, it makes us proud to be from Colorado,” Pugh said.

Horan and Pugh first met when they played at a U-20 World Cup tournament, and they weren’t immediately good friends, but their friendship grew over time. Once Pugh became the youngest player to make the USWNT four years ago, she and Horan bonded over their Colorado heritage and appreciation for the state’s youth soccer.

So, it was natural that “Mal” ran up to Horan and jumped on her back on the sidelines before the game as a way of saying hello. And, it was more fun to plan what to say into the stadium microphone together than it would have been alone.

“I think we’re always on the same email when it’s anything Colorado,” Horan said and shrugged and smiled, looking at Pugh. “We always do it together.”

Friends and family stood with the pair on the sidelines during the Broncos’ pregame warmups, and they snapped pictures of Horan and Pugh with Ellis, John Elway and Von Miller – documenting world champions greeting fellow world champions.

Horan and Pugh’s conversations were casual with the Broncos greats, but family ties to Broncos Country made the interactions, and the day, exciting.

“I think both my parents were huge Broncos fans,” Horan said. “My mom is a die-hard John Elway fan, so she was jealous to see us meet him today. I think we kind of grew up in a Broncos household, so [it’s] very cool for us to be here.”

Added Pugh: “Growing up with a Broncos household … it’s just kind of natural.”

Horan and Pugh were natural hype-women, as Pugh called into the mic, “Come on, Broncos Country!”

Horan followed with, “We need to hear ya!” before the two pounded their chests and watched both fans and Broncos players jump around and pound their chests to the same rhythm.

The pregame encouragement from the soccer stars worked, as the Broncos went on to beat the Los Angeles Chargers 23-20.

“We thought it was awesome,” Horan said before the win. “We thought it was really cool to get the support from a different sport. And we’ve been Broncos supporters, so now them seeing us and seeing what we’ve done, it brings a whole new level of support for each sport.”

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Fresh off a national title, junior Kiki Pickett and sophomore Sophia Smith joined the World Cup champion U.S. women’s national team for an identification camp. Pickett scored the game-winning penalty kick to win Stanford its third NCAA championship, and Smith was named the College Cup Most Outstanding Player.

Two more former Cardinal, the Washington Spirit’s Jordan DiBiasi ’18 and the Houston Dash’s Jane Campbell ’17, were evaluated by newly minted United States women’s national soccer team (USWNT) head coach Vlatko Andonovski.
“I think we definitely have to change our mindset from being here and then going to camp,” Pickett said after the NCAA final. “It’s going to be a big opportunity for us in a different environment.”

Although invited, junior forward Madison Haley and sophomore center back Naomi Girma were unable to attend due to injuries. The camp started on Dec. 9 in Bradenton, Florida, one day after Stanford clinched the NCAA title in San Jose. On Tuesday, three days after the camp ended, the USWNT posted a recap video of the camp, featuring Smith.

“This camp is an amazing experience to integrate new younger players into the system and give the new coach to see what we have to offer,” Smith said in the video.
With 2020 in sight, Andonovski and his staff held an identification camp which offered new players a chance to show what they’ve got ahead of the #USWNT’s Olympic Qualifying early next year.

— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) December 17, 2019
The camp did not include any of the players from the 21-player World Cup-winning squad, of which three more were former Cardinal: Kelley O’Hara ’10, Christen Press ’11 and Tierna Davidson ’20.

O’Hara and Press shared the single-season Stanford record for points in a season with 65, but that total was smashed by junior midfielder Catarina Macario this season. The Brazilian-born star has been determined to play for the U.S., but has yet to appear for the senior side.

“I have really high expectations,” Smith said. “Obviously, I want to show Vlatko what I can do, especially with these high level players, but I also want to have fun and take it all in because it’s an amazing experience.

Smith scored in a U.S. Youth National Team-record nine consecutive international games for the U.S. U-20 WNT in 2018 when she tallied 15 total goals. This was the second training camp experience for Smith with her first coming in 2017 at age 16, though she, like all other players born after the 1999 World Cup, have yet to appear in a game for the national team.

“It’s a great opportunity to see all these young players,” Andonovski said. “It’s good for them to get experience of what a camp looks like, but it’s also good for us to see where they are in their stage of their careers and their development.”

“It’s a hard team to break into,” Andonovski added. “It’s a World Cup champion.”

DiBiasi scored four times for the Spirit and was a National Women’s Soccer League Rookie of the Year candidate while playing in 22 games with 20 starts. Along with Pickett, she will be making her first appearance in a national team camp.

Campbell, meanwhile, has three caps, and first trained with the USWNT at the age of 17 in January of 2013 as the youngest goalkeeper to be called into the senior camp.

Looking forward, the USWNT will face Haiti on Jan. 28, in its first game of the 2020 Concacaf Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which will send two nations to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan.

Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’

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Credentials: A two-time Varsity 845 Player of the Year, Salatto anchored an offense that scored 92 goals. Many teams have keyed on her with two, sometimes three, players defending her and yet she scored 26 goals and 16 assists in 21 games. She plays intense defense and has the ability to take over games. Salatto is able to move around the pitch, winning the ball in the midfield and getting the ball up to the forwards and then getting involved in the attack. She scored in the regional finals against North Rockland with a rocket from 25 yards out to extend the lead to 2-0.

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Highlight: In the state championship locker room before the game, coach Bill Mpasiakos was talking about a scene from the Rocky movie, which is like one of his all-time favorite movies, and he knows them word for word. A lot of the girls were crying in the locker room, which is surprising because we still came out on top. He got emotional, too.

Best advice: Mpasiakos always has so many quotes. Before every game he always has a new one he gives us. He had a good one, something about a butterfly? Great moments come from great opportunities.

Favorite soccer player: Tobin Heath. She’s really fast on the ball and she has really quick foot skills.

The future: Salatto is going to Iona College, and will play soccer.

Gabi Rusek

School: Warwick

Position: Center midfielder

Year: Senior

Credentials: Rusek has been the leading scorer four years in a row. She scored 18 goals and tallied 12 assists her junior year and 13 goals, nine assists her senior season. Rusek is an impact player. She has athleticism, technical ability and a high soccer IQ. Rusek is a dangerous finisher, intelligent playmaker and technical defender and attacker.

Highlight: Our senior night game when we beat Cornwall, 3-2.

Best advice: Always push past all the obstacles you have to climb over and overcome anything you’re going through.

Favorite soccer player: Julie Ertz. She’s one of the most versatile women’s soccer players in the world and she’s an all-around great person.

The future: Gabi will attend the University of Miami, and will play soccer.

Grace Palczewski

School: Valley Central

Position: Center back defense

Year: Junior

Credentials: Palczewski was a captain this year. She is a great communicator and organizer, is a positive presence on the team and is highly respected by all with her effort, toughness and skill. She is very good in the air and has a great first touch. What really makes her excel is her ability to read the game and anticipate. She had three goals and three assists this season.

Highlight: Going to the Section 9 finals for the first time.

Best advice: My mother, Deb Palczewski, has always told me to never give up. It was always in the back of my mind to make the Section 9 finals. When it happened, it was a great feeling.

Favorite soccer player: Rose Lavelle. I like her quickness and how she distributes the ball. She controls the middle of the field on the U.S. Women’s National Team.

The future: Grace will return for her senior year at Valley Central.

Josephine Sorce

School: Monroe-Woodbury

Position: Attacking midfielder

Year: Senior

Credentials: Sorce posted 17 goals and 10 assists this season. She puts tremendous pressure on opposing teams and has excellent speed. Sorce stepped up when one of the team’s top scorers, Liz Allen, suffered a season-ending injury. Sorce helped limit opposing teams to seven goals in 21 games. She scored five goals and two assists in five playoff games, including the only goal in the state championship game.

Highlight: Scoring the game-winning goal in the state finals. It felt amazing. Actually, it was probably the best moment of my whole varsity soccer career.

Best advice: My coach is always encouraging me to shoot the ball and attack and be really aggressive and I think I worked a lot on that this season and it paid off.

Favorite soccer player: Alex Morgan. I’ve always loved her since I was really young, just the person she is.

The future: Sorce plans to continue her soccer career. She has not yet chosen which school she will attend.

Kayla Bauer

School: Monroe-Woodbury

Position: Center back

Year: Senior

Credentials: Bauer led a defense that averaged allowing one-third of a goal per game and had 16 team shutouts. She constantly stops attacks or counterattacks with her superb defense She was also the top corner taker on her team. Bauer had six assists this season. She leads a defense that only gave up two goals to Section 9 opponents.

Highlight: Just going to practice every day and taking bus rides with my team. The team definitely is the best part.

Best advice: Our coach said to play each game like it’s our last because when we were in the playoffs, we never knew which game was going to be our last.

Favorite soccer player: Alex Morgan. I think she shows a lot of heart on the field and she’s a team player all around.

The future: Bauer will attend SUNY Cortland, and play soccer.

Angela Fini

School: Monroe-Woodbury

Position: Goalkeeper

Year: Senior

Credentials: Fini, a four-year starter, has been integral in both state title runs for Monroe-Woodbury. In four of five playoff games this postseason, Fini did not allow a goal, including the state Class AA final.

Highlight: Definitely the feeling of winning the state championship two years in a row. We knew we wanted it the whole season and we worked hard for it the whole season. It definitely would have been a letdown if we hadn’t gotten it.

Favorite soccer player: I’ve looked up to Tobin Heath since seventh grade. I just admire her and her work ethic and how she got to where she is.

Best advice: Coach Mpasiakos told us, “Once you think you’ve arrived, you’ve hit your peak.” So basically never stop working and never stop trying to make yourself better.

The future: Fini will attend Siena, and play soccer.

Emily Harwood

School: Monroe-Woodbury

Position: Defensive midfielder

Year: Senior

Credentials: Harwood’s presence as a defensive midfielder has helped shut down many strong competitors. She posted three goals and three assists. Harwood has caused offenses to alter their plans with her ability to stop attacks and counterattacks. She has a unique ability to pick players off the ball as they attack with her superb foot skills. She is also a part of the defense that gave up one goal off a corner in five playoff games.

Highlight: Beating North Rockland in the regional game to send us into the Final Four. We were expecting it to be a really hard game and then coming out of the game 3-0 was really unexpected and just knowing we had another chance to repeat. I was the most confident that we could repeat after that game.

Best advice: The advice from previous seniors is to take everything slowly and to really appreciate every moment because it goes by so quick. I didn’t believe them until now. I definitely appreciated the season more because of that advice.

Favorite soccer player: My sister, Sydney Harwood, who plays soccer at Manhattan College. I look up to her and she motivated me to get where I am now.

The future: Harwood will attend Marist, and play soccer.

Tehya Harvey

School: Monroe-Woodbury

Year: Junior

Position: Center back

Credentials: Harvey was named Player of the Game in the state championship. She is perhaps the fastest center back in Section 9 and has run down many attackers, including a crucial one in the final game. Her speed and ability to stop would-be goals was a major reason why the Crusaders surrendered only seven scores all season.

Highlight: In the final game, a girl had a breakaway to score and I did a slide tackle and stopped her.

Best advice: During the state playoffs. We were losing hope and coach Mpasiakos told us to never stop believing because you never know what could happen.

Favorite soccer player: Julie Ertz because she’s really aggressive and I admire that about her.”

The future: Harvey returns as a senior on a Monroe-Woodbury soccer team that will be attempting to win its third consecutive state title.

Alyssa Hill

School: James I. O’Neill

Year: Senior

Position: Midfield

Credentials: Hill can defend, pass the ball with assurance, has a powerful left and right foot and also can break into the area to score important goals. She is a defender’s nightmare and can dribble at a pace that makes it very difficult for players to mark her. Hill had 13 goals and 11 assists and led the team to an overall record of 14-4-1 with an undefeated league record of 8-0, a repeated sectional title and a Class B regional final appearance.

Highlight: Getting to play my last year with my sister, Amaya. I’ve never gotten to play with her that much and being able to play with her every game and going to practice with her every day, I wouldn’t want to end my senior year any other way. It was fun getting to spend my last year with her before I go off to college.

Best advice: Coach Kristin Leska told us a lot about not giving up, even when against Pleasantville when we were down 4-0 in the locker room. She told us, “The game’s not over. We’re not playing to our potential and even with the 4-0 loss, you should just keep your heads up.”

Favorite soccer player: Crystal Dunn. She plays every position. She gives her best in everything. She started out as a forward and now she plays left or right back. She’s amazing. She gives 100 percent in everything she plays.

The future: Hoping to attend West Point.

Amaya Hill

School: James I. O’Neill

Position: Forward

Year: Sophomore

Credentials: Hill is one of the most skillful and punishing forwards in Class B and led the team with 34 goals and three assists. She is quick and very hard to handle on the counterattack. She has sublime finishing skills, making her an efficient goal scorer. She scored four goals in the sectional final game against Rondout Valley. This is Hill’s second time on the Varsity 845 All-Star team.

Highlight: Winning sections again, especially with my sister Alyssa since it’s the last year of us playing soccer together. It just made it that much more special.

Best advice: Coach Leska, in our last game against Pleasantville said to just leave it all on the field because you never know when it could be your last game of soccer.

Favorite soccer player: Lionel Messi, just the way he sees the field. He loves using his teammates and that just inspires me.

The future: Hill will be a junior at O’Neill.

Brooke Harris

School: Highland

Position: Forward/Midfield

Year: Senior

Credentials: Harris is an amazingly strong soccer player who can set up a teammate to score as well as finish a delivered pass. She finished the season with 16 goals and 12 assists. She is a six-year varsity player. In her four years in high school, Harris has amassed 57 goals and 42 assists.

Highlight: It was my senior season. It was my fourth year as the captain. My coach is great. It was just a fun time working with all my teammates.

Best advice: My father, Pete Harris, told me to have fun with the sport and to make sure you’re playing with heart.

Favorite soccer player: Marcus Rashford. Just the intensity that he plays with, it’s great to see.

The future: Brooke will attend Lewis University (Ill.), and play soccer.

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The Stanford Cardinal women’s soccer team was the decade’s dominant team with three Division 1 national championships. They also lost in the finals twice, in 2009 and 2010. Two of the team’s most famous graduates, United States national team stars Kelley O’Hara and Christen Press, did not win national titles, but they helped set the scene in Palo Alto, California, where Paul Ratcliffe has coached Stanford the last 17 seasons.

Ratcliffe led the Cardinal to the 2019 title, defeating North Carolina in penalties. During this week’s On Frame with Pro Soccer USA’s Glenn Crooks, Ratcliffe talks about this year’s team and his lengthy coaching career.

This year, Stanford was led by a player with remarkable numbers. Junior forward Catarina Macario had 32 goals and 23 assists in 24 matches.

“She is absolutely amazing,” Ratcliffe said. “Usually you see a player and they are lopsided one way or another – either a goal scorer or a great creator. To get both like you do with Catarina is what separates her as, in my mind, the best player in the entire country.”

Ratcliffe’s first experience coaching the women’s side came when UCLA started its program in 1999. He worked under two-time World Cup champion coach Jill Ellis.

Ratcliffe also played at UCLA for the late Sigi Schmid and won a national title with teammates Cobi Jones and Brad Friedel.

“Sigi was a great influence on me,” the 50-year old Ratcliffe said. “A fantastic person, fantastic coach and he helped me so much getting me involved in coaching. He asked me if I could help with the new women’s program at UCLA to give me a chance to really coach.”

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The first touch of Midge Purce’s international career did not go as planned. Instead, it went right under her foot.

In the second minute of Purce’s first cap with the United States on Sunday, the moment was a jolt for the defense, forcing Purce to scramble back to recover, and also to relax into her international debut.

“I said, ‘It can’t get worse than that,’” Purce said with a laugh. “After that, it was just fine.”

The final game of the year for the U.S. women’s national team saw the first international caps for both Purce and defender Alana Cook. The young duo played 90 minutes, holding down the right wing of the defense on the way to a 6-0 win, the first shutout of Vlatko Andonovski’s tenure as head coach.

Even against an opponent like Costa Rica, Andonovski saw the risk in pairing two players full of first-game nerves on the same side of the backline.

“When we were putting the lineup together, we were thinking it was going to be a little bit too much to have both of them on the same side, but I was very happy,” Andonovski said. “Both of them did well and both of them played 90 minutes which I was very proud of them, proud of their performance and how they handled challenges.”

Playing as an outside back was a particularly new challenge for Purce, who has played as a striker for most of her career internationally and at the club and college level. On a roster stacked with attacking talent, traditionally offensive players Crystal Dunn and Kelley O’Hara have been transformed into outside backs in the past, and Purce could be added to the list if she continues with the team.

After receiving help from Dunn throughout camp, she tackled the challenge, pressing far up the right flank to stretch the Costa Rican defense and forcing an own goal in the 86th minute. From her central position, Cook was able to facilitate this pressure, sending balls up in transition that broke open the right side of the field.

Despite their youth, veteran defender Becky Sauerbrunn said both players fit in eagerly, compensating for their inexperience by talking constantly throughout the match.

“You just over-communicate every little thing until you get the feel of how she holds the line, how she steps, how she drops,” Sauerbrunn said. “This is the game where you just talk about everything, even if it’s just nonsense or the most obvious thing you’ve ever seen.”

That dedication to communication was a key to both defenders’ comfort during their first cap. Purce said players at different positions welcomed her. Midfielder Allie Long took her aside throughout camp, talking through the tactics of the game plan and offering “realistic and honest” advice.

And the young duo — who are close friends after years of playing together through the youth development program — looked after each other on and off the pitch.

As Purce approached the reporters her first international post game media mix zone, she shot Cook a panicked look.

“What did you say?” she asked, grabbing at Cook’s arm.

“I told them you suck,” Cook grinned back, giving her teammate a light shove.

For Cook, the first cap served as the next step in a tenuous period of her international career. Cook rose through the youth development system with the United States, but her father is English, opening up the possibility for her to represent the English national team.

After foregoing the NWSL to play for Paris Saint-German in France, Cook was called in by England coach Phil Neville for a camp in September. Cook’s appearance on Sunday won’t cap tie the defender to the United States just yet.

“I’m just taking everything day by day,” Cook said. “I don’t want to look too far into the future, I’m still young in my career. I’m just trying to learn and process everything and take in everything I can, be open to the criticism and feedback I’m getting.”

For the Americans, the final moment of a historic year focused on the future. In the team’s final locker room huddle of 2019, captain Carli Lloyd presented Purce and Cook each with a bright yellow soccer ball signed by the entire team, a traditional memento for a first cap. (Lloyd added Purce should get a second ball for her forced own-goal, but Purce quickly waved her off, saying they should save it for a real goal.)

As they left the stadium, Purce and Cook kept those balls tucked tight to their chest.

“It’s surreal,” Purce said. “The locker room is full of legends. I’ve been working a long time to get here behind closed doors and I’m still not where I want to be as a soccer player, but this was a huge first step for me. I hope it’s in the right direction.”

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CARY, N.C. — Any chance Paul Riley gets, he lets anyone within earshot know that he believes Jaelene Hinkle is the top player at her position. After a September victory over the Orlando Pride, the North Carolina Courage head coach said Hinkle was the “best left back in the country, maybe the world.”

The particular play during the Sept. 14 match that sparked Riley’s praise of the 26-year-old Texas Tech product came in the 40th minute. The Courage were leading 2-0 and had a chance to put the game away rather quickly, it seemed.

And then Hinkle went to work.

She received the ball between the touchline and the left side of the Pride’s penalty box and two defenders quickly closed in on the left back. With delicate touches and quick feet, Hinkle danced with the Pride defenders. She made one bump into another, then cut to her right, spun to her left and knocked the ball into open space. Hinkle caught up with the ball as the defenders chased her, then — in what seemed like one motion — flipped around on the ball and blasted it into the penalty area.

Her teammate, Jessica McDonald, was waiting for the cross and knocked the ball into the net with ease for the third Courage goal of the first half.

“That goal to Jess-Mac today, that was – she’s done it for weeks and weeks, and months and months, and years and years, and I want people to recognize that this is a great footballer here,” Riley said of Hinkle after the match. “Nobody has a left foot like Jae Hinkle in this country. She’s got speed, she’s got skill… And she’s gotten better defensively. She’s evolved into such a fantastic player.”

[email protected]_15 with the moves and @J_Mac1422 with the finish#NCvORL 3-0

— NC Courage (@TheNCCourage) September 14, 2019

Her impressive play in 2019 strengthened Riley’s assessment and kept alive the question of whether Hinkle will ever feature again for the U.S. women’s national team.

Hinkle, a 5-foot-4 Denver, Colorado native, has a controversial and contentious history with the USWNT. After eight appearances for the U.S., Hinkle declined a call-up in June 2017. She revealed the following year during an interview with Christian television program 700 club that she turned down the national team because she did not feel it was her job to wear the jersey honoring LGBTQ Pride Month that the rest of the team wore during that time.

Multiple USWNT players and then-head coach Jill Ellis are openly gay. The team received support from a large portion of the fan base after Hinkle’s comments. Others criticized and accused the team of blacklisting Hinkle for her religious beliefs since she had not been called back into camp.

Hinkle received another call-up in July 2018, but was cut from camp three days later.

Ellis told reporters during a conference call in May that her decision to leave Hinkle off the 2019 World Cup roster was “solely based on soccer,” citing Hinkle’s lack of versatility.

During the World Cup this summer, Hinkle’s interview with the 700 Club was dug up and aggregated mostly by right-wing news outlets. As the story swirled on social media, the year-old interview caught the attention of U.S. and Orlando Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, who called Hinkle homophobic in a tweet and said she doesn’t belong in soccer and would never fit into the national team.

Hinkle never publicly responded to Harris, but in November wrote a blog post addressing the attention she received during the World Cup. “Satan tried to use my past to haunt me, again, as I was called out on social media for things I had never said,” Hinkle wrote. “I was shook. I felt isolated. Vulnerable. Alone. Yet I knew the Lord was going to use it for His glory.”

Despite all of the controversy, Hinkle is eager and optimistic for another chance to represent her country.

The national team is now entering a new era with new head coach Vlatko Andonovski. And players who weren’t in the mix before could get opportunities as the team prepares for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

“I think there’s always hope when a new coach is coming in,” Hinkle told Pro Soccer USA. “I don’t know what their game-plan might be, but I am hopeful that with the year that I’ve had, there might be an opportunity for my skills and my talents to be displayed again.”

Support from Riley
Riley is confident Hinkle will get another shot at the national level as well.

In her fifth year in the NWSL, Hinkle may have had her best season yet. On top of helping Riley’s side capture its third title in four years and third straight NWSL Shield, she was a finalist for the league’s Defender of the Year Award, voted to the NWSL Player’s Association Best XI and named by her teammates as the Courage’s Defensive MVP.

In August and September, she was named to the NWSL’s Team of the Month. On Sept. 21, she scored her first goal in a Courage uniform as one of her crosses sailed into the back of the Utah Royals’ net instead of connecting with a teammate.

A ball played towards the net by @JaeHinkle_15 started as a cross, but ended as a goal.

0-2 | #UTAvNC

— NWSL (@NWSL) September 22, 2019

“She needs less touches to do things than she used to. She’s much better defensively. She’s made great improvements to her game. She’s really a great all-around left back,” Riley said. “I’m sure down the road, she’ll get another chance with the national team.”

Riley has coached Hinkle since 2016, when he was hired by the Western New York Flash. Because of their familiarity and his ability to put her in positions to succeed, his comments matter a great deal to her.

“It means a lot. I don’t think it means everything, but I am grateful that he sees me as being that valuable,” Hinkle told Pro Soccer USA. “I think having Paul as our coach has really laid the foundation for our team itself and feeling free to improve and make mistakes and learn from them. I think it says a lot about him as a coach. Each year that I’ve gotten better, it’s a testament to him because he’s the only coach I’ve had outside of my first year.

“I am grateful that he has such high words for me and I hope that I show that each time I step on the field.”

Riley’s recent praises aren’t so different from what he told Pro Soccer USA about Hinkle before the start of the 2019 season.

“When I came in, I thought Jaelene was a good player. Now she’s a great player,” Riley said back in March. “She’s the best left back in the country – Crystal Dunn will tell you that and she plays left back for the national team.”

NC Courage fullback Jaelene Hinkle plays a ball to a teammate on April 17, 2019 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. (Mitchell Northam / Pro Soccer USA)

The best left back?
Dunn plays as an attacking midfielder for the Courage, but was thrust into starting at left back for the Americans at the World Cup. She performed admirably there and the U.S. won, but Dunn has since said that fullback is not her favorite or best position.

During media day before the NWSL Championship in October, Pro Soccer USA asked Dunn: Is Hinkle the best left back in the U.S.?

“Um… Well, I’m going to say yes, because she’s on my team and not only that, but she’s had an incredible year,” Dunn said. “I think she is someone who has been consistent throughout this year, which I personally love in her. It’s so easy to have one good game, two good games, and then think you’ve made it, but I think her ability to stay in every single game and impact every game has been really incredible for her. She’s been a spark and helped the team win.”

Hinkle stuffed the stat sheet this year and helped the Courage capture victory after victory with her reliable play. She led the league in minutes played (2,370), was third in touches per 90 minutes (79), was fifth in passes (1,248) and was tied for third in the NWSL in assists with six. To say she was a big part of the Courage’s attack would be a massive understatement. She was crucial to it, one of the main engines making the goal-scoring machine work.

She also led the league in crosses attempted, sending 161 balls flying off her boot in search for a teammate looking to score. That’s more than double what Hinkle’s teammate Merritt Mathias had, who was second in the league in crosses attempted with 79. Kealia Ohai of the Houston Dash was third with 65. Hinkle’s large total in that stat speaks to her ability to outmaneuver defenders along the flank and create enough open space to fire a cross towards a teammate or into the box. She’s a large reason why the Courage set the NWSL scoring record this season.

“I think for me, it’s been consistency,” Hinkle said. “Early on, in my rookie year, I was very inconsistent. It was good games, bad games, kind of in the middle games. I think just being with Paul and his direction and his guidance and just him constantly making sure I’m at the same level has been big. I think my service on the ball too. I think that’s such a big factor for our outside backs – just delivering the ball – because we have such really tall forwards that can get on just about anything. It’s just up to us to give us the ball we need.”

Added Riley: “There’s a lot of space for her to run with the narrow box we play and she’s got a great engine. She’s very good going forward, a natural lefty, delivers a great ball and sees the game quickly.”

North Carolina Courage defender Jaelene Hinkle throws the ball in against Sky Blue FC on May 4, 2019 in Cary, N.C. (Mitchell Northam / Pro Soccer USA)

Hinkle also had 43 key passes, 37 tackles, 25 clearances, 25 interceptions and a 49 percent success rate on duels this past season.

With Abby Erceg, Abby Dahlkemper and Mathias, Hinkle isn’t just an exceptional attacker from the fullback position, she has also helped the Courage form a formidable back line. The Courage allowed the fewest goals this season (24) and faced the fewest shots-on-target (81). They also posted 10 clean sheets, tied for the league lead.

“We’ve got a really good relationship,” Erceg said of Hinkle. “I don’t really talk to her a lot, because I just know what she’s going to do. I know in most situations how she’s going to play. It makes it a lot easier. We don’t have to look after each other, in a sense.”

Hinkle’s play at fullback has helped the Courage pile up trophies the last four seasons. Could she help the national team win more gold as well?

It remains to be seen whether Hinkle’s past controversy impacts her future. She wasn’t among those invited by Andonovski to a talent identification camp being held Dec. 9-14 for players who aren’t regularly called into the national team.

Still, should an invite be extended to Hinkle in the future, she would welcome the opportunity.

“Hopefully I’ll have a chance at another run with the team,” Hinkle said. “That would be awesome. Hope is definitely still there.”

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This was truly a decade of massive change for the women’s game. Tracing the growth of international women’s soccer from the buildup to the 2011 World Cup to the over a billion viewers who watched in 2019 is nothing short of astounding, particularly given this growth happened under the auspices of a governing body that has long underfunded and neglected women, not to mention various individual federations that have behaved much the same.

And yet, truly generational players have managed to emerge on the global stage, becoming regular fixtures on not just pitches, but awards stages worldwide. We may grumble about Marta winning so many player of the year trophies on the back of her immense name recognition, but you can’t deny she earned that recognition fair and square. Hope Solo has perhaps been written about for her controversies off the field almost as much as her contributions on it, but she defined an era of USWNT dominance. Homare Sawa may be one of the most respected names in the game, seen as the epitome of field vision and technical precision in ball distribution, and a consummate leader of the Nadeshiko. And there are others, players who instantly draw attention on the field, the ones who inspire confidence or fear, depending on who you’re rooting for.

To be eligible for this list, a player must have been internationally active for at least four years, covering a full cycle between major tournaments. These are players who have been critical to their teams’ success on the international stage over a sustained period of time. We are also not taking into account off-the-field actions. Many players have great social and cultural impact, but we are only considering their influence on the field, whether it’s scoring goals, making assists, saving shots, etc. We are also taking into account club play, as long as it was a sustained performance that helped elevate the team and/or the league itself in the consciousness of soccer fans. We’re well aware that these criteria can be interpreted with some wiggle room, but soccer isn’t a sport for robots with spreadsheets, and some of the fun lies in the subjectivity of the discussion.

Here are the candidates in alphabetical order:

Nadine Angerer

There may be no position on the field more polarizing than goalkeeper. One mistake, and you’re Boo Boo the fool for the rest of your life. One moment of brilliance, and you’re a legend. But sometimes you’re a steady force who may not get the same recognition from flashy goals because great goalkeeping often looks like a simple catch that is actually quite difficult to execute as you compress a rapidly-developing field situation into deciding on where to be in a goal that is impossible to cover 100%. Angerer was one of the best at this deceptive simplicity, with enough guts to match her brains for when being smarter than forwards wasn’t enough.


There are people out there half Formiga’s age who couldn’t keep up with her physically. How does she do it? How has she been doing it for so many years? Is there a Brazil WNT without Formiga? And is there women’s soccer without Brazil? In a technical sense, yes, of course the international game would continue (knock on wood) without Brazil. But the identity of the sport, the storylines, the examples of what is possible to do with a ball – these are things profoundly affected by Brazil’s presence, and in turn, by Formiga.

Pernille Harder

Evocative of the Danish men’s European championship winning team from 1992 (dubbed Danish Dynamite), the women’s team took the 2017 Euros by storm lead by Pernille Harder. Although the Danes lost the final in the Netherlands, Harder set herself apart and announced herself on the world stage to those who did not already know her. A captain, leader, striker, playmaker, defender: Harder was the beating heart of the team, carrying the torch not just for Denmark but all of Scandinavia. From her hat-trick senior debut, she’s been playing since last decade and is still only 27, is still grossly overlooked, and is still a force on the pitch, a world-class star from a sleepy town in Jutland.

Ada Hegerberg

Hegerberg boycotting the Norwegian national team is a tragedy for both her and their program, though obviously she deserves to be able to walk away if she’s being treated unfairly. It’s a testament to just how how good she was in the years she did give to them (as well as her current club work) that there are still calls for her to come back to the NT. She’s still at world-beater status, with her preternatural understanding of tight spaces and a smoothly stylish first touch that sometimes makes you feel like you’ve been dunked on.


How can you have soccer this decade (or last decade) without Marta? Answer: you can’t. She was the embodiment of the impossible made possible through her looping, criss-crossing, blurred-to-the-eye feet. On the field she was perfection and she was despair, she was joy and she was fear. No matter where she played, fans on both sides had their opinions of her, their memories of this goal or that cut. She was the one to watch, on whom all hopes or all worries rested. She was, and is, Marta.

Dzsenifer Marozsán

When fit, Dzsenifer Marozsán is probably the most dominant soccer player in the world. Marozsán has been at the preeminence of the sport since she first made headlines with the German U20 team in 2012. Since then, she has catapulted any team she is on from being a very good team to the best team around. Whether it was 1. FC Saarbrücken, 1. FFC Frankfurt or her current employers, Olympique Lyonnais, Marozsán has shone and shone brightly. Her clinical passing and a penchant for scoring breath-taking goals cannot be understated, and at 27 years old, Marozsán will continue to thrill us for years to come.

Alex Morgan

How much of Alex Morgan’s destined-for-greatness narrative was hype and how much was her own frankly astonishing athletic ability may depend on your personal feelings, but what isn’t up for debate is that Morgan is someone who can overwhelmingly dominate in the attack. Her technical savvy sometimes doesn’t get its just due, overshadowed by her pure physical gifts, but as she gets older, it becomes more and more apparent that she was never a one trick baby horse.

Megan Rapinoe

At the beginning of the decade, when Megan Rapinoe was what should have been her prime years, she was just a rotation player for the USWNT. She was considered a bit of a set piece specialist, an excellent technician who was lacking in the physical tools needed to start most games. By the end of the decade, 34-year-old Rapinoe was a locked-in starter and named the FIFA Best Women’s Player for 2019. Sure, she worked on her game during that time period, but she didn’t change her playing style much at all. Instead, the USWNT – and women’s soccer as a whole – changed around her. Rapinoe has improved with age, but more importantly, the USWNT is now better suited to her game.

Wendie Renard

If Renard were near the end of her playing career she would rightly be held up as one of the most dominant defenders in the history of the women’s game. But at only 29 years old, she’s still got some time to further cement her legacy. A one-club woman who came up through Olympique Lyonnais’ academy system, team captain Renard was indelibly shaped by Lyon, and has in turn been instrumental in helping Les Fenottes become such a dominant force in Europe. While the shelf for her international medals looks a bit threadbare at present, Renard more than makes up for it with club accolades, including thirteen (consecutive!) Division 1 Féminine titles and six Women’s Champions League titles.

Célia Šašić

It was hard not to be drawn to Šašić as a player – she was a magnetic forward with a lovely sense of space and timing who could set up as well as score on her own, with head or feet. She came out of a great era of German players like Angerer and Garefrekes and stood out from the pack right in front of the goal. Honestly, her retirement at age 27 felt like it came far too soon even though she had already given over a decade of her life to the national team.

Becky Sauerbrunn

Sauerbrunn has quietly gone about ensuring the United States stays top of the international game with her steady, thoughtful play. She dragged attention to the position by the sheer – and consistent – quality of her play, but like all excellent center backs, was often marked more by what didn’t happen than what did, making for a lack of flashy highlights.

Homare Sawa

Japan had an incredible run to start this decade, winning the 2011 World Cup and 2014 Asian Cup while finishing second in both the 2015 World Cup and the 2012 Olympics. We could call Homare Sawa the heart of that stylish, successful Nadeshiko team, but that would sell her short. Sawa was the brain, the captain, and the distillation of that era for Japan: skillful, indefatigable, inventive. For club (3 straight titles with INAC Kobe Leonessa) and country, Sawa set a new standard for central midfielders worldwide.

Caroline Seger

Seger has a bit of a reputation for her, shall we say, brusque physical encounters, but to only see her physicality is to far undersell her importance to any midfield. Her tireless engine has driven many a team to success, absolutely gobbling up every single crumb of resistance offered to her by the opposition. She’s both enforcer and general, able to patrol through the midfield, arrive late, and begin attacks.

Christine Sinclair

A lot written about Sinc talks about what she’s done in spite of the team around her. It feels unfair, and a little mean, but perhaps only because it contains an element of truth. This is someone who has always outpaced, sometimes literally, everyone around her. And when age inevitable started to tell, she didn’t have to adjust her game, because that wellspring of cunning and vision was always there. It was coaches who had to adjust, realizing they hadn’t lost a powerful piece, but gained a different, equally powerful one.

Hope Solo

After the USWNT lost 4-0 to Brazil in the semifinals of the 2007 World Cup, Hope Solo infamously stated that she would have made the saves to keep her team in the match. She was widely criticized for being arrogant and disrespectful to her teammates, but the next eight years of her career also suggested that she might have been right. Solo was the best shot-stopper of her generation, and retired with 102 shutouts in a USWNT shirt, as well as an astonishing run of 55 games unbeaten. Even as women’s soccer progresses rapidly, no one else appears to have matched the quick reactions Solo had at her peak.

Abby Wambach

It’s difficult for Abby Wambach to influence other people’s games, since doing so would require a level of God-given physical ability reserved for a fraction of a percent of humans. But Wambach did so much more than rely on her 5’11” frame, strength and leaping ability. She maximized her talent, becoming as good of a playmaker as she was a goal-scorer in her late career. Her passing and ability to create space for teammates was more important than her aerial prowess as her career wound down. Wambach’s evolution also mirrored American soccer’s; the next USWNT player with her talents will be asked to develop a more complete skillset in her early 20s, instead of in her 30s.