Category Archives: Stitched USWNT Jerseys

Megan Rapinoe Jersey

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(CNN)Social activist and soccer icon Megan Rapinoe has had one heck of a year. After leading the US Women’s National Soccer team to a World Cup title in July, the legend scored yet another victory.

Rapinoe has been named Sports Illustrated’s 2019 Sportsperson of the Year. The midfielder, who captains the professional Seattle Reign FC, also won the Ballon d’Or award last week, given annually to the world’s best soccer players.

“While we do not get to choose what we see or what happens around us, and sometimes to us and others, we do get to choose how we bear witness to it,” Rapinoe captioned an Instagram post of the magazine cover.

The 34-year-old graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, styled in a sheer turtleneck Valentino gown. Donning her famous purple hair and holding a sledgehammer, she’s a force to be reckoned with.

This year, Megan Rapinoe was a galvanizing force on a team that is now looked up to by any woman who doesn’t want to be told she’s come far enough, who’s taking matters into her own [email protected] on the 2019 #Sportsperson of the Year: pic.twitter.com/r3eawSnPYg

— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) December 9, 2019
“This year, Megan Rapinoe was a galvanizing force on a team that is now looked up to by any woman who doesn’t want to be told she’s come far enough, who’s taking matters into her own hands,” Sports Illustrated said on Twitter.
Rapinoe is a fierce advocate for women’s rights, and has been one of the leading soccer player’s in the fight for equal pay.
When the two- time World Cup champion isn’t dominating the soccer field in the midst of chants of “equal pay,” she can be found challenging US President Donald Trump or suing the United States Soccer Federation for alleged gender discrimination.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that the US Women’s National Soccer team won the World Cup in July.

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.

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“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.’’

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. https://t.co/hgELhKQYQB

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.

Sam Mewis Jersey

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The larger sense of purpose ended up bringing this team together. The squad included a mix of veteran leaders like co-captains Morgan, Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd, and emerging stars such as Sam Mewis, Rose Lavelle and Lindsey Horan. The age blend could make for tricky chemistry. Under coach Jill Ellis, however, the team jelled. The old hands were a model of poise. Lloyd, the star of the 2015 World Cup win, was less than thrilled with her reduced on-field role, but she stayed supportive. And the veterans stepped up as spokes-people for the equal-pay fight and other off-field issues. “That was a really strong sign of leadership,” says Mewis. “It allowed players like me and Rose to just focus on playing, which was nerve-racking enough.”

The bond was reinforced after each game in the tournament, when the players spent about 30 minutes together before boarding the bus. No coaches or staff were allowed. “That really helped everyone see each other eye to eye,” says Morgan. “People would call out players positively, or themselves negatively. We could be vulnerable.”

What they could be was themselves. And it was precisely that honest, unfiltered and unapologetic quality that struck such a chord. The soccer insiders were right about Team USA becoming a national obsession. But they were wrong about the reason. The U.S. women didn’t evoke the easy feelings of patriotism that come from waving a flag so much as embody the evolving spirit of the more perfect union that it symbolizes.

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The response was overwhelming. The team’s jerseys became the highest-selling soccer shirts in Nike’s history. On the online retailer Fanatics, U.S. jersey sales spiked 500% over the 2015 World Cup. Global viewership of the tournament more than doubled per match, and a combined 1.12 billion viewers worldwide tuned in to coverage of the event across all platforms, a new record. On Halloween, young boys as well as girls were spotted around the country dressed up as Rapinoe and Morgan.

Most important, the team’s fight for their fair share has been taken up far and wide. This fall, Australia’s soccer federation reached a landmark deal with its players: total revenue generated by both the women’s and men’s teams will now be split equally. In Burlington, Vt., a girls’ high school soccer team partnered with a local nonprofit, Change the Story, to sell athletic shirts emblazoned with #EQUALPAY.

“It’s scary that these women can be the best in the world and they’re still fighting for pay equality,” says Maia Vota, a senior on the Burlington High School team. “I don’t want to see that in my future.”

The U.S. team soaks in adulation at a ticker-tape parade in New York City on July 10
The U.S. team soaks in adulation at a ticker-tape parade in New York City on July 10John Lamparski—WireImage/Getty Images
The team’s campaign went viral when four players received excessive-celebration yellow cards for peeling off their uniform jerseys after scoring a goal, revealing the #EQUALPAY shirts. The money raised—more than $100,000—will help broaden access to soccer for girls in under-served communities and fund women’s economic-empowerment efforts in the state.

Among those who bought a shirt was Roger Ranz, the referee who issued the penalties. He says protocol required him to hand out the cards, but he fully supports the cause. “I believe in what they’re doing,” says Ranz. “I believe in what the U.S. women’s national soccer team is trying to accomplish as well.”

***

After their epic victory lap, the players returned in August to a less festive locale: conference rooms in New York City, for mediation talks with the governing body of American soccer. The negotiations broke down, and a trial date in the players’ gender-discrimination suit is set for May of next year.

The protracted dispute has started to wear on the team. “Everyone should be making more money,” says Rapinoe. “If we didn’t have to fight the federation all the time, we could actually put our collective power together with the federation. Imagine that?”

But in November, a federal judge offered the players encouragement by ruling that they can sue collectively in a class action. U.S. Soccer has maintained that its compensation practices are not discriminatory, noting that the women’s team, for example, was paid more in aggregate than the men’s in recent years. The judge said that line of reasoning would yield an “absurd result,” as it would mean “an employer who pays a woman $10 per hour and a man $20 per hour would not violate the Equal Pay Act … as long as the woman negated the obvious disparity by working twice as many hours.”

Rapinoe, the 2019 FIFA player of the year, scored six World Cup goals and won the Golden Ball as the event’s best player
Rapinoe, the 2019 FIFA player of the year, scored six World Cup goals and won the Golden Ball as the event’s best playerCait Oppermann for TIME
“This was a really important win for the players,” says Dionne Koller, director of the Center for Sport and the Law at the University of Baltimore School of Law. “The public sees that this claim is real.”

With the 2020 Olympics in July, the team must also keep its focus on the field. It’s possible the U.S. will bring a team to Tokyo that’s almost identical to the one that won the World Cup. Morgan, who is expecting her first child in April, plans to be there. No country has won the World Cup and Olympic gold in back-to-back years. But few are better positioned. On Dec. 2, Rapinoe won the Ballon d’Or, given to the best women’s player in the world. Morgan was third. The U.S. desperately wants to avoid a repeat of the 2016 Olympics, when Sweden eliminated the Americans in the quarter-finals, their earliest exit from a major international tournament.

But no matter how the team fares, its impact on American culture is secure. Through their athletic excellence and legal persistence, the team represents a natural extension of what Title IX—the landmark legislation ensuring equal access to sports—began in 1972. “It’s not enough to say, ‘Let women play soccer,’” says Koller. “Now, it’s ‘Treat women the same.’”

The team, which made that case so dazzlingly on the field in France, welcomes the weight of legacy. “This next generation wants to be a part of something big,” says Morgan. “They’re not just sayers. They’re doers. It’s our job to continue to pave the way.”

The work won’t stop anytime soon. “We’re here, we’re coming with armies and ladders on all sides of our platform,” says Rapinoe. “We want to bring people up. We’re not going anywhere. And we will change the world.”

Lindsey Horan Jersey

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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.”

Crystal Dunn Jersey

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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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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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Players who starred in the 2019 World Cup won’t be the only ones taking the field for the United States women’s national team in their upcoming victory tour matches against Portugal.

U.S. head coach Jill Ellis announced Monday that North Carolina Courage forward Kristen Hamilton and Chicago Red Stars defender Casey Short have been added to the roster for the two friendlies, the first on Thursday in Philadelphia and the second Sept. 3 in Minnesota.

“With the injuries we currently have to several World Cup players, and with two of our main priorities on the victory tour being spreading around the minutes and keeping players healthy for their clubs during this critical playoff push, it made sense to call in Casey and Kristen to give us options and depth for these games against what will be a tough Portugal team,” Ellis said in a statement. “Both players have been performing very well in the NWSL and I know they’ll fit right in with our group for these matches.”

If Hamilton, 27, appears for the Stars and Stripes, it will be her first appearance for the senior national team. The University of Denver product is having a stellar campaign in the NWSL this season, tallying eight goals and three assists in 16 games. Hamilton has also registered nine tackles and six interceptions. In a game earlier this season against the Houston Dash, she netted four goals in 75 minutes.

Hamilton was also recently named to the U.S. under-23 roster as an overage player for the upcoming Nordic Tournament

Short, 29, has 27 appearances for the national team since making her debut in 2016. She was with the team in 2018 for the SheBelieves Cup and the Concacaf Women’s Championship. Along with McCall Zerboni, she was one of Ellis’ final cuts from the 2019 World Cup roster.

In 18 NWSL games this season, Short has 35 tackles, 16 interceptions, two assists and one goal.

Several U.S. players have dealt with injuries since the end of the World Cup. It’s unclear if Megan Rapinoe (left achilles), Alex Morgan (concussion), Kelly O’Hara (left ankle), Mallory Pugh (right hip), Alyssa Naeher (left thigh), Rose Lavelle (head), Morgan Brian (left thigh) and Tierna Davidson (right thigh) will see the field in either match.

The match in Philadelphia will air on FS1 at 7 p.m. EST, while ESPN2 will carry the game in Minnesota at 7 p.m.

U.S. Women’s National Team Roster – 2019 Victory Tour vs. Portugal
GOALKEEPERS (3): Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns FC), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

DEFENDERS (8): Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (NC Courage), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O’Hara (Utah Royals FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals FC), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Morgan Brian (Chicago Red Stars), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage)

FORWARDS (8): Kristen Hamilton (NC Courage), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC), Jessica McDonald (NC Courage), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Utah Royals FC), Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit), Megan Rapinoe (Reign FC)

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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 pic.twitter.com/vzAXfosk32

— 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 pic.twitter.com/lZzqHwZGHE

— 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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The University of North Carolina’s women’s soccer team might have won the NCAA College Cup on twenty-one occasions, but coach Anson Dorrance still thinks they’re the underdogs heading into Sunday’s national championship game against Stanford University in San Jose, California.

Hamstrung by a number of injuries, especially that of star midfielder Emily Fox, UNC is “juggling” and “trying to change things in the lineup in order to be competitive,” Anson said at a pre-match press conference on Saturday afternoon.

“It’s going to be one of the rare moments for us to be the underdog, and we’re going to play that card to what extent we can,” he added. “This is pure opportunity; we’re playing with house money.”

The Tar Heels will be playing in their second national championship game in a row, the team having lost 1-0 to Florida State in last year’s final. According to sophomore Brianna Pinto, that loss has motivated them all season. “This has been a huge conversation we’ve been having,” she said. In the end, she thinks that the team learned that they need to “devote every ounce of your being to leaving it all on the field,” in order to avenge last year’s result.

The team will be facing a star-studded Stanford team that Anson described as a “juggernaut” of women’s soccer. Specifically, Anson said that the Cardinal has “one of the best front lines of all time in college soccer,” led by star forward Catarina Macario.

As such, he’s relying on his team’s stellar defense to subdue the threat. “If we can dodge bullets and counter-attack effectively, maybe we can steal one or two,” he said.

Despite their setbacks, Anson says that his team is “excited for the challenge,” and his confidence is buoyed by their strong freshman class and resilient group of seniors.

He’s particularly impressed with forward Bridgette Andrzejewski, whose resurgence has helped transform the group’s mentality. “Bridgette’s evolution as a soccer player and a human being has been remarkable,” Anson said.

According to Anson, Bridgette “would be the first one to admit that she thought the universe revolved around her when she first came in as a freshman.”

“I had a conference with her in January and I let her know that I thought she has huge potential but she hasn’t really achieved it,” he said. “What she’s realized is how much her relationships with the kids on her team are important to her. All of a sudden… you saw this 180 in every respect.”

That resiliency helped push the team past Washington State in Friday night’s semifinal game. The Tar Heels went down 1-0 early on but managed to rally back to win 3-2 courtesy of goals from junior Alessia Russo and freshman Alexis Strickland. It was the second consecutive game in which UNC came back from behind, a track record that Anson credited to their “good habits” and “hard work.”

With all odds against them on Sunday, that mental fortitude will most definitely be key for the Tar Heels.