The U.S. women’s national team has lost two potential starters to injury ahead of a crucial double qualifier in July for the World Cup and Olympics.
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Williams was injured in the Current’s opener of the NWSL Challenge Cup on March 18. The club declined ESPN’s request for more information about the nature of the injury, but said surgery is expected later this week. USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski said later Tuesday it is a hamstring injury.
That news comes just 18 hours after the Chicago Red Stars announced that defender Tierna Davidson is out for the NWSL season with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear. The club said she was injured during training last week.
The injuries are the latest in a rash of other injuries in the NWSL, including to Brazilian legend Marta, who on Monday said she suffered a “knee ligament injury” and will need surgery. USWNT defender Becky Sauerbrunn tore the meniscus in her right knee earlier this month and is expected to return by mid-April.
Andonovski said he could not pinpoint a reason for the influx of injuries in the NWSL.
“We cannot put any connection between all the injuries — they happened to players on different teams, in different environments, different setups,” he said. “It seems like it’s just unfortunate that they happened to get injured, some of them in training, some of them in games.”
The loss of both Williams and Davidson is a setback for the USWNT, which is preparing for the CONCACAF W Championship set to start July 4 in Monterrey, Mexico. It will serve as the qualification tournament for both the 2023 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics.
To automatically qualify for the World Cup, which will be hosted in Australia and New Zealand, the USWNT must finish in the top four of eight teams in the tournament. But only the winner of the W Championship will automatically qualify for the Olympics in Paris.
Andonovski said he had already been touch with both Williams and Davidson about their recoveries.
“We have quite a few injuries in our player pool that we are dealing with, but that also means more opportunities for other players and the chance to continue to deepen our roster as we continue to work to find the best combination of players to take to Mexico in July,” he said.
The USWNT will continue preparations with a pair of friendlies against Uzbekistan on April 9 in Columbus, Ohio, and April 12 in Chester, Pennsylvania (watch live on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. ET).
Again, veteran players like Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Tobin Heath and Megan Rapinoe did not make the roster for the April friendlies, which was announced Tuesday. That follows Andonovski’s approach during the SheBelieves Cup in February, when he said he wanted to see newer players and veterans won’t be winning spots automatically.
“They’re not out of the picture by any means, but for this particular camp, we felt like this is the group we want to move forward with and will give us the best chance to be successful,” Andonovski said Tuesday.
USWNT Squad for April Friendlies:
Goalkeepers (3): Bella Bixby (Portland Thorns FC), Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)
Defenders (7): Alana Cook (OL Reign), Abby Dahlkemper (San Diego Wave FC), Imani Dorsey (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit)
Midfielders (8): Lindsey Horan (Lyon), Jaelin Howell (Racing Louisville FC), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Catarina Macario (Lyon), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Samantha Mewis (Kansas City Current), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)
Forwards (5): Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Margaret Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC)
ESPN reporter Jeff Carlisle contributed to this report.