Nancy Armour, USA TODAY Published 3:55 p.m. ET May 25, 2021 | Updated 4:00 p.m. ET May 25, 2021
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With a little less than two months until the Tokyo Olympics, the U.S. women’s national soccer team got their first win.
Midfielder Julie Ertz, one of the team’s most indispensable players, is “fine” after an MCL injury, and coach Vlatko Andonovski said Tuesday he expects she’ll be able to play in the send-off series in early July.
“Right now, her progression is going well,” Andonovski said of Ertz, who was not included on the 23-player roster for games against Portugal, Jamaica and Nigeria next month in Texas. “She’s started off back jogging, but we’re going to be very careful in how we approach her recovery and make sure she’s 100 percent.”
Ertz, who plays for the Chicago Red Stars, was hurt in a May 16 NWSL game against the Portland Thorns.
The injury prompted fears of a worst-case scenario for the U.S. women because while they have depth at midfield, they don’t have anyone else like Ertz. Her ability to both clog up the midfield defensively and start the buildup on offense is invaluable.
She started all but one game as the U.S. women won both the 2015 and 2019 World Cups, and leads the Americans in minutes this year, playing in all seven games.
Tobin Heath, who hasn’t played since January because of ankle and knee injuries, also was left off the roster, though she’ll join the U.S. women at camp as a training player. Andonovski said Heath has been working with trainers and Under-20 coach Laura Harvey, and said he hopes she, too, would be ready for the send-off series.
“It’s day by day,” Andonovski said. “As she’s progressing, she will get more and more (work). She’s still not fully recovered enough to be with (the) team and practice 100 percent.”
The Olympic roster has only 18 players, five less than at a World Cup, and Andonovski said he won’t make his final cuts until after the “Summer Series,” which concludes June 16. But his latest roster provided some hints about who is in the running for Tokyo – and who isn’t.
The U.S. women, who are trying to become the first reigning World Cup champion to win Olympic gold, begin group play July 21 against Sweden.
Andonovski chose six forwards and midfielders, eight defenders and three goalkeepers for the Summer Series, which is being held in Texas to mimic the hot, humid conditions the team will encounter at the Olympics.
Kristie Mewis and Lynn Williams, who have become staples under Andonovski, were included, as was Catarina Macario, who has earned significant playing time at Lyon (France). Among the notable names missing were Ashlyn Harris, the U.S. women’s longtime backup goalkeeper, and Ali Krieger, who has played in every major tournament since the 2011 World Cup except the London Olympics.
Mallory Pugh, a member of the 2019 World Cup team, didn’t make the cut, either.
“I’ve said before no one is out of the running until we pick the final roster,” Andonovski said. “The players we chose for the most recent rosters are the ones we’re most focused on at this moment. But nothing is closed until the (Olympic) roster is chosen.”