Meet the U.S. Women's Soccer Team: Whitney Engen

The 2015 soccer Women’s World Cup begins on Saturday, June 6 in Canada. The United States team is one of a handful of favorites to win the tournament and they’ve got a great story. Despite decades of excellent play, the team has not won a World Cup championship since 1999. That’s a whole generation of dreams denied and all the reason anyone should need to root for the team this year. To help prepare you to root for team and country, we’re going to run a short profile of every player on the 23-person roster. When female athletes take their turn in the spotlight, they often receive coverage that is slanted toward non-game aspects of their stories — marriage, children, sexual preference, perceived lack-of or bountiful sexiness, social media activity, etc. In the hope of balancing things out, just a tiny bit, these previews will strive to stay on the field, with only a little bit of non-gendered personal interest when possible.

Whitney Engen

Position: Defender

Number: 6

National team experience: 24 appearances, this will be her first World Cup, and she has scored three international goals

What to expect from Whitney Engen: We probably won’t see Engen play in this World Cup unless the team has cliched their spot in the group stage before the last game and they decide to start a team of backups. Engen has not played in any game since the start of the Algarve Cup in March. There’s no shame in this — after all, in what context can you say that you’re somewhere between the 18th and 23rd best in the entire country? If the team does call on Engen, she will provide a stout, physical presence at central defender. Having started her first two seasons of college at North Carolina (the historically dominant women’s soccer school) as a striker, she’s still got a good scoring touch, even if she generally only gets to exercise it as a target for corner kicks and set pieces.

Video: You can learn everything you need to know about Engen’s game from the clear respect her teammates have for her in general and the teasing disrespect they show for the technical goal-scoring ability that she exhibited in this clip.

Non-gendered personal interest item: According to her Wikipedia page, during her senior season in college, Engen played 1,211 minutes (or about 13.5 games) straight without ever being subbed. That’s quite an iron-woman record!

Links: Read about Whitney in an American Soccer Now article by John D. Halloran. Check out her US Soccer page and follow her on Twitter.

Meet the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team: Lori Chalupny

The 2015 soccer Women’s World Cup begins on Saturday, June 6 in Canada. The United States team is one of a handful of favorites to win the tournament and they’ve got a great story. Despite decades of excellent play, the team has not won a World Cup championship since 1999. That’s a whole generation of dreams denied and all the reason anyone should need to root for the team this year. To help prepare you to root for team and country, we’re going to run a short profile of every player on the 23-person roster. When female athletes take their turn in the spotlight, they often receive coverage that is slanted toward non-game aspects of their stories — marriage, children, sexual preference, perceived lack-of or bountiful sexiness, social media activity, etc. In the hope of balancing things out, just a tiny bit, these previews will strive to stay on the field, with only a little bit of non-gendered personal interest when possible.

Lori Chalupny

Position: Defender

Number: 16

National team experience: 100 appearances, this will be her second World Cup, and she has scored nine international goals

What to expect from Lori Chalupny: Lori Chalupny is a versatile veteran player who will come off the bench in this year’s World Cup. She can play any of the midfield positions but is most likely to be used as an outside defender. Fans of Chalupny might feel as though she’s being underutilized in this role and perhaps she is. Over the last three years, playing professional soccer for the NWSL team, the Chicago Red Stars, Chalupny has starred as a central midfielder, a defender, and even a striker. As recently as two years ago, Chalupny was considered one of the best players in the world. Either she is being underutilized or age and her unique history with the National Team (more on this later) may have caught up with her. At 5’4″, she’s not a physical defensive presence but she can get up and down the field, transitioning from a defensive to an offensive role quickly.  That’s one of the primary skills asked of outside defenders by coach Jill Ellis, so it’s no surprise that’s what we’re most likely to be seeing her do.

Video: Although she plays defense now, Chalupny still has a well tuned scoring touch, as she showed on this corner.

Non-gendered personal interest item: Chalupny started every game of the 2007 World Cup for the U.S. Women’s National team. In 2011, she wasn’t even on the team. Now, she’s back. What happened? The obvious answer is concussions. After a series of concussions, the team and its medical staff decided in 2010 to drop her from consideration. They did not feel it was safe or smart to keep putting her out on the field. Chalupny disagreed as did the doctors for the series of professional teams she played for between 2010 and 2014. There seems to be some confusion about the mechanics of her getting back onto the team in 2014. The national team has received some criticism for not reconsidering her, considering that she has apparently not had a concussion since 2010, but its also possible that Chalupny had not applied to be back on the team. It’s a curious situation that smells political and I wonder if her role on the team is completely free from its aftermath. I certainly hope so. Moreover, I hope that she remains concussion free.

Links: Read about Chalupny’s reinstatement in an Equalizer Soccer article by Jeff Kassouf. Check out her US Soccer page, her website, and follow her on Twitter.

Meet the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team: Morgan Brian

The 2015 soccer Women’s World Cup begins on Saturday, June 6 in Canada. The United States team is one of a handful of favorites to win the tournament and they’ve got a great story. Despite decades of excellent play, the team has not won a World Cup championship since 1999. That’s a whole generation of dreams denied and all the reason anyone should need to root for the team this year. To help prepare you to root for team and country, we’re going to run a short profile of every player on the 23-person roster. When female athletes take their turn in the spotlight, they often receive coverage that is slanted toward non-game aspects of their stories — marriage, children, sexual preference, perceived lack-of or bountiful sexiness, social media activity, etc. In the hope of balancing things out, just a tiny bit, these previews will strive to stay on the field, with only a little bit of non-gendered personal interest when possible.

Morgan Brian

Position: Midfielder

Number: 14

National team experience: 27 appearances, this will be her first World Cup, has scored four international goals

What to expect from Morgan Brian: At 22, Brian is the youngest player on the United States team. She played college soccer at the University of Virginia and won the Hermann trophy, given to the best college soccer player, in each of the last two years. She was the number one pick in this year’s National Women’s Soccer League draft. In short, she’s a rising star. One of the most interesting things about the biggest competitions in the world, like the Olympics and the World Cup, happening only once every four years, is how players react when the tournament catches them at an awkward stage in their career. If the World Cup were played in 2017, Morgan Brian would probably be the driving force of the U.S team. As it is, she’s being asked to fit in with more established players in a midfield stuffed with talent. Even so, Brian has managed to put her mark on the team. She’s played in every game so far this year and started all of the meaningful ones. Although she was a prolific scorer in college, in the context of the national team, she’s played a more defensive or holding midfield position. It’s not a natural fit for someone of her size (5’7″ but so slight that her college teammates nicknamed her, “Plankton”) but she’s more than held her own. When you watch the team, you probably won’t notice Brian, but she’s an essential part of the glue that connects defense to offense and makes sure nothing slips through.

Video: As you can see from these highlights, Brian stands out as clearly the best player on the field when facing college competition.

Non-gendered personal interest item: Nothing that I can find. This is a well coached young player who answers questions about how she gets an edge on her opponent by saying “to always work hard and bring the intangibles.” Sorry! She’s great at soccer and that’s about it, so far.

Links: Read about Brian in an Equalizer Soccer article by Ray Curren and an ESPNW article by Graham HayesCheck out her US Soccer page and follow her on Twitter.

Meet the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team: Shannon Boxx

The 2015 soccer Women’s World Cup begins on Saturday, June 6 in Canada. The United States team is one of a handful of favorites to win the tournament and they’ve got a great story. Despite decades of excellent play, the team has not won a World Cup championship since 1999. That’s a whole generation of dreams denied and all the reason anyone should need to root for the team this year. To help prepare you to root for team and country, we’re going to run a short profile of every player on the 23-person roster. When female athletes take their turn in the spotlight, they often receive coverage that is slanted toward non-game aspects of their stories — marriage, children, sexual preference, perceived lack-of or bountiful sexiness, social media activity, etc. In the hope of balancing things out, just a tiny bit, these previews will strive to stay on the field, with only a little bit of non-gendered personal interest when possible.

Shannon Boxx

Position: Midfielder

Number: 7

National team experience: 190 caps, played in three previous world cups, has scored 27 international goals

What to expect from Shannon Boxx:  Unless something goes terribly wrong, Boxx will be playing a supporting role at this year’s world cup. In her prime, Boxx was a dominating midfielder who could just as easily shut down opposing attacks as score goals. Now at 37, she’ll look to use her experience and rangy 5’8″ frame to make things difficult for the opposition when she’s in the game. She can still close down on an attacker quickly and punish them physically. In most of the team’s recent games, Boxx has either come on between the 75 and 80th minute. In the World Cup, with fewer subs and higher stakes, I would expect her not to play as much, if at all, but it’s nice to know that the team has someone with her experience on the bench, who will be ready if needed.

Video: Here’s a typical offensive Shannon Boxx play. She gets her head to the ball, stays in the play, and gets her head onto the ball a second time to score.

Non-gendered personal interest item: Boxx has had lupus for more than a decade. Lupus is an autoimmune disease that affects skin, joints, and energy level, all things that are pretty important for a top-flight athlete. It’s pretty amazing that she’s been able to play through the disease. Recently she’s become an advocate for sufferers of lupus. You can read an article she wrote about living with lupus and what can and should be done for people with lupus here.

Check out her US Soccer page and follow her on Twitter.