Meet the U.S. Women's Soccer Team: Tobin Heath

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.

Tobin Heath

Position: Midfielder

Number: 17

National team experience: 90 appearances, this will be her second World Cup, and she has 11 international goals.

What to expect from Tobin Heath: You know that kid on your youth soccer team who just never stopped running? He or she might not have been the biggest, the most skilled, the strongest, the most aggressive, or the most clever player, but they just never, ever, ever stopped running. When your team was on the attack, she was there. When your team needed an extra set of legs on defense, there she was. And she never, ever, ever seemed even a little bit tired. That’s Tobin Heath. Heath plays an attacking midfielder role for the national team. In this World Cup, she’ll most likely be coming off the bench to replace Christen Press or another starting midfielder.

Video: In this package of Tobin Heath highlights, notice how many of her goals come from following up on an attack. Heath runs herself into goals. In one, she even basically kept running after she scored the goal as if to say, “no big deal, I just scored, now lemme run back to our side of the field so we can start the game again and I can run some more.”

Non-gendered personal interest item: Heath has made something of a name for herself on the internet with a series of juggling freestyle and trick shot videos. Enjoy!

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

Meet the U.S. Women's Soccer Team: Ashlyn Harris

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.

Ashlyn Harris

Position: Goalkeeper

Number: 24

National team experience: 6 appearances, this will be her first World Cup, and she has two international shutouts.

What to expect from Ashlyn Harris: Harris is everything you’d expect from a world class goalie. She’s aggressive, fearless, determined, and a little bit obsessed. At 5’9″ she’s got the physical ability and presence to command the area around the net. Harris would be the starting goalie for virtually every other country in the world but unfortunately for her, she’s stuck behind goalkeeping legend, Hope Solo. When Solo was suspended this winter, Harris got her chance to start and played well, cementing her position as the second goalie on the team. If Solo gets injured, Harris’ experience will come in handy. Get it, handy?

Video: Here’s an almost ten minute package of Harris highlights. Within the first 30 seconds, she saves a penalty kick and then shows her focus, determination, and athleticism by recovering and springing again to knock the rebound out of danger.

Non-gendered personal interest item: Harris has a story that’s more common (or at least more talked about) in male/non-soccer professional sports. She comes from a small, mostly poor town in Florida. Her family has a history of addiction. Harris was a wild child who struggled in school (and in fact, was almost ineligible to graduate from high school because of her attendance record.) Harris is up front about soccer having provided her a “way out” to see the world, finish college, and support organizations that she believes in like the depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide focused non-profit, To Write Love on Her Arms.

Links: Read about Harris in an Florida Today article by Lyn Dowling. Check out her US Soccer page and follow her on Twitter.

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.

The Women's World Cup is Happening? Huh?

Dear Sports Fan,

I had no idea the Women’s World Cup was upon us. Give me the breakdown – who are the top teams? Where is the Cup being held? Are there any channels showing it in the US?

Thanks,
Penalty Kick


 

Dear Penalty Kick,

The Women’s World Cup is indeed upon us. This quadrennial[1] competition pits the best 16 women’s national soccer teams against each other over three weeks. It began on June 26 and will conclude on July 17. It is being held in Germany with games in nine arenas throughout the country.

The women’s tournament has a lot in common with the men’s. To start with, just qualifying for the tournament is a great achievement for many countries. The qualification games have been going on since April 2009! The tournament is divided into two stages. In the first stage or group stage, the 16 qualifying teams get split up into four groups of four. Each team plays every other team in the group. A win is worth three points, a tie worth one, and a loss none. At the end of the group stage each team will have played three games. The two teams in each group with the most points will move on to the next stage. As you can imagine, with only eight possible point totals[2] it is pretty usual to have some teams tied at the end of the group stage. Luckily there is a Byzantine system to settle these situations! There is a hierarchy of eight tie-breaking factors that end with “Drawing of lots by the FIFA Organizing Committee!” The second stage is a pretty straight-forward single elimination tournament between the surviving eight teams.

The host team Germany has won the last two World Cups and they are again the favorites. If they stumble under the pressure, the next most likely teams to take advantage are the Brazilians, the Americans, the Japanese, and the Swedes — believe it or not, people bet on these games! People watch them too! Every game will be televised on ESPN or some ESPN channel.

I love watching women’s soccer because… well, I love watching any soccer! The issue of why women’s sports are not more popular as spectator sports in our country is a bigger one than you asked me to bite into, but it does seem like soccer translates from men to women better than almost any sport. The rules are exactly the same — the ball the same size, the field the same size, etc. The competition is as fierce and unlike men’s soccer, our women actually have a good shot to win! Also there is WAY less diving! The U.S. team played its first game today and won 2-0 over a North Korean team whose coach blamed lightning for his loss in his post-game press conference. Lighting!! The remaining two games in the group stage for the U.S. are Saturday at noon against Colombia and Wednesday July 7 at 2:35 against Sweden. Give them a watch!

Thanks for the question,
Ezra Fischer

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Fancy talk for every four years.
  2. 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,9 although I would guess that there few possible combinations for the four team group than you would think, because each team’s results effect the other teams’ results within the group. Anyone feel like solving this math problem?