Brazil’s Marta to Compete in Her Sixth Women’s World Cup

Make that six for Marta

The 37-year-old Brazilian professional footballer, a forward for the Orlando Pride in the National Women’s Soccer League, will compete at her sixth Women’s World Cup after being named to Pia Sundhage‘s squad for the tournament starting on July 20 in Australia and New Zealand.

MartaThe six-time FIFA World player of the year will lead Brazil’s quest for a first world title alongside other experienced players like Debinha, Tamires and Andressa Alves.

However, the former United States and Sweden coach does not guarantee that the all-time Women’s World Cup top scorer will feature in the starting lineup.

“Marta is the queen, she is an icon. Just being around her is contagious,” said Sundhage.

“If she will be in the starting lineup I don’t know, not yet. She will play the role I will give her and I am sure she will do well.”

Brazil, who began a training camp this week, face Chile in a farewell friendly on Sunday before travelling to Australia, where its first game is against Panama on July 24 in Adelaide.

Full Brazil Squad:

Goalkeepers: Leticia Izidoro (Corinthians), Camila (Santos), Barbara (Flamengo).

Defenders: Rafaelle (Arsenal), Bruninha (Gotham FC), Kathellen (Real Madrid), Antonia (Levante), Tamires (Corinthians), Lauren, Monica (both Madrid CFF).

Midfielders: Adriana (Orlando Pride), Ary Borges (Racing Louisville), Kerolin (North Carolina Courage), Ana Vitória (Benfica), Duda Sampaio, Luana (both Corinthians).

Forwards: Debinha (Kansas City Current), Andressa Alves (Roma), Nycole (Benfica), Gabi Nunes (Madrid CFF), Geyse (Barcelona), Bia Zaneratto (Palmeiras), Marta (Orlando Pride).

Amy Rodriguez Named Manager of NWSL Expansion Side Utah Royals

Amy Rodriguez has accepted a royal(s) role…

National Women’s Soccer League expansion side the Utah Royals has named the 36-year-old Latina World Cup winner and two-time NWSL champion as manager.

Amy Rodriguez Rodriguez spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach at her alma mater, USC, and now returns to Utah, having spent time there as a player from 2018 to 2020 during a previous incarnation of the club.

Utah was named as the latest NWSL expansion side last month and will begin play in 2024.

“The moment that the Royals organization gave me the phone call, I had the butterflies in my stomach,” Rodriguez told ESPN via telephone. “I was so excited to potentially go back to a club that I had so much enjoyment to play for.

“But this obviously is a much different role, one that is a bit daunting. And I’m not going to lie. I’m nervous about the task at hand. But it’s an exciting time, too. So I’m like, rolling my sleeves up, ready to go.”

Rodriguez acknowledged she will undergo a steep learning curve in terms of going from assistant coach to manager, as well as coaching professional players for the first time.

“Anytime you step into a role that is above you, there’s definitely way more responsibility that comes with it,” she said. “There’s an excitement [and] a potential to make something my own, and that gets me fired up.

“But I take it with a great amount of responsibility that I’m going to now step into, and I’m going to give it my very best. I think as a player, I always leaned on hard work, and I think similarly in this coaching role, I’ll do the exact same.”

Rodriguez has a long history with Royals president Michelle Hyncik, as the two were teammates in high school. When Hyncik suggested they talk over video instead of catching up over the phone, Rodriguez said she was “caught off guard” that this wasn’t just a time to catch up with an old friend.

Those sentiments continued when she was told she was under consideration for the job. She even admitted there were moments when she thought she “wasn’t deserving” and had more to learn before taking on such a role.

“I just had reflected back on what I always tell my players,” Rodriguez said. “Before a big match or opponent, I’m always like, ‘Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Be brave. Go out there and give it your best shot.’ And I thought to myself, ‘If I ask this of my players and I can’t do this for myself, then what kind of coach am I?’

“And so I think that was like a light bulb in my head where sometimes in order to grow and to become the best version of yourself, you have to be uncomfortable. And this definitely makes me uncomfortable, but in the best way possible.”

Hynick said the hiring of Rodriguez is a perfect fit with the club’s broader mission.

“Empowering women both on and off the field has been an underlying driving force throughout the journey of our Return of Royalty. The hiring of head coach Amy Rodriguez embodies this Utah Royals’ mission to advance women’s careers in our Utah community and beyond,” The Utah Royals president said in a club statement.

“Amy’s commitment to excellence, winning, community and family aligns with our Utah Royals’ creed and we are honored to have her at the helm to lead us into the next era.”

Taking over an expansion team, Rodriguez is essentially being handed a blank canvas. The same is true of her first foray into management. There’s also an immense amount of work to do, even before she begins to think about what style she’ll want to play.

“We have a very large task at hand, and we’re starting from scratch, so building the infrastructure and player identification and player acquisition, creating a staff, building what I would need to make this the most successful organization in the end,” she said.

“So even though it’s a big task to start from scratch, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to build something that we want from the ground up. And I’m looking forward to it.”

Rodriguez’s career as a player spanned multiple leagues, starting in 2011. She played for the Boston Breakers and Philadelphia Independence of Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), and later with FC Kansas City, the Royals, the Kansas City Current and the North Carolina Courage in the NWSL. Over that span, she scored 64 goals in 102 appearances, and was part of two title-winning teams in Kansas City in 2014 and 2015.

At international level, Rodriguez made 132 appearances for the U.S. women’s national team, scoring 30 goals and adding 22 assists. She was part of the 2015 World Cup-winning side, and played on two Olympic gold-medal sides in 2008 and 2012.

Rodriguez is currently in the process of earning her U.S. Soccer A-level senior coaching license and was part of the first group of players from the National Women’s Soccer League — supported by the NWSL, the NWSL Players’ Association and U.S. Soccer — to receive her B-level license.

Sofia Huerta Called Up by U.S. Women’s National Team Coach Vlatko Andonovski for SheBelieves Cup

Sofia Huerta will be representing the U.S. later this month…

U.S. women’s national team coach Vlatko Andonovski has called up a squad that mixes youth and experience, including the 29-year-old Mexican American professional soccer player and a midfielder for OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League, for this month’s SheBelieves Cup.

Sofia HuertaAndonovski’s roster leaves out big names like Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan in favor of up-and-comers like 22-year-old Brazilian-born American professional soccer player Catarina Macario and 22-year-old Ashley Sanchez, a forward for the Washington Spirit.

The 23-player squad will compete in the USWNT‘s first games of 2022 when the Americans face the Czech Republic, New Zealand and Iceland in the SheBelieves Cup, taking place February 17-23.

The games will be played at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, and Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

Veterans left out include some of the USWNT’s biggest attacking names, such as Rapinoe, Morgan, Tobin Heath and Christen Press. Andonovski said those players had been left off to make room for the players needing to prove themselves.

“All these players are very good players — we know that they’ve done so much for this team,” Andonovski told ESPN of the veterans. “But right now I want to give a chance to players like Sophia Smith and Mal Pugh and Catarina Macario, Ashley Hatch, players that have earned their spot on the national team or earn their spot back. I want to give them maximum minutes or whatever minutes they earn so we can evaluate every aspect of their game, in the training environment or game setting.”

However, the veterans being left off the roster shouldn’t be interpreted as those players being a lock, Andonovski added.

“It doesn’t mean that all these players that have done well in the past are just going to come back here in the next camp because they’ve done well a year ago or two years ago,” Andonovski added. “There’s a reason why we’re not calling Mia Hamm or Julie Foudy in camp, right? So the same goes here: they need to perform, they need to play in their markets, they need to play well in their markets, and show that they can still contribute and be valuable for the national team.”

In the midfield, veterans Julie Ertz and Samantha Mewis are also left out in favor of less established USWNT players such as Macario and Sanchez. Mewis is coming off an injury, Andonovski said, but Ertz wasn’t fit enough to merit a USWNT call.

“Julie was not ready to come into camp from a physical standpoint,” Andonovski said. “In the conversation that I had with her, she understands that in order to get back into camp — and that’s not just for Julie, that’s for any player on this team — first and foremost, you got to be healthy, fit and ready to play. Then, the next thing is you gotta perform in your club market to earn your spot on the national team.”

Ertz was traded from the Chicago Red Stars to NWSL expansion club Angel City FC in December, but she was not on Angel City’s preseason roster announced on Tuesday and has not reported for the club’s preseason camp.

“Whenever Julie is ready and she performs well — we know how good she can be, we know how valuable she is for this team — we’re gonna be happy to see her back,” Andonovski said.

The SheBelieves Cup roster mostly includes players who had joined the USWNT in Texas for its annual January camp, which traditionally features more bubble players and up-and-comers.

The exceptions are midfielder Macario, who missed the camp to stay with Lyon as it faced rival Paris Saint-Germain in the Coupe de France, and defender Becky Sauerbrunn, who missed the January camp with what U.S. Soccer called “a minor injury.”

“We had a great camp in Austin and now we need to see this group of players in game environments against highly motivated opponents,” Andonovski said. “Every player in the pool is focused on making the roster for World Cup and Olympic qualifying this summer.”

Of the 23 players on the roster, 11 are players who have been on the fringes of the USWNT and have 25 or fewer caps. Six players have single-digit caps.

USWNT SheBelieves Cup roster

GOALKEEPERS: Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit; 0), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 2), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 78)

DEFENDERS: Alana Cook (OL Reign; 4/0), Abby Dahlkemper (San Diego Wave FC; 77/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 45/1), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC; 8/0), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign; 9/0), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 148/2), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 63/0), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 199/0)

MIDFIELDERS: Morgan Gautrat (Chicago Red Stars; 87/8), Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyonnais; 108/25), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign; 68/18), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyonnais; 12/3), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 33/4), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit; 2/0), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 22/2)

FORWARDS: Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit; 4/2), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars; 67/18), Margaret Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 9/2), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 10/1), Lynn Williams (Kansas City Current; 45/14)

Portland Timbers Transfer MLS Legend Diego Valeri to Argentina’s Lanús

Diego Valeri is heading home…

The 35-year-old Argentine professional footballer and Portland Timbers midfielder  is heading home to Argentina.

Diego Valeri

The Portland Timbers have announced an agreement with Lanus for the transfer of the 35-year-old Argentine professional footballer and former Major League Soccer (MLS) MVP.

Lanus plays in Argentina’s top division.

A nine-year veteran of the Timbers, Valeri scored 100 goals and 104 assists in 306 matches across all competitions.

He’s the team regular season leader for both goals (86) and assists (91). Valeri is just the third player in MLS history to reach 80 goals and 80 assists in regular-season play. He was named the MLS Cup‘s Most Valuable Player in 2015 when the Timbers defeated the Columbus Crew for the league championship.

In 2017, he was honored as the league MVP after scoring 21 goals with 11 assists. He was a five-time MLS All-Star and in 2020 was named one of the league’s 25 greatest players.

“I do not believe there has been a more impactful Designated Player signing in the history of MLS than Diego Valeri,” Timbers owner Merritt Paulson said in a statement. “He changed what clubs looked for in a DP — not a brand to put fans in the seats and sell sponsorships, but a rising European level talent who chose to make America his home and legacy.”

Valeri also became a beloved member of the Portland community, known for painting playrooms for foster children and jumping into pickup futsal games. Valeri and his family were ardent supporters of the Portland Thorns, the National Women’s Soccer League team. Valeri is a product of the Lanus academy, which he joined at age 9. He went on to play 158 matches with the senior team from 2003-13.

In addition to the transfer, the Timbers and Lanus agreed to a testimonial match in Portland next year, during which Valeri will play a half for each team. Details were not yet announced.

Upon his retirement, Valeri will become an ambassador for the Timbers.

Catarina Macario Signs Two-and-a-Half Year Deal with Lyon

Catarina Macario is future Lyon queen

The 21-year-old Brazilian soccer player and USWNT prospect, who recently announced plans to leave Stanford and go pro, has signed a two-and-a-half year deal with Lyon, the club has announced.

Catarina Macario

Macario announced on Friday that she’d forego the final year with Stanford in favor of turning professional.

ESPN reported on Monday that Lyon were leading the race for Macario with a contract on the table but that both Real Madrid and Bayern Munich were also still interested in the midfielder.

“It’s an honor to have signed with such a fantastic club,” Macario said in a tweet.

“I can’t wait to get started and to continue to build on its legacy of success. Allez l’OL!”

Sources told ESPN that Macario was attracted to Europe rather than the National Women’s Soccer League as she wants to win the Champions League while competing in the Olympics and World Cup.

Macario scored 63 goals in 68 games for Stanford and contributed 47 assists.

She won the MAC Hermann Trophy twice and an NCAA College Cup in her three seasons at Stanford.

She became a United States citizen in October and has joined every USWNT camp since, including their ongoing January camp.

However, Macario is still waiting on approval from FIFA to allow her to play games with the national side.

She’ll travel to France after the USWNT training ends on January 22.

Catarina Macario Announces Plans to Turn Pro

Catarina Macario is ready to go pro…

The Brazilian-born Stanford midfielder and promising prospect for the United States women’s national soccer team, has announced she’ll forgo her senior season for a professional career.

Catarina Macario

Macario is currently on the roster for the national team’s January camp, which started this weekend in Florida.

In a statement posted to Twitter, Macario said it is time for her to start a “new phase in life.”

While Macario has been linked to European club teams, she could opt to stay in the United States and play for the National Women’s Soccer League. The NWSL draft is set for Wednesday.

Macario became a U.S. citizen in October, but she hasn’t yet received approval from FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, to play in a match for the national team. The U.S. has a pair of games against Colombia scheduled for later this month.

The two-time winner of the MAC Hermann Trophy as the nation’s best college player, Macario had a Stanford single-season record of 32 goals and 23 assists last season. She was called up to her first national team camp the same day she became a citizen.

Macario is one of three college players on the 27-player camp roster, along with North Carolina‘s Emily Lloyd and Florida State‘s Jaelin Howell. Lloyd and Howell also could be eligible for next week’s NWSL draft because of a waiver from the NCAA that allows drafted players to remain with their college teams this spring and join the NWSL following the season.