Julie Ertz, performing in this year’s SheBelieves Cup, won’t be suiting up for the final Send-Off Series game against Mexico Monday. (Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Here is the injury update for the U.S. women’s national team as it heads into its final warm-up game prior to the Tokyo Olympics later this month:
* Julie Ertz – Still sidelined.
* Tobin Heath – More minutes.
* And Rose Lavelle – Expected to be available.
USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski gave that update during a Saturday afternoon Zoom call with the media.
“Tobin will have more minutes,” he said. “We’re going to decide … sometime tonight, what it is, what is that going to look like. Is it going to be 45 minutes more or less. And we’re also expecting Rose to be in this squad, as well.”
Ertz is still recovering from an MCL injury she suffered in late May. Translated: Ertz will miss all five preparation games for the Tokyo Olympics.
In her first appearance since injuring her ankle with Manchester United in December, Heath scored on her first touch after coming on as a substitute in the 4-0 victory over Mexico in the first game of the Send-Off Series in East Hartford, N.J. Thursday night.
Lavelle, who has recuperated from an ankle injury suffered when in the win over Jamaica in the Summer Series last month, is expected to be on the bench, the coach said.
Andonovski did not elaborate any further on the players’ status for the second match at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field Monday at 5 p.m.
He said he will use the game to work on some tactics.
“There are few scenarios or game plans that we have for the second game, from a tactical standpoint, formation standpoint, that [we] … to try before we go to the Olympics … where it’s a perfect opportunity for it.”
Andonovski said that the team will leave for Japan “a couple of days” after Monday’s game although he did not give an exact date.
“We’re very excited to go there,” he said. “Everything is prepared and set for us. We were going to have nice setup. We’re going have a chance to be isolated and do our final preparations, get a little more cohesive bond, and do everything possible to be as prepared as we can be, before we go to Tokyo.”
Needless to say, Andonovski was happy that the International Olympic Committee has allowed rosters for the women’s Olympic soccer tournament to be extended to 22 players. That will give the coach more flexibility and allow the four alternates to be available for the 18 each match.
“It is already confirmed that you have 22 on the roster and for each game you choose the 18 that you believe or that you wish,” he said. “Obviously, we’re going to choose the ones that we believe that will give us the best chance to win. It’s just nice that we have the flexibility now to make to make the decisions before every game.”
That also was fine for left back Crystal Dunn.
“From what I hear it’s great,” she said on a separate Zoom call. “It’s great that we now have options out of 22 people to roster an 18-person squad for the games. This team has always had depth. It’s going to be really a relief for us to go into the Olympics just knowing that all the challenges that it’s going to be in Japan, which is the heat [and] the crazy schedule. There will be definitely a lot of relief with a bigger roster.”