SANDY — Following the United States Women’s National Team’s World Cup win that captivated the country, all 23 players on the roster are making their way back to their respective National Women’s Soccer League clubs.
While star Megan Rapinoe and teammate Allie Long won’t play this weekend because Washington state-based Reign FC has a bye and the Washington, D.C., Spirit’s Rose Lavelle is nursing an injury, everyone else is expected to play this weekend across four games (the NWSL has nine teams).
Seven of those remaining 20 players are expected to be available when Utah Royals FC faces Portland Thorns FC at Rio Tinto Stadium on Friday night. Three are on the URFC side, while four play for PTFC.
In addition to seven players from the USWNT, another eight who competed for other countries should be available between the two squads.
URFC’s Kelley O’Hara, one of the seven from the USWNT who should be in action on Friday night, expressed hope earlier this week that interest in the World Cup would translate into more fans at Rio Tinto Stadium and around the league.
“You do see a progression through the years and as it goes on in terms of how (soccer is) being represented on the global stage and received, which is a great thing, so hopefully that will continue and we’ll see that in the NWSL as well,” she said Wednesday during a press conference featuring her and fellow cup champion Becky Sauerbrunn at the stadium.
Many who have been associated with the NWSL since the last World Cup in 2015 have noted that the league saw a bump in interest immediately after the tournament, but that it wasn’t sustained. On Wednesday, Sauerbrunn said it’s a “dual responsibility” for both the league and players who have big followings to promote it, while URFC head coach Laura Harvey in a piece published by The Athletic on Thursday was quoted as saying the league hasn’t done enough this year.
“(I) just think we missed opportunities and it’s because I don’t think we’re proactive,” she said. “We react to everything last-minute.”
Friday’s match will feature a URFC team that is tied for fifth in the NWSL table with the Chicago Red Stars, while PTFC is tied for first with the North Carolina Courage. URFC and PTFC played to a 0-0 tie on June 21 in Portland.
“It’s time to work,” Sauerbrunn said Wednesday when asked how she was greeted by club teammates upon return to the Beehive State from World Cup celebrations. “We’re back with Utah. It’s now time to win this season and prep for the next game. Really it wasn’t that big of a ‘Hey, you’re back!’ It’s like, ‘OK, let’s get to work.’”
Start time at Rio Tinto Stadium is set for 8 p.m. MDT.
Here is a list of the players who competed in the World Cup who are expected to be available on Friday night.
Utah Royals FC
Kelley O’Hara, USWNT
Christen Press, USWNT
Becky Sauerbrunn, USWNT
Desiree Scott, Canada
Katie Bowen, New Zealand
Rachel Corsie, Scotland
Portland Thorns FC
Adrianna Franch, USWNT
Tobin Heath, USWNT
Lindsey Horan, USWNT
Emily Sonnett, USWNT
Caitlin Foord, Australia
Hayley Raso, Australia
Ellie Carpenter, Australia
Christine Sinclair, Canada