U.S. Soccer sent out that tweet 40 minutes before kickoff against Brazil, and while the inclusion of Lori Chalupny at left back won’t create a national soccer sensation, her presence has been long awaited by women’s soccer fans.
When Chalupny, 30, last appeared for the U.S. she was wearing the armband against Germany, collecting her 92nd cap. Soon after, Chalupny became plagued by concussion problems and lost her place in the national team.
In the five years that followed, Chalupny continued her club career with four clubs in two countries, all of which found her fit enough to play. U.S. Soccer, however, failed to clear her, leaving her sidelined for the 2011 World Cup and 2012 Summer Olympics.
Toward the end of that time, U.S. Soccer made it clear that it was open to a Chalupny return, provided she showed she was medically fit – an open but curious stance, considering the medical evaluations the St. Louis Athletica, Atlanta Beat, Chicago Red Stars, and Sweden’s AIK had made in clearing her. It also raised questions about whether the team was doing enough to get its best players on the field. Chalupny, one of the best central midfielders in the National Women’s Soccer League, wasn’t being called in to be reevaluated. U.S. Soccer had adopted an unproductive “you come to us” approach.
This month, the process finally concluded. Four months after initially reaching out to U.S. Soccer for a new evaluation, Chalupny was called up for the team’s trip to Brazil – the four-team, three-game tournament that continues today in Brasilia. One game into that trip, Chalupny’s in the starting lineup.
It speaks to the former captain’s quality, particularly given she’s being played out of position. It also speaks to the ludicrous nature of the past five years. U.S. Soccer should be pursuing its best team at all times, not waiting until players apply for the job.
Chapulny had been healthy for so long, her exclusion had become a forgone conclusion. Perhaps in time, once she’s fully integrated into the team, she’ll get a chance to start in her best position. Until then, we can pretend Chalupny didn’t have five years of her prime compromised by her federation’s insular approach.