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Going for Gold: USWNT players prepare for Olympics in NWSL

Meghan Klingenberg returned to play 45 minutes for the Thorns on Saturday, (Photo: NWSL)
Portland Thorns defender Meghan Klingenberg has had a strong start to her 2016 NWSL season. (Photo: NWSL)

Portland Thorns defender Meghan Klingenberg has had a strong start to her 2016 NWSL season. (Photo: NWSL)

There are less than 80 days until the women’s Olympic soccer tournament kicks off in Brazil. Although the U.S. national team has not been together over the past month, national teamers have been busy with their respective NWSL clubs as the 2016 season has kicked off.

Five weeks into the season, some players have thrived, some have struggled and others have suffered injuries that have taken them off the field.

Tobin Heath was playing some of the best soccer of her career in the early spring with the national team and she has continued that form with the Portland Thorns. She leads the NWSL in assists with four and was named the Player of the Month for April. Heath is surrounded by a lot of talent in Portland and has used that to her advantage, providing great distribution from her outside midfield position.

While Heath is essentially a lock to make the Olympic roster, her current play suggests she could be one of the best players for the U.S. this summer.

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Heath’s teammate in Portland, Lindsey Horan, has enjoyed a successful beginning to her NWSL career. After three years in France, Horan returned stateside in 2016 to play in the NWSL. Through five games, she has played every minute for the Thorns and has scored two goals.

Horan has continued to play in the central midfield, similar to where she has played with the national team. This bodes well for Jill Ellis and company as Horan grows more comfortable in that position.

Staying with the Portland Thorns, Meghan Klingenberg and rookie Emily Sonnett have been busy in their new home, as each has played every minute so far this season.

In Chicago, Christen Press is tied for the league-lead in goals with three. She has been a consistent threat in front of goal for the Red Stars. She has twice as many shots on goal as the next closet player (Press has 18; Alex Morgan is next with 9). Press will need to continue her strong play with the national team as the U.S. boasts a bevy of attacking options.

Red Stars defender Julie Johnston has missed two games after re-aggravating a groin injury. However, Chicago has been able to maintain an impressive defensive record thanks in large part to goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. Naeher has recorded a clean sheet in four of five matches this season and is second in the league in saves with 20.

Both Naeher and Orlando goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris have been making strong cases for the backup goalkeeper position at the Olympics. Harris is third in the league in saves with 19.

Alex Morgan has two goals and an assist in five games for the Pride. She is second in the league in shots and shots on goal. Most importantly, Morgan has stayed healthy and played every minute for Orlando.

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Crystal Dunn and Ali Krieger have been major contributors to the best team in the NWSL. Dunn has struggled converting her own scoring chances with just four shots on goal. However, she has not let that affect the rest of her game as she has three assists. Krieger has one of the goals of the season thus far and has been a big part of Washington’s defense that has allowed just one goal.

In Houston, both Morgan Brian and Carli Lloyd have missed matches already. Brian has played in three games. She has started the last two games for the Dash, but has not played a full 90 minutes. Lloyd suffered an MCL sprain in late April and should return to the pitch soon. Both Brian and Lloyd figure to be healthy for the Olympics.

Lloyd’s co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn has played every minute for defending champion FC Kansas City, but the team has not won yet and recorded just one clean sheet from five matches.

The national team will convene on May 27 in Denver, Colo. for training camp before its two matches against Japan at the beginning of June. Following those matches, players will return to their NWSL teams before an Olympic training.

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