Veteran midfielder Lori Chalupny was a surprise inclusion on the roster announced by the United States women's national team Friday for a series of games in Brazil this month.
A veteran of both the 2007 Women's World Cup and 2008 Olympics, Chalupny hasn't played for the United States since she captained the team Oct. 29, 2009, because of a series of concussions.
U.S. women's national team coach Jill Ellis named 24 players to travel to Brazil for a four-team competition Dec. 10-21. All 20 players who helped the U.S. squad clinch a Women's World Cup berth by winning the CONCACAF Women's Championship in October were included on the roster. The new additions alongside Chalupny were defender Crystal Dunn, goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and midfielder Samantha Mewis.
"It's a chance to travel to a new environment and play international matches in unfamiliar territory, which is always valuable when getting ready for a World Cup," said Ellis in a release. "It's pretty exciting to get to play in a World Cup stadium, and many of our players have never played or even been to Brazil before. It's a unique opportunity to go to a fantastic soccer country, have a great cultural experience and get four competitive games to end the year on a high note."
Chalupny, medically cleared to play for professional teams in the United States and abroad in the interim but not cleared by U.S. Soccer to play for her country, occupied a high-profile soccer limbo at a time of heightened awareness of the effects of head injuries in women's soccer.
Chalupny, who has made 92 appearances for the national team, said she approached U.S. Soccer in August, at the conclusion of the NWSL season with the Chicago Red Stars in which she played the most minutes on that team, and sought re-evaluation.
"I feel great," Chalupny said. "I've been playing five years now in the pro leagues, and I've had no symptoms and just feeling good, so I thought it was time to contact U.S. Soccer and just see if I could be in consideration again for selection for the team."
According to Chalupny, while there had been contact with U.S. Soccer during the past five years, August marked the first time she approached the governing body about re-evaluating her status. Both independent doctors and those affiliated with U.S. Soccer contributed to the process that resulted in her being cleared to play.
"[We] made a collective decision with the information that we have, with Lori's best interests in mind," said Dr. George Chiampas, chief medical officer for U.S. Soccer. "I think one of the biggest things is to assure that at this point, at this stage in her life, that neurocognitively that she is at baseline and she has been asymptomatic. And obviously all of those factors came into play with regard to the decision."
Ellis said she considered Chalupny one of the NWSL's top performers and welcomed the opportunity to take with her to Brazil someone who could potentially help the national team as a left-sided presence with the versatility to play several roles. But the coach also cautioned that with few obvious holes on a team that recently qualified for the 2015 World Cup, a spot on that roster might be an uphill fight for the 30-year-old veteran.
The rest of the roster includes:
Goalkeepers: Ashlyn Harris, Naeher and Hope Solo.
Defenders: Chalupny, Dunn, Whitney Engen, Julie Johnston, Meghan Klingenberg, Ali Krieger, Kelley O'Hara, Christie Rampone and Becky Sauerbrunn.
Midfielders: Morgan Brian, Tobin Heath, Lauren Holiday, Carli Lloyd, Mewis, Heather O'Reilly and Megan Rapinoe.
Forwards: Sydney Leroux, Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Amy Rodriguez and Abby Wambach.
The United States will play China, Brazil, Argentina and a fourth game against one of those same teams during a tournament that begins Dec. 10 in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia.