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After her heartbreaking exit from the Tokyo Olympics, Alyssa Naeher is back with the U.S. women's national team.
Naeher, who was knocked out of the Summer Games by a hyperextended right knee and a bone contusion, is training with the team at its camp in Austin, Texas. “I’m 100%, no restrictions,” Naeher said Monday.
“It’s been I think, almost six, seven months now. So I’m excited to be healthy,” she said. “It’s been a long, long recovery and I’m excited to get back in with the group to put my head down and just get back to work.”
The United States' top goalkeeper was injured in the first half of a 1-0 semifinal loss to Canada in Tokyo. The United States went on to win the bronze medal with backup Adrianna Franch in goal, while the Canadians claimed gold.
When the injury occurred, Naeher was coming off one of her best performances ever. She had saved a penalty kick at the end of regulation and two more in a shootout against the Netherlands in the quarterfinals.
On a conference call with reporters, Naeher reflected on the lessons she learned from the long layoff.
“This game can be kind of cruel to go from such a high to such a low that quickly," she said. “For me, it’s just not taking anything for granted. You never know when an injury is going to pop up. (Now) It’s just a little bit more of enjoying every part of it, enjoying every training session again, enjoying every meeting, all the physical therapy sessions.”
Naeher finished last year 9-1-3, allowing just seven goals with eight clean sheets. Overall, the 33-year-old has made 78 career appearances with the national team since 2013 with 44 shutouts.
She's known as one of the steadiest goalkeepers in the world. At the 2019 World Cup in France, Naeher smothered a penalty in the United States’ 2-1 semifinal win over England. It was the first-ever penalty save by a U.S. goalkeeper in regulation in soccer’s premier tournament.
The Olympic injury also sidelined her for the season with her club team, the Chicago Red Stars of the National Women's Soccer league. Naeher has played professionally with Chicago since 2016.
Joining Naeher among the goalkeepers at January camp are Casey Murphy and Aubrey Kingsbury. The team is set to play in the SheBelieves Cup tournament next month in Texas and California. The United States will take the first step toward defending its World Cup title in CONCACAF qualifying this summer.
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