Stanford and USWNT center back Tierna Davidson broke her ankle in a college game and will miss World Cup Qualifying in a few weeks. Davidson is a starting center back in Jill Ellis’s defense.
On September 9th, the University of North Carolina’s Alex Kimball jumped into Davidson’s leg in some form of a studs up tackle and missed the ball completely, making full contact with Davidson’s ankle. Davidson exited the game injured and Kimball- who was shown just a yellow card- only had to step off the field due to the NCAA’s dumb yellow card rule, which forces the booked player to substitute off the pitch, but because there’s unlimited substitutions, that player could come back on at the next dead ball.
Check the play out here:
The timing of Davidson’s injury could not be worse. CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying is less than a month away; the tournament will take place from October 4th-17th.
While she isn’t the only American center back good enough to start for the WNT, the position is Davidson’s to lose. Davidson has started every WNT game this calendar year besides one. Furthermore, she only substituted off the pitch once in her 12 games this year. Almost every lineup this season has incorporated head coach Jill Ellis’s desire to find the perfect CB partner for Davidson, as well. The US Soccer staff sees her as a mainstay on the team for a long time.
There are still plenty of options at center back for the USWNT, just not their preferred choice. Abby Dahlkemper, Hallie Mace, and Becky Sauerbrunn are the center backs on the roster for WCQ released on September 19th by US Soccer.
Davidson’s injury also calls into question if international level talent should play college soccer. What good does the experience do for some of the best soccer players, mainly at Stanford or UCLA, to play against players so obviously below their level? The risk of a player like Davidson getting hurt and missing something more important than college soccer like World Cup Qualifying so greatly outweighs the reward of development that the player gets from college coaches, opponents, rules, and restrictions.
The precedent for the most elite high school players to forgo college in favor of going pro was set by Lindsay Horan signing with PSG after she graduated high school. Mallory Pugh then sorta-kinda continued the trend by delaying going to UCLA for a year for Olympic and U-20 WC duty, enrolling in spring semester and playing in the short spring exhibition season, and then joining the Washington Spirit before ever playing an NCAA game for UCLA.
However, it wouldn’t be fair for the USSF demand that players forgo college and college scholarships, especially if women’s soccer contracts pay remarkably less than men’s contracts. Who knows if Tierna Davidson’s management science & engineering degree from Stanford is more valuable than her career in women’s soccer?
The USSF is in a position of power over the NCAA due to situations like Davidson’s. It’s said that college soccer players would need to get convicted of murder to be sent off with a straight red. Quite simply, it’s too rough and referees don’t protect players. US Soccer could demand that the NCAA instruct its referees to call a tighter game and protect players more. Subsequently, the level of soccer would improve at the college level if it was less physical because players would need to rely on technical ability rather than on physicality. College soccer is a mess, and the USSF has a great ability to advocate for change (if you’re not familiar with what’s wrong with the college game, check out this thread).
The point of this isn’t to say that college soccer is pointless. I cover the University of Arizona’s women’s team for the Daily Wildcat and love it. Support your favorite school’s team because it’s great, just not for players who should already be playing professionally.
The USWNT next plays on October 4th at 7:30 ET against the country down south that loses 2-0 in their first World Cup Qualifier group stage game.
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