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Christen Press is a changed person as she nears return from injury: 'I enjoy my life more'

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Christen Press is a changed person as she nears return from injury: 'I enjoy my life more'

Christen Press hasn’t gone two years without a soccer game since she learned to walk. So when she was laid up by a torn anterior cruciate ligament that took four surgeries and nearly 25 months to repair, she decided to make use of the free time she never thought she’d have.

As a result, the player who returned to training with Angel City this month is not the same one who was carried off the field eight games into the team’s first season.

“I definitely feel like this is the best version of me that I’ve ever known. And I hope it continues to evolve,” Press said Saturday in an interview that was heavy on smiles and optimism.

“I don’t know if I would say I’m a better person. I am a more grounded person. I’m more peaceful. I’m more at ease with myself. I’m more self-aware. I enjoy my life more, absolutely.”

It would be hard for her to be a better player than she was two years ago. A two-time World Cup champion and Hermann Trophy winner whose 64 international goals rank ninth in U.S. women’s national team history, Press was arguably in the best form of her life when she sustained the first major injury of her career.

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At first she expected to be back in time for last summer’s World Cup. Then she thought maybe she could play in this summer’s Olympic Games. But the injury proved to be stubborn, and doctors had to go back in three more times for additional repairs.

She’s now 35, and it’s uncertain how her reconstructed knee — and the rest of her body — will hold up when she returns to the field. That question probably will be answered during one of Angel City’s three Summer Cup games, which will be played during NWSL’s seven-week Olympic break.

Given what she has gone through already, Press is confident she can handle whatever comes next.

“Every single day when I go out to the field I asked my knee, ‘Are you ready?’ It’s out of my control in a lot of ways,” she said. “It’s not, ‘Oh, you’re back and everything’s easy.’ My career will never look like it did.

“I want to make it back. I want to see if I can be good.”

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Angel City could certainly use the help. The team went into the Olympic break having won only one of its last nine games, falling to 11th place in the 14-team NWSL with 10 games to play.

Press is likely to be ready for significant playing time when the season resumes in late August, but she might not be the only addition to the roster. With the transfer window opening soon, Angel City is nearing deals on two significant summer signings, said one person close to the team who is not authorized to speak publicly on personnel matters.

Christen Press controls the ball during a U.S. women’s soccer match during the Tokyo Olympics in July 2021.

(Ricardo Mazalan / Associated Press)

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Despite the injury, Press was never really inactive. Physical therapy after each operation ate up much of her time, and she said she still does four to six hours of daily exercises just to keep the swelling down.

“Honestly, it’s a full-time job for her,” said Sarah Smith, Angel City’s director of medical and performance.

Still, she used the opportunity to work on other things as well. Press said she started therapy — the mental kind, not the physical kind — last September.

“I was like, ‘Well I have all this additional time that I can’t be on the pitch. What can I do with it?’ ” she said. “And I had a lot to work through, like my childhood, but also a changing life.

“Being healthy and strong has been my whole career, right? But it hurt to go up and down the stairs. It was a very big shift in identity.”

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She has also devoted more time to the eclectic business empire she and her partner and former teammate Tobin Heath are managing, one that includes RE-INC, a gender-neutral community-driven fashion brand, and the RE-CAP Show, the couple’s entertaining award-winning podcast on women’s soccer.

That has given the whip-smart Stanford graduate a jump-start on the next phase of her life, though she’s not sure when that phase will begin in earnest. Her Angel City contract expires at the end of the season, but Press said that if her knee holds up, she’s not putting any limits on how much longer she might play.

“There’s part of soccer that has been really hard that I don’t miss. And then there’s simultaneously a deep longing and a sadness for not being in the game,” she said. “My body’s craving competition. It’s like a dichotomy.”

If the last two years have produced nothing on the soccer field and have been mostly painful off it, mentally and physically, they’ve been invaluable in many other ways. She’s grown. She’s become stronger, smarter, healthier and wiser. And she promises that’s going to be good for everyone — but especially for her.

“There’s pain and there’s also an opportunity,” Press said. “I have this ideology that things don’t happen to you, they happen for you. So I always ask myself, ‘What’s the gift of this?’

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“It’s a happy story. It’s life, you know. It’s happy and it’s sad. [Am I] a better person?’ No, I’m different.”

You have read the latest installment of On Soccer with Kevin Baxter. The weekly column takes you behind the scenes and shines a spotlight on unique stories. Listen to Baxter on this week’s episode of the “Corner of the Galaxy” podcast.

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Two Canada Olympic staff members sent home after spying attempt on New Zealand soccer practice

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Two Canada Olympic staff members sent home after spying attempt on New Zealand soccer practice

NICE, France — The Olympic women’s soccer tournament is starting with some unexpected drama: a complaint from New Zealand’s Olympic Committee about an attempt at spying during a training session just before the Paris Games.

A drone was flown over a Ferns training session in Saint-Étienne, France, on Monday, New Zealand’s Olympic Committee (NZOC) said in a statement. Ferns staffers reported the drone to police, who detained the operator, a staff member for the Canadian team.

On Wednesday, the Canadian Olympic Committee said that a separate drone incident at New Zealand training on July 19 had come to light. As a result, Canada head coach Bev Priestman said she would remove herself from overseeing Thursday’s game against New Zealand. The COC added that Joseph Lombardi, an “unaccredited analyst,” and Jasmine Mander, a coach who oversees Lombardi, had been removed from the team and sent home. The committee said Canada Soccer staff would also undergo “mandatory ethics training.”

The COC’s initial statement Wednesday morning confirmed that Lombardi used a drone “to record the New Zealand women’s football team during practice.” The COC apologized to New Zealand’s players, federation and the International Olympic Committee, saying it was “shocked and disappointed.”

FIFA later confirmed on Wednesday its disciplinary committee had opened proceedings against Canada Soccer, Priestman, Mander and Lombardi. The incident represented a potential breach of FIFA and Olympic football’s fair play regulations.

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Priestman will not be on the sidelines for Canada’s game against New Zealand (Logan Riely/Getty Images)

“On behalf of our entire team, I first and foremost want to apologize to the players and staff at New Zealand Football and to the players on Team Canada,” Priestman later said. “This does not represent the values that our team stands for.

“I am ultimately responsible for conduct in our program. Accordingly, to emphasize our team’s commitment to integrity, I have decided to voluntarily withdraw from coaching the match on Thursday. In the spirit of accountability, I do this with the interests of both teams in mind and to ensure everyone feels that the sportsmanship of this game is upheld.”

A FIFA statement read: “The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has opened proceedings against Canada Soccer, Ms Beverly Priestman, Mr Joseph Lombardi and Ms Jasmine Mander due to the potential breach of article 13 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code and article 6.1 of the Regulations Olympic Football Tournaments Games of the XXXIII Olympiad Paris 2024 — final competition, following incidents involving a non-accredited member of the Canadian delegation at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament, who is believed to have used a drone to record the New Zealand women’s football team.

“The matter will be submitted for the consideration of the Disciplinary Committee in the next days.”

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New Zealand Football CEO Andrew Pragnell issued a statement Thursday morning in New Zealand calling for “urgent action” to be taken to “address this integrity breach.”

“To hear now that the Canadian team had filmed secret footage of our team training at least twice is incredibly concerning and if not treated urgently could have wider implications for the integrity of the tournament,” Pragnell’s statement said.

“We note that there have been some admissions by the Canadian National Olympic Committee, and they have taken their own sanctions against the Canadian team, however, considering the seriousness of the situation, and the potential implications to the sporting integrity of the entire tournament, we have referred the matter to the FIFA Disciplinary Committee seeking urgent action,” the statement continued.

Drones have been a story across the Paris Games, with French prime minister Gabriel Attal saying Tuesday that an average of six drones per day have been intercepted at Olympic sites, mostly from tourists trying to capture footage of the spectacle.

The women’s soccer tournament begins play Thursday. Canada and New Zealand open action in Group A at 5 p.m. local/11 a.m. ET in Saint-Étienne, in a group with France and Colombia. Canada is currently ranked eighth in the world, according to FIFA, while New Zealand is ranked 28th.

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(Photo: Jean-Pierre Clatot / AFP via Getty)

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Chargers head coach Jim Harbaugh uses odd birthing analogy to talk about first day of training camp

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Chargers head coach Jim Harbaugh uses odd birthing analogy to talk about first day of training camp

The Jim Harbaugh Era has gotten off to an odd start in Los Angeles, as the new Chargers head coach had a weird way of categorizing the first day of training camp. 

Harbaugh, who returns to coach in the NFL after leading Michigan to a national title, spoke with reporters after the first full day of training camp on Wednesday, and he said it felt like “New Year’s Day.”

However, what he followed up with made things a bit awkward.

Jim Harbaugh of the Los Angeles Chargers at the podium before an NFL football practice at Hoag Performance Center on June 13, 2024 in Costa Mesa, California. (Ric Tapia/Getty Images)

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“It feels like being born. It feels like coming out of the womb, you know. It’s like you’re in there and it’s comfortable, it’s safe, and now ‘poof,’ you’re born,” Harbaugh said, via the New York Post. “The lights are on, It’s bright. You got chaos, people looking at you, people talking at you. It just feels good to have it happen.”

Certainly, an odd way to talk about returning to the pros, but Harbaugh’s eccentric characterization of his new Chargers post brings about all the optimism and joy that comes with the new addition to a family. 

Chargers fans rejoiced when Harbaugh signed a five-year contract with the Chargers, and Los Angeles made it worth his while to leave the Wolverines’ program with $16 million per season. 

Harbaugh was linked to the Chargers since Brandon Staley was fired after an absolute beatdown by the Las Vegas Raiders, 63-21, in December. After what he was able to do over nine seasons at Michigan — three Big Ten titles and his national championship last season — fans see this veteran addition at head coach as the perfect fit with a roster that’s still very talented. 

Jim Harbaugh points on field

Los Angeles Chargers head coach Jim Harbaugh instructs on the field during the first day of training camp at The Bolt. (Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports)

Quarterback Justin Herbert is locked in as the team’s franchise signal caller, and someone that Harbaugh can be creative with given his own quarterback background. But, while he’s building chemistry with his new head coach at camp, Herbert didn’t necessarily think about his first day in the way Harbaugh did. 

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“I’ll leave the analogies to him,” Herbert said, per ESPN. “He’s done a great job at creating those, so I’ll support whatever he says. We’re just out there playing football, and my job is to throw the ball, so that’s what I’m going to worry about.”

Herbert’s job is to throw, but things in Los Angeles may look pretty different with Greg Roman joining Harbaugh as offensive coordinator. Harbaugh’s teams at Michigan have been known to be run-heavy, and Roman reunites with Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins, two running backs he worked with in Baltimore during his time with the Ravens. 

Jim Harbaugh speaks to media

Jim Harbaugh of the Los Angeles Chargers at the podium before an NFL football practice at Hoag Performance Center on June 13, 2024 in Costa Mesa, California. (Ric Tapia/Getty Images)

But no matter if they are running or throwing the ball, the Chargers will take wins either way. That’s the only thing Harbaugh and his squad care about. 

Follow Fox News Digital’s sports coverage on X, and subscribe to the Fox News Sports Huddle newsletter.

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Dodgers activate Tyler Glasnow, sign veteran shortstop Nick Ahmed

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Dodgers activate Tyler Glasnow, sign veteran shortstop Nick Ahmed

The Dodgers have yet to make any trades ahead of next Tuesday’s deadline.

But their roster got another notable shake-up Wednesday.

Before their game against the San Francisco Giants, the Dodgers activated pitcher Tyler Glasnow from the injured list, and signed and activated veteran shortstop Nick Ahmed.

In corresponding moves, shortstop Miguel Rojas was placed on the injured list with a flexor strain in his throwing arm. Pitcher Landon Knack was optioned, sent back to triple-A Oklahoma City despite his 3.07 ERA in nine outings this year. Reliever Ricky Vanasco was also designated for assignment to create room on the club’s 40-man roster for Ahmed.

Glasnow’s return was long expected, with the team’s right-handed ace returning as scheduled from back tightness he sustained before the All-Star break.

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Rojas’ placement on the injured list was also no surprise, after he was removed early from Sunday’s game with discomfort in his forearm.

While the team was initially optimistic that Rojas could avoid an IL stint, manager Dave Roberts said a medical scan this week showed the strain in Rojas’ arm. His timeline to return is unclear, but Roberts didn’t make the injury sound serious.

“I think it’s something that he’ll be able to bounce back from,” Roberts said.

In Rojas’ absence, the Dodgers signed Ahmed to a major-league deal Wednesday, inking the 11-year veteran and two-time Gold Glover two weeks after he was released by the Giants.

Roberts said Ahmed, a longtime member of the Arizona Diamondbacks who batted .232 in 52 games with the Giants this year, would serve as the Dodgers’ primary shortstop in Rojas’ absence — or, at least, until Mookie Betts returns in the next couple of weeks from his broken hand.

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“Got a call late last night, and came to terms pretty quickly,” Ahmed said of signing with the Dodgers. “Pretty obvious choice, just playing against these guys for a long time. Having the opportunity to compete and win a championship is something I want.”

The odd man out in Wednesday’s flurry of moves was Knack, the rookie right-hander who seemed to be establishing himself in the Dodgers rotation after a five-inning, one-run start Tuesday night.

Knack, however, became the casualty of a roster crunch. He had minor-league options. He was also the most recent member of the Dodgers rotation to pitch — which, with a couple off-days on the schedule in the next week, left his next potential start date unclear.

Instead, the Dodgers decided to send Knack down and preserve their bullpen depth, something that could be important the next two nights as Glasnow and Clayton Kershaw make their first starts back from the injured list.

“It was one of those timing situations for Landon,” Roberts said. “But I can’t say enough about what he did for our ball club.”

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Buehler’s next steps

Walker Buehler said he will begin a rehab assignment with triple-A Oklahoma City on Friday. It will be his first live game action since going on the injured list last month with a hip injury.

Buehler is expected to make two rehab starts, Roberts said, before rejoining the Dodgers rotation next month.

Before going on the IL, Buehler had struggled in his return from a second Tommy John surgery, going 1-4 with a 5.84 ERA in eight starts.

Hurt having Tommy John

In other injury news Wednesday, the team announced that prospect Kyle Hurt is scheduled to undergo Tommy John surgery next week, ending his 2024 campaign and probably sidelining him for most of 2025 as well.

A USC product acquired in a 2021 trade with the Miami Marlins, Hurt had emerged as one of the top pitchers in the Dodgers’ farm system, earning the club’s minor league pitcher of the year award last year while leading all minor-league pitchers with 14.9 strikeouts per nine innings.

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Hurt made his MLB debut with one outing last September, then opened this season in the Dodgers’ bullpen, giving up two runs (one earned) in 6 2/3 innings over three appearances.

He missed a couple of months earlier this year with a shoulder injury, but had been back pitching for Oklahoma City for a month before exiting an outing on July 4 with an apparent arm injury.

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