Whitney Engen, long considered the third center back for the United States women’s national team, tweeted today that she has been released from the WNT.
A letter to our fans: Thank you for the memories pic.twitter.com/2WlEXvIWNq— Whitney Engen (@whitneyengen) October 2, 2016
On the one hand, this is obviously a bad blow for any player, especially one who has served with this team for so long. Center backs tend to toil with little reward no matter how well they play (calling Becky Sauerbrunn) and backup center backs catch even less of the glory reflecting off of the team.
It’s also a blow financially, considering the security a WNT contract can bring with its guaranteed salary. For a player of even Engen’s pedigree, NWSL alone simply can’t compete on the raw numbers.
On the other hand, the writing was on the wall with Julie Johnston taking the starting spot next to Sauerbrunn for the forseeable future and Emily Sonnett waiting in the wings.
Will Engen remain now with the Boston Breakers under her old coach Matt Beard? The Breakers went 3-15-2 this past season and Engen could surely find a more winning team willing with a bigger payroll somewhere in Europe. Or perhaps the lure of trying to build something in Boston with a coach she knows will be enough to keep her in NWSL.
Of note, the timing of Engen’s announcement, as she says Ellis notified her after the most recent USWNT camp, which would have concluded after their September 18 game against the Netherlands. Engen may have been holding on to this information until now so as not to distract from anything else, either the retirement of Heather O’Reilly during that camp, or the end of the season with her club team.
It’s the brutal grind of being a pro athlete; all careers must come to an end at some point. But that never stops it from sucking, especially when that player has worked hard without complaining for so long like Engen.