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June 2, 2011
Injuries threaten Mitts’s Women’s World Cup debut

By Charles Cuttone
Executive Editor

Defender Heather Mitts is a question mark for the U.S. Women’s World Cup roster because of an injured hamstring.
Defender Heather Mitts is a question mark for the U.S. Women’s World Cup roster because of an injured hamstring.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
You can’t blame Heather Mitts for thinking she might be the object of a World Cup jinx. Even though she has been a stalwart of the U.S. Women’s National team since 2004, she has yet to play in the World Cup.

In 2003, just as she had begun to make her mark on the U.S. National Team, she broke her leg and missed the World Cup, which was hosted in the U.S. Prior to the 2007 event in China, Mitts suffered an ACL injury that knocked her out of contention for a roster spot. A knee injury almost did the same to her Olympic chances the following year, but she made it back in time to help the U.S. claim Gold.

Now, Mitts’ chances of a trip to Germany this month are up in the air because of a right hamstring injury, which occurred in training prior to the U.S. team’s game against Japan in Columbus. The injury was the second one this year, after injuring her left hamstring while the U.S. was in China, and has kept her out of the Atlanta Beat’s lineup as well, limiting her to just four games and 360 minutes.

“I’m still hopeful and still have a chance of going to this World Cup,” Mitts said. “Unfortunately I had this injury before, so I know how to treat it and what to do. That’s a positive. It’s just unfortunate because I have worked hard to get back. Its one of those things.

“I think I really do have the World Cup jinx.”

Mitts has been training with the U.S. team in New Jersey this week, and is day-to-day. A decision on her World Cup future won’t be made until after Sunday’s game against Mexico at Red Bull Arena.
One of her teammates, Lindsay Tarpley, has already been replaced on the U.S. roster. Mitts hopes she will be ready to make her World Cup debut, which at age 33 would make her the oldest American to play in their first World Cup.

“I was healthy for the whole three weeks of camp we had in Florida,” said Mitts. “That was the reason why I was playing well enough to make the roster and It was just me trying to win my starting position back. And this had to happen again.

“It’s unfortunate, it’s really frustrating. I do have a chance and I am going to do everything possible to be there.”

Because of her injuries, Mitts actually has spent more time with her WPS team than most of her teammates, since she was with the Beat for much of preseason camp.

Atlanta is Mitts’ third WPS team in as many years. After playing 2009 with the Boston Breakers, she signed with the Philadelphia Independence in 2010, as she always had a desire to return to the city where her professional career began in 2001.

“It definitely backfired,” she said of the move to Philadelphia, where because of injuries and differing opinions with Coach Paul Riley, her playing time was limited.

“The grass is always greener,” she said. “I definitely learned a lot from that experience and I’m trying to take the positives away from what happened there and grow as a player and everything worked out in a positive way for me in order to have a chance with Atlanta.”

In joining the Beat, she has been reunited with her longtime personal trainer, James Galanis, who is now the team’s coach.

“It worked out really well for me to be able to go an play for James,” she said “It gave me peace of mind that if I put myself in the right position to be able to be healthy then I knew that he would train me in the way proper to feel confident to go into camp to get myself on that roster.”

Now she’s on the roster. The next few days will likely determine if she stays on it.

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