Christen Press returns to Angel City FC training for first time since 2022 ACL tear

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 07: Christen Press #23 of Angel City FC chases after a ball to the corner during the game against the Houston Dash at Banc of California Stadium on June 07, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Angel City’s Christen Press is finally returning to the pitch after a long recovery. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Christen Press is starting a comeback.

After an arduous injury recovery, the Angel City FC forward returned to practice on Tuesday. Press, a two-time World Cup winner with the U.S. women’s national team, has not played since sustaining a season-ending ACL injury in June 2022.

Now, after two years — almost to the day — and significant rehabilitation, Press joined her teammates on the pitch.

In a video posted by Press to social media, the forward’s return was applauded by her teammates and coaches.

“Hi everyone, I’m back,” Press said charmingly in the video.

Press’ recovery has had many setbacks: In July 2023, Press revealed that she required a fourth surgery to repair her ACL. However, she is now ready to begin a slow return to the pitch.

The 34-year-old forward told the media on Tuesday that she’s excited to return but has also done a lot of soul-searching during her time away, per The Sporting Tribune’s Kamran Nia.

“When you lose something you love so much, I think you learn to figure out who you really are and what you really are and what you care about. And it actually allows you to live in a way that’s in more of a balance with your truth or your inner wisdom,” Press said. “In trying to heal my knee, in struggling to do so and searching for ways to heal my knee, I’ve been able to heal a lot of myself. I healed a lot more than my knee.”

Press told The Athletic on Monday that she will participate in group warm-ups and passing drills while reincorporating with the team.

“It will still be the first time I’ve done a legitimate passing pattern with a bunch of bodies on the field and checking angles, because it’s just been one-on-one training for two years,” Press told The Athletic.

Initially, Press said that she wanted to keep her return low-key, but later switched course.

“I reversed, I changed my mind, because I was like, ‘Shoot, who knows how many milestones I have left to celebrate? Who knows what’s going to happen after this first team training?'” Press said. “So if this is something we can all celebrate, let’s just go for it, because this journey has been really, really long.”

Press joined Angel City in 2022, becoming the first player to sign with the expansion team for a three-season contract reportedly worth $700,000, making her one of the highest-paid NWSL players at the time. However, she only had eight appearances with the team before her injury.

The 35-year-old forward has been a consistent, strong offensive presence throughout her career, including on the USWNT. Press has racked up 155 international appearances and 64 goals with the U.S., but has not played for the USWNT since 2021, due to a combination of her injury and coaching decisions under former USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski.

In addition to her return to practice, Press also announced the return of “The RE—CAP Show,” her soccer analysis and interview podcast with Tobin Heath. Heath and Press, who are former USWNT teammates, have been dating for several years.

Heath, who is a free agent, has been sidelined by her own season-ending knee injury, sustained just a few months after Press’s. However, despite speculation that Heath has quietly retired from the sport, Press seemingly put that to rest in an interview with The Athletic’s Meg Linehan on Tuesday.

“Neither Tobin nor I are retired, and neither Tobin nor I have put that chapter behind us,” Press told The Athletic of Heath and Press’s role in the USWNT. “We always say it’s a very unique insider/outsider perspective with the USWNT … With the national team, we’re both like, ‘You never know.’ If we can play, we’re going for it right?”

The rest of Press’s recovery is unclear, but it’s possible that she could make her return to the pitch this season. Angel City, who is currently in 12th place, has 14 regular-season games remaining.