USWNT vs. Colombia in three moments (part two)

Lessons hopefully learned in Utah, so they don’t have to be learned next week at the W Championship

As Tuesday night’s U.S. women’s national team friendly against Colombia became Wednesday morning’s 2-0 win, things got weird. The goals both came from the USWNT’s right backs, a late storm delayed the game by nearly an hour, and of all people Ashley Hatch ended up in a shoving match.

Amid all of that, the USWNT faced a slightly different, more open version of Colombia than they did in Saturday’s first meeting, and the game was a tougher task. Alyssa Naeher, starting in the second game, had a few moments to worry in a way that game one starter Casey Murphy didn’t, and while the USWNT were worthy winners, it wasn’t exactly a smooth path.

That path can be summed up in three moments, so let’s dig into what we saw Tuesday night:

Tactical gambits?

Vlatko Andonovski caught Colombia out with two really interesting experiments in the first game: going with two No. 10s from halftime on by bringing Ashley Sanchez in, and a late move to try Kristie Mewis as a No. 6.

The double-ten was put out there from the start in Utah, with Lindsey Horan starting underneath Sanchez and Rose Lavelle, but while the move broke the game open as a halftime adjustment, things weren’t so easy when used from the start.

What was the difference? For one, Colombia simply wasn’t fatigued from defending for 45 minutes, and they got the chance to adjust to the rhythm the U.S. set with two attacking midfielders from kickoff rather than having to figure it out on the fly. With the Colombian line of contention higher, Sanchez and Lavelle had less room to turn and face goal.

Neither played badly, but rather than the revelatory bunker-busting look we saw in Colorado, the USWNT were not quite able to stretch Colombia enough. It was a game of “almost” for the USWNT attack, with Colombia’s center backs frequently doing just enough with their emergency defending to keep true danger at bay.

Mewis, meanwhile, was the subject of some Colombian adjustment to U.S. tactics. Namely, their central midfielders tried to lure her out of her position as the midfield anchor to open up room for counters. Mewis, a natural No. 8 who can play further forward, still has the decision-making instincts of someone who generally plays with one more midfielder staying home. She wanted to step—for good reasons, as winning the ball on a counter-press can create excellent scoring chances—but sometimes stepped into the trap Colombia set for her.

None of this is to say the USWNT should discard either of these ideas. Sanchez and Lavelle have both developed such defensive engines that they can be deployed in this 4-3-3 formation together without being an irresponsible choice. Mewis’ long-range distribution remains a weapon, and between the lack of true defensive midfield options to give Andi Sullivan a rest and the prospect of some CONCACAF teams not being as savvy as Colombia were on Tuesday, it stands to reason that she will be better in this role if it comes up again in the W Championship.

Gamesmanship test

CONCACAF has a reputation for being a real test for a favorite’s ability to withstand provocation, and the USWNT should expect teams to look to get under their skin. It’s a great way to narrow the gap in terms of talent and experience, and while U.S. fans may not enjoy it, it’s a part of the game the USWNT has to be good at.

You can’t say they were particularly good at it against Colombia, though. Obviously the memes tell the story of the late-game clash between Ashley Hatch and Jorelyn Carabalí, a situation that saw Carabalí shoulder-check Hatch after the ball was gone, shoves exchanged, and eventually Hatch pushing Carabalí away with a hand to the face.

Referee Katja Koroleva gave Hatch a yellow and had no card for Carabalí, which means she didn’t follow the Laws of the Game for either player. In the W Championship, this hands-to-the-face moment could have easily resulted in a red card for Hatch, which is the actual punishment for this infringement.

The thing is, though, that Hatch wasn’t the only player to put a hand on an opponent’s face. Taylor Kornieck did the same in the first half, trying to evade some particularly grabby marking on a corner, a play that drew no attention from the referees at all. Early in the game, ESPN’s cameras focused in on Alex Morgan looking visibly frustrated with some aggressive pre-corner kick contact as well, though to her credit, she kept her hands to herself.

These are big learning experiences for the newer USWNT players, as they’re not going to get the more collegial treatment from defenders that we see in NWSL (where opponents are your former college/YNT teammate on a pretty regular basis). Not falling for the provocation should be a key talking point within the group over the next few days.

Reset button

That aforementioned lightning delay came at a pretty good time for the USWNT, who had only a top-notch Naeher save to thank for the scoreline still being 1-0 at the time. Colombia were finding some promising counter-attacking opportunities, and though the USWNT had somewhat regained their footing from around the 70th minute, their grip on the game had still loosened in the middle portion of the second half.

The USWNT came out from the break looking like they’d sorted everything out. They came back out with a high press that completely threw Colombia off, ramping the tempo up and pinning their opponents back deep. Within around 100 seconds, they put the game to bed with a powerful Kelley O’Hara strike.

For one thing, a quick side note about our first moment: Mewis and Sanchez were a factor here, and that’s a reason for the coaching staff to continue to looking at them for more time in these roles.

But more to our point here, the USWNT wasn’t going to regain their footing in this fashion so easily had that storm cell broken up before hitting Sandy, Utah. It’s a big stretch to say Colombia were definitely going to equalize, but they had gotten a couple of corner kicks and were rounding into a threat, and that’s not what the USWNT wants when 1-0 up in the final 20 minutes of a game.

The good news here is that the break provided a chance to learn in the locker room, and put those ideas into practice soon thereafter. The bottom line? There are some important lessons in a game like this, but it’s vital for the USWNT learned them in Utah rather than still needing to learn them down in Monterrey next week.

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USWNT sees off Colombia in 2-0 friendly win

A scrappy game delayed by lightning still saw the USWNT come out on top

The U.S. women’s national team took a scrappy 2-0 decision over Colombia Tuesday night in a lightning-delayed friendly at Rio Tinto Stadium in Utah.

With nine changes from the USWNT’s win over the weekend and Colombia not quite sitting as deep, a higher-tempo—but more ragged—game played out at Rio Tinto Stadium. The USWNT tested Catalina Pérez from distance several times and were denied by brave, last-ditch defending in the Colombia box on a frequent basis.

However, they took the lead when an attempt to do that went awry. Tidy work from Rose Lavelle and Alex Morgan moved the ball wide to Sofia Huerta, whose cross attempt was diverted into the goal by a lunging Manuela Vanegas for a 22nd minute own goal.

Colombia’s willingness to take more chances nearly produced a stunning equalizer, but Alyssa Naeher’s brilliant save denied Leicy Santos from 20 yards early in the second half.

A 49-minute lightning delay halted play in the 75th minute, and a more composed USWNT took the field. Pressing high, they doubled their lead just two minutes later on a precise strike from Kelley O’Hara, who came in at right back for Huerta just before the stoppage.

The friendly was the USWNT’s final warm-up before the CONCACAF W Championship, which kicks off in Mexico in six days. The U.S. will face Haiti on July 4 in their Group A opener.

See the USWNT goals

https://twitter.com/USWNT/status/1542003948571095040

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USWNT looking to ‘stay the course’ against Colombia in final CONCACAF W Championship warm-up

“This is just a preparation for what is going to happen in the tournament.”

The U.S. women’s national team faces Colombia Tuesday night in Utah in the second round of a back-to-back set of friendlies designed as preparation for the CONCACAF W Championship.

The USWNT’s 3-0 win offered exactly that, with Colombia offering up a low block and a focus on slowing play down. While the final result—a multi-goal win in which U.S. goalkeeper Casey Murphy faced one shot—was not a surprise, there was a murmur of concern during a first half that saw the USWNT enter the locker room scoreless.

Having looked back on the game, the USWNT seems confident that they’ll be able to score regularly.

“If you look back at that first half, we actually had a lot of opportunities. So I think we were actually exposing (Colombia) pretty well, and we just didn’t finish,” said Sofia Huerta, who came on for the game’s final third. Huerta noted that against an organized lower block, scoring chances may be harder to come by, but that the USWNT had plenty of reason to believe that the goals would come.

“That’s just gonna happen when you’re playing against a team who’s in a low block,” Huerta told reporters in a press conference on Monday. “It is hard to break them down, but I actually think we did, and we didn’t lose any hope that we were going to score.”

Head coach Vlatko Andonovski was very pleased that his team faced a robust challenge of the sort Colombia put forward, where the team’s resolve was tested. In particular, he indicated that watching the USWNT keep their focus against a physical opponent content to stay extremely deep was “tremendous.”

“We talked about that before the game a lot,” said Andonovski. “We talked about it in the halftime, and the fact that we did not waver away from our game plan, and stayed focused on what we’re trying to do, and in fact increased some of the talking points, increased our tempo, increased our intensity, was one of the one of the key moments.”

Andonovski acknowledged the pressure that comes when the USWNT doesn’t score very quickly in a given game. “Everybody, including us, expected to score goal in the first half—which I think that we created enough opportunity to score a goal—but we also know in this game, anything can happen and we didn’t.”

For USWNT opponents, hoping to turn that expectation against the USWNT is generally part of the game plan. Andonovski acknowledged that idea was one they’re probably going to encounter next month.

“Very, very (easily), players can start panicking, and they can start doubting the plan, doubting themselves,” said Andonovski. “I thought that it was very good, the talk that we had in the locker room, but then even the talk that they had among themselves is that this is just a preparation for what is going to happen in the tournament, and we have to stay the course.”

Looking ahead to Tuesday’s rematch, Andonovski indicated there would be plenty of changes. Kelley O’Hara and Andi Sullivan, both of whom started in Colorado, will not start this match, as Andonovski said both are in return-to-play protocol as they overcome injuries that have nagged at them throughout an extraordinarily busy NWSL season with the Washington Spirit.

Andonovski said that Lindsey Horan would play, but as the Lyon midfielder came into camp after some time off, they don’t want to max out her minutes too quickly. On the other hand, NWSL stars like Alana Cook, Emily Fox, and Sophia Smith—who starred against Colombia, scoring two goals—will “probably get some rest in this game as well.”

Andonovski said that one player who isn’t on the W Championship roster—defensive midfielders Sam Coffey and Jaelin Howell, and left back Carson Pickett are the trio in camp that aren’t slated to go to Mexico—will start at Rio Tinto Stadium, but said he couldn’t announce the full starting eleven as he hadn’t told the team yet.

All in all, it seems like the USWNT is ready to apply the lessons from their first meeting to the second, a pattern that will likely play out in Group A next month, as Haiti and Jamaica are not expected to pursue a wide-open game.

“I think it’s just difficult to play teams like that,” said Huerta, summing up what the USWNT can take from these friendlies. “As long as we continue having hope that we’re going to get the goals and not get frustrated, I think obviously, no one can really keep up with us, if we continue to just go at them.”

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USWNT sees Colombia win as ‘good preparation’ for CONCACAF W Championship

The USWNT saw their friendly win as an ideal warm-up for qualifying

The U.S. women’s national team were made to work for a 3-0 win over Colombia Saturday night, overcoming some physical play and strong goalkeeping to eventually finish with a comfortable victory.

Perceptions around the USWNT mean that any 0-0 scoreline at halftime, as was the case at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, is met with a reaction from an expectant fanbase. Within the team, though, the response was to look at the situation as a positive.

“It’s not a secret that they were very much focused to not get scored on,” said head coach Vlatko Andonovski to reporters in a post-game press conference. “The main focus for us is going to be final third, different combinations, creating space and executing the opportunities that we create.”

Speaking to Fox Sports 1 following the game, Alex Morgan—making her first USWNT appearance since October 2021—said that playing Colombia’s low block was a good warm-up for the CONCACAF W Championship, where the expectation in at least the first two group stage games (against Haiti and Jamaica) is to face an opponent prepared to defend deep.

“It’s a good preparation tool for us,” said Morgan. “Them kind of having a five-back and really sitting back and kind of not allowing us to play through them, we might see that (next month), so it’s just a great game for us in preparation.”

Andonovski added that this was a good dry run for what the team will see in Monterrey in a little over a week. “That’s pretty much what we’re going to see going forward, with most of the teams that we’re gonna face in CONCACAF.”

A major story in this match was the goals that weren’t, with the USWNT seeing Catalina Pérez save penalty kicks in both halves, from Lindsey Horan and Rose Lavelle. Andonovski said that while he’d of course like to see those converted, he’s not too worried.

“Obviously, it’s a penalty kick, probably the best goalscoring opportunity you can have as a team,” said Andonovski. “Give credit to the goalkeeper, she did a great job, two good saves, and we’re definitely going to work on it a little bit more. We still believe that both Lindsey and Rose are very good penalty takers.” Andonovski also pointed out that at last year’s Olympics, he chose Lavelle to shoot first in the quarterfinal against the Netherlands, an attempt that successfully set the USWNT up to advance.

The USWNT coach also highlighted performances off the bench from Ashley Sanchez, Kristie Mewis, and Taylor Kornieck, who scored on her national team debut.

For Andonovski, it started with some halftime changes, including having Sanchez come in and play alongside Lavelle in a “double No. 10” arrangement. Sanchez was involved on the opening goal in combination with Lavelle, and later played the pass that resulted in Lavelle’s penalty kick after Morgan was taken down.

“I think Ashley Sanchez was one of the main reasons why we got a little more sophisticated in the second half, because she was able to eliminate players on the dribble,” explained Andonovski. “She was able to connect well with the players around her, and she also asked different questions from the defenders. (Colombia) had to adjust.”

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Sophia Smith, USWNT overcome rugged Colombia in 3-0 friendly win

Despite two saved penalties, the USWNT won in Colorado thanks to Smith’s brace

Sophia Smith’s brace carried the U.S. women’s national team to a 3-0 win over Colombia Saturday night in Colorado.

Facing a very low block and a rarely-seen sweeper in use from Colombia, the USWNT started sluggishly. Still, they should have entered the locker room up by a couple of goals: Mal Pugh side-footed wide of an early empty net after good work from Sophia Smith, while a disputed penalty won by Smith resulted in both Catalina Pérez saving Lindsey Horan’s spot kick, and Smith stumbling as she tried to deposit the rebound, sending it wide.

Smith would make up for that shortly after the start of the second half, burying two goals in a six-minute span. First, Rose Lavelle and halftime substitute Ashley Sanchez combined at midfield to send the Portland Thorns star in behind to clip the ball past Pérez in the 54th minute.

On the second, it was Lavelle again with the assist, this time playing a smart diagonal ball that broke the Colombia back line, leaving Smith room to race away and slide a shot home on the hour mark.

Sanchez picked another halftime sub, Alex Morgan, out with a lob after great work to get open, with Morgan drawing another penalty kick. Pérez yet again produced a save though, this time denying Lavelle at full stretch in the 69th minute.

While Casey Murphy saw very little work in her fifth cap, the USWNT’s big chances dried up after that, with long spells of possession but few breakthroughs. Megan Rapinoe came in late and got involved, bending a free kick inches wide in the 85th minute after having a penalty appeal rejected.

Rapinoe would still factor into a goal, floating a precise 90th minute free kick in for Taylor Kornieck, who expertly guided home a header on her USWNT debut.

The USWNT will complete their back-to-back with Colombia next Tuesday, when they meet again at Rio Tinto Stadium in Utah.

See the USWNT’s goals vs. Colombia

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Andi Sullivan, Aubrey Kingsbury ‘in it together on both fronts’ on Spirit-laden USWNT

United Spirit, Washington National Team

The U.S. women’s national team begins its most important task of 2022 early next month at the CONCACAF W Championship, and will do so with a heavy Washington Spirit influence.

Seven of the 23-player USWNT roster Vlatko Andonovski assembled earlier this week for that tournament and friendlies against Colombia play for the 2021 NWSL champions. No other club contributed more than four players to this squad, and four NWSL teams were shut out entirely.

In an interview conducted over email with Pro Soccer Wire, Spirit co-captains Aubrey Kingsbury and Andi Sullivan both said that there are clear benefits to the kind of familiarity that fosters that can be applied with the USWNT and in NWSL.

“We all have high aspirations, not just for the Spirit, but representing our country in the upcoming World Cup and Olympics,” said Kingsbury. “We’re kind of in it together on both fronts, the national team and the Spirit.”

“I do think it’s beneficial any time you get players that know each other and are familiar with each other, which is very common with the national team,” added Sullivan, who noted that at the USWNT level, there tends to be some familiarity from youth national team play, college soccer, or the frequency of seeing one another in NWSL play.

While much has been made of the Spirit’s emergence over the past three seasons, Kingsbury and Sullivan both joined the team in 2018, a disastrous season in which the club set the NWSL record for minutes without a goal twice, and won just two times in 24 games.

It’s been a long, difficult road from those tough times to becoming the team supplying over 30% of the USWNT squad for a competitive tournament.

“It’s incredible,” said Kingsbury, who after three seasons on the fringes of the national team appears to have carved out a more secure niche. “Having seven players on the national team, it’s an intense, competitive training environment (with the Spirit). Now when I go to the national team it’s like ‘Oh, this is the Washington Spirit here!'”

“Teams that are making playoffs, making finals, winning finals, you look good,” said Sullivan. “I think that speaks to the culture of the Spirit and what we’ve been able to do the last year especially given a lot of difficulties.”

Looking ahead to the W Championship, Sullivan says she’s been paying attention to the growth of Liga MX Femenil, which has been drawing big crowds and improving the Mexican women’s national team. In typical USWNT fashion, though, she sees the challenge of a hostile environment as one to look forward to.

“I’m looking forward to playing against a rowdy crowd. I think we’re used to rowdy crowds in the U.S. but obviously they’re for us,” explained Sullivan. “I’m looking forward to feeling that heat both from the climate and from the Mexican fans.”

Despite the similarity in club background, Kingsbury and Sullivan enter this camp in different positions. Kingsbury has only recently emerged as a possible back-up to Alyssa Naeher, getting her first cap in April after numerous call-ups and camp invites.

For Kingsbury, the competition to stay in the frame is demanding.

“It’s definitely a very competitive environment,” said Kingsbury of being in USWNT camps. “The standards are high. We get there early, (goalkeepers) start training before the rest of the team does… It’s a fun, challenging environment to be in because we all demand perfection.”

Sullivan’s situation is a bit different. She has emerged as the USWNT’s first-choice defensive midfielder, starting 10 of the team’s last 11 games and receiving hearty backing from Andonovski on Friday. However, she isn’t taking her place for granted.

“I’m obviously more excited to be getting more playing time and more starts with the national team. It’s great to have opportunities but it doesn’t guarantee anything,” said Sullivan. “My role with the national team is to do whatever the team needs and I feel like that’s the same with the Spirit. ‘Whatever best way I can serve the team that will help the team win’ is always the approach I’m gonna take.”

In terms of what they expect out of the USWNT over the next few weeks, the answer is simple: win.

“Just given the expectations this team has for itself, first place is the only acceptable outcome,” said Sullivan. “Hopefully, we can focus on the little things that will make that happen and have everything else take care of itself.”

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USWNT ‘has a plan’ in midfield heading into CONCACAF W Championship

Andonovski endorsed Sullivan, & adds that the USWNT has multiple approaches to defensive midfield

The U.S. women’s national team has begun its most important camp of 2022, with friendlies Saturday and Tuesday against Colombia as their only prep before the CONCACAF W Championship.

For the USWNT, that tournament will have major reverberations, as it serves as the qualifying process for both the 2023 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics in Paris. The standard with the USWNT has always been “beat everybody,” but the W Championship format is unforgiving. One slip-up could cost them a place at a major international tournament.

An area of focus since Vlatko Andonovski announced his roster for the camp is the midfield, where Washington Spirit captain Andi Sullivan is the only full-time defensive midfielder in the final group of 23 the USWNT will take to Mexico for the W Championship. Andonovski has called Jaelin Howell (Racing Louisville) and Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns), both of whom play the No. 6 role with their clubs, but they are at this point only available for the Colombia friendlies.

While Sullivan was indispensable as the Spirit won the NWSL championship last season, her campaign this year has been interrupted by injury. While her form has not been a problem—the Spirit are demonstrably better with her in games than on the sidelines—Sullivan has played around one-third of the available minutes in 2022 due to a calf injury.

Heading into the break, Sullivan played 60 minutes against Louisville, with Washington making a planned substitution to make sure she could continue progressing in her comeback from that knock. She has not played a full 90 minutes since a 2-2 Challenge Cup draw against the North Carolina Courage on March 30.

Speaking from Colorado ahead of Saturday’s friendly at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Andonovski said the USWNT has “a plan going forward” for the base of their midfield.

“We do have a player at (defensive midfield) that we’re very comfortable with, and we feel like is gonna be very good for us, now and in the future,” Andonovski said in endorsing Sullivan, who has been by and large his first-choice midfield anchor over the past eight months. “Andi has been tremendous in camp, performing very well and we’re excited about her.”

Still, between an exhausting NWSL schedule and a W Championship that will require finalists to play five games in 14 days at elevation, it stands to reason that Sullivan will not play 450 straight minutes as the USWNT looks to qualify.

The demands for any defensive midfielder playing solo in the USWNT’s system are very high. Andonovski’s USWNT has high-pressed teams with regularity, which for a holding midfielder means calculating risks while keeping the group connected as they pursue the ball.

That approach was emphasized in Andonovski’s remarks on Friday. “One thing that we say when we’re without the ball is, we want to minimize the opponent’s time on on the ball,” said the third-year USWNT boss when asked about the requirements his playing philosophy comes with. “We have this one saying or term that we use: we attack without the ball. So, we don’t defend for our lives. We don’t defend our goal, we attack and that’s the mentality that we have.”

A pressing style, from a physical perspective, is the most demanding and draining way to play, and with the W Championship taking place in Monterrey (average July high temperature: 94.6 degrees), multiple solutions will be needed no matter how the USWNT wants to slice it.

Andonovski was coy about exactly what his other steps would be, but did make it clear that his team has multiple ideas to deal with the situation.

“We also have players that have had chances to play that position in their club environment in the past,” said Andonovski. Of the players in this camp that are on the final 23-player squad list for the W Championship, players with professional appearances in a defensive midfield role include Lindsey Horan, Emily Sonnett, and uncapped newcomer Taylor Kornieck.

Simply plugging one of those players, all of whom are regular starters elsewhere on the field for their clubs, into the lone No. 6 spot in his customary 4-3-3 formation is not the only solution on Andonovski’s mind.

“It may not be a single six, like in the case when Andi’s playing there,” explained Andonovski. “We might have to play (with a) double six, or something of a hybrid between six and eight, where two players will take the responsibilities.”

That likely points to a 4-2-3-1 formation, which would open up the door to some more natural fits. Horan plays in that set-up with Lyon, while Gotham FC midfielder Kristie Mewis has also had plenty of success as the No. 8 in that formation in the recent past. Sullivan has seen plenty of time in a 4-2-3-1 with the Spirit, while Kornieck is also familiar with the roles involved as the more attack-oriented player in a double-pivot.

Andonovski has shifted his team into a 4-2-3-1 in friendlies this year against Uzbekistan and the Czech Republic, so the groundwork has been laid if that’s the direction he wants to take. While a full-on formation change isn’t expected, there are circumstances—the group stage finale against Mexico on July 11, for example—where an extra player in the engine room may help protect a lead and keep games manageable.

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Megan Rapinoe on Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade: ‘Civil rights are under attack’

Rapinoe spoke extensively from USWNT camp in the aftermath of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade

Megan Rapinoe, back in the U.S. women’s national team fold, spoke from Colorado today ahead of the team’s friendly against Columbia on Saturday, but soccer was not the topic of discussion.

Hours before Friday’s press conference, the Supreme Court announced its conclusion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a move that overturns Roe v. Wade and removes any federal protection for the right to an abortion.

Rapinoe had not been a scheduled speaker on the traditional pre-match press conference, but said she had a conversation with U.S. Soccer officials to be given the opportunity to discuss the Dobbs decision.

“I wish that we could just talk about soccer today, but obviously with the ruling on Roe v. Wade, that takes precedence over everything. It’s hard to put into words how sad a day this is, for me personally, for my teammates, for just all of the people out there who this is going to affect,” said Rapinoe as part of a lengthy and emotionally charged opening statement.

“I would encourage people to understand all of the different aspects that overturning Roe v Wade will have on so many…actually on everyone in the entire country,” said Rapinoe. “We know that this will disproportionately affect poor women, Black women, brown women, immigrants, women in abusive relationships, women who have been raped, women and girls who have been raped by family members. Who, you know what? Maybe just didn’t make the best choice. And that’s no reason to be forced to have a pregnancy.

“It will completely exacerbate so many of the existing inequalities that we have in our country. It doesn’t keep, not one single person safer,” continued the USWNT and OL Reign winger.

“I just can’t understate how sad and how cruel this is.”

“Civil rights are under attack”

Rapinoe spoke just one day after the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark federal civil rights law that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally-funded educational program. The reality of that noteworthy date coming just one day before the Supreme Court’s move to eliminate 49 years of protection under Roe v. Wade was not lost on her.

“It’s just oddly cruel for this to happen during this time,” said Rapinoe, who credited Title IX for her success as a professional player. “This is yet again another assault on women’s autonomy to do what they want, because it won’t stop here.”

Rapinoe listed off examples that, for her, underline what she referred to as an “attack” on the rights of the less privileged.

“Lack of health care, the disgusting and cruel attack on trans kids, the bathroom bills. A lot of the decision, I believe from from what I’ve read, Obergefell comes up a lot, in this decision about Roe v. Wade,” said Rapinoe, referring to the Obergefell v. Hodges decision that allowed same-sex couples to get married.

“I think gay marriage is under attack. I think that trans rights are under attack. I think that women’s rights are under attack. We know voting rights are under attack. We know civil rights are under attack, of all kinds,” said Rapinoe. “A very small number of people are dictating the lives of quite literally hundreds of millions of people.”

Rapinoe added that while she had “zero faith” in the Supreme Court, that she maintains a belief that voters can overcome this decision. ” I have faith in our country, and I have faith in people. I have faith in the voters, and if you ever needed a f—— motivation to vote, to get involved, quite literally people’s lives depend on it. Actual lives, we’re talking life and death, and also, your life in terms of, what does it mean to even be alive? If you can’t be your full self, like what the f— is the point?”

While relations between U.S. Soccer and Rapinoe, as well as relations between the federation and the USWNT as a group of players, have been rocky in the past, Rapinoe said all parties are working together on this issue.

“We’re not moving the game. We’re not protesting the game,” said Rapinoe of the upcoming friendly against Colombia in Utah, which has a trigger ban on abortions that begins in 30 days. “The most powerful thing we can always do is show up and not only express our supreme skill and talent and joy on the field, but to be able to have that platform.”

Rapinoe added that in her view, “we’ve felt extremely supported by U.S. Soccer, by everyone here individually,” adding that she had a conversation with USWNT general manager Kate Markgraf as well as U.S. Soccer communications staff on the topic.

“We will always be supported to use our voices, and we always have been in this federation, and we will continue that,” said Rapinoe. “I think the players and U.S. Soccer—everyone in this environment and back home in Chicago— feel that same way, and will support a group of women who rely on the autonomy of their body to do the thing that they love.”

Rapinoe concluded by calling on men across the country specifically to fight harder for women’s rights. “We live in a country that forever tries to chip away at what you have innately, what you have been privileged enough to feel your entire life,” said Rapinoe. “I should not be the loudest voice in the room. No woman should be the loudest voice in the room. This is what allyship looks like.”

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Becky Sauerbrunn scored a goal. We repeat: Becky Sauerbrunn scored a goal

They actually got Becky a goal

U.S. women’s national team captain and famous non-goalscorer Becky Sauerbrunn scored a goal today, giving the Portland Thorns a 2-0 lead over the Orlando Pride.

Just four minutes after Portland had jumped in front on an emphatic volley from Hina Sugita, the Thorns won a free kick out on the left wing. Sam Coffey, who will join Sauerbrunn in the USWNT camp that begins after this weekend’s NWSL games, powered the dead ball past the wall, forcing Erin McLeod into a great save, only for Sauerbrunn to beat everyone to the rebound for her first goal since joining Portland in 2020.

Sauerbrunn had nearly scored earlier in the game, floating a back-post header across goal only for McLeod to produce a top-notch save to tip that effort wide of the post.

Just nine days before her goal, Sauerbrunn pledged to donate $500 to Playing for Pride, an LGBTQI+ advocacy campaign, for any goal she scores in the month of June.

Sauerbrunn’s USWNT history includes 202 caps, but she hasn’t scored, making the idea of her getting a goal a long-running joke for fans. She has, however, occasionally scored a goal at the club level. Her last NWSL goal came on September 6, 2019, when she was playing for Utah Royals FC (and, funnily enough, it was a game-winner against Portland).

In fully professional club play, Sauerbrunn scored three times for FC Kansas City between 2013-2017, as well as a loan goal for the Washington Freedom in WPS and for Røa IL in Norway.

See Becky Sauerbrunn’s goal

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Rose Lavelle injured just before USWNT pre-W Championship camp

Potentially unwelcome news for the USWNT heading into qualifying

Days before joining the U.S. women’s national team for friendlies and the upcoming CONCACAF W Championship, Rose Lavelle was ruled out of OL Reign’s match Saturday with an ankle injury.

Lavelle was a very late addition to the injury report, with the official word coming from NWSL barely more than half an hour before the Reign were to kick off against Angel City FC. No further details were provided.

Lavelle has long been Vlatko Andonovski’s starting No. 10 with the USWNT, and has also been among the best players in the entire NWSL this season. She was named to the Challenge Cup Best XI and made the NWSL Team of the Month for May.

Long tagged as injury prone, Lavelle has been healthy all season as well, playing 1,045 minutes for the Reign between NWSL league play and Challenge Cup this season.

The USWNT squad announced for this window includes only one natural attacking midfielder, the Washington Spirit’s Ashley Sanchez. If Lavelle’s injury keeps her out for more time, Andonovski could also call on Lindsey Horan, Kristie Mewis, or even the uncapped Taylor Kornieck in her spot.

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