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Catarina Macario making her case as ‘the future’ of USWNT

Catarina Macario strikes the ball during a training session in Japan this summer. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Less than a year after making her debut with the U.S. women’s national team, Catarina Macario is becoming a prominent player in the eyes of Vlatko Andonovski.

The coach named Macario as an alternate on the Olympic roster this summer in Tokyo. The 22-year-old didn’t see the starting lineup as the USWNT rebounded from a disappointing start to win bronze. Two months and a couple of camps later, however, Andonovski says Macario could become the face of the squad.

“It’s no secret Cat is one of the players who has tremendous potential,” Andonovski said. “I personally think she is one of the players I call the future of this team.”

The coach has been playing her primarily in the midfield, where her movement with the ball and runs without the ball have recently been on display.

Macario also excels at scoring goals, but she hasn’t yet had the opportunity to prove what she’s capable of with the national team. After tallying seven goals in her last seven games with her club, Lyon, as well as 63 goals in 69 matches through her three-year college career with the Stanford Cardinal, Macario has a strong case to start at forward for the USWNT and, more specifically, at the nine.

The 4-3-3 formation Andonovski typically employs also leaves more room for Macario to earn a starting spot if she can establish herself as a forward. As a first-year player, it’s difficult to compete with the likes of Julie Ertz and Rose Lavelle in the midfield. But with Carli Lloyd retiring after the USWNT’s next two friendlies against Korea Republic, a spot will be left open on the starting forward line.

Considering Andonovski’s high praise of Macario’s performance in the midfield, she seems headed toward success regardless of position.

“She’s a very creative player in the role she has with the national team,” the coach said. “It’s just been growth from game to game.”

Macario has three goals in 10 appearances with the U.S. With Lyon, she’s recorded 13 goals in 21 games.

That she is already making a name for herself in her first year as a professional and senior national team player isn’t anything new for the Brazilian-born striker. At Stanford, Macario racked up 17 goals and 16 assists in 25 matches her freshman year, earning her many awards such as espnW Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year, Pac-12 Forward of the Year and Pac-12 Freshman of the Year.

In her third and final college season, Macario buried 23 goals in just 19 matches.

Macario, a two-time Hermann Trophy winner as college soccer’s best player, decided to forgo her senior season to begin her professional journey. On Jan. 12, she signed with Lyon for two and a half years.

January turned out to be quite a month for Macario, 21 years old at the time. The day after her contract with Lyon was made public, U.S. Soccer announced she had received clearance from FIFA to play for the U.S. as a dual citizen.

Four days later, on Jan. 18, Macario made her debut for the national team against Colombia. In her next game on Jan. 22, also against Colombia, she made her first start and scored her first international goal. She followed that up with inclusion on the USWNT’s 2021 SheBelieves Cup and Olympic rosters and a highlight-reel goal in a U.S. friendly last month.

“I still feel relatively new to this team,” Macario said in September. “But I do know some of [the players] a little bit better now, so I hope that we learn more about each other on and off the field and build confidence in playing with each other.”

Macario will have another chance to realize her potential when the USWNT plays South Korea on Thursday night in Kansas City and again on Tuesday in St. Paul, Minn.

“I’m very happy with where she’s at at this stage in her career,” Andonovski said. “I’m always excited to have her in camp.”

Jessa Braun is an editorial intern for Just Women’s Sports. She is also the Head of North American Content for the Women’s Sports Alliance. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.

New Washington Spirit Head Coach Jonatan Giráldez Arrivin DC

head coach Jonatan Giráldez
Jonatan Giráldez joins the NWSL from FC Barcelona Femení. (Ramsey Cardy/UEFA via Getty Images)

Five months after announcing that the Washington Spirit had hired Barcelona Femení coach Jonatan Giráldez as the team's new head coach, Giráldez has joined the club in Washington, DC.

Giráldez is coming off of a successful season with the Spanish side, having won UEFA Women's Champions League, Copa de la Reina, Supercopa, and Liga F in his final season to complete a lauded Quadruple.

While Giráldez was finishing out his tenure in Europe, Adrián González filled in as Spirit interim head coach. González has also seen success, leading the team to its third-place standing with a 9-3-1 record through 13 games.

“I’m thrilled to join the Spirit and begin this next chapter with the club,” Giráldez said in an official team statement. “To be part of the vision Michele Kang has for the Spirit and women’s soccer globally is an exciting opportunity.”

Giráldez has worked at Barcelona since 2019, initially coming on as an assistant coach before moving up to head coach in 2021. The team went 30-0-0 on the season under Giráldez during his first year as manager.

He brings along with him Andrés González and Toni Gordo, who will serve as the Spirit's Fitness Coach and Club Analyst, respectively.

US Track & Field Olympic Trials Touch Down in Oregon

Sha’Carri Richardson competes in the women’s 200-meter preliminary round during the USATF Outdoor Championships
Sha’Carri Richardson will have some competition this week as athletes vie for an Olympic berth. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The US Olympic Track & Field Trials begin on June 21st, kicking off a 10-day quest to determine who will represent the US in Paris this summer.

The crucial meet will take place in Eugene, Oregon, where the top three finishers in each event will punch their ticket to the 2024 Olympics. As with this past week's US Swimming Trials, even the most decorated athletes must work to earn their spot — and one bad performance could undermine four years of preparation.

Reigning 100-meter World Champion Sha'Carri Richardson headlines this year's field, as the 24-year-old looks to qualify for her second Olympic Games and compete in her first. Richardson is a world champion in both the 100-meter and 200-meter sprint, but missed the Tokyo Olympics due to testing positive for THC shortly after the last US Olympic Trials.

Other standouts include 400-meter Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, who's currently the most decorated athlete in the active women's US Track & Field pool. McLaughlin-Levrone qualified to run in the 200-meter and 400-meter flat races alongside the 400-meter hurdles at the Olympic Trials, but opted to focus solely on her signature event.

800-meter specialist Athing Mu will also be a huge draw this week, as the Olympic gold medalist looks to shake off a lingering hamstring injury while pursuing her second Summer Games. Gold medal-winning pole vaulter Katie Moon will also attempt to qualify for her second-straight Olympic Games.

Ole Miss star McKenzie Long could be Richardson's greatest competition in the 100-meter and 200-meter events, as well as Richardson's Worlds teammate Gabby Thomas in the 200-meter. In field events, watch for Oregon senior Jaida Ross going head-to-head with reigning world champion Chase Jackson in the shot put, as both push for their first Olympic team berth.

Regardless of why you tune in, the US Olympic Trials are a perpetually thrilling and sometimes brutal qualification process. If you're able to make your way to the head of the pack, a shot at Olympic glory might just be waiting at the finish line.

Fans can catch live coverage throughout the Trials via NBC, USA, and Peacock.

Top Teams Square Off in NWSL Weekend Slate

NWSL Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda
Orlando Pride, led by forward Barbra Banda, will take on Utah in this weekend's NWSL action. (Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As the NWSL season continues, a few top-performing clubs will have a chance to boost their standings this weekend.

First-place Kansas City will travel to Providence Park to take on fifth-place Portland, as the Current look to keep their unbeaten streak intact. And in New Jersey, third-place Washington will take on fourth-place Gotham FC, with both teams attempting to extend multi-game unbeaten streaks.

A six-point gap has opened between the fifth and sixth spot on the NWSL table — with just six points also separating the league's top five. Kansas City, Orlando, Washington, Gotham, and Portland have recently proven themselves to be a cut above the rest of the competition. With eight postseason spots up for grabs and half the season behind us, a pattern is forming that indicates the playoff race could come down to spots six through eight on the NWSL table.

Of those top five teams, only Orlando faces an opponent in the bottom half of the league this weekend: The Pride will take on 14th-place Utah, who nonetheless are coming off a win — just their second of the season — over Bay FC last weekend.

But despite Kansas City and Orlando having yet to lose a game, Gotham might be the squad coming into the weekend with the most momentum.

Clutch goals from Rose Lavelle and rookie Maycee Bell gave the Bats a 2-0 midweek win over San Diego on Wednesday, in a rematch of the 2024 Challenge Cup. Gotham's unbeaten streak dates all the way back to April, as rising availability and sharpened form have honed this year's superteam into a contender.

Bottom line? As the NWSL season passes the halfway mark, some matches might begin to feel more like playoff previews than mere regular season battles.

Chelsea Gray Returns From Injury in Aces Win Over Seattle

las vegas aces chelsea gray and kelsey plum celebrate a win over the seattle storm
Gray has been sidelined with a foot injury since the 2023 WNBA Finals. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Chelsea Gray made her return to the basketball court on Wednesday, helping the Aces to a 94-83 win over the Seattle Storm. 

The lauded point guard missed the first 12 games of the season, having been injured in last year’s WNBA Finals. The left foot injury caused her to miss Game 4 of the championship series, and she’s continued to rehab it through the beginning of the 2024 season. 

Her return on Wednesday was capitalized by the fact that she needed just 20 seconds to make an impact and record her first assist. While she finished with just one point, she had seven assists, four rebounds, and two blocks to go alongside it in 15:30 minutes. Gray's contributions on the night brought her career assist record up to 1,500.

"I probably went through every emotion leading up to today," Gray said after the game. "I was a little anxious all day. It's been a long time since I've been out on that court. But the fans were amazing from the time I came out to warm up to the time I checked in the game. It was a rush and a feeling I missed a lot."

It’s been a roller coaster of a season so far for Las Vegas, who have lost five of their last seven games. Gray, who averaged 15.3 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.0 rebounds in 2023, has proven herself a much-needed addition to the team’s lineup.

"Felt like my heart," Aces coach Becky Hammon said when asked how she felt hearing the crowd erupt for Gray's return. "She's the leader of our team. I thought she did a wonderful job too."

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