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England’s injury troubles mount in win vs. Denmark: World Cup digest

England’s Keira Walsh of England is treated for an injury during a World Cup group-stage match against Denmark. (Joe Prior/Visionhaus via Getty Images)

Just Women’s Sports is here with your daily World Cup Digest, breaking down all of the biggest storylines from each day of action in Australia and New Zealand.

Today’s top World Cup news: England’s injury troubles mount

An early goal from Lauren James proved the winner for England in Friday’s 1-0 defeat of Denmark. Yet while the win advances the Lionesses to the knockout stage, they may have to move forward without star midfielder Keira Walsh.

Walsh exited the match on a stretcher after sustaining what appeared to be a serious knee injury in the 35th minute. She twisted awkwardly while trying to intercept a pass and could be seen telling team medical staff: “I’ve done my knee.”

The Barcelona midfielder has been key to England’s success over the past year, including in the team’s run to the 2022 Euros title.

“Everything came through Keira,” former England striker Ellen White told the BBC. “There wasn’t a plan B. I dreaded to think of the idea of us ever losing her because she was one of our best players. Beth Mead was scoring all the goals but all of our play came through Keira. She was the key cog, everything moved through her. I just don’t know who England are going to have now in that 6 [defensive midfield position], or even potential double 6, role.”

The Lionesses already had been decimated with injuries in the lead-up to the tournament. Beth Mead and Leah Williamson are out with ACL tears, while Fran Kirby is also missing the World Cup with an injury. Earlier this month, Walsh had told the PA news agency that an injury was “a massive worry” every time she stepped onto the field.

“Look at the resources the men have as well, I don’t think that’s available to us and we are being asked to play close to what they play in a season now without the kind of resources behind it,” she said. “The medical teams, they work so hard but it’s impossible to keep everybody fresh all the time and we’re playing so many games and I think – with the introduction of the Nations League as well – it’s going to be difficult and you see how many ACL injuries there have been and how many players are getting injured.

“I would be lying if I say it’s not a worry for me every time I go on the pitch that I’m going to get injured next.”

Following the win, England manager Sarina Wiegman wouldn’t give any information on the injury.

“Of course I’m concerned because she couldn’t walk off the pitch but we don’t know yet so we can’t make any assumptions,” she said. “Let’s wait until we have a diagnosis then I can tell you.”

Today’s top highlight: Argentina scores twice in five minutes to save draw

After South Africa took a two-goal lead in the 66th minute, all signs pointed to South Africa taking home its first World Cup win. But a Sophia Braun strike in the 74th minute provided a spark for Argentina, and Romina Nuñéz struck in the 79th minute to tie the score at 2-2.

While the two sides played hard in the final minutes, neither team could find the back of the net again. Both Argentina and South Africa are still looking for their first-ever wins. Argentina is just the second team to have multiple matches in which they’ve come back from a two-plus goal deficit and not lost, joining Nigeria.

Today’s results:

  • Argentina 2, South Africa 2
  • England 1, Denmark 0
  • China 1, Haiti 0

More World Cup news to know:

  • South Africa coach Desiree Ellis was not happy with her team for letting a two-goal lead slip away against Argentina. “It is fantastic we got our first point but three would have been better, it’s like you hand me a chocolate and then take it away, and I love chocolate,” she said.
  • Zhang Rui was sent off with a red card in China’s 1-0 win against Haiti. The game stayed tied until the 74th minute, when Wang Shuang buried the penalty kick to deliver the game-winning goal. China now is tied with Denmark for the runner-up spot in Group D, with Denmark holding the tiebreaker following a 1-0 win earlier in the group stage.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

One former player contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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