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Australia at risk of early exit with Sam Kerr still sidelined: World Cup digest

Nigeria’s Asisat Oshoala gets past Australia’s Alanna Kennedy and Mackenzie Arnold en route to scoring the game-winning goal. (Justin Setterfield/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: Australia at risk of early World Cup exit

Sam Kerr’s status remains in doubt after Australia’s first two group-stage matches as she continues to nurse a calf injury. And with Mary Fowler and Kyah Simon also out of Thursday’s game against Nigeria, the African squad took full advantage in a 3-2 win.

While Emily van Egmond struck first to give Australia a 1-0 lead, Uchenna Kanu netted an equalizer five minutes later. From there, it was all Nigeria, with Osinachi Ohale and Asisat Oshoala also getting on the scoresheet. The end result? An impressive victory for Nigeria, and a precarious position for Australia heading into its final group-stage match.

With the win, Nigeria holds the top spot in Group B, followed by Canada. Both teams have four points, while Australia sits in third with three.

So the Matildas face a must-win match against Canada at 6 a.m. ET Monday if they want to advance to the knockout stage. The winner of that match would clinch a spot in the round of 16. If Canada loses, it would need Ireland to beat Nigeria in order to advance; if Australia loses, the Matildas are eliminated.

If Canada and Australia tie, then Canada would advance to the knockout rounds and Australia would need a Nigeria loss and a favorable tiebreaker in order to advance. Realistically, that sets up Monday’s clash as win or go home for the World Cup co-hosts.

Today’s top highlight: Lindsey Horan and Danielle van de Donk make nice

After a testy exchange during the U.S. women’s national team’s 1-1 draw with the Netherlands, Lindsey Horan and her Lyon teammate (but Netherlands foe) Danielle van de Donk made nice in the mixed media area.

The two nearly got into it during the match after van de Donk delivered a hard hit to Horan, after which the USWNT midfielder cursed her club teammate, calling her a “f—ing b—-.” Almost immediately afterward, Horan scored the game-tying goal, following Julie Ertz’s instruction to score and “shut everyone up.”

“I don’t think you ever want to get me mad because I don’t react in a good way,” Horan said. “Usually, I just go and I want something more. I want to win more. I want to score more. I want to do more for my team.”

“Between me and Lindsey, nothing happened,” van de Donk told reporters. “Someone got very angry at me!”

Even before the match, Horan expected her teammate to get chippy. But she didn’t mind it.

“You get trash talk every single day from Dan van de Donk,” she said. “And once we play them, you’ll see it. She’ll be coming for my ankles like every single play, so watch out for that. That will be fun.”

Today’s results:

  • USWNT 1, Netherlands 1
  • Nigeria 3, Australia 2
  • Portugal 2, Vietnam 0

More World Cup news to know:

  • USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski defended his decision to use just one substitute in the 1-1 draw against the Netherlands. “I thought we had control of the game and we were knocking on the door of scoring a goal,” he said. “Our players played well. We were around the goal the whole time, and I just didn’t want to disrupt the rhythm.”
  • England manager Sarina Wiegman spoke Wednesday about her team’s “superpower” label ahead of their clash with Denmark. Denmark manager Lars Sondergaard gave that tag to England and called his own side “underdogs” ahead of the match, set for 4:30 a.m. ET Friday. When asked about the comments, Wiegman said she agreed with the label: “Yes, I agree with that, but of course he wants to put us in that position too. But we are always the team to beat.”
  • Colombia’s Linda Caicedo is reportedly “fine” after a scare during training, in which she was seen grabbing her chest and breathing deeply before lying down on the ground. The star played a key role in Colombia’s first group-stage win over South Korea, and the team next faces Germany at 5:30 a.m. ET Sunday.

Cameron Brink likes Caitlin Clark for 2024 WNBA Rookie of the Year

Cameron Brink poses with Caitlin Clark at 2024 wnba draft in new york
Cameron Brink poses with fellow draftee — and possible WNBA ROY —Caitlin Clark. (Photo by Emily Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Cameron Brink already has her rookie of the year pick for the upcoming WNBA season, and it’s Indiana-bound star Caitlin Clark

In the latest edition of Kelley on the Street, host Kelley O'Hara caught up with Brink in New York hours before the Stanford phenom went No. 2 overall to the Los Angeles Sparks at the 2024 WNBA Draft. When O’Hara asked who would win the WNBA's rookie of the year, she answered without pause.

"Caitlin Clark," she said, while a fan commented that she thought Brink would take home the award. Brink later added that the extra foul granted to WNBA players will be "good for me."

"I hope it’s me," Charisma Osborne, who was later drafted by the Phoenix Mercury, said when asked her ROY prediction. "But, I don’t know — we’ll see."

Watch more of Kelley on the Street:

Dash winger Maria Sanchez confirms trade request a day shy of NWSL deadline

María Sanchez of Houston Dash during a NWSL game
In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the club worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. (Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images)

Maria Sanchez issued a statement on Thursday, confirming recent reports that she has requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

In it, she revealed that the club has been aware of the request "since late March."

"This has all taken a toll and isn’t an easy thing to talk about, but I want to confirm that I’ve requested an immediate trade," she wrote. "My expectations and reasons have been clear. I trust that my current club’s management will honor my decision in a timely manner and proceed with accepting a trade."

"I’m eager to refocus and dive back into what I love most: playing football," she concluded.

Reports of Sanchez's trade request first surfaced on ESPN last week, and were later confirmed by multiple sources. 

In December of last year, Sanchez signed a three-year contract with the Dash valued at $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. It was the largest contract in NWSL history at the time — a figure that would be eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

Sanchez spent the offseason as a restricted free agent, meaning that Houston could match any other team's offer to retain her rights. Should the Dash trade Sanchez, her current contract terms would remain intact, limiting potential buyers to teams able to afford to take on an inking of that size.

The Dash has yet to address the trade, instead reiterating to ESPN that Sanchez is "under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close tonight, April 19th, at 12 a.m. ET. The window will stay closed through the next 11 regular season games, reopening on August 1st, 2024.

Seattle Storm debut state-of-the-art $64 million practice facility

Jewell Loyd #24 of the Seattle Storm during warms up during practice on July 11, 2020 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida
Jewell Loyd, seen here practicing at Florida's IMG Academy, and her team are in for a major upgrade this season. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

The four-time league champion Seattle Storm unveiled their new practice facility on Thursday, with Storm co-owner Lisa Brummel dubbing Interbay's Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance the team’s "new home."

"It's just such a special space," Brummel told Fox 13 Seattle. "I think when the players get here, it's gonna be overwhelming."

The sprawling 50,000-square-foot, $64 million property is just the second designated practice facility to be designed and built expressly for a WNBA team, with the Storm further noting that 85% of all design and engineering team members involved in the project's construction were women and people of color. The finished product holds two professional indoor courts, two 3x3 outdoor courts, a state-of-the-art locker room, and players' lounge, plus designated areas for strength and conditioning, kitchen, dining, and nutrition, and recovery. 

"This facility reflects our commitment to providing our athletes an exceptional environment that supports their growth, health, and performance," said Storm co-owner Ginny Gilder in an official team release. "It’s built for women, by women, embodying our dedication to leading the way in professional women’s sports."

For their part, the team can't wait to make the faciilty their own.

"It's amazing," Storm guard Jewell Loyd told Fox 13. "Not having to drive everywhere around, knowing you have access anytime of the day to get into the gym, to workout." 

Head coach Noelle Quinn said she predicts the team is "never going to leave this building."

"Which is a good thing for me," she continued. "You talk about having an edge in performance. We want our athletes to not only perform on the court, but get whatever they need."

All of the Storm's staff and operations will now live under one roof, and the team also has plans to launch a youth basketball program operating out of the building.

Mystics relocate game to accommodate Caitlin Clark fans

Maya Caldwell, Erica Wheeler, and Lexie Hull of the Indiana Fever celebrate Caitlin Clark
Get ready — Caitlin Clark is coming to town. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Caitlin Clark effect is quickly making its mark on the big leagues, as WNBA host teams around the country rush to upgrade their Fever games to larger arenas in order to accommodate surging ticket sales.

With Clark mere weeks away from her Indiana Fever debut, both the Las Vegas Aces and Washington Mystics have officially relocated their scheduled home games with head coach Christie Sides' squad. On Thursday, the Mystics became the latest to adjust their plans, moving their June 7th matchup from Entertainment & Sports Arena in Southwest DC to the more centrally located — and much larger — Capital One Arena "due to unprecedented demand."

The Mystics home court's capacity taps out at 4,200, while Capital One Arena — home to the Wizards, Capitals, and Georgetown Hoya's Men's Basketball — can fit nearly five times that crowd at some 20,000 spectators.

"The move to Capital One Arena will allow for additional fans in the stands as well as premium hospitality options, including Suites and the all-new all-inclusive courtside Hennessy Lofts," the team announced via Thursday's press release.

The Aces were one of the first teams to switch venues, aiming to take on the Indiana Fever in front of as many as 20,000 fans inside T-Mobile Arena on July 2nd. That’s a sizable a boost from their home venue, which holds just 12,000.

For those still planning to face the Fever in their home arenas, ticket prices have skyrocketed. Previously scheduled construction has already forced the LA Sparks to relocate their first five games — including their May 24th clash with the Fever — to Long Beach State's Walter Pyramid. The temporary venue is quite the downsize, holding just 4,000 in comparison to Crypto.com Arena's near-19,000. As of Friday, the get-in price for that game started around $400.

Despite fans launching a Change.org petition urging relocation, the Chicago Sky say they're unable to move their June 23rd Fever meeting from Wintrust Arena's 10,000-seat facility to the 23,500-seat United Center due to a concert. Tickets for that game start around $325 as of Friday.

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