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World Cup scouting report: How Portugal could beat the USWNT

Seven Portugal players have 100 or more international caps heading into the 2023 World Cup. (Gualter Fatia/Getty Images)

As the U.S. women’s national team prepares for the 2023 World Cup, Just Women’s Sports is taking a look at its opponents — including its three group-stage adversaries and its likely matchups in the knockout rounds.

Next up: Portugal.

Manager: Francisco Neto

Francisco Neto, 42,  has served as the manager for Portugal since 2014. His tenure has included the team’s first Euros appearance in 2017 and its second in 2022, and he now leads the team to its first World Cup appearance.

Key player: Carolina Mendes

Seven players on this squad have 100 or more caps heading into the World Cup, and 12 of the players were members of the 2017 Euros squad. Carolina Mendes is the team’s leading scorer, but Kika Nazareth is a young talent with six goals through 26 international appearances at just 20 years old.

Another player to watch is midfielder Tatiana Pinto, who is coming off of her best club season to date, in which she contributed 12 goals and three assists for Spanish club Levante. Ana Borges should also be a familiar face, having played three seasons at Chelsea.

World Cup history

This year marks Portugal’s first Women’s World Cup appearance. The squad secured its berth with a win against Cameroon in the FIFA playoff, and it comes into the tournament ranked No. 21 in the world.

Group stage schedule

Portugal will play in Group E alongside the USWNT, Portugal and the Netherlands. Take a look at the schedule below, and check out the full World Cup schedule.

  • Sunday, July 23 – 3:30 a.m. (FS1)
    • Portugal vs. Netherlands
  •  Thursday July 27 – 3:30 a.m. (FS1)
    • Portugal vs. Vietnam
  • Tuesday, Aug. 1 – 3 a.m. (Fox)
    • Portugal vs. United States

Keys to beat the USWNT

Portugal has finished fourth in its group at the last two Euros, in 2017 and 2022, but is looking to capitalize in its first World Cup appearance.

“We want to reach the last group-stage game with the USA able to qualify for the next stage. If we arrive already qualified, even better,” Neto said.

The team is coming into the tournament off a 2-0 win over Ukraine and a 0-0 draw with England earlier in July. Portugal also beat New Zealand 5-0 in February, and lost to Japan by just one goal, which gives the team some confidence heading into the World Cup.

“We must look at ourselves and see the potential and talent we have, we must believe,” Nazareth said. “I am confident. If we make it through the group stage, the goal is to win everything.”

The USWNT and Portugal have met just once before, on June 10, 2021, and the U.S. prevailed by just one goal. Sam Mewis scored the game-winner, and while Mewis is out of this World Cup, the USWNT has reloaded with some young talent.

Still, the experienced Portugal squad has an opportunity to learn from that loss and to continue its recent run of good form. Portugal has a stout defense, not allowing a single goal despite England registering 22 shots. Ana Borges was outstanding with her clearances on the line, and Portugal will need her to step up big again against the USWNT.

Not to mention, this is a team that is hungry to win.

“We’re a very united team. We’re competitive amongst ourselves,” Carole Costa told FIFA. “We’re a team that always wants to outdo ourselves in every moment, and that adds up a lot. I think that’s been our secret. Although we have players who individually are very good, as a team we stand out more, and I think that’s our greatest strength.”

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 Arena's near-19,000. As of Friday, the get-in price for that game started around $400.

Despite fans launching a 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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