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Alana Cook Talks Signing With OL Reign for Challenge Cup

PARIS, FRANCE – MARCH 27: Alana Cook of PSG during the UEFA Women’s Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg match between Paris Saint-Germain Women (PSG) and Chelsea Women at Stade Jean-Bouin on March 27, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

Alana Cook plays as a defender for Paris Saint-Germain and has also appeared with the USWNT. The 23-year-old is currently on loan from PSG, after signing on to play with OL Reign in the upcoming NWSL Challenge Cup. We spoke to Cook about what went into that decision and how she’s feeling heading into the Cup. 

You’ve now been in camp with the Reign for a couple weeks. How is that going? 

It’s been going really well. I think one of the awesome things about Reign is they have quite a few established veterans who are, I think, very vital to the team culture, the team environment. And I think everyone kind of follows their lead, in terms of looking after each other, helping each other be better. I’m enjoying the time here, and I think I’ve learned a lot. I’m continuing to develop under another staff and the leaders here.

When did you first realize there was an opportunity to play for OL Reign and how did that come about? 

We kind of just had to monitor the situation as the pandemic evolved, to see what the French league was doing and if there was going to be a NWSL season. Almost as soon as this tournament was put together, we were able to put together some of the terms of the loan deal and get it worked out with both Reign and PSG. Speaking with Bill [Predmore, OL Reign owner], it was clear that this was a win-win. We’re both hoping I can contribute and help the team, and that playing with the team can help me continue to develop as well.

How long have you been back in the U.S.? 

I think the French season was officially canceled maybe in May. But we had been suspended since probably the first or second weekend of March. And once things started to get a bit crazy in France, when they started looking at doing a total shutdown, I decided it was best to just come home. So I’ve been home in the U.S. since I think March 12 or 13. Right when things started to really pick up in France with the pandemic.

After you got out, were you just training at home and waiting to see what would happen?

I think when they first suspended league play, they were very much taking it day by day, week by week. We were told to be ready to come back at any time to continue playing. So I was just at home in New Jersey, doing my best to kind of train, and if there were any fields open, try to go to those. Obviously, New Jersey was hit pretty badly with its proximity to New York. So most of the public parks and everything shut down, so then it was kind of just, how much fitness can I do in my backyard and in my basement?

How much were you able to do? I can’t imagine your basement had enough space for full on soccer workouts. 

It was a bit difficult. I mean, I used all the online resources I could to find workouts and all that kind of stuff. You know, you make it work, you do what you can.

How does PSG feel about you playing in this tournament? 

I think they’re happy for me to be able to continue training and continue developing. And hopefully if I get some game time I think that will only benefit me when I go back to playing with PSG.

After a few practices with OL Reign, are you seeing differences in the French game versus the American game? 

It’s kind of the stereotype we all kind of assume between the French game and the American game. I think here it’s a little more athletically based. There’s a lot more, I would say, focus on counter-attack and the transition game. Whereas I think over in France, maybe Europe in general, it’s a little more, I don’t know… not necessarily possession based, but I think you’re less looking to strike on the counter-attack. Less looking to use your athleticism and speed to get behind unbalanced defenses.

Having grown up in the U.S., something I’ve noticed is that I think we focus a little more on just the tactics. And I think we spend more time specifically nailing down every detail of a defensive scheme, how things work. And I think over in France, maybe it’s just a little more ingrained in how they grew up playing. They don’t necessarily focus on it as much in training. It’s more assumed that you understand the relationships between the positions and stuff like that, and I think it’s just assumed that you then can apply that to different formations and different tactics.

So I would say here we’ve spent more time just slowing things down. We’re in our spots, looking at what we’re doing. Whereas in France, if you get told we’re playing a 3-4-3 or 4-4-2, you’re kind of expected to just know how that functions.

Would you say you’re more comfortable in one style? 

I mean, I’ve played at lot of 4-3-3. At PSG, we played some 3-4-3, 3-5-2. So I think either way, I’ve gotten used to those formations and I feel comfortable. And I think a lot of my coaches have done a good job teaching me the relationships and how to apply them in any formation. With that said, I am a big fan of a 4-3-3.

How are you feeling heading into the tournament? What are your thoughts on going into the bubble?  

I feel good. I think we’ve been doing really well in training, and I think the coach has been happy with the progress we’ve made. Obviously, it’s not a long preseason. We had to put the pieces together as quickly as possible. But I think we have a really good chance of doing well in the tournament, so I think morale is pretty high over here.

In terms of the bubble, I think everyone is doing the best they can to keep all the players safe and make sure the proper environment is maintained so that we can just play. With that said, I think everyone’s a little uneasy about being so secluded. I think we’re all willing to try to make it work. But it will definitely be an experience. There may be some character building along the way.

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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