All Scores

Angel City continues to set NWSL standards in electrifying rivalry win

Claire Emslie scored the game-winner against San Diego in her debut for Angel City. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports)

LOS ANGELES — Fans had the inaugural NWSL regular-season match between Angel City FC and San Diego Wave circled on their calendars for months. The expansion clubs would not only be playing for bragging rights in their debut seasons, but Angel City — the league leader in average attendance — would have another opportunity to showcase its growing fan base.

With the new rivals playing in front of a sellout crowd of 22,000 at Banc of California Stadium on Saturday night, the game’s drama matched its anticipation. Angel City, despite going a player down late in the second half, defeated the first-place Wave 2-1 to tie the Portland Thorns with 17 total points in the league standings.

ACFC captain Ali Riley, the game’s first goal scorer, saw Saturday’s game as a celebration of the progress this country has made with women’s soccer and women’s sports, and she expects the rivalry with San Diego to propel the NWSL further.

“I thought all day about how incredible it is to not just have one team in Southern California, but to now have two,” Riley said after the inaugural Chanclásico (chanclas is the Spanish word for flip flops). “We haven’t had that before, and it’s not something I was able to see when I was growing up.”

ACFC president Julie Uhrman also spoke about the budding rivalry.

“This is a city of champions, and we want to be the best in the league, but we absolutely want to be the best in Southern California,” she said. “As much appreciation as I have for San Diego and as much as I want them to be successful this year, every single time we step on the pitch, we’re looking for the three points and the rivalry makes it a bigger game.”

In the 81st minute, as Angel City was playing with just 10 players after Tyler Lussi received her second yellow card of the match, a wide-open Claire Emslie scored from the right side of the box off a cross from Cari Roccaro. The right-footed shot to the bottom left corner gave the home team a 2-1 lead it would not squander. It was also ACFC’s first score in front of its supporters’ section all season.

Emslie, a 28-year-old forward from Scotland, made her team debut off the bench after landing in Los Angeles on Tuesday and officially signing on Thursday. For dinner the night before the match, Riley made Emslie vegan enchiladas to welcome her. The jetlagged Emslie, who was the organization’s second pick in the expansion draft, has been drinking coffee at night to stay awake. She said she has been so exhausted that she has begun feeling tired around 6 p.m. since landing in L.A.

In the ninth minute of the match, Riley drilled the opening goal with a left-footed strike through a tight window past San Diego goalkeeper Carly Telford. Jun Endo made the assist on a setup from Sydney Leroux. The goal marked the 34-year-old defender’s first in the 2,155th minute and 29th game of her NWSL career. Emslie’s goal was also the first of her NWSL career.

Leroux, who spent her college years across town at UCLA, was listed as questionable for the game with a right ankle injury. Making her first start for ACFC a week after debuting with the team following a trade from the Orlando Pride, Leroux didn’t take long to assuage concerns over her health.

In the second minute of the second half, Leroux nearly doubled her team’s lead with a nifty bicycle kick that went wide right. Five minutes later, when it appeared Leroux had scored on another attempt, the crowd erupted and pink smoke emanated from the supporters’ section. The noise died down when the forward was ruled offside and the goal was disallowed.

ACFC keeper DiDi Haračić was spectacular throughout the match, and especially busy in the closing moments. In the 86th minute, the goalie flashed the save of the match, jumping to deflect an on-target header out of play. Three minutes later, San Diego missed a go-ahead goal by inches on a Katie Johnson attempt from close range.

Kristen McNabb scored the Wave’s lone goal in the 60th minute, evening up the match with a left-footed drive into the bottom left corner. The Wave dominated possession in the first half (58.5 percent) and in the contest overall (56.2). They also outshot their northern neighbors 18 to nine, completed 27 crosses compared to ACFC’s eight and kicked five more corners than their opponent. And yet, the home club found a path to victory.

Important players on both sides missed the contest in favor of Women’s World Cup Qualifiers, including the league’s leading goal scorer, San Diego forward Alex Morgan (U.S.). For ACFC, starting defenders Vanessa Gilles (Canada) and Alyson Swaby (Jamaica) were also sidelined due to international duty. The club continues to be without star striker Christen Press and key defenders Jasmyne Spencer and Sarah Gorden due to injury. Press was met with enthusiastic pregame applause when she was shown on the jumbotron walking with crutches, flanked by ACFC investors Jennifer Garner and Glennon Doyle.

As ACFC players and staff reflected on their second sellout of the season Saturday night, they were equally proud and emphatic about the future. The Los Angeles club continues to easily pace the league in average attendance, with 19,006 fans per its seven home contests.

“Invest in us,” Riley said. “Look at all the people who care about women’s soccer, not just in Southern California.”

“We’re trying to show that women’s sports deserve the attention that these women got tonight,” Uhrman added. “The fans have supported this team in a way that feels completely unrivaled in women’s sports. You’re starting to see us women believing in our power and our strength and saying enough is enough, we deserve the attention.”

Joshua Fischman is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering Angel City FC and the Los Angeles Sparks. He has covered basketball for Vantage Sports and Hoops Rumors and served as co-host of “On the NBA Beat” podcast. Joshua received his master’s in Sports Media from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter @JJTheJuggernaut.

2023 MVP Breanna Stewart Drops 31 Points in Liberty’s Huge Win Over Fever

breanna stewart and jonquel jones of the new york liberty celebrate win over indiana fever
Stewie and the Liberty dominated the court throughout Thursday's Fever home opener. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

The New York Liberty dominated Indiana on Thursday night, winning by a whopping 36 points in the Fever's home opener. 

A sold-out crowd of 17,274 was in attendance to watch as star rookie Caitlin Clark finished the 102-66 defeat with nine points, seven rebounds, and six assists. It’s the first time since January 2021 — her freshman season at Iowa — that Clark's been held to single-digit scoring. 

"The physicality is definitely up there... I'm easily pushed off screens," she told reporters after the loss. "The game seems a little fast for me right now. The more I play and the more comfortable I get, it's going to slow down a little bit. It will be easier for me to make reads, see things develop."

The Fever were outscored by a combined margin of 57 points in their first two games — the largest two-game point deficit in WNBA season-opening history, according to @ESPNStatsInfo.

"We've got to get to a level of toughness," Fever coach Christie Sides in her own postgame remarks. "When things are going south on us, we're not stopping the bleeding."

"I have great perspective on everything that happens," Clark added. "It was the same in my college career. There were some moments that were absolutely amazing. And there were some moments I was not happy with how I played and how my team performed. That's just life, that's just basketball."

Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu, who herself experienced a rocky rookie season following a much-hyped college career, offered up some insight on the matter.

"In this league, there are tough defenses all centered around not letting you get the ball, trapping, not letting you score," Ionescu said. "There were many factors that played into what was a tough first season for me in the league, but it helps you be able to figure it out. You have to have those experiences."

But it was reigning league MVP Breanna Stewart that truly stole the show, racking up 31 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals, and two blocks on the night.

"In general, I just wanted to come out more aggressive coming off of last game," Stewart said after putting up the 24th 30-point game in her career.

Stewart she also commended the fans inside Indianapolis's packed Gainbridge Fieldhouse, noting that she hopes that level of support to continue across the WNBA.

"This is how you want every game to be and when it's a sell-out crowd, it gives you a similar playoff atmosphere feel," she said. "People want to be a part of this and the thing now is to continue to sustain it, continue to take the momentum that we have and turn it into something more."

WNBA Commissioner Admits to ‘Faulty’ Charter Rollout

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert at 2024 wnba draft
Cathy Engelbert at the 2024 WNBA Draft in New York. (Cora Veltman/Sportico via Getty Images)

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert admitted to a "faulty rollout" of the new charter travel initiative on Thursday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Ahead of Tuesday's season opener, it was announced that the only teams flying private this week would be Indiana and Minnesota. The announcement came mere days after the league made a new charter flight program for all WNBA teams public. At the time, they said it would be implemented "as soon as we have the planes."

But as two teams out of 12 chartered to their first games of the season, others like the Atlanta Dream and Chicago Sky were forced to fly commercial.

A town hall meeting between Engelbert and the players was held in response to the confusion. Everything from the league's new media rights deal to private travel was covered in the meeting, with players submitting their questions ahead of time. Sky center Elizabeth Williams told Sun-Times reporter Annie Costabile afterwards that cross-country flights were prioritized.

"Flights that are across the country like [the Lynx] going to Seattle, crossing multiple time zones, or flights that usually require a connection, those were the priorities," Williams said. "That’s why New York didn’t go to DC with a charter, but Minny goes to Seattle."

What’s unclear under that metric is that the Atlanta Dream played the Los Angeles Sparks on Wednesday, which could technically be classified as a cross-country flight. 

On Tuesday, rookie forward Angel Reese shared a photo on her Instagram story lamenting the league's use of commercial flights.

"Just praying that this is one of the last commercial flights the Sky has to fly," Reese posted. The team still has at least three commercial flights awaiting them in the near future.

"Obviously, I think all teams should be able to get chartered," Reese told the Sun-Times. "But I know moving forward... going in the right direction, being able to have some teams [chartering] is cool. Within the next weeks, everybody will be flying charter, which will be really good."

On Thursday, Lindsay Schnell of USAToday Sports confirmed that the league intends to have all teams on charter flights by May 21st.

Brazil Wins Bid for 2027 Women’s World Cup Host

fifa womens world cup trophy on display
The FIFA Women's World Cup trophy on display in Bangkok after Brazil was announced as the 2027 host country. (Thananuwat Srirasant - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Brazil has been named the host for the 2027 Women’s World Cup, with FIFA announced early Friday. 

The decision came after a vote at the 74th FIFA Congress in Bangkok, with Brazil earning 119 votes to the joint European bid’s 78. 

This will be Brazil’s first time hosting the Women’s World Cup, with the country having hosted the men’s World Cup twice before in 1950 and 2014. It will also be the first Women’s World Cup held in South America. The tournament will follow the same 32-team format as the 2023 WWC in Australia and New Zealand.

Brazil winning the bid was not entirely surprising after FIFA issued a report just last week, stating that the Brazilian bid had pulled ahead as host following technical inspection. After evaluation, Brazil was given a score of 4.0 out of 5, compared to the 3.7 awarded to the Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Brazil ranked higher in a number of key areas, including stadiums, accommodations, fan zones, and transport infrastructure. Though considered to be a frontrunner, the US and Mexico withdrew their joint bid prior to the technical inspection period, saying they would instead focus their efforts on 2031.

On Friday, Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) president Ednaldo Rodrigues called it a "victory." 

"We knew we would be celebrating a victory for South American women's soccer and for women," he told reporters. "You can be sure, with no vanity, we will accomplish the best World Cup for women."

"We are working on a transformation, not only for the country but for the continent," added bid team operational manager Valesca Araujo.

Brazil intends to use 10 of the venues utilized at the 2014 men’s World Cup, including holding the final in Rio de Janeiro on July 25th. The CBF's proposal outlines that the 2027 tournament run from June 24th through the end of July. Last summer’s World Cup began at the end of July and concluded on August 19th.

Another notable element of Brazil's newly unveiled plan to grow of the women’s game is that "all [men’s] clubs wishing to take part in high-level national and continental competitions must now provide a structure for a women’s team." While the definition of "structure" was not specifically identified, the country has set targets with CONMEBOL to help increase the number of women’s club teams in the country.

In last week's inspection findings, FIFA noted that selecting Brazil as the next WWC host could "have a tremendous impact on women's football in the region."

Chelsea Eyes Weekend Finale With WSL Title in Sight

chelsea players celebrate win against tottenham in the wsl
Chelsea beat Tottenham on Wednesday, moving to the top of the table in an effort to win departing coach Emma Hayes some silverware. (John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images)

Chelsea did what they needed to do on Wednesday in order to make Saturday's slate of season-ending WSL fixtures interesting: Beat Tottenham.

The Blues are now number one in the league, with an edge over Manchester City on goal differential thanks to an eight-goal outing against Bristol City last week. 

Yesterday's result tees up a league finale for the books as Chelsea looks to send coach Emma Hayes off with another trophy to add to her cabinet. The Blues will play FA Cup winner Manchester City at Old Trafford on Saturday, while City is away at Aston Villa.

"We will be leaving nothing on the pitch, we will be giving everything and no matter what the result is," Chelsea midfielder Erin Cuthbert said after Wednesday's win. "At least we can look each other in the eye and say we gave everything."

It makes for a thrilling end to Chelsea's Emma Hayes era, as the decorated WSL coach will take over the USWNT in June. And it comes after Hayes all but conceded the title race early this month after Chelsea fell to Liverpool 4-3.

"I think the title is done," Hayes said at the time. "Of course, mathematically, it's not, but I think the title is done. Our job between now and the end of the season is to keep pushing until the end, but I think it will be very difficult.

"We will never give up. But the title is far from us; it's not in our hands. I think City are deserving, their consistency has put them in that position. Of course, we will go to the end, but I don't think the title will be going to us this year."

Be it mind games or Hayes truly thinking her team was that far off, her words lit something in Chelsea. Their following two performances showed the team’s determination to have a shot at some silverware.

As for Saturday's schedule, Hayes believes her team is facing the "tougher of the two games."

"It's a fitting finale for me, being my final game," she told BBC Sport. "As I said to the players if someone gives you a second chance in life, make sure you don't need a third one. We're in the position we want to be in, and we'll give it everything on Saturday no matter what."

Start your morning off right with Just Women’s Sports’ free, 5x-a-week newsletter.