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Becky Sauerbrunn wants NWSL leaders who ‘failed the players’ to go

Sauerbrunn, a USWNT veteran and captain, has also played for the Thorns since 2020. (Lewis Gettier/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Becky Sauerbrunn’s words poured out with poise and clarity.

No, she is not OK. And no, her U.S. women’s national team and NWSL teammates are not OK.

Sauerbrunn addressed members of the media on a Zoom call Tuesday afternoon from London, where the USWNT is training ahead of Friday’s highly anticipated international friendly against England. But instead of talking about how the team is preparing to face the reigning Euro champions on the field, Sauerbrunn spoke at length about the Sally Yates report on abuse in the NWSL, which has the soccer community reeling after its release Monday.

Sauerbrunn, nearing the end of a lengthy professional soccer career during which concerns voiced by players were widely ignored, wants change. And she wants it now.

“We are horrified and heartbroken and exhausted and really, really angry,” Sauerbrunn said. “We are angry that it took a third party investigation. We are angry that it took an article in The Athletic and the Washington Post and numerous others. We are angry that it took over 200 people sharing their trauma to get to this point right now.”

On Monday, the full report on the independent investigation commissioned by U.S. Soccer and overseen by Yates was released, revealing systemic emotional abuse, verbal abuse and sexual misconduct within the NWSL. But Sauerbrunn’s teammates and friends have been reporting wrongdoing for years, with no repercussions for abusers within the league.

“For so long, this has always fallen on the players to demand change,” Sauerbrunn said. “And that is because the people in authority and decision-making positions have repeatedly failed to protect us and they have failed to hold themselves and each other accountable.”

Sauerbrunn, who plays for the Portland Thorns, one of the teams Yates said did not fully cooperate with the investigation, wasn’t afraid to call out her own team as well as every other coach and organization that has enabled abuse.

“It is my opinion that every owner and executive and U.S. Soccer official who has repeatedly failed the players and failed to protect the players, who have hidden behind legalities and have not participated fully in these investigations, should be gone,” she said. “And at the bare minimum, the recommendations that are in the Sally Yates report should be immediately implemented by U.S. Soccer and by the league.”

The Thorns, the Chicago Red Stars and Racing Louisville were all cited in the report as not having cooperated fully with the investigation. The report also focused on three coaches accused of misconduct when at the helm of those clubs — Paul Riley, Christy Holly and Rory Dames.

Of the three organizations, only the Thorns have released a statement regarding the investigation. JWS reached out for statements from the Red Stars and Racing Louisville but has yet to receive a reply.

Thorns owner and CEO Merritt Paulson said he would recuse himself from all decisions related to the club until the NWSL and NWSL Players Association’s joint investigation is complete in November.

”I cannot apologize enough for our role in a gross systemic failure to protect player safety and the missteps we made in 2015,” Paulson said in a statement released prior to Sauerbrunn’s press conference. “I am truly sorry. Given the Thorns are about to enter the NWSL Playoffs, I have told the NWSL that I will be removing myself effective today from all Thorns-related decision making until the joint investigation, which we are fully cooperating with, is released.”

At no point in the statement did Paulson address the claims that the Thorns organization did not fully cooperate with the Yates investigation.

“My hope is that the joint investigation that is coming out will have recommendations for discipline,” Sauerbrunn said. “I hope that U.S. Soccer and whatever ability they have, whether it’s enforcing sanctions or what not, if teams aren’t complying to any recommendations like the Sally Yates report has put forth, that there will be punishments. But honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know if I have faith or not.”

Sauerbrunn’s uneasiness comes after years of NWSL players not being heard and the understanding that abusive behavior in women’s professional soccer, according to the Yates report, is rooted in youth soccer.

“My hope is that protocols and policies are put in place that parents and children feel comfortable reporting when situations are not right,” Sauerbrunn said. “And my hope is that each and every one of those players can grow up in a situation where their coaches aren’t belittling them or sexually harassing or coercing them, and that they get to enjoy the game and learn what great things that game can provide.”

Enjoying the game is something that Sauerbrunn, a 14-year USWNT veteran defender, wants to do as well. But right now, less than a year removed from the 2023 Women’s World Cup, it’s difficult, she says.

Difficult, but more important than ever.

“I love the game of soccer,” she said. “I want to be passionate and I want to play. We need to bring that joy and accessibility back to the game. And so for me, it’s finding that joy again with my teammates, and not allowing anyone to take that away from me, like it’s been taken away from so many people.”

Caitlin Clark dunks on Michael Che in surprise SNL appearance

(Julia Hansen/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Caitlin Clark made a surprise appearance on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend, which quickly went viral.

The Iowa star showed up on the show’s Weekend Update segment to playfully call out Michael Che’s history of making jabs at women’s sports.

It started when Che joked that Iowa should replace Clark’s retired No. 22 “with an apron.” 

When Clark entered, Che said that he was a fan. But Clark wasn’t convinced – especially not when co-host Colin Jost brought the receipts of Che’s jabs.

“Really, Michael? Because I heard that little apron joke you did,” she said, before making him read some jokes of her own in retaliation. Clark finished her segment by shouting out the WNBA greats that came before her. She then got in one final dig – bringing Che a signed apron as a souvenir. 

When Che promised to give it to his girlfriend, Clark delivered her last playful dig of the night.

“You don’t have a girlfriend, Michael,” she said.

Afterward, SNL castmember Bowen Yang told People that the 22-year-old and teammates Gabbie Marshall, Kate Martin and Jada Gyamfi – who joined her at Studio 8H – “were so cool.”

“She's so charming and witty,” Yang said. “They were just the most stunning, noble people.

“Athletes just have this air about them. They know they're amazing. I mean, these are people who have numeric attachments and values to their performance. That's something that comedians never have.”

Portland Thorns, in uncharted territory, start NWSL season winless

Portland has started the season winless through four games for the first time. (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)

The Portland Thorns continue to struggle to start the NWSL season, falling 2-0 to the North Carolina Courage over the weekend to remain winless through their first four games. 

It’s uncharted territory for Portland, who has never started the NWSL regular season without a win in four games before.

Following the loss, defender Becky Sauerbrunn voiced her frustrations with the start. 

“It’s hard to find a lot of encouraging things, but what I find encouraging is that people are frustrated,” she said. “People are pissed off that we’re not doing well. We care, and I think that’s really important.” 

She also added that while the team will reflect individually, “there’s going to be no finger pointing.”

“We’re going to look at ourselves and figure out what we should have done, or I should have done better,” she said. “There is a list of things that I could have done better, and I’m going to make sure I know every single thing and watch this game back.”

The Thorns currently sit at the bottom of the league table with just one point, having allowed 10 goals – tied for the worst in the league. They’ve yet to lead in a match. And as questions grow, attention turns to head coach Mike Norris. 

Norris is in his second year as head coach of the club after leading the team to a second-place finish in the regular season last year. When asked about the possibility of pressure growing after the unprecedented start, Norris said that the pressure has been there “from day one.”

“I cannot be driven by my day-to-day and the longer vision of the pressure of the job,” he said. “We’ve got a belief in how we want to play, how we operate. We’ve got to stick with the process of that. While we do it, we have to review and see what is working, what’s not working.

“I’ll be showing up for the team and being there for what they need from me as we approach getting back together as a group next week.”

Maria Sanchez reportedly requests trade from Houston Dash

Mar 23, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Dash forward Maria Sanchez (7) warms up before the match between Racing Louisville and Houston Dash at Shell Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Maria Sanchez, who signed one of the biggest deals in NWSL history just four months ago, has reportedly requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

ESPN was the first to report the news, which was confirmed by multiple sources.

In a statement to ESPN, the team said: “​​Maria Sanchez is under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the Dash worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. At the time, it was the largest contract in NWSL history – something that was eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

The winger was a restricted free agent in the offseason, meaning that Houston could match any offer from another team and retain her rights. Should the team trade Sanchez, her contract would remain as it has been signed with the league. That limits the number of teams that could take on her contract. 

In three starts with the Dash this season, Sanchez has zero goals and an assist. The Dash are 1-2-1 through four games and have allowed a league-worst 10 goals.

The team hired a new coach, Fran Alonso, in December. Earlier this year, former goalkeeper coach Matt Lampson was fired for violating the league’s Coach Code of Conduct and Anti-Fraternization policy. 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close at midnight ET on Friday.

Canada beats U.S. Hockey 6-5 in thrilling World Championship win

UTICA, NEW YORK - APRIL 14: Team Canada raises the Championship Trophy after winning The Gold by defeating The United States in OT during the 2024 IIHF Women's World Championship Gold Medal game at Adirondack Bank Center on April 14, 2024 in Utica, New York. (Photo by Troy Parla/Getty Images)

Canada got its revenge on Sunday, winning the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship and taking down the U.S. in a 6-5 overtime classic.

Marie-Philip Poulin, a longtime star for Canada, got her first two goals of the tournament, while Danielle Serdachny had the game-winner. 

"I hate to say you're not trying to rely on it, expect it, but I know I've grown to expect it," Canada coach Troy Ryan said of Philip-Poulin. "Tonight was just a whole other level. I could see in her eyes every time we called her name that she was ready to go. It's just special."

The win came after Canada lost 1-0 to the U.S. in the group stage of the tournament. On Sunday, the two teams met for the 22nd time in 23 tournaments in the gold medal game – and the action between the two teams delivered. 

Among those scoring for the U.S. were Megan Keller, Alex Carpenter, Hilary Knight, Laila Edwards and Caroline Harvey. Julia Gosling, Emily Clark and Erin Ambrose had the other three goals for Canada, giving them their 13th World title after falling to the U.S. in last year’s title game in Toronto. 

This year’s game was held in New York, and it was the second-highest scoring final between the two teams. The U.S. won a world championship 7-5 in 2015. 

"Oh man, that feels good to win it on U.S. soil," Canada goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens said after the game. "We owed it to them and owed it to ourselves to win that one."

Canada also denied Knight a record 10th World Championship win, although she did become the most decorated player in women’s world championship history with 14 medals. After the game, Poulin gave Knight a hug on the ice. 

"We just said 'that was unbelievable,'" Poulin said.

U.S. coach John Wroblewski echoed the sentiment that it was an outstanding game after being asked about ending the game on a power-play after leaving too many players on the ice. 

"Instead of talking about the isolated events of tonight's game, I think that normally that's an interesting storyline,” he said. “But I think the entity of an amazing 6-5 game is an amazing hockey game that took place."

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