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Christen Press and Tobin Heath want ‘proven winner’ for USWNT coach

Tobin Heath and Christen Press celebrate after winning the 2019 World Cup with the USWNT. (Naomi Baker/FIFA via Getty Images)

With the departure of Vlatko Andonovski, the U.S. women’s national team is on the hunt for its next head coach. And Andonovski’s successor has a big job ahead, with the 2027 World Cup on the horizon and the 2024 Olympics just around the corner.

For USWNT veterans Tobin Heath and Christen Press, who discussed the coaching search on the latest episode of “The RE-CAP Show,” that means finding a candidate with both short- and long-term vision.

“We want to win the Olympics, we need to put ourselves back on track, back in the category that we want to be in,” Heath said. “And then we have a long-term focus toward the next World Cup.”

In the short term, Heath said, player identification is key. The new coach must have a “keen eye and understanding” of what it means to play at an international level and what is required of those players.

The current U.S. player pool is very distinct in its American playing style, which doesn’t always translate to the international game. But that doesn’t mean players can’t or won’t fit at the international level.

“You need somebody, a leader, with a keen understanding of the system that is going to be played, how to implement the system, and which players are best for the system,” Heath said. “That doesn’t mean: Who are the best players? Who’s scoring the most goals? Who’s everyone talking about? It’s not that at all.”

Press agreed with Heath, noting: “I think the point you’re making is, it’s not always the best player, because it’s the right players. And that’s player identification as a key part of a short-term strategy to turn this team around.”

With the Olympics coming up, the next USWNT coach will need to identify the “super factors” that can lead the team to victory. The 2015 and 2019 World Cup-winning teams each had a clear identity and a clear understanding of what each player needed to do.  Even today, Heath and Press could identify the key factors from their 2015 and 2019 title runs.

As a result, the duo wants to see a coach who can come in and identify those factors on the changed USWNT roster.

“You don’t want to take away the best pieces of what the U.S. women’s national team are,” Heath said. “So somebody with an understanding of what we talked about, the DNA of a national team player — it’s very clear DNA, you don’t want to just scrap the whole thing.”

Another important factor in the new coach is player buy-in, Heath and Press said.

“I want to see a coach that not only do these players believe in them, respect them, but they want to fight for them,” Heath said. “You can tell coaches that players want to play for.”

Heath pointed to England’s Sarina Wiegman as an example of a team leader who has achieved that with her players. She also identified Australia’s Tony Gustavsson, who served as a USWNT assistant in 2015 and 2019, as a strong leader and teacher.

“For this group of players, when I think of what’s important – because there are so many young players and so many players that have not been at this level and have not had this responsibility – I do think you need a teacher,” she said. “You need somebody that is not developing with the players. We cannot have somebody that is learning at the same time that the players are learning.

“And we need somebody that is a proven winner. You have the best team in the world, there is no excuse to not go out and get the best coach in the world.”

The USWNT features plenty of strong pieces for whoever takes the reins. But that coach will need to make sure those pieces are used correctly.

“Obviously there’s a lot of noise from the World Cup and from the USWNT’s performance,” Press said. “And I think one thing that we have talked about is, people are saying, I’ll be the savior, I can do it. But the truth is, we don’t need a savior. We need a strategy.”

New Washington Spirit Head Coach Jonatan Giráldez Arrivin DC

head coach Jonatan Giráldez
Jonatan Giráldez joins the NWSL from FC Barcelona Femení. (Ramsey Cardy/UEFA via Getty Images)

Five months after announcing that the Washington Spirit had hired Barcelona Femení coach Jonatan Giráldez as the team's new head coach, Giráldez has joined the club in Washington, DC.

Giráldez is coming off of a successful season with the Spanish side, having won UEFA Women's Champions League, Copa de la Reina, Supercopa, and Liga F in his final season to complete a lauded Quadruple.

While Giráldez was finishing out his tenure in Europe, Adrián González filled in as Spirit interim head coach. González has also seen success, leading the team to its third-place standing with a 9-3-1 record through 13 games.

“I’m thrilled to join the Spirit and begin this next chapter with the club,” Giráldez said in an official team statement. “To be part of the vision Michele Kang has for the Spirit and women’s soccer globally is an exciting opportunity.”

Giráldez has worked at Barcelona since 2019, initially coming on as an assistant coach before moving up to head coach in 2021. The team went 30-0-0 on the season under Giráldez during his first year as manager.

He brings along with him Andrés González and Toni Gordo, who will serve as the Spirit's Fitness Coach and Club Analyst, respectively.

US Track & Field Olympic Trials Touch Down in Oregon

Sha’Carri Richardson competes in the women’s 200-meter preliminary round during the USATF Outdoor Championships
Sha’Carri Richardson will have some competition this week as athletes vie for an Olympic berth. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The US Olympic Track & Field Trials begin on June 21st, kicking off a 10-day quest to determine who will represent the US in Paris this summer.

The crucial meet will take place in Eugene, Oregon, where the top three finishers in each event will punch their ticket to the 2024 Olympics. As with this past week's US Swimming Trials, even the most decorated athletes must work to earn their spot — and one bad performance could undermine four years of preparation.

Reigning 100-meter World Champion Sha'Carri Richardson headlines this year's field, as the 24-year-old looks to qualify for her second Olympic Games and compete in her first. Richardson is a world champion in both the 100-meter and 200-meter sprint, but missed the Tokyo Olympics due to testing positive for THC shortly after the last US Olympic Trials.

Other standouts include 400-meter Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, who's currently the most decorated athlete in the active women's US Track & Field pool. McLaughlin-Levrone qualified to run in the 200-meter and 400-meter flat races alongside the 400-meter hurdles at the Olympic Trials, but opted to focus solely on her signature event.

800-meter specialist Athing Mu will also be a huge draw this week, as the Olympic gold medalist looks to shake off a lingering hamstring injury while pursuing her second Summer Games. Gold medal-winning pole vaulter Katie Moon will also attempt to qualify for her second-straight Olympic Games.

Ole Miss star McKenzie Long could be Richardson's greatest competition in the 100-meter and 200-meter events, as well as Richardson's Worlds teammate Gabby Thomas in the 200-meter. In field events, watch for Oregon senior Jaida Ross going head-to-head with reigning world champion Chase Jackson in the shot put, as both push for their first Olympic team berth.

Regardless of why you tune in, the US Olympic Trials are a perpetually thrilling and sometimes brutal qualification process. If you're able to make your way to the head of the pack, a shot at Olympic glory might just be waiting at the finish line.

Fans can catch live coverage throughout the Trials via NBC, USA, and Peacock.

Top Teams Square Off in NWSL Weekend Slate

NWSL Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda
Orlando Pride, led by forward Barbra Banda, will take on Utah in this weekend's NWSL action. (Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As the NWSL season continues, a few top-performing clubs will have a chance to boost their standings this weekend.

First-place Kansas City will travel to Providence Park to take on fifth-place Portland, as the Current look to keep their unbeaten streak intact. And in New Jersey, third-place Washington will take on fourth-place Gotham FC, with both teams attempting to extend multi-game unbeaten streaks.

A six-point gap has opened between the fifth and sixth spot on the NWSL table — with just six points also separating the league's top five. Kansas City, Orlando, Washington, Gotham, and Portland have recently proven themselves to be a cut above the rest of the competition. With eight postseason spots up for grabs and half the season behind us, a pattern is forming that indicates the playoff race could come down to spots six through eight on the NWSL table.

Of those top five teams, only Orlando faces an opponent in the bottom half of the league this weekend: The Pride will take on 14th-place Utah, who nonetheless are coming off a win — just their second of the season — over Bay FC last weekend.

But despite Kansas City and Orlando having yet to lose a game, Gotham might be the squad coming into the weekend with the most momentum.

Clutch goals from Rose Lavelle and rookie Maycee Bell gave the Bats a 2-0 midweek win over San Diego on Wednesday, in a rematch of the 2024 Challenge Cup. Gotham's unbeaten streak dates all the way back to April, as rising availability and sharpened form have honed this year's superteam into a contender.

Bottom line? As the NWSL season passes the halfway mark, some matches might begin to feel more like playoff previews than mere regular season battles.

Chelsea Gray Returns From Injury in Aces Win Over Seattle

las vegas aces chelsea gray and kelsey plum celebrate a win over the seattle storm
Gray has been sidelined with a foot injury since the 2023 WNBA Finals. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Chelsea Gray made her return to the basketball court on Wednesday, helping the Aces to a 94-83 win over the Seattle Storm. 

The lauded point guard missed the first 12 games of the season, having been injured in last year’s WNBA Finals. The left foot injury caused her to miss Game 4 of the championship series, and she’s continued to rehab it through the beginning of the 2024 season. 

Her return on Wednesday was capitalized by the fact that she needed just 20 seconds to make an impact and record her first assist. While she finished with just one point, she had seven assists, four rebounds, and two blocks to go alongside it in 15:30 minutes. Gray's contributions on the night brought her career assist record up to 1,500.

"I probably went through every emotion leading up to today," Gray said after the game. "I was a little anxious all day. It's been a long time since I've been out on that court. But the fans were amazing from the time I came out to warm up to the time I checked in the game. It was a rush and a feeling I missed a lot."

It’s been a roller coaster of a season so far for Las Vegas, who have lost five of their last seven games. Gray, who averaged 15.3 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.0 rebounds in 2023, has proven herself a much-needed addition to the team’s lineup.

"Felt like my heart," Aces coach Becky Hammon said when asked how she felt hearing the crowd erupt for Gray's return. "She's the leader of our team. I thought she did a wonderful job too."

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