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Christine Nairn receives emotional send-off in ‘perfect ending’ to NWSL career

(Houston Dash/Paul-Michael Ochoa)

Christine Nairn’s face was full of emotion in the 78th minute of the Houston Dash’s friendly against Tigres Feminil on Sunday. Teammates hugged her and fans gave her a standing ovation as she made her way across the field to where Maegan Rosa was waiting to sub in.

Nairn was stepping off the field as an NWSL player for the very last time. Her career as a firefighter would begin less than 12 hours after the final whistle.

Nairn, one of the NWSL’s original players, helped the Dash to a 5-1 win in her send-off at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston. Having played soccer since the age of four, Nairn, now 30, is ready for a new chapter.

“It’s been an emotional week,” the Maryland native said. “I’ve cried more than I think I ever have in my life. I think it just goes to show that I still love this sport, you know, getting teary-eyed again. I love this sport so much, I love this team so much and it’s a hard decision, but I’m excited about the next step, selfishly for myself.

“It was the perfect night for me, to have my parents in the stands and to be able to see them and to walk away with such a ceremony and walking away with my head held high with a win and my teammates hugging me as I come off the field. So for me, it was a perfect ending to my career.”

The midfielder is one of just seven players in the league to record 20 goals and 20 assists, and she ranks fourth for most matches played with 168. In October 2019, she became the first NWSL player to reach 150 appearances. The following season, Nairn and the Dash won the Challenge Cup for their first league title.

Nairn’s teammates describe her as a legend.

“I came in and immediately kind of gravitated toward her because she is such a smart player,” Dash midfielder Makamae Gomera-Stevens said. “She knows a lot about the game. For me, I made sure to ask her a lot of questions during my little time that I have been here. She impacted me and I know she impacted the team a lot.”

Dash head coach James Clarkson remembers signing Nairn when he first took the job late in 2018.

“I couldn’t talk, I was crying,” Clarkson said after Sunday’s match. “That was pretty tough. I wanted to make sure she could come off and get the standing ovation that she deserves, and it’s been a very emotional week for her. I thought she played great and it was a lovely send-off for her.”

Following a short career with the U.S. women’s national team, in which she scored the winning goal against Canada in a 2009 friendly, Nairn entered the NWSL as the seventh overall pick of Seattle Reign FC in the inaugural 2013 draft. She has played for Seattle (now OL Reign), the Washington Spirit, Orlando Pride and Houston Dash over nine seasons.

Clarkson believes Nairn deserves more credit as a pioneer in the league.

“I think it’s very important, when we talk about the growth of this game, recognizing the players that were at the forefront of this,” he said. “The start of the league, sacrificing everything and for the players coming through [now]. She does it for the love of the game, not for money, and she has kept this league afloat.”

After the match against Tigres, Nairn said her teammates had placed a basket of flowers, cookies and cards for her in the locker room. In fact, since she announced her retirement on Instagram last Thursday, Nairn’s week was filled with supportive texts and conversations.

Nairn will still be around to watch the Dash from the stands; she plans to remain in Houston for her new career as a first responder.

“She’s going to be a fantastic firefighter,” Clarkson said. “That’s all I can say, because everything she puts her mind to she is successful at.”

Athing Mu Falls at Trials, Will Not Defend 800-Meter Olympic Title

Athing Mu competes in the women's 800 meter final on Day Four of the 2024 US Olympic Team Track & Field Trials
Mu won the 800-meter final at the Tokyo Olympics, crossing the line in 1:55.21 to break the American record. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Reigning Olympic Track & Field champion Athing Mu will not have the opportunity to defend her 800-meter title in Paris after falling during the event's US Track & Field Trials final on Monday. 

About 200 meters into the race, Mu uncharacteristically got tangled up in the middle of the track and lost her footing. Coming to her defense, her coach Bobby Kersee said that she had been spiked, suffered track burns, and hurt her ankle. The 22-year-old filed an appeal that saw USA Track and Field officials sorting through replays, but it was later denied. 

As a result, Mu did not qualify to run the 800-meter at the 2024 Summer Games, as the US has a standing rule that only the top three Trials finishers make the official Olympic-bound roster. 

At her first-ever Olympics in 2021, Mu took home the gold at the 800-meter final, crossing the line in 1:55.21 to break the American record.

"I’ve coached it, I’ve preached it, I’ve watched it," Kersee told The Associated Press after Mu's appeal was rejected. "And here’s another indication that regardless of how good we are, we can leave some better athletes home than other countries have. It’s part of our American way."

Mu finished more than 22 seconds behind eventual winner Nia Akins, but could still make the Olympic team as part of the US relay pool. Mu was a key part of the Team USA's 4x400-meter gold medal win three years ago in Tokyo.

Dearica Hamby Tapped to Replace Cameron Brink on 3×3 Olympic Team

Dearica Hamby playing for Team USA in 2023
Dearica Hamby is no stranger to Team USA's 3×3 lineup. (Lance King/Getty Images)

Dearica Hamby has been named to USA Basketball's official 3×3 Olympic roster, replacing an injured Cameron Brink.

The Los Angeles Sparks forward has extensive experience with the 3×3 team, including taking home both a gold medal and MVP honors at the 2023 FIBA AmeriCup

Brink originally made the roster in early June, but suffered a season-ending ACL injury during Los Angeles’s June 18th loss to Connecticut. 

"It is an honor to announce Dearica Hamby's addition to the USA 3×3 women's national team and we look forward to getting to work as a squad very soon," USA Basketball 3×3 national team director Jay Demings said in a statement. "USA Basketball continues to keep Cameron Brink in our thoughts as she focuses on her recovery."

Hamby will join 2023 FIBA 3×3 World Cup champions Hailey Van Lith (TCU), CIerra Burdick, and Rhyne Howard (Atlanta Dream) in Paris.

San Diego Wave Parts Ways With Head Coach Casey Stoney

ex-wave fc head coach casey stoney in 2023
Casey Stoney joined Wave FC in 2022 from the WSL's Manchester United. (Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images)

San Diego Wave FC announced on Monday that the organization has parted ways with head coach Casey Stoney. 

The announcement comes amid a seven-game winless streak for the Wave. Stoney joined San Diego from WSL side Manchester United a few months before their inaugural season, winning the 2022 NWSL Coach of the Year Award that same year. She went on to lead the expansion team to two trophies in three years. 

Just this past January, the club agreed to a multi-year contract extension that kept Stoney with the club through 2027, with a mutual option for 2028. 

Despite their prior success, San Diego currently sits ninth in the NWSL standings, one point out of playoff contention. Their last win came on May 8th, having most recently played to a scoreless draw against Houston over the weekend to cap off a three-game road trip. 

"We are immensely grateful to Casey for her commitment to our club and the positive impact she has had both on and off the pitch,” Wave president and former USWNT manager Jill Ellis said in an official team statement. "Over the past seasons, Casey has guided us to significant milestones, and her contributions have been instrumental in laying a strong foundation on which to build.

"The decision to part ways was very hard and not made in haste, but given the ambition of this club, and where we are in our season, we felt a change was necessary at this time."

The staffing change comes a little less than two weeks after the Wave brought on former Kansas City Current general manager Camille Ashton. Ashton resigned from her position with Kansas City in May of this year.

On Tuesday, Ellis commented that Stoney is "self aware" and called her a "complete professional."

"I don’t think you have to have a conversation when it comes to know where they are, she knew,” she said. “I think Casey knew results matter. Casey’s ambitious. And was she happy with where we were? Of course not.

"I think a coach also understands that sometimes this is the nature of the beast of coaching. It’s tough and hard at times."

Kansas City, Orlando Raise the NWSL Bar With Weekend Wins

NWSL Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda in action during a NWSL match against Seattle Reign
Banda registered a brace on Sunday, bringing her NWSL total to 10 goals in just 10 games. (Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Pride star Barbra Banda continued on her historic NWSL trajectory this weekend, scoring twice in Orlando’s 6-0 win over Utah on Friday. 

She’s the first NWSL player to register 10 goals in their first 10 league appearances. It was also her fourth brace this season, and marked her first goals in two games after her first multi-game scoring drought.

"For me when I have an opportunity and a chance, I have to take it wisely," Banda said in her postgame remarks. "When I get a chance, I have to put the ball in the back of the net. If any game I didn’t score, I just have to go to my drawing board and work hard so that in the next game so I can find a goal."

Meanwhile, Kansas City also kept up their winning ways, beating Portland 4-1 behind a brace from midfielder Lo'eau Labonta on Sunday.

Later that day, the Washington Spirit, who sit just a point behind KC in third place, topped fourth-place Gotham FC in a decisive 2-0 victory.

And after drawing with Seattle, eighth-place Louisville has 16 points on the season — representing a growing gap between the league’s top and bottom teams. Bringing up the bottom of the ladder, both Seattle and Utah have yet to surpass 10 points this year.

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