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NWSL May Player of the Month: Crystal Dunn does it all for Portland

Crystal Dunn scored three goals for the Portland Thorns in May. (Abe Arredondo/USA TODAY Sports)

We’re nearing the halfway point of the 2023 NWSL season after a topsy-turvy month of May. The league saw a number of imbalanced scorelines, but no single player took a definitive lead in the Golden Boot race — or in the Player of the Month race, which had a number of worthy contenders.

With defenses across the NWSL still working on their cohesion, most of the top performers in May were those generating attacking chances, with quite a few coming from teams still on the upswing in the league table.

However, our regular season Player of the Month for May is likely a name well known to many.

Crystal Dunn, M, Portland Thorns

The 30-year-old had one of the best scoring months of her career in the Portland midfield in May, scoring three goals and registering an assist. She finished the month in a tie for first place in the 2023 Golden Boot race with five on the season.

A high-efficiency scorer, Dunn converted on 100% of her shots on goal this month in performances against the North Carolina Courage and the Chicago Red Stars. Her brace against the Courage kept the Thorns in a match that ultimately ended 3-3, picking up a crucial point to land Portland tied for second place in the NWSL standings at the end of the month with 16 points.

Dunn also has been active in ways more nuanced than her scoring and assisting output. She sits in second for field players in American Soccer Analysis’ goals added (g+) estimation for the month of May on the strength of her receiving and shooting abilities. She also sits in the top 10 for individual xG created this month despite only registering eight total shots. And while the Portland defense has had its struggles this month, the attack has kept cooking, sitting on a goal differential of +12.

Honorable mentions

Savannah DeMelo, M, Racing Louisville

DeMelo was in a dead heat with Dunn for May’s top honor, proving essential for Louisville in all competitions despite only scoring one goal and notching one assist in regular season play. The 25-year-old has been one of the best attacking generators in the league this month, leading the NWSL in xG + xA (goal and assist chance creation).

Kailen Sheridan, GK, San Diego Wave

Sheridan is known as one of the NWSL’s most elite shot-stoppers, but in May she was one of the league’s greatest passing threats as well. She also led the league’s goalkeepers in g+, conceding only four goals on 24 shots faced, which leaves San Diego tied for second place in the league standings.

Adriana, F, Orlando Pride

The Pride saw their best stretch of play in May, going undefeated in three regular season games before a very unlikely loss to the Chicago Red Stars to end the month. Orlando has passed around scoring honors and become stingy in defense, but Adriana’s contributions on and off the ball have stuck out as both a dribbler and a defensive disruptor from the attack.

Women’s Sports Win Big at 2024 ESPY Awards

Host Serena Williams speaks on stage during the 2024 ESPY Awards
Tennis icon Serena Williams hosted the 32nd annual ESPY Awards on Thursday night. (Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for W+P)

Thursday's 2024 ESPYs doubled as a celebration of the rising popularity of women's sports, as retired tennis superstar Serena Williams hosted the proceedings with ease.

"Get up, get off the TikTok, work hard, find out how capable you are. Be great. Be so great they don't want to believe in you and then be even greater," she told the next generation at the end of her opening monologue.

South Carolina Gamecocks accept the Best Team Award onstage during the 2024 ESPY Awards
The 2023-24 South Carolina Gamecocks took home the ESPY for Best Team. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Women's sports take center stage at ESPYs

Athletes in women's sports were big winners throughout last night's ceremony, reflecting a watershed year across the entire sporting landscape.

Indiana Fever rookie Caitlin Clark took home both the Best College Athlete and Best Record Breaking Performance Awards for her historic NCAA career at Iowa.

USC star JuJu Watkins won Best Breakthrough Athlete after an exceptional freshman season with the Trojans.

Gymnast Simone Biles won Best Comeback Athlete, as the two-time Olympian prepares for her third Summer Games later this month.

Las Vegas Aces' all-time leading scorer A'ja Wilson came up big in both the Best Women's Sports Athlete and Best WNBA Player categories.

The undefeated 2023-24 South Carolina Gamecocks won the award for Best Team.

Dawn Staley accepts the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance onstage during the 2024 ESPY Awards
The Jimmy V Award recognizes "a deserving member of the sporting world who has overcome great obstacles through perseverance and determination." (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Dawn Staley honored with individual award

SC coach Staley picked up her own honor, receiving the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance for her continued contributions in the field of cancer research advocacy.

Named after NC State men's basketball coach Jim Valvando, the Jimmy V Award recognizes "a deserving member of the sporting world who has overcome great obstacles through perseverance and determination."

"I must confess, I feel a little undeserving of this recognition," Staley said in her acceptance speech. "Past recipients of the Jimmy V Perseverance Award have faced incredible challenges and proven themselves as true warriors. I have merely been a spectator to such immense courage and resilience."

After opening up about her family's personal connection to the cause, Staley spoke about her greater journey as an advocate, both on and off the court.

"I try my best to do things in the right way, knowing that some little girl is out there watching me... maybe, she's one of the 13 pairs of eyes that see every little thing I do everyday and make sure to comment on it, that's my team," she said, motioning to her undefeated Gamecocks squad seated in the audience.

"How do I not fight pay disparity, when I do the same job and get paid less but win more?" she continued. "I can't ask them to stand up for themselves if I'm sitting down. Nor can I ask them to use their voice for change if I'm only willing to whisper."

Macario Withdraws from Olympics Ahead of USWNT Send-Off Games

uswnt forward catarina macario on the field against uzbekistan
Forward Catarina Macario has made 19 career appearances for the USWNT. (Howard Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

USWNT manager Emma Hayes dropped a big piece of roster news on Friday, with Chelsea star forward Catarina Macario officially ruled out for the 2024 Paris Olympics due to "consistent irritation in her right knee."

The roster shakeup comes the day before the USWNT begins a series of two send-off friendlies leading up to the Olympics. In the wake of the injury, forward Lynn Williams will now be elevated from an alternate to a fully rostered player, with defender Emily Sams moving from training player to Olympic alternate.

Macario's original injury dates to 2022

In June 2022, Macario suffered an ACL tear in her left knee while playing for former club team Olympique Lyonnais.

Before the injury, the Stanford University standout featured on the USWNT's expanded Tokyo Olympics roster in 2021. She went on to win the 2022 Champions League title with Lyon before being sidelined the following month.

The 24-year-old continued to rehab the injury, sitting out the 2023 World Cup. She returned to the USWNT for the first time since 2022 this past April. After helping lead the US to victory at the 2024 SheBelieves Cup, Macario took the pitch again for the USWNT's June friendlies.

Looking to the future, Hayes called Macario's knee "not a long-term situation, just not going to recover in time for the Olympics" in Friday's announcement.

USWNT star Trinity Rodman plays against Mexico at the 2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup
The USWNT hasn't lost a game since falling to Mexico in February 2024. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images)

Pre-Olympic USWNT friendlies kick off

This Saturday, the newly formatted Olympic lineup with square off against Mexico in New Jersey.

It will be the first time the two teams have met since Mexico upset the US in the Concacaf W Gold Cup group stage earlier this year. Since then, the US hasn't lost a single match, going 5-0-2 and picking up trophies at the Gold Cup as well as SheBelieves Cup.

The USWNT's 18-player Olympic roster will take center stage this week, while alternates and training players joined the team at camp leading up to the friendlies. Training players Alyssa Thompson and Kate Wiesner will return to their NWSL squads prior to Saturday's USWNT friendly.

Many of the players on the US Olympic roster have just recently left their NWSL teams for the Olympic break, while three European club players — Lindsey Horan (Lyon), Korbin Albert (PSG), and Emily Fox (Arsenal) — have spent the last six weeks off the pitch.

USWNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher enters the field
USWNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher has 104 international caps, including 62 clean sheets. (Hannah Peters/FIFA via Getty Images)

A new USWNT paves its Olympic path

The pre-Olympic series will likely see goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher return to the starting XI, after a hamstring injury kept her out of a pair of June friendlies.

The matches will also provide an initial glimpse of a USWNT without longtime star Alex Morgan, who was not selected to play in this year's Summer Games. Morgan's absence will impact the frontline, with Sophia Smith most likely to take over at center forward.

Speaking from USWNT training camp, Naeher expressed positivity about this year's Olympic team.

"I just feel an energy shift — I've just feel like a joy and excitement of from the group," she said. "I think that's really exciting to come back into after being gone from it for a camp."

The US will play a second friendly in Washington, DC on Tuesday against fellow Concacaf competitor Costa Rica. For a team looking to redeem their international standing after a disappointing World Cup run, these next two outings will serve as a chance to develop the chemistry necessary to hit the ground running in Paris later this month.

Seattle Reign Stars Barnes, Fishlock Back New USL W League Team

usl w league ballard vice president tiffany mallick holding an official usl w ball
Joining May 2025, Seattle’s USL W team will be the sixth in the league’s Northwest division. (Ballard FC/YouTube)

On Tuesday, 25 Seattle-based sports and business professionals announced their investment in a new USL W League team operated by popular semi-pro USL League Two men’s side Ballard FC.

Headlined by Lauren Barnes (Seattle Reign), Jess Fishlock (Seattle Reign), Olivia Van der Jagt (Seattle Reign), and Sam Hiatt (Gotham FC), alongside Seattle Storm co-owner Ginny Glider and Jen Barnes, owner of the women's sports-focused Rough & Tumble Pub, the yet-to-be-named Ballard squad will enter the pre-professional league next May.

Current Ballard FC president Sam Zisette will oversee both the men’s and women’s clubs, while vice president and seasoned athletic trainer Tiffany Mallick will shift her focus on the women's team.

"Our goal is to create better opportunities for young women to develop their skills on and off the field," said Reign captain Lauren Barnes in a team press release. "The path to professional soccer didn’t exist on the same scale while I was growing up, and I’m thrilled to be part of changing that for future players."

"Introducing a USL W League team to Ballard is a monumental step in advancing our organization and soccer community," added Zisette. "Ballard is a special place with an immense sense of pride, passionate spirit, and love for soccer. We can’t wait to see the community embrace this new team!"

Tampa Bay United Soccer Club
Launched in 2022, the USL W League now fields 80 teams across four conferences. (USL W League)

What is the USL?

The United Soccer League (USL), which organizes multiple US leagues across all divisions, has recently upped its commitment to the women's game.

In addition to the developmental USL W League — which started in 2022 and now fields 80 teams across four conferences plus three 2025 expansion teams, including Ballard — USL is set to launch the fully professional USL Super League next month.

With eight inaugural clubs (and plans to expand to 20 teams by 2026), the USL Super League will join the NWSL as the only other Division 1 women’s league in the country. But unlike the NWSL, the USL Super League will mirror the European schedule, operating from fall through spring with its official kickoff slated for August 17th.

As with USL W Ballard, the Super League also has some star power behind it. In May, WNBA All-Star rookie Angel Reese joined the ownership group of Washington's forthcoming DC Power FC.

USL W League finalists South Georgia Tormenta FC v Minnesota Aurora FC
The 2024 USL W League's semifinals kick off on Saturday, July 13th. (Jeremy Olson/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

USL W League gears up for postseason action

But before the USL Super League takes the pitch, their pre-professional counterparts will finish up their 2024 postseason run.

On Saturday, the USL W's four conference champions will square off in the league semifinals on Saturday, July 13th, with NC Courage U23 hosting Tennessee SC and the Colorado Storm facing Detroit City FC in Michigan. Winners from those two matches will then battle it out at the USL W League final on July 20th.

All USL W postseason action can be streamed live on SportsEngine Play.

Wilson, Clark Put Up Record-Breaking Numbers in Midweek WNBA Action

WNBA Las Vegas Aces A'ja Wilson blocks Nneka Ogwumike of the Seattle Storm
Las Vegas's A'ja Wilson added to her lengthy stat sheet on Wednesday. (Scott Eklund/NBAE via Getty Images)

Around the WNBA, big-name players A'ja Wilson, Kahleah Copper, Caitlin Clark, and Angel Reese made good use of Wednesday's jam-packed five-game schedule, kicking off a pre-All-Star Weekend campaign that promises not to disappoint.

Aces' A'ja Wilson racks up a perfect 20/20

Two-time MVP A’ja Wilson was the star of the show yesterday, throwing down epic numbers in one of her most successful performances so far this season

Wilson registered a 24-point, 20-rebound double-double in the Aces’ 84-79 win over Seattle, marking the six-time All-Star's first-ever 20/20 game.

Storm guard Jewell Loyd’s 28 points led the game, but between Wilson’s numbers and fellow Ace Jackie Young’s 27 points, Vegas managed to leapfrog fifth-place Seattle to secure a fourth-place spot in the WNBA standings.

WNBA star Kahleah Copper of the Phoenix Mercury drives to the basket against the Dallas Wings
With 32 points, Mercury standout Kahleah Copper led the WNBA in scoring Wednesday. (Kate Frese/NBAE via Getty Images)

Top-ranked WNBA teams keep scoring

At the top of the table, the Liberty beat the Sun 71-68 to oust Connecticut from the pair's previous tie for first in the standings. 

2024 WNBA All-Star DeWanna Bonner’s 22 points led the Sun, while Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu sank 21 points alongside Breanna Stewart’s 18-point, 14-rebound double-double to extend New York's record to 18-4 on the season.

And in Phoenix, the Mercury dominated the last-place Wings 100-84 behind Kahleah Copper’s 32 points — the most drained by any player that day. Yet despite double-doubles from both Teaira McCowan and Arike Ogunbowale, Dallas fell to 5-18 on the season with the loss.

WNBA Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark shoots in a game against the Washington Mystics
WNBA rookie phenom Caitlin Clark dropped 29 points for Indiana on Wednesday. (Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Rookies Clark, Reese, and Cardoso put up numbers

Fever star Caitlin Clark owned Indiana's stat sheet yesterday with 29 points and 13 assists, becoming the first player in WNBA or NBA history to drop 25+ points, five rebounds, 10+ assists, five steals, and three blocks in a single game.

Clark's effort wasn't enough to hold off the otherwise struggling Mystics, however, who stunned the Fever 89-84 behind a monster 26 points from Ariel Atkins

Chicago's rookies joined forces to lift the Sky over the Dream 78-69, as Kamilla Cardoso added her own double-double to teammate Angel Reese’s record-extending 14th

This season, Reese and Cardoso have combined to average just under 20 rebounds per game so far this season. If that metric holds, they’ll make WNBA history with the highest average for any duo in a single season.

A 2024 WNBA All-Star banner hangs outside the Footprint Center
Only 15 regular season games remain before WNBA All-Star Weekend in Phoenix. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

What happens next for WNBA teams

With All-Star Weekend tipping off one week from today, only 15 regular season games remain before the WNBA's scheduled Olympic break.

Whether they currently sit in first or last place, all 12 teams will want to hit the ground running when play resumes on August 15th.

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