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Denise O’Sullivan on FAWSL Life and What Comes Next

Imani Dorsey and Denise O'Sullivan on soccer field / JWS
Imani Dorsey and Denise O’Sullivan on soccer field / JWS

Denise O’Sullivan plays as a midfielder for Brighton & Hove Albion of the English FA Women’s Super League, on loan from the North Carolina Courage of the NWSL. O’Sullivan also plays for the Republic of Ireland’s women’s national team. She spoke with Just Women’s Sports about her decision to play on loan and how she’s adjusted to the change of scenery. 

What went into your decision to move on loan from North Carolina to Brighton & Hove Albion? 

Initially, I didn’t want to leave the Courage, but with the Irish national team, we had international games in September, October and December, which were all in Europe. So in order for me to be able to go to those games, I basically needed to be in Europe because otherwise I would have had to travel back and forth and done six weeks quarantine. And I would have basically missed maybe all of the Courage games and a lot of the training as well.

The club was really, really good to me. They understood what was going on and the situation, and they knew I needed game time and training. So Brighton were interested, my agent spoke to them, and I think it wasn’t a hard decision for me at all to come here. Two of my Irish teammates play for Brighton, and I had heard it was a great club. That was the decision, really.

How has the transition been, playing with new teammates and a new coach?

It’s been really good. Obviously when I got here I had to do two weeks quarantine. So that was tough. I had to go to an apartment by myself almost an hour away from everyone. That was probably the hardest bit about coming here. But once I was done and met the team, I really settled in very well. Having my two Irish teammates there made it a lot easier for me obviously, because I live with the two of them as well. But the team has been really nice, very supportive of me coming here. Really good girls, a very good club, and they’ve made me feel very comfortable. So I’ve gelled in really well so far.

How about the transition off the field? I know you said the team is great and you live with some teammates, but how has it been just adjusting to living in a new place, especially when we are still in a pandemic?

It’s hard. Obviously, living with the Irish girls, it’s made it a lot easier for me being with them every day and stuff, but really, we’re not allowed to do anything, to be quite honest. We go training, maybe go for a coffee or something like that, but we have to be really aware of where we’re going with all the restrictions and stuff, and just be really careful with this virus. I’m only an hour away from my family, but I can’t see them, I haven’t seen them in eight months. That’s been the toughest part for me. I’m so close, but they can’t come over and I haven’t been able to get back yet. Hopefully I’ll see them in a few weeks.

And how have you adjusted not only to playing with a new team, but playing your first season in the WSL?

It’s been good. It’s different. The league is really competitive. Obviously, you’ve seen so many players coming from overseas to the league. Really world class players, and it’s only making it better, but the league is growing every year. And it’s a challenge, but it’s a challenge that I’m relishing and playing in the games here. Obviously I had to get used to it. And I’m only five games in so far, so I’m still learning. I’m learning here with the new team and playing the likes of Arsenal and Man City, they’re really competitive games. But it’s only going to make me better as a player, so I’m very excited to be here with Brighton and learn from these players and coaches.

 How would you compare the playing style versus the NWSL?

I would say it’s more technical here in England. More technical players. I think that the US league is more transitional, if you ask me. But other than that, I think the quality of leagues, I don’t think there’s much between them at all. All of them are really competitive, top class players. So I wouldn’t say one is better than the other if someone asked me.

 And how would you describe Brighton’s mindset?

At the moment, we’re a lower ranked team in the league. But I think we’re the type of team that just goes out and works really hard. Working really hard for each other. We have each other’s back during games, whether we’re losing or winning. So I think that’s kind of the mindset with us. I would think just really hard workers, to be quite honest.

How would you compare the COVID protocols between the two leagues? Are they pretty similar or is there a difference given the different situations that each country is in?

I only played in the Challenge Cup in America. That was really strict. Obviously, it was very positive and it worked out great there, but here in England it’s pretty much the same. It’s very strict, and we are restricted from going places outside of training and stuff like that. And just hygiene, wearing masks. Everything is pretty much the same. I guess the only big difference is, well, not even between the leagues, but just in general, is not being able to see your family when you’re so close.

Do you have any specific personal goals for this season?

I wouldn’t say goals. I just think for me, I don’t really set goals, to be quite honest. I just want to get better as a player every day. I want to keep learning and growing. I think for the national team, obviously wanting to get to the Euros is huge for me. We are in second place and we have one more game to go next month. So I think that will be my biggest personal goal right now, if I said I had a goal.

And what does the next year look like in terms of balancing club and national team commitments?

With the Courage, I think we’ll probably start preseason in February or something like that, and then the season. But with the national team, I’m really unsure of what I have next year. So I think we’ll just have friendlies basically. Hopefully if we make the playoffs for the Euros then that will be next April. So that’s really what I know right now.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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