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Despite coaching change, Racing Louisville FC’s season has been a major success

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Racing Louisville FC is having an unprecedented debut season — one that would have been the envy of expansion clubs everywhere until the unceremonious (and still mysterious) firing of Christy Holly.

Despite the unexpected coaching change, it’s still been a season to remember for the club, the highlight of which was winning the Women’s Cup. A little over a year after announcing the club’s name and colors, Racing Louisville FC lifted its first trophy as a team in front of their home crowd at Lynn Family Stadium.

Hosting the Cup, which welcomed the Chicago Red Stars, FC Bayern Munich and PSG to Louisville in the club’s first year, would’ve been impressive enough, but Racing went on to win the four-team competition in dramatic fashion. The moment highlighted just how swift Racing Louisville’s rise through the league has been.

Racing Louisville entered the NWSL in 2021 after first announcing the development of an expansion club in October 2019. Team officials moved quickly to acquire top talent before the 2021 season, executing a trade with Chicago for Yuki Nagasato and Savannah McCaskill. The trade has clearly paid off, with both Nagasato and McCaskill establishing themselves as reliable franchise cornerstones.

Racing continued to build out their squad, selecting the likes of Michelle Betos and CeCe Kizer in the expansion draft. The club also acquired the rights to Tobin Heath and Christen Press, a gamble that ended in Racing trading Press to NWSL expansion club Angel City FC for Los Angeles’ first-round pick in 2022, $75,000 in allocation money, and full roster protection from the club in the expansion draft in December.

For the players that have taken the pitch for Louisville, perhaps none has shown up quite like Michelle Betos. It’s no secret that the league veteran knows how to perform at the highest level, winning NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year in 2015 during her stint with the Portland Thorns. However, Betos seems to have reached a new level in her first year with Louisville. The 33-year-old currently leads the league with 83 saves and four clean sheets, keeping Racing in close games all season long.

International additions Ebony Salmon and Nadia Nadim have added a jolt of energy to Louisville with their respective June and July debuts. At 20 years old, Salmon has quickly emerged as one of the most disruptive forwards in the league. The English striker has scored five goals in her ten appearances with Racing, adding her name to the scoresheet in three of Louisville’s four wins this season. She’s currently No. 2 on Just Women’s Sports’ rankings of the league’s top rookies.

Nadim has likewise had an impressive start with the club as well, notching two goals in her first four matches.

The team’s developing success on the pitch is matched by the investment in facilities and resources off the field. In July, Louisville unveiled the Lynn Family Sports Vision & Training Center on social media, showcasing the club’s $15 million state-of-the-art facility.

“I entered the women’s professional league in 2013. We had a classroom as a locker room. We brought our clothes in. We wore them for training, then brought them home to clean them. That was my professional experience,” said Betos during the Training Center’s debut.  “To be totally honest, it wasn’t until I came to Louisville that I felt like a true professional.”

Racing’s investment in top-notch facilities has legitimized its place in a league that has previously deprioritized adequate playing environments (see Sky Blue FC).  Louisville’s effort to build from the ground up has now set the standard for future clubs entering the NWSL.

The final piece of the puzzle for Racing is the committed Louisville fan base. The team played to a COVID-constricted sold-out crowd of 5,300 for its debut match in Lynn Family Stadium. According to Soccer Stadium Digest, attendance has only grown since then, with Racing Louisville averaging 6,417 at Lynn Family Stadium. Louisville is second only to powerhouse Portland in attendance, which welcomes an average of 15,321 guests to Providence Park per game. Those numbers are impressive for a club’s first year in the league and speaks to the soccer community Louisville is tapping into and helping to cultivate.

Fresh off the Women’s Cup win, Racing Louisville FC has put the NWSL on notice. While the near future may be consumed with discussion of what happened to force Holly out the door, it would be a mistake to not look at the bigger picture and realize that this season has been a smashing success for the expansion club. With an invested community and a promising roster, the future is looking bright for the team in lavender.

Clark, Martin Square Off in First Pro WNBA Matchup

Kate Martin #20 of the Las Vegas Aces and Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever look on during the game
Things looked a little different Saturday night as the former Iowa teammates went head-to-head in Las Vegas. (Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images)

Former Iowa teammates Caitlin Clark and Kate Martin shared the court once again on Saturday, this time as professionals.

It was Martin’s Aces that got the 99-80 win over Clark’s Fever in Las Vegas. The pair's former coaches Lisa Bluder, Jan Jensen, Jenni Fitzgerald, and Raina Harmon were all in attendance to watch their Hawkeyes — Clark, Martin, and former national player of the year Megan Gustafson — take the court.

"It’s super special. It’s cool for our program, cool for Lisa, for Coach Jan, for all of them," Clark said in a pregame press conference. "They’ve known me since I’ve been 13 years old and now I’m 22 getting to live out my dream and they’ve been a huge part of that and helping me get here and helping Megan and Kate to get here too. It’s a great moment for them and I’m sure they’re not complaining about a trip to Vegas."

As for her college teammate, Clark had nothing but good things to say ahead of the showdown. 

"I’m just really happy for her and everything Coach [Becky] Hammon says about her is so true," she said. "Every person that played at Iowa and was around her knows that to be true. She’s the ultimate teammate, ultimate person, ultimate leader."

In the end, Martin stole the show with 12 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes, while Clark amassed eight points, seven assists, and five rebounds over 29 minutes of playing time. 

"It was weird," Martin admitted after the game. "I'm not going to lie — just looking out on the court and seeing her in a different jersey than me, it was obviously different. But it's really fun. We're both living out our dreams right now."

The Aces next meet the fever on July 2nd at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Barcelona Beat Lyon to Win Back-to-Back Champions League Titles

Barcelona's Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas celebrating after beating Lyon at the 2024 Champions League final
Ballon d'Or winners Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas helped Barcelona to a second-straight UWCL title on Saturday. (Ramsey Cardy - Sportsfile/UEFA via Getty Images)

Barcelona was crowned champion of the Champions League on Saturday with a 2-0 win over Lyon in Bilbao.

Alexia "La Reina" Putellas, who recently re-signed with Barcelona, came off the bench to score the team's second goal. Fellow Ballon d’Or winner Aitana Bonmatí provided the team’s first. After the game, defender Lucy Bronze said Putellas was nicknamed "the queen" for a reason.

"Alexia is the captain of the team and she's the queen of Barcelona for a reason,"  defender Lucy Bronze told DAZN. "She's got the quality to do that in the last minute of the Champions League final when we were up against it at the end and it just sealed the win for us. It was amazing."

The victory marked Barcelona's first win over Lyon in a UWCL final, having previously gone up against the French side at both the 2019 and 2022 Champions League finals. It's also Barcelona's second Champions League title in a row.

"It's hard to win it once, but to do it back-to-back, Lyon showed how difficult it is and this team has finally done that," Bronze said. "I think we go down in history as one of the best teams in Europe."

This season, the team also secured a quadruple for the first time in club history, having already won Liga F, the Copa de la Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. The win ensures that coach Jonatan Giráldez — who has officially departed the team to join the NWSL's Washington Spirit — leaves Europe a champion.

"It was an incredible game. I am really happy, it's one of the best days of my life for sure," Giráldez told broadcaster DAZN after the game. "We did an amazing job. I am very proud of all of them."

Following the win, Putellas said her team "can't ask for anything else."

"Our objective was to win four out of four," the Spain international told reporters. "We have achieved everything we wanted. Every minute of sacrifice has been worth the effort — and I'd say that not after the game, but before, just entering in the stadium, with all the support we had here, it was worth it."

2024 Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Aitana Bonmatí said that the crowd support made it "feel like Camp Nou."

"I am on cloud nine right now," she said. "It is an historic day which we will remember forever."

Sun’s Alyssa Thomas Ejected After Flagrant 2 on Sky Rookie Angel Reese

Angel Reese said there were "no hard feelings" stemming from Alyssa Thomas's flagrant foul. (Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Angel Reese might have gotten knocked down on Saturday, but she got right back up again. 

Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas was ejected from the Sun’s 86-82 win over Chicago following a flagrant foul 2 on Reese — the first of her career. While the two were battling for a rebound, Reese took a clothesline hold around the neck courtesy of Thomas before hitting the ground.

After the game, Reese told reporters that there were "no hard feelings" and she appreciated Thomas for playing her hard beneath the basket.

"I know she purposely probably didn’t do it towards me," Reese said. "But just being able to come out there and just be strong and stand on two feet, it was going to be a tough game and that’s what I’m built for. And my teammates had my back throughout the whole game. So I was prepared for it."

She also didn’t buy into the idea that it was a "Welcome to the WNBA" moment, but thanked Thomas "sending a message" because it helped her get back up and "keep pushing."

"It’s not just because I’m a rookie. I’m a player. I’m a basketball player. They don’t give a damn if I’m a rookie. I mean, I want them to come at me every day. I want them to come at everybody," she added. "I mean, they’re not supposed to be nice to me. I hope y’all know that. They’re not supposed to be nice to me or lay down because I’m Angel Reese or because I’m a rookie."

Reese finished the game with 13 points, five rebounds, and two assists over 33 minutes.

Barcelona to Face Lyon in Champions League Rematch This Weekend

UEFA Women's Champions League Final"Barcelona FC - Olympique Lyonnais"
Saturday's game will be the third UWCL final meeting for Barcelona and Lyon, having previously gone up against each other in 2019 and 2022. (ANP via Getty Images)

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off in Bilbao on Saturday, with a couple of familiar foes set to face off for the trophy.

Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, making its 11th final appearance since 2010, will go head to head with a Barcelona side making its fourth final appearance in a row.

This will be the third time these two teams meet in the UWCL title game, having previously appeared in the 2019 and 2022 finals. Lyon won both of those prior games against Barcelona, alongside a total of eight Champions League trophies. That’s double that of any other club, with Eintracht Frankfurt coming in a distant second with four. 

Should Barcelona win, this would be the team's third title — breaking a tie for the third in the UWCL total titles race. 

But as these teams return to the UWCL final, it also marks the end of an era for both clubs. The game will be the last for both club managers, as Barcelona’s Jonatan Giráldez and Lyon’s Sonia Bompastor depart for new jobs after the season's end.

Giráldez is set to leave for the NWSL's Washington Spirit, while Bompastor will take over for incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes at Chelsea. Both coaches have earned one UWCL trophy during their tenures, while Bompastor also brought two Champions League trophies to Lyon as a player. She was the first coach to win a UWCL trophy as both a coach and player.

This season, Barcelona is looking for its first quadruple, having won a fifth Liga F title alongside the Copa de La Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. 

"We hope he can go out with the four trophies because we know how competitive and ambitious he is," Barcelona midfielder Patri Guijarro told ESPN. "It has been a winning era with him in charge and for him to go out with all four trophies would be historic and incredible."

But Lyon's Damaris Egurrola is excited about her team's chances of overcoming Barcelona once again — and to do it in front of family and friends.

"Lyon have something special," she told Forbes ahead of the weekend's final. "We have a great team and we have the players with enough talent to win any match."

The game will be a homecoming for Egurrola, who began her professional career with Athletic Bilbao.

"I’ve been thinking of this day and night," she said. "I’ve been dreaming of playing this match. Having the opportunity to play in San Mames is amazing. This is where it all started for me."

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off Saturday, May 25th at 12 PM ET and is free to stream on DAZN.

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