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Ebony Salmon finds purpose in ‘proving people wrong’ with Dash

(Maria Lysaker/USA TODAY Sports)

It wasn’t long after arriving in Texas at the end of June that Ebony Salmon learned her new team, the Houston Dash, had never made the NWSL playoffs.

Two and a half months later, with two weeks left in the regular season, Houston is on track to make club history. Currently fourth in the NWSL standings, they need just one win in their two remaining games against OL Reign on Saturday and the Washington Spirit on Oct. 1 to clinch a playoff berth.

Salmon has been a catalyst for the Dash’s success, putting together a standout season that seemed unlikely for her halfway through the season. With Racing Louisville for the first nine games, Salmon played a total of 70 minutes under head coach Kim Björkegren despite leading the team with six goals last season.

Since joining the Dash via a trade on June 27, the 21-year-old has scored nine goals — over a quarter of Houston’s total — in 909 minutes across through 11 matches. She’s also made back-to-back NWSL Teams of the Month in July and August, and as of July 16 she’s outscored two teams and every player in the league to skyrocket to fifth in the Golden Boot race.

One of the teams she’s outscored is Louisville.

“I’ve obviously had to prove people wrong, and having that weight on my shoulders makes me perform,” Salmon told Just Women’s Sports.

What she’s learned about herself this year, as she’s balanced spending full games on Louisville’s bench to scoring at will with Houston, is that walking away isn’t an option. Her love of soccer will always motivate her to find a way back onto the field, even if at certain points this year she didn’t know when that time would come.

“If I wasn’t ready, I don’t think I would have had the start I did and scored the goals that I have, and the performances that I had,” Salmon said.

With the Dash, she’s also found confidence in playing with coaches and teammates who believe in her.

“Don’t let that one person make you think that you’re not good enough or you can’t do it because, as you’ve seen in my case, the next opportunity could be right around the corner,” she said. “One person might not think you’re the best player, and then the next person might think you’re the best in the world.”

Salmon’s success with the Dash has improved her case with the English women’s national team, for which she has one cap from February 2021. After being excluded from the 2022 Euro champions’ roster, she earned a call-up for friendlies against Austria and Luxembourg in early September.

At the end of a national team camp last September, England head coach Sarina Wiegman advised Salmon to work on her consistency. That became hard to do earlier this season when she wasn’t getting much playing time with Racing Louisville.

It didn’t take long into the 2022 season for Salmon to start considering a trade request. Before she could voice those thoughts, Louisville general manager James O’Connor, recognizing that Salmon wouldn’t be a part of their future plans, approached her with the same idea. On June 27, Louisville sent $150,000 in allocation money to Houston, with promises for more in 2023 as well as a performance-based incentive, in exchange for Salmon. That same day, Salmon signed a contract extension that will keep her in Houston through 2023.

With the Dash, Salmon not only exploded onto the scene, scoring a hat trick in just her third game, but she’s also maintained that level of play into the final stretch. In an open conversation at national team camp this month, Wiegman told Salmon she’s noticed improvements over the past year and gave her things to work on through the remainder of the season.

“The main thing was consistency,” Salmon said. “And I think I’m starting to find that now.”

Thinking about the Lionesses and the upcoming 2023 FIFA World Cup, however, will have to wait a few weeks.

“Within the next month and a half, I think my focus is completely on Houston and making playoffs, and then kind of going all the way in playoffs,” she said. “That’s what we want to do, that’s what everyone on the team wants to do, and I think we’ve seen that we’re capable of doing that.”

Jessa Braun is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.

Caitlin Clark dunks on Michael Che in surprise SNL appearance

(Julia Hansen/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Caitlin Clark made a surprise appearance on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend, which quickly went viral.

The Iowa star showed up on the show’s Weekend Update segment to playfully call out Michael Che’s history of making jabs at women’s sports.

It started when Che joked that Iowa should replace Clark’s retired No. 22 “with an apron.” 

When Clark entered, Che said that he was a fan. But Clark wasn’t convinced – especially not when co-host Colin Jost brought the receipts of Che’s jabs.

“Really, Michael? Because I heard that little apron joke you did,” she said, before making him read some jokes of her own in retaliation. Clark finished her segment by shouting out the WNBA greats that came before her. She then got in one final dig – bringing Che a signed apron as a souvenir. 

When Che promised to give it to his girlfriend, Clark delivered her last playful dig of the night.

“You don’t have a girlfriend, Michael,” she said.

Afterward, SNL castmember Bowen Yang told People that the 22-year-old and teammates Gabbie Marshall, Kate Martin and Jada Gyamfi – who joined her at Studio 8H – “were so cool.”

“She's so charming and witty,” Yang said. “They were just the most stunning, noble people.

“Athletes just have this air about them. They know they're amazing. I mean, these are people who have numeric attachments and values to their performance. That's something that comedians never have.”

Portland Thorns, in uncharted territory, start NWSL season winless

Portland has started the season winless through four games for the first time. (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)

The Portland Thorns continue to struggle to start the NWSL season, falling 2-0 to the North Carolina Courage over the weekend to remain winless through their first four games. 

It’s uncharted territory for Portland, who has never started the NWSL regular season without a win in four games before.

Following the loss, defender Becky Sauerbrunn voiced her frustrations with the start. 

“It’s hard to find a lot of encouraging things, but what I find encouraging is that people are frustrated,” she said. “People are pissed off that we’re not doing well. We care, and I think that’s really important.” 

She also added that while the team will reflect individually, “there’s going to be no finger pointing.”

“We’re going to look at ourselves and figure out what we should have done, or I should have done better,” she said. “There is a list of things that I could have done better, and I’m going to make sure I know every single thing and watch this game back.”

The Thorns currently sit at the bottom of the league table with just one point, having allowed 10 goals – tied for the worst in the league. They’ve yet to lead in a match. And as questions grow, attention turns to head coach Mike Norris. 

Norris is in his second year as head coach of the club after leading the team to a second-place finish in the regular season last year. When asked about the possibility of pressure growing after the unprecedented start, Norris said that the pressure has been there “from day one.”

“I cannot be driven by my day-to-day and the longer vision of the pressure of the job,” he said. “We’ve got a belief in how we want to play, how we operate. We’ve got to stick with the process of that. While we do it, we have to review and see what is working, what’s not working.

“I’ll be showing up for the team and being there for what they need from me as we approach getting back together as a group next week.”

Maria Sanchez reportedly requests trade from Houston Dash

Mar 23, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Dash forward Maria Sanchez (7) warms up before the match between Racing Louisville and Houston Dash at Shell Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Maria Sanchez, who signed one of the biggest deals in NWSL history just four months ago, has reportedly requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

ESPN was the first to report the news, which was confirmed by multiple sources.

In a statement to ESPN, the team said: “​​Maria Sanchez is under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the Dash worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. At the time, it was the largest contract in NWSL history – something that was eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

The winger was a restricted free agent in the offseason, meaning that Houston could match any offer from another team and retain her rights. Should the team trade Sanchez, her contract would remain as it has been signed with the league. That limits the number of teams that could take on her contract. 

In three starts with the Dash this season, Sanchez has zero goals and an assist. The Dash are 1-2-1 through four games and have allowed a league-worst 10 goals.

The team hired a new coach, Fran Alonso, in December. Earlier this year, former goalkeeper coach Matt Lampson was fired for violating the league’s Coach Code of Conduct and Anti-Fraternization policy. 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close at midnight ET on Friday.

Canada beats U.S. Hockey 6-5 in thrilling World Championship win

UTICA, NEW YORK - APRIL 14: Team Canada raises the Championship Trophy after winning The Gold by defeating The United States in OT during the 2024 IIHF Women's World Championship Gold Medal game at Adirondack Bank Center on April 14, 2024 in Utica, New York. (Photo by Troy Parla/Getty Images)

Canada got its revenge on Sunday, winning the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship and taking down the U.S. in a 6-5 overtime classic.

Marie-Philip Poulin, a longtime star for Canada, got her first two goals of the tournament, while Danielle Serdachny had the game-winner. 

"I hate to say you're not trying to rely on it, expect it, but I know I've grown to expect it," Canada coach Troy Ryan said of Philip-Poulin. "Tonight was just a whole other level. I could see in her eyes every time we called her name that she was ready to go. It's just special."

The win came after Canada lost 1-0 to the U.S. in the group stage of the tournament. On Sunday, the two teams met for the 22nd time in 23 tournaments in the gold medal game – and the action between the two teams delivered. 

Among those scoring for the U.S. were Megan Keller, Alex Carpenter, Hilary Knight, Laila Edwards and Caroline Harvey. Julia Gosling, Emily Clark and Erin Ambrose had the other three goals for Canada, giving them their 13th World title after falling to the U.S. in last year’s title game in Toronto. 

This year’s game was held in New York, and it was the second-highest scoring final between the two teams. The U.S. won a world championship 7-5 in 2015. 

"Oh man, that feels good to win it on U.S. soil," Canada goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens said after the game. "We owed it to them and owed it to ourselves to win that one."

Canada also denied Knight a record 10th World Championship win, although she did become the most decorated player in women’s world championship history with 14 medals. After the game, Poulin gave Knight a hug on the ice. 

"We just said 'that was unbelievable,'" Poulin said.

U.S. coach John Wroblewski echoed the sentiment that it was an outstanding game after being asked about ending the game on a power-play after leaving too many players on the ice. 

"Instead of talking about the isolated events of tonight's game, I think that normally that's an interesting storyline,” he said. “But I think the entity of an amazing 6-5 game is an amazing hockey game that took place."

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