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How Emily Fox became one of the USWNT’s most reliable players

Six years after making her USWNT debut, Emily Fox is a key starter for the team at the 2023 World Cup. (John Todd/USSF/Getty Images).

For the best in the world, thousands of small decisions go into the final product we see on the field. And for U.S. women’s national team defender Emily Fox, the work beneath the surface begins at her very foundation.

For years, women’s soccer players have had to work overtime to get cleats made for men to fit their feet. Fox has gone down a size, she’s double- and triple-socked a size above her own, and she’s even tried toe socks to get the feel right.

“With the sizing and the fit, [you’re] making sure that you don’t feel like the cleat is like going to slip or it’s too tight and you feel like you can’t move your ankle,” Fox tells Just Women’s Sports on behalf of Under Armour, who will soon release their Magnetico Elite 3 FG Soccer Cleats with women athletes’ feet in mind.

Tinkering to perfect the feel of a cleat for the best first touch could serve as a metaphor for Fox’s career. She’s grown from a college student thrown in the deep end, to sink-or-swim in her first USWNT minutes, to steady starter as the team heads to Australia and New Zealand to compete for a third-straight World Cup title.

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(Courtesy of Under Armour)

Fox is only 25 years old and entering her first World Cup, but on the field she often plays like a longtime veteran of the USWNT. She played her first minutes with the team in 2018, when she was just in her second year at the University of North Carolina, and even earned a start as the team tested the player pool in anticipation of the 2019 World Cup.

Fans will most likely remember Fox’s one cap from 2019, when she started at outside back against France in the USWNT’s first game of the year. In that 3-1 loss, the U.S. took some knocks that became the springboard for necessary growth, paving the way for the team to defeat the host country in Paris in the World Cup quarterfinals later that year.

For Fox, that game was a trial by fire, as she earned crucial international minutes against a team operating on all cylinders.

“I think everyone always talks about, ‘Oh, you’re gonna have ups and downs.’ And then everyone’s like, ‘OK, I’m gonna have ups and downs,’ but then it happens,” she says. “And you’re like, oh, it is really tough. So I think looking back, it was a really good thing for me.”

She went back to work outside the USWNT ranks, captaining the Tar Heels and finishing with two College Cup finals appearances during her NCAA career. She went from there to the NWSL, as the No. 1 pick of Racing Louisville FC in 2021. But Fox’s dream has always been to take her hard-earned experience to the biggest of international stages.

“I remember the last World Cup, watching and really being like, I want to be there next time,” she says.

She’s since returned to her college region, playing for the North Carolina Courage and honing a host of skills that have shaped her into a versatile and reliable defender for club and country. With Louisville, Fox would appear to take on a number of different positions at once — she’d line up at outside-back, but also dip into the midfield, make attacking runs and sub into the central defense when they needed greater numbers.

Fox has settled into an inverted left-back role for North Carolina, where she is encouraged to strategically cut into the middle to join the midfield. She believes some of her skills lend themselves to the No. 6 defensive midfield position.

“I love to cut inside and dribble, whether I’m on the left or right,” she said at USWNT World Cup media day. “Just being able to combine with people and kind of sit in good pockets to change the point of attack.”

The modern outside back has to be able to do many things, playing attacker, midfielder and defender all in an instant depending on the flow of play. Fox relishes the opportunity to take care of business on both sides of the ball.

“With [the U.S.], we have teams that are playing in a low block, and so it is the outside back, it is the No. 6 making a run that the No. 10 would normally make that opens and breaks people up,” she says.

Fox takes to heart the greater responsibility of starting for the USWNT, which requires her to get “high and wide” when switching from left back to right back to allow room for Crystal Dunn on the left. Training with Dunn, Becky Sauerbrunn and a few other U.S. players during the 2023 offseason helped the 25-year-old settle into a defense that she’d been rotating in and out of previously.

“It was really nice being able to train with them because I only see them at camp,” she says. “So seeing them out of camp, it was nice to see that they kind of have the same struggles and stress as I did.”

The World Cup is a stressful process, but it’s also an opportunity for Fox to cement her role as a starter for the No. 1-ranked team in the world by proving her versatility and consistency.

“I think a lot of it has to do with not expecting anything and not taking anything for granted,” she says. “I think having that mentality of always wanting more, and wanting to challenge yourself and not just thinking about success.”

The USWNT has also relied on Fox to carry heavy minutes, something she says has taken time to get accustomed to. It’s difficult to replicate the grueling schedule of a World Cup group stage, but head coach Vlatko Andonovski attempted to mimic it at this year’s SheBelieves Cup.

“I really think this past SheBelieves, playing in all three of those games and the back-to-back-to-back, after that I was like, ‘If I can do this, I can do anything,” she says.

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(Brad Smith/USSF/Getty Images)

The U.S. is going to rely on Fox as a player who can both carry the ball forward and make the necessary recovery run against international opponents stacked with winger talent.

“It is just another challenge. And obviously, it’s at the world stage, so it’s going to be more intense, it’s going to be loud,” she says. “But I think just doing my role and locking down my side, and no matter who I’m playing against, how can I lock down my side but also make them chase and defend?”

When Fox steps out on the field in New Zealand starting next week, she’ll be capitalizing on six years of work within the U.S. first team, and living out a dream that started much earlier.

“My parents are coming,” she says with a smile. “So I think it’ll be pretty surreal when I get to see them in the crowd, and obviously it’s such a trek to get there, and they’ve made so many sacrifices for me to be here. So, I think that is probably a moment when I’ll be like, ‘Oh my gosh.’”

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

Cameron Brink likes Caitlin Clark for 2024 WNBA Rookie of the Year

Cameron Brink poses with Caitlin Clark at 2024 wnba draft in new york
Cameron Brink poses with fellow draftee — and possible WNBA ROY —Caitlin Clark. (Photo by Emily Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Cameron Brink already has her rookie of the year pick for the upcoming WNBA season, and it’s Indiana-bound star Caitlin Clark

In the latest edition of Kelley on the Street, host Kelley O'Hara caught up with Brink in New York hours before the Stanford phenom went No. 2 overall to the Los Angeles Sparks at the 2024 WNBA Draft. When O’Hara asked who would win the WNBA's rookie of the year, she answered without pause.

"Caitlin Clark," she said, while a fan commented that she thought Brink would take home the award. Brink later added that the extra foul granted to WNBA players will be "good for me."

"I hope it’s me," Charisma Osborne, who was later drafted by the Phoenix Mercury, said when asked her ROY prediction. "But, I don’t know — we’ll see."

Watch more of Kelley on the Street:

Dash winger Maria Sanchez confirms trade request a day shy of NWSL deadline

María Sanchez of Houston Dash during a NWSL game
In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the club worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. (Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images)

Maria Sanchez issued a statement on Thursday, confirming recent reports that she has requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

In it, she revealed that the club has been aware of the request "since late March."

"This has all taken a toll and isn’t an easy thing to talk about, but I want to confirm that I’ve requested an immediate trade," she wrote. "My expectations and reasons have been clear. I trust that my current club’s management will honor my decision in a timely manner and proceed with accepting a trade."

"I’m eager to refocus and dive back into what I love most: playing football," she concluded.

Reports of Sanchez's trade request first surfaced on ESPN last week, and were later confirmed by multiple sources. 

In December of last year, Sanchez signed a three-year contract with the Dash valued at $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. It was the largest contract in NWSL history at the time — a figure that would be eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

Sanchez spent the offseason as a restricted free agent, meaning that Houston could match any other team's offer to retain her rights. Should the Dash trade Sanchez, her current contract terms would remain intact, limiting potential buyers to teams able to afford to take on an inking of that size.

The Dash has yet to address the trade, instead reiterating to ESPN that Sanchez is "under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close tonight, April 19th, at 12 a.m. ET. The window will stay closed through the next 11 regular season games, reopening on August 1st, 2024.

Seattle Storm debut state-of-the-art $64 million practice facility

Jewell Loyd #24 of the Seattle Storm during warms up during practice on July 11, 2020 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida
Jewell Loyd, seen here practicing at Florida's IMG Academy, and her team are in for a major upgrade this season. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

The four-time league champion Seattle Storm unveiled their new practice facility on Thursday, with Storm co-owner Lisa Brummel dubbing Interbay's Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance the team’s "new home."

"It's just such a special space," Brummel told Fox 13 Seattle. "I think when the players get here, it's gonna be overwhelming."

The sprawling 50,000-square-foot, $64 million property is just the second designated practice facility to be designed and built expressly for a WNBA team, with the Storm further noting that 85% of all design and engineering team members involved in the project's construction were women and people of color. The finished product holds two professional indoor courts, two 3x3 outdoor courts, a state-of-the-art locker room, and players' lounge, plus designated areas for strength and conditioning, kitchen, dining, and nutrition, and recovery. 

"This facility reflects our commitment to providing our athletes an exceptional environment that supports their growth, health, and performance," said Storm co-owner Ginny Gilder in an official team release. "It’s built for women, by women, embodying our dedication to leading the way in professional women’s sports."

For their part, the team can't wait to make the faciilty their own.

"It's amazing," Storm guard Jewell Loyd told Fox 13. "Not having to drive everywhere around, knowing you have access anytime of the day to get into the gym, to workout." 

Head coach Noelle Quinn said she predicts the team is "never going to leave this building."

"Which is a good thing for me," she continued. "You talk about having an edge in performance. We want our athletes to not only perform on the court, but get whatever they need."

All of the Storm's staff and operations will now live under one roof, and the team also has plans to launch a youth basketball program operating out of the building.

Mystics relocate game to accommodate Caitlin Clark fans

Maya Caldwell, Erica Wheeler, and Lexie Hull of the Indiana Fever celebrate Caitlin Clark
Get ready — Caitlin Clark is coming to town. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Caitlin Clark effect is quickly making its mark on the big leagues, as WNBA host teams around the country rush to upgrade their Fever games to larger arenas in order to accommodate surging ticket sales.

With Clark mere weeks away from her Indiana Fever debut, both the Las Vegas Aces and Washington Mystics have officially relocated their scheduled home games with head coach Christie Sides' squad. On Thursday, the Mystics became the latest to adjust their plans, moving their June 7th matchup from Entertainment & Sports Arena in Southwest DC to the more centrally located — and much larger — Capital One Arena "due to unprecedented demand."

The Mystics home court's capacity taps out at 4,200, while Capital One Arena — home to the Wizards, Capitals, and Georgetown Hoya's Men's Basketball — can fit nearly five times that crowd at some 20,000 spectators.

"The move to Capital One Arena will allow for additional fans in the stands as well as premium hospitality options, including Suites and the all-new all-inclusive courtside Hennessy Lofts," the team announced via Thursday's press release.

The Aces were one of the first teams to switch venues, aiming to take on the Indiana Fever in front of as many as 20,000 fans inside T-Mobile Arena on July 2nd. That’s a sizable a boost from their home venue, which holds just 12,000.

For those still planning to face the Fever in their home arenas, ticket prices have skyrocketed. Previously scheduled construction has already forced the LA Sparks to relocate their first five games — including their May 24th clash with the Fever — to Long Beach State's Walter Pyramid. The temporary venue is quite the downsize, holding just 4,000 in comparison to Crypto.com Arena's near-19,000. As of Friday, the get-in price for that game started around $400.

Despite fans launching a Change.org petition urging relocation, the Chicago Sky say they're unable to move their June 23rd Fever meeting from Wintrust Arena's 10,000-seat facility to the 23,500-seat United Center due to a concert. Tickets for that game start around $325 as of Friday.

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