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England rounds into form as USWNT sputters: World Cup digest

Lauren James finished with a brace in England’s 6-1 win against China to close out the World Cup group stage. (Joe Prior/Visionhaus via Getty Images)

Just Women’s Sports is here with your daily World Cup Digest, breaking down all of the biggest storylines from each day of action in Australia and New Zealand.

Today’s top World Cup news: England rounds into form as USWNT sputters

Both England and the Netherlands showcased why they are World Cup favorites with their wins Tuesday, while the USWNT decidedly did not.

When USWNT kicked off its match against Portugal, it did so at the same time that the Netherlands’ own match against Vietnam got underway, with the fate of both teams hanging in the balance. The Dutch side responded to that pressure, putting up an astounding seven goals to Vietnam’s zero for the tournament’s biggest margin of victory so far.

The Netherlands put up five goals before the half, and Esmee Brugts and Jill Roord each added goals in the second half to finish with matching braces. Their team finished with 42 shots in a dominant display.

England, meanwhile, looked to be in cruise control against China in a 6-1 win. Alessia Russo got the scoring started in the fourth minute to start the deluge, with Lauren Hemp, Lauren James, Chloe Kelly and Rachel Daly all getting on the scoresheet.

James finished with a brace, though she was denied a hat trick by VAR. But it was a resounding performance for a team that was left shaken by the injury to Keira Walsh.

“Again, another day of what dreams are made of,” James said. “I’m happy for the team and everyone’s buzzing. And yeah, we’re looking forward to going into next round.”

In contrast, the USWNT survived by the grace of the goalpost. A late Portugal shot ricocheted off the post rather than into the net, which prevented the two-time defending World Cup champions from being sent home in the group stage for the first time ever.

“It was a beautiful sound to hear it hit the post, that’s for sure,” USWNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher said afterward. “But that’s something we talked about — we knew they were good on the counterattack and they like to get in behind.”

And even after one of the worst performances in USWNT history, Alex Morgan remained confident about her team heading into the Round of 16. When asked if Sweden will be favorites in their game, she provided a definitive response: “No.”

“I know this team and I know what we’re capable of, and just because it hasn’t clicked every moment on the field and we’re not putting the goals in the back of the net doesn’t mean these aren’t the right players for the job,” Morgan said. “The confidence is there and now we just have to prove it out on the field.”

Today’s top highlight: Marta talks about becoming a football icon

Ahead of Brazil’s final group stage match, Marta spoke about her career and the legacy she will leaving behind. The 37-year-old forward is playing in her sixth World Cup.

“I don’t normally focus on myself, on Marta. I try to focus in the whole picture, in everyone in the collective, in what we’ve been doing together,” she said through a translator. “You know what’s good? When I started playing I didn’t have an idol, a female idol. You guys didn’t show any female games. How was I supposed to see other players? How was I supposed to understand that I could arrive at a national team and become a reference.

“Today, when we come out on the street, people stop, parents stop and say, ‘My daughter loves you, she wants to be just like you.’ It’s not just Marta, it’s other athletes as well. This wouldn’t have happened if we had stopped in the first obstacles that we faced. It’s a continuous persistency. It didn’t start with just me, but with a lot of other women back then, but we are all very proud. We ask a lot for our generation to continue to do that, to inspire more girls, more boys. It doesn’t matter their age.

“I am very happy to see all of this now because 20 years ago, in 2003, nobody knew who Marta was at my first World Cup. Twenty years later, we have become a reference for many women all over the world, not only in football, [but] in journalism as well. We see many women journalists here today and we didn’t see that before so we have opened doors for equality. I hope I answered your question after you made me cry.”

Today’s results:

  • Netherlands 7, Vietnam 0
  • USWNT 0, Portugal 0
  • England 6, China 1
  • Denmark 2, Haiti 0

More World Cup news to know:

  • A total of 1 million fans have turned out for the World Cup so far. Rebecca Sheely from Colorado became the millionth fan to go through the gates of the 10 World Cup venues at the match between Portugal and the USWNT. With 22 matches left to play, this World Cup remains on track to become the biggest standalone women’s sporting event ever.
  • USWNT co-captains Alex Morgan and Lindsey Horan lamented the team’s missed chances against Portugal and throughout the group stage. The team finished the group stage with 63 total shots (17 on goal) but just four goals.
  • Carli Lloyd, a two-time World Cup champion with the USWNT turned Fox Sports analyst, had harsh words for the 2023 squad. In particular, she took issue with the players’ seemingly relaxed conduct both before and after the scoreless draw. “Players are smiling. They’re laughing. It’s not good enough,” she said.

Caitlin Clark stuns 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 and shouting out the WNBA greats that came before her. She then got in one final dig – bringing him a signed apron as a souvenir. 

When Che promised to give it to his girlfriend, Clark delivered her best line 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 start NWSL season winless, in uncharted territory

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 season, falling 2-0 to the North Carolina Courage and remaining winless through its 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, answers need to be had from 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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