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FAWSL Week 13: Bigger Clubs Are Benefitting Now More Than Ever

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Only three matches took place during Matchweek 13 in the FA Women’s Super League, as the remaining matches were postponed due to weather. For the first time all season, something other than COVID put the league on pause, with several fields freezing over in the cold.

The next few matches for the league will all be games that have been postponed from as far back as Matchweek 5. Should there be no more postponements, the FAWSL will get back on schedule on February 6th with Matchweek 14.

This matchweek and the upcoming rescheduled games are essential to the title race, as managers will be tasked with ensuring that players don’t get burned out given the abundance of minutes they’ll be playing in a short amount of time. And as games begin to stack up on the calendar, it’s now, more than ever, that teams with the deepest squads are proving to have the advantage.

 

ASTON VILLA’S SIGNINGS ALREADY MAKING AN IMPACT

First up this weekend was Aston Villa hosting Reading at Bescot Stadium. Villa, who are 11th in the league, went into this match as underdogs against their opponents, who are in sixth with 14 points.

Reading started strong, opening the scoring in the third minute when Angharad James was able to head the ball in from close range.

From then on, Reading controlled the first half, getting a couple more shots on target that were saved by Lisa Weiß. In the second half, however, Villa came out much more robust and were able to withstand the pressure. 12 minutes into the half, Villa won a freekick, and new signing Mana Iwabuchi was able to get on the end of it, scoring in her debut.

Reading scored a second through Rachel Rowe, but Villa remained in the game and scored a late equalizer through Diana Silver, with Iwabuchi providing the assist.

Iwabuchi’s fantastic debut showed that Villa was right in adding more depth up front. They also had a full bench, with eight players, allowing Gemma Davies to make three substitutions, including Silva who scored the equalizer.

Reading, on the other hand, haven’t made a signing this transfer window and did not have a full squad, with only six players on the bench. After the match, manager Kelly Chambers said that the draw felt “like a loss” and that “[t]he second half doesn’t even come into contention if you put the first half to bed. That cost us today.” Her team, unfortunately, could not keep up with the intensity, and it resulted in a loss of points.

 

MANCHESTER UNITED RECLAIM THE TOP SPOT

Birmingham City faced the same problem when they travelled to Leigh Sports Village to face Manchester United. Unlike Reading, Birmingham were not the favorites in this match, as United have spent the year at the top of the table. But when United came into a match with an almost full squad (eight players on the bench), while Birmingham could only afford four players on the bench, it made it seem like United had the game won before the first whistle blew.

United did indeed win the match 2-0, with goals from Leah Galton and Ella Toone. And while they struggled offensively, and lacked creatively for large spells, defensively United were solid, with Birmingham only managing two shots compared to the host’s 23.

With the win, Manchester United returned to the top of the FAWSL standings, having now played two more games than Chelsea.

 

BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION IN NEED OF REINFORCEMENTS

While Birmingham are another team whose situation has become more dire due to a lack of available players, Brighton & Hove Albion have clearly been hit the worst, and their 1-7 loss against Manchester City proved that. This month, seven Brighton players have gone into self-isolation, while a few key players remain out due to injuries.

Their squad has been so depleted that head coach Hope Powell decided to recall 21-year-old Bethan Roe, who Brighton had loaned to Championship side Charlton Athletic back in August of 2020. It’s a sign that the club is doing everything they can to find enough fit and available players.

Brighton faced Manchester City with five players on the bench and a starting XI that contained quite a few non-regular starters. The match was essentially only played for the sake of appearance, as Manchester City, who were fantastic, and wholeheartedly deserved the win, ran circles around their opponents.

Unfortunately, Brighton did not have the grounds to ask the Football Association to have their matches postponed since they technically have not gotten to a point where they hit all of the FA’s requirements regarding COVID-19 to cancel matches. (Even that is a point of controversy.)

Given the current circumstances, the opportunities for upsets are growing few and far between. Bigger clubs would be advantaged even in normal circumstances; with so many players being shuffled in and out, they’re almost impossible to overcome given their depth. It’s a trend to keep an eye on as the season continues, and one that could carry over into next season as well.

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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