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Heather O’Reilly doesn’t think coach will make ‘big changes’ USWNT needs

Will Julie Ertz remain at center-back for the USWNT’s next match against Sweden? (Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Heather O’Reilly knows the U.S. women’s national team needs to make some changes in order to succeed at the 2023 World Cup. But will head coach Vlatko Andonovski make those changes? The World Cup champion turned Fox Sports analyst isn’t so sure.

The USWNT advanced to the Round of 16 by the grace of a goalpost, which preserved a scoreless draw with Portugal to close out the group stage. The defending champions will face Sweden, and they’ll do so without Rose Lavelle, who must sit after picking up two yellow cards in the past two games.

Andonovski has faced his fair share of criticism for USWNT’s poor performance relative to its usual World Cup results. And for O’Reilly, who won three Olympic gold medals and a World Cup during her 14-year career with the team, those results will not come without tactical changes.

“We would all be naive if we thought we could win this World Cup with the way that we look right now,” O’Reilly said after Tuesday’s draw with Portugal. “So there needs to be changes. And there needs to be big changes. Whether or not Vlatko Andonovski is going to make the changes, well, that’s another story.”

What are the changes O’Reilly suggests? For one, move Julie Ertz back to the midfield, which has sorely missed her absence as she spent the group stage at center-back. In her place, start Alana Cook on the backline.

“I want to see Julie Ertz in the midfield, OK?” O’Reilly said. “We don’t have Rose Lavelle. This is exactly what happened in 2015. Lauren Cheney got a yellow card, that forced Carli Lloyd up the field, and we all know what happened. Maybe Rose Lavelle getting yanked because of the yellow card situation is the exact catalyst that we need to spice it up, to have a new look.”

If, by some miracle, Andonovski does decide to switch up his formation in any way, shape or form, O’Reilly promises to go cage diving with sharks, per a bet she made with her fellow Fox Sports analysts.

“I think we could take this conversation two different ways: what would I do, and what do I think Vlatko Andonovski (is going to do),” she said when asked about whether or not Crystal Dunn should shift from the defense to the midfield.

“Because there’s no way that Vlatko Andonovski is going to change his defensive shape at this point,” she continued. “I would be shocked… I will shark dive if Vlatko Andonovski changes his backline for this game — shape or personnel… He ain’t doing it.”

When asked about her suggestion to shift Ertz back to the midfield in the absence of Lavelle, with Alana Cook as Ertz’s replacement center-back, she conceded the point.

“Well, we’ve got to make some change in the midfield, so that’s a decent bet,” she said. “So I guess I’d be swimming with the fishes.”

Ertz could play the role of “an enforcer” in the midfield — and the USWNT might not have any other choice, without Lavelle in the mix. The team needs something – anything, really – to spark some life.

“It’s a trade-off,” O’Reilly said. “[Ertz in the midfield] is going to be an enforcer. She’s going to make things happen. She might even get on the end of a cross. You have to. The chips are all in.

“There’s no way we are going to win the World Cup in the state that we are right now. I really do think Vlatko Andonovski knows that. I think he’s happy about a couple things, not conceding any goals, but he’s not an idiot. He’s got four more games to plod through.”

WNBA All-Star Voting Stars on June 13th

Phoenix Mercury mascot Scorch waving a 2024 WNBA All-Star flag at a 2023 home game.
Phoenix Mercury will host the 20th-annual All-Star Game on July 20th, 2024. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Voting for the 2024 AT&T WNBA All-Star Game opened at 2 PM ET today and runs through June 29th.

All active WNBA players are eligible to make the All-Star Game, set for July 20th in Phoenix. Unlike previous formats that featured two voted-in All-Star squads, this year’s contest pits a single All-Star team against the already-decided Olympic-bound USA Women’s National Team.

Fans can submit a daily ballot nominating up to 10 athletes via WNBA.com or the WNBA App.

Fan-submitted ballots account for 50% of vote, with the other 50% split equally between current WNBA players and members of the media. The top 10 athletes will automatically make the All-Star Game, with league coaches then voting from a pool of the next 36 to complete Team WNBA’s 12-player roster. The final lineup will be announced on July 2nd.

This year's All-Star Game format presents an opportunity for fans to vote for players they might consider Olympic snubs. Indiana rookie Caitlin Clark and Dallas’s Arike Ogunbawole seem like shoo-ins given the discussion surrounding their Olympic omissions, while Connecticut stars Brionna Jones and DeWanna Bonner are also expected to snag All-Star nods.

And after a career-high 20-point, 10-rebound double-double in last night’s 83-75 loss to the Sun, Chicago rookie Angel Reese could also secure a spot.

Regardless, it won't necessarily be smooth sailing for Team USA, as history has tended to favor the underdog. 

The first USA vs. All-Stars matchup took place in 2021, with the league’s squad humbling the Tokyo Olympians 93-85. With 26 points, Ogunbawole was named All-Star Game MVP after barely missing the Olympic cut. Could she and Clark turn the tables on Team USA this year?

Watch more: "Were Caitlin Clark and Arike Ogunbowale snubbed?" by Expert Adjacent

San Diego Wave Hires Ex-KC Current GM Camille Ashton

San Diego Wave FC new General Manager Camille Levin Ashton visits the training grounds and front office during her introductory tour on Tuesday, June 11, 2024 in Del Mar, California.
New Wave GM Camille Ashton toured San Diego's training grounds on Tuesday. (San Diego Wave)

The San Diego Wave introduced Camille Ashton as their new general manager and sporting director yesterday, three weeks after Ashton resigned from her position as GM of the Kansas City Current.

The 34-year-old former NWSL pro will manage San Diego’s coaching staff and on-field budget, as well as lead player scouting and acquisitions. Ashton joins Wave FC president Jill Ellis and head coach Casey Stoney in an effort to lead the team back to their 2023 NWSL Shield-winning success.

"I’ve known Cami from back in her playing days, and her impressive track record and deep understanding as both a General Manager and former player, combined with her passion and energy make her an exceptional fit with this club," Ellis said in a team statement.

Ashton left a Kansas City team that remains undefeated this season — a significant leap from last year’s 11th-place finish. While at the Current, Ashton inked top offseason free agent Debinha followed by international forwards Temwa Chawinga (Malawi) and Bia Zaneratto (Brazil).

However, not all of Ashton’s roster moves were as well received. High-profile players like Lynn WilliamsCece Kizer, and Alex Loera posted about the mishandling of their abrupt trades, while the parent of a waived 2023 NWSL draftee claimed her daughter was mistreated by Ashton and the club (a subsequent investigation did not result in any public consequences).

When asked about the criticism surrounding the trades, Ashton commented, "There could be a lot of debate… but at the end of the day, that’s the mechanism that we work with right now in the league." 

A Southern California native, Ashton will make the transition to the Wave in the coming weeks.

Riot Fest Forces Red Stars to Move Scheduled NWSL Game

Apr 27, 2024; Bridgeview, Illinois, USA; at SeatGeek Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Red Stars are scrambling to find a solution for a September 21st home game after it was revealed that a music festival would be taking over the team's usual stadium. 

Riot Fest announced on Wednesday that SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Illinois will host the three-day concert event from September 20th through the 22nd. The Red Stars — who were scheduled to play the San Diego Wave on September 21st — have played at SeatGeek since 2016, and recently set an all-time NWSL attendance record during a one-off game at Wrigley Field

As for solutions, those hoping for a return to Wrigley could be out of luck: The Chicago Cubs are set to play the Washington Nationals at home on September 21st.

"It is unfair and unfortunate to have our club put in this situation, shining a light on the vast discrepancies in the treatment of women's professional sports versus men's sports," Red Stars president Karen Leetzow said in tweeted response to the double-booking.

"We are committed to ensuring our players and fans have a first-rate experience on and off pitch, and we are working diligently to find a solution that will ensure our September 21st game is a success."

Since purchasing the Red Stars last year, majority owner Laura Ricketts — a co-owner of the Cubs — has been vocal about finding a more appropriate long-term home for the team. 

"We knew right from the beginning — like, rewind back almost a year and a half ago when we started considering acquiring the Red Stars — we knew that the current [stadium] situation was not the ultimate long-term solution," Ricketts told ESPN in February. "And really, the key to unlocking the door for this organization would be to solve that."

More broadly, Ricketts has been pushing for increased public funding for sports stadiums around Chicago, with both the NFL’s Bears and MLB’s White Sox looking to build new facilities. 

The situation in Bridgeview is the most recent scheduling mishap for the NWSL. Angel City had to reschedule their 2024 season opener weeks before it was to be played due to an "unforeseen scheduling conflict." Additionally, San Diego's new MLS team will reportedly have priority over NWSL side San Diego Wave FC when it comes to scheduling home games at the shared Snapdragon Stadium. 

"It frustrates me again that we’re the established team in the market and a men’s team comes in and gets first picks on the schedule," Wave coach Casey Stoney said last October. "Shame that it continues to happen."

Watch more: "Chicago Forced to Move Match Due to Music Festival" on TikTok

Sam Kerr Announces New Chelsea Contract in Prank Videos

Sam Kerr celebrates a Chelsea win with a backflip
Sam Kerr first signed with Chelsea in 2019. (Eddie Keogh/The FA via Getty Images)

Sam Kerr has signed a new two-year contract with Chelsea. 

The Australian forward teased fans in the announcement, after speculation regarding her future with the club had been swirling for months — particularly with the departure of head coach Emma Hayes. 

In a video posted Thursday morning, Kerr thanked fans for the memories before saying she will "always be Chelsea" in a tone that suggested she was leaving the London club. But 20 minutes later, the team took to social media to announce the striker had actually signed a new two-year deal. 

"Did you guys really think I was gonna end on 99 goals?" asked Kerr in a followup video.

BBC Sport reported that the contract extension fake-out was Kerr’s idea.

"It’s really exciting and a very proud moment for me," Kerr said in a statement. "Having the opportunity to stay at a club like Chelsea means a lot to me. I’m really excited to continue to push and to try to win trophies."

The 30-year-old is currently recovering from an ACL tear sustained in January. The injury will keep her out of the Paris Olympics

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