All Scores

Dash acting coach Sarah Lowdon strikes a chord with her players

(Maria Lysaker/USA TODAY Sports)

The Houston Dash have found their stride. Over a month since finishing at the bottom of the Central Division standings in the NWSL Challenge Cup, and dropping their first regular season game against the first-place San Diego Wave, the Dash take a four-game unbeaten streak into Friday’s matchup with the Orlando Pride.

The results have all come under acting head coach Sarah Lowdon, who assumed the role after James Clarkson was suspended in late April based on initial findings in a joint investigation by the NWSL and NWSL Players’ Association.

During her three and a half weeks in charge, Lowdon has simply tried to “be what the team needs.” In some instances, that’s meant instilling positivity in the players; in others, it’s meant demanding a higher standard. Overall, she prioritizes a collaborative, open-door policy approach — if a player or staff member has a suggestion, she listens — and it’s led to two wins and two draws for the Dash.

“I think she’s done an amazing job,” said defender Ally Prisock. “She definitely didn’t sign up for this, but she’s taken the head coaching job and just run with it, really. I think she just does a really good job with communicating and she’s a really good leader, so I respect her a lot and I think she’s a great coach.”

This isn’t Lowdon’s first stint with the Dash. She rejoined the club in April after serving as an assistant coach from 2014-16. In between, the Newcastle, England native and former McNeese State midfielder was a volunteer assistant coach with the Penn State women’s soccer team.

When Lowdon first took over as acting head coach, she was focused on maintaining control as she adjusted to the new responsibilities. Now that she has a clearer understanding of her role and ability to delegate, she’s developed more of a routine.

“It’s been a transition, for sure,” Lowdon said. “It’s been obviously kind of a whirlwind, but I think in the end, I’m just trying to be here for the players and the staff and give them what they need to be successful. And that’s kind of what I’ve tried to do, is just be that person that they can come to.”

“It was a very difficult role for her to step into, but she stepped up to the plate and she’s been brilliant,” star forward Rachel Daly said after scoring the equalizer in Houston’s 1-1 draw with the North Carolina Courage on Sunday. “We couldn’t have asked for any more from her and the staff.”

On the field, Lowdon has placed a heavy emphasis on team defense, running film sessions in training to get their three-player backline on the same page. She’s preached the value of effort over talent, and the players have bought in. With goalkeeper Jane Campbell as the last line of defense, Houston is tied for the NWSL lead with three goals against in five games.

When the Dash host the Pride on Friday, it will be just their third home contest after three straight games on the road. Spending over two weeks away from home instilled a resilient attitude within the group that’s now translating into results.

After a disappointing finish in 2021, when the Dash failed to make their first NWSL playoff appearance with a 1-0 loss on the last day of the regular season, Lowdon is working to right the ship and infuse the team with a new energy.

“In terms of the dirty work, we’ve kind of built this gritty identity, but at the end of the day it’s just a concept,” Lowdon said. “We’re trying to define what that actually looks like on the field … We’ve kind of had to manufacture our mentality sometimes. At the end of the day, we’ve doubled our talent and it’s paying off.”

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

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

Start your morning off right with Just Women’s Sports’ free, 5x-a-week newsletter.