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St. Louis, MO – Thursday May 16, 2019: The women’s national teams of the United States (USA) and New Zealand (NZL) play in an international friendly match at Busch Stadium.

The past two years have been both the most challenging and clarifying of my life. 2018 opened with surgery on both feet, my NWSL team folding, my boyfriend moving away, and the majority of my belongings getting “lost” – all before February.

Stuck on the couch with two scarred feet and an uncertain future, I felt powerless.

I had heard horror stories of NWSL players being traded or waived with no prior warning, waking up to emails that said, “pack up your bags and head to the airport.” Being young and naive, I was able to convince myself that it couldn’t really be that bad, or that it would never happen to me. Then came the announcement that my team had folded and that if I wanted to play in the upcoming NWSL season, I had to opt in to a redistribution draft by the following morning.

The draft itself was only a day later. As I watched it unfold, my teammates being sprinkled around the league without any control over their future, all of us still without an explanation as to what had happened, I finally understood just how unnerving playing in the NWSL could be.

I was picked up by the Chicago Stars, and with the signing of a contract, I had a new team. I was moving to Illinois, and that was that.


I was able to make it through the transition by relying on those elements of my character that had allowed me to become a professional in the first place. I had been living and playing abroad for years at that point, so I wasn’t a stranger to being on the move. I knew that I had to be both adaptive and resilient. But as I looked ahead to the 2019 World Cup, I began to wonder if I was doing everything I could to be at my best when the tournament started.

The national team was a priority, and the precariousness of life in the NWSL made me question whether it was the best environment in which to prepare. This was going to be my third World Cup with the Football Ferns, and the core of our team had been together for over a decade. They needed me to be ready, which meant that I needed to be willing to make the necessary sacrifices, even if that entailed taking the road less traveled.

And so, after a challenging 2018, I decided to move back to New Zealand at the start of 2019 and forgo the subsequent NWSL season.


Walking away from one of the most competitive and well-supported leagues in the world wasn’t easy, nor did it make sense to a lot of people. It had been nearly 8 years since I had lived in New Zealand, but I was still confident that it was the best place for me to mentally and physically prepare for the World Cup. I knew that making the national team my sole commitment would allow me to focus my effort and energy.

It wasn’t a simple homecoming, though. Going back to New Zealand meant that I now had to train with teenage boys to maintain my level of fitness. I was also living on the opposite side of the world from my boyfriend and needed to find work to survive the loss of my income. The situation was by no means perfect, and yet the decision to come home still felt empowering because I had made it for myself. I had taken control of my life and done what I thought was best for both me and the rest of the national team.

We’re a group that is used to sacrificing for each other. We’ve had to fight tooth and claw for everything we have, not just for results on the field, but also for better support from our federation. These challenges have made us incredibly close. I don’t know of any other national team that has such love and loyalty for each other.

It’s hard to understand unless you’ve been a part of it, which is why my decision to pivot from a more comfortable path seemed strange to others, but made perfect sense to me.


There were those for whom the bigger question wasn’t why New Zealand, but why continue with soccer at all? Why bother to fight through the injuries and all the uncertainty? These are questions I doubt I’ll ever be able to escape, no matter where I live or who I play for.

“Is there even professional soccer for girls?”

“Do you get paid for that?”

“What are you going to do after soccer?”

“When are you going to get a real job?”

Some of these are questions I even occasionally ask myself. Though I’ve worked hard to care less about what other people think, it isn’t easy. Especially now in my current situation – when I’m essentially living the life of a professional athlete minus the getting paid part.

What I’ve come to understand is that certain challenges, unfair as they may be, are just a part of being a professional female athlete today. Being underpaid and needing a part-time job, having to train with teenage boys and live across the world from my family and friends, constantly having to answer questions about what I do and why — these are things I can’t avoid but have to work through in order to live the life that I want to live.

The alternative would be giving up what I love simply because things aren’t as good as they could be.

Throughout my career, I’ve found comfort in the Leonard Cohen quote, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” It reminds me that nothing is without its faults, but that without these imperfections, we wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate our experiences.

I know that neither my teammates nor I are content with the status quo. We want to see progress. We don’t think the next generation of New Zealand women should have to fight the same battles that we’ve been fighting.

But I also know that it’s precisely these battles that have made our team the most loving and supportive environment that I have ever been a part of. Playing for New Zealand has shown me that communities are strengthened by the challenges they face. It has allowed me to experience firsthand the tremendous power of a collective spirit and culture.

Similarly, the uncertainty surrounding my own professional career hasn’t always been easy to deal with. But it’s given me the opportunity to make decisions for myself and discover what truly motivates me. It has shown me that it’s the trials and the setbacks that make the wins so rich and beautiful.

For all these lessons to come through, I know there needed to be cracks.

Barcelona to Face Lyon in Champions League Rematch This Weekend

UEFA Women's Champions League Final"Barcelona FC - Olympique Lyonnais"
Saturday's game will be the third UWCL final meeting for Barcelona and Lyon, having previously gone up against each other in 2019 and 2022. (ANP via Getty Images)

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off in Bilbao on Saturday, with a couple of familiar foes set to face off for the trophy.

Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, making its 11th final appearance since 2010, will go head to head with a Barcelona side making its fourth final appearance in a row.

This will be the third time these two teams meet in the UWCL title game, having previously appeared in the 2019 and 2022 finals. Lyon won both of those prior games against Barcelona, alongside a total of eight Champions League trophies. That’s double that of any other club, with Eintracht Frankfurt coming in a distant second with four. 

Should Barcelona win, this would be the team's third title — breaking a tie for the third in the UWCL total titles race. 

But as these teams return to the UWCL final, it also marks the end of an era for both clubs. The game will be the last for both club managers, as Barcelona’s Jonatan Giráldez and Lyon’s Sonia Bompastor depart for new jobs after the season's end.

Giráldez is set to leave for the NWSL's Washington Spirit, while Bompastor will take over for incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes at Chelsea. Both coaches have earned one UWCL trophy during their tenures, while Bompastor also brought two Champions League trophies to Lyon as a player. She was the first coach to win a UWCL trophy as both a coach and player.

This season, Barcelona is looking for its first quadruple, having won a fifth Liga F title alongside the Copa de La Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. 

"We hope he can go out with the four trophies because we know how competitive and ambitious he is," Barcelona midfielder Patri Guijarro told ESPN. "It has been a winning era with him in charge and for him to go out with all four trophies would be historic and incredible."

But Lyon's Damaris Egurrola is excited about her team's chances of overcoming Barcelona once again — and to do it in front of family and friends.

"Lyon have something special," she told Forbes ahead of the weekend's final. "We have a great team and we have the players with enough talent to win any match."

The game will be a homecoming for Egurrola, who began her professional career with Athletic Bilbao.

"I’ve been thinking of this day and night," she said. "I’ve been dreaming of playing this match. Having the opportunity to play in San Mames is amazing. This is where it all started for me."

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off Saturday, May 25th at 12 PM ET and is free to stream on DAZN.

World No. 1 Iga Swiatek Headlines a Stacked 2024 French Open

Iga Swiatek serves against Coco Gauff during the group stage of the 2023 WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico
Iga Swiatek serves against Coco Gauff during the group stage of the 2023 WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico. (Robert Prange/Getty Images)

The 2024 French Open starts on Sunday, with a match schedule that promises to wrap the short clay court season up in style.

Looking for her fourth title at the major is three-time Roland Garros champion and World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, considered the favorite to win the whole Slam. Three of her four major titles have come at the French tournament. 

Swiatek's career record at the French Open is a dominating 28-2, and she's currently on a 16-game winning streak fueled by victories at tune-up tournaments in Madrid and Rome.

But that doesn't mean she won't face some serious challengers along the way. Get to know some of the Polish tennis champ's strongest competitors.

Aryna Sabalenka

Sabalenka is ranked No. 2 in the world and faced Swiatek in the finals at both Madrid and Rome. She lost in three sets in Madrid, which included a close third-set tiebreak, before losing in straight sets at the Italian Open. 

She enters the French Open having won the Australian Open in January, successfully defending her title in the first Slam of the season. At last year’s French Open, Sabalenka reached the semifinals — a career best — before being ousted by Karolina Muchová in three sets.

Season record: 25-7

Coco Gauff

Currently sitting at No. 3 in the world, the highest-ranked American on the schedule is none other than Coco Gauff. Gauff won her first major at the US Open last year, and reached the semifinals of this year’s Australian Open. She faced Swiatek in the semifinals of the Italian Open last week, losing in straight sets. 

But her first major final came at the French Open in 2022, before being ousted by Swiatek in the quarterfinals at last year’s French Open. The two are on a crash course for a meeting before the finals, as Gauff anchors the other quadrant on Swiatek’s side of the draw, should they both advance deep into the competition.

Season record: 25-8

Chicago Sky Upset New York to End Liberty’s Unbeaten Streak

chicago sky's angel reese on the court against new york liberty
Angel Reese registered a near double-double against a strong Liberty side. (Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Liberty’s unbeaten streak came to an end on Thursday as Angel Reese and the Chicago Sky got the upset win over New York with a final score of 90-81. 

Angel Reese stood out with a near double-double, registering 13 points and nine rebounds. She’s currently the only rookie this season to exceed 10 points in her first three games, and the first player in Sky history to begin their career with three consecutive double-digit scoring games, per ESPN Stats & Info.

The outcome may not have come as a surprise to Liberty stars Breanna Stewart and Jonquel Jones, who sung Reese’s praises ahead of the game.

"She’s a workhorse," Stewart told The Post. "She doesn’t stop. She’s tough, she’s strong, she’s tough to box out and good at cleaning up for her team offensively and defensively."

"I feel like she’s an energizer bunny," Jones added. "She doesn’t stop moving, she doesn’t stop crashing the boards. Just someone that is gonna be relentless in her approach to getting to the glass and playing tough."

It was the first time Chicago has met New York this season. The game was especially meaningful for new Chicago head coach Teresa Weatherspoon, who led the Liberty for seven years as a player and joined the team's Ring of Honor in 2011.

"This place means a lot to me... I played in that jersey, I adored that jersey, I adored every player that I had an opportunity to play with. The love that I received even today was overwhelming," Weatherspoon reflected after the game.

Following the win, Sky guard Dana Evans had some kind words for her coach.

"I mean, it's just special. She's special," Evans said. "She just breeds confidence in each and every one of us. We love her. We just wanted to go so hard and play hard for her, and I feel like this one was really for her. We really wanted this for her more than anything."

Thursday's victory brings Chicago's record to 2-1, a somewhat unlikely feat given that their offseason featured starter Kahleah Copper getting traded to Phoenix. The Connecticut Sun are now the only undefeated team left in the league this season, and will formidable foes for the Sky as they take their winning streak on the road to Chicago this weekend.

New USWNT Coach Emma Hayes Embracing the Challenge

United States Women's Head Coach Emma Hayes
The ex-Chelsea skipper has officially arrived in the US — now it's time to get down to business. (USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

Emma Hayes has officially begun her tenure as USWNT manager ahead of the team’s June friendlies.

Hayes made the rounds on Thursday, appearing on the Today Show and speaking with select media about her goals and underlying principles with the team. It’s a quick turnaround for the decorated coach, who just won the WSL with Chelsea last weekend.

One thing that she won’t do, however, is shy away from the high expectations that come with managing the US. The squad is looking to reinstate its winning reputation at the Paris Olympics this summer following a disappointing World Cup in 2023. 

"I know the challenge ahead of me. There is no denying there is a gap between the US and the rest of the world," she told ESPN. "We have to acknowledge that winning at the highest level isn't what it was 10 years ago. It's a completely different landscape. And my focus is going to be on getting the performances required to play at a high level against the very best nations in the world."

While Hayes was formally hired six months ago to lead the USWNT, her deal stipulated that she remain with Chelsea through the conclusion of their season. In her stead, Twila Kilgore has led the team, with the coach "drip feeding subliminal messages" to the roster on Hayes’s behalf.

"It's a bit ass-upwards," Hayes joked to reporters. "I know about the staff, and the team, and the structure behind it. We got all of that. Now it's time, I need to be with the team."

With Olympics now just two months away, Hayes dropped hints this week regarding her thought process behind building the roster, saying there’s still time for players to make their case.

"You can't go to an Olympics with a completely inexperienced squad. We need our experienced players, but getting that composition right, that's my job between now and June 16th," she said on the Today Show.

"What I can say from my time [in the US] is, I've always loved the attitude towards performance and the expectation to give everything you've got," she later affirmed to reporters.

And as for winning gold?

"I'm never gonna tell anyone to not dream about winning," she added. "But… we have to go step by step, and focus on all the little processes that need to happen so we can perform at our best level.

"I will give it absolutely everything I've got to make sure I uphold the traditions of this team."

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