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Jill Ellis, Christen Press and Tobin Heath debate USWNT starting lineup

Trinity Rodman runs drills with her USWNT teammates during their World Cup training. (Carmen Mandato/USSF/Getty Images)

Former U.S. women’s national team coach Jill Ellis joined Christen Press and Tobin Heath to discuss who she thinks her successor should start on the attack in Friday’s World Cup opener.

The USWNT kicks off its 2023 World Cup campaign at 9 p.m. ET Friday against Vietnam. While a number of players seemingly have solidified their spots in the starting lineup, the forward line includes at least one question mark.

Press and Heath, who played on the 2015 and 2019 World Cup-winning squads, are producing and hosting “The RE-CAP Show” throughout this year’s tournament. Veteran forwards themselves, both players are dealing with injuries that kept them off this year’s roster. Ellis, who coaches the USWNT to its two most two World Cup titles, joined her former players for the first episode of their show.

The USWNT’s forward pool includes Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Trinity Rodman, Sophia Smith, Alyssa Thompson and Lynn Williams. Rapinoe has acknowledged her role as a bench player in the lead-up to the tournament, while Morgan and Smith look like clear-cut starters. That leaves one forward slot remaining in the lineup.

“We know that it’s going to be Alex and Soph, and then we have a big decision on the other side,” Heath said.

So who would Ellis put in her starting XI against Vietnam?

“I would probably play — obviously Alex central, I’d play Soph, and I’d play Trinity,” Ellis said. “I think Trinity is a player that’s evolving. I think she’s got an incredible passing game that we don’t see that much. She can pick out and thread balls… That’s the three I would go with.”

Still, Ellis, Press and Heath all were quick to point out the importance of both starting and bench roles, especially since rotating lineups are the rule at the World Cup to rest players’ legs and adjust team strategies.

“Every single player, whether a game changer or starter, got all the same information,” Ellis said of the 2019 tournament. “It was flawless. When Pinoe was out, you came in, it was just flawless, because everybody who I think was afforded the same information and trust.”

Press and Heath debated earlier in the episode whether it is easier to start a match or to come on as a substitute. Heath, who started six of seven matches at the 2019 World Cup, finds it easier to start a game.

“I think it’s a million times easier to start a game,” Heath said. “You’re more prepared, you know exactly your routine. Even if you talk about how you prepare, you know you’re going to be starting, you know how you want to fuel your body for the game you can psychologically prepare.”

As a substitute, players need to be prepared to take on “whatever role is needed,” according to Heath, which is what makes it so difficult.

“Knowing that you are that player that’s first off the bench, especially as an attacker, you don’t know if the team’s gonna need a goal. You don’t know if you’re going to be defending for your life. You don’t know if there’s going to have been a red card,” Heath added. “You are emotionally playing out the game [while] physically and literally warming up all the time.”

On the other hand, Press believes being a starter is the harder job; she started in one group-stage match and the semifinal in 2019, but she entered as a substitute in other matches.

Coming off the bench “is easier because when you come on as a game changer you have a very, very clear role and expectation on what you need to do,” she said. “If you’re defending a lead, if you are down and trying to score, if you are going to have a certain role in set pieces. When you start a game you have all of your expectations of how you want that game to go.”

Press did have one big moment as a starter back in 2019, when she was named to the starting lineup against England for the semifinal match. She scored just nine minutes into the match to give the USWNT an early lead, and the team held on for a 2-1 win.

Still, while that goal stands out as her big moment, she thrived a substitute for most of the tournament.

“The reality is you almost never get what you want. It almost always goes awry. When I came in in big games and I did my job, I felt valued. I felt seen. And I felt like I knew exactly how to execute on a very specific task,” Press said. “The whole world of football gets condensed down into 10 minutes of a performance and you do your freaking job. You could do anything for 10 minutes. You could do anything in the world for the limited position that you have and in order to do it well you have to let go of all your expectations. It’s not me me me, and as a starting player you’re managing your ego the whole game.”

While Heath tried to argue that bench players often are called upon to take penalty kicks after starters are subbed out of the match, a negative in her book, Press had a simple retort.

“It’s such a breeze taking penalties,” she said.

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 Arena's near-19,000. As of Friday, the get-in price for that game started around $400.

Despite fans launching a 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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