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Megan Rapinoe: New USWNT role has been ‘rewarding’

(Photo by SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Megan Rapinoe has a different role in this year’s World Cup. It’s something she knows, and something that Vlatko Andonovski has made clear.

“She will probably have a different role than her last two World Cups,” Andonovski said ahead of the World Cup. “She is certainly going to have different types of minutes.”

Three weeks ago, Rapinoe announced that she would retire at the end of the year. And as she’s entered this World Cup, she’s embraced the different role that she’s having.

“It’s been pretty much what I’ve been expecting,” Rapinoe said of her role. “We just have such experience on the bench and such a calm. And that’s our job. That’s our job to use everything I’ve seen over the last however many years and go in the locker room at halftime and be like, ‘This is what we see.’ … Ultimately [it’s about] being ready whenever my number is called up.

“”You can still play at an extremely high level. You can still keep a really high standard. You still have a lot to offer, both on the field and off the field. Maybe you’re not going to be a starter playing 90 minutes or playing the bulk of the games. But you know, sometimes the veteran players, that’s not what you need. You need the 20 minutes in two games that wins the team the tournament, or wins the game and gets to the next round.”

She’s also been enjoying her new role in training, helping to prepare her teammates for the next game up.

“Every day in training, I’m like, ‘I’m gonna try to bust your ass,'” Rapinoe said. “That makes them better. That makes me better. That makes the whole team better, so I think it’s been really rewarding. Sometimes I think this gets lost, but I get to play in another World Cup. I get to be in another situation to compete for a championship and I think as an elite athlete and as an elite soccer player, like that’s the point. You don’t want to play in meaningless games.”

On Wednesday, Rapinoe was one of many players to watch the USWNT play the Netherlands from the bench. Andonovski used just one sub all game – a move that has raised questions. On Sunday, Rapinoe attempted to play it down, noting that the bench could factor in more as the tournament goes on.

“I’m always shocked when I don’t play,” she said jokingly. “All of us on the bench, we think we should be on the field, as much as the players on the field think they should be on the field. … We know at some point during this tournament, the bench will be huge. That’s a huge asset of ours.”

One such asset is Lynn Williams, who sat for the second-straight game and has yet to factor in in this World Cup. It’s a decision that has raised ire for many.

“The conversations I’ve had with Vlatko were, in general: When the time is right and the situation and the game is ready, I’ll be ready,” Rapinoe continued. “I think I could have helped [against the Netherlands], but I think [Lynn Williams] could have helped and [starter Trinity Rodman] was helping and [starter Sophia Smith] was helping. We had chances, and it was right there for us.”

“[Andonovski] knows every single sub wants to go in the game. He explained to [the media] that he felt like we had the momentum. Ultimately, that’s his decision. I feel like the players that were off the field felt like players on field were going to score. If we get called into the game, they feel like we’re going to score, so those decisions are left to him.”

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."

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