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Megan Rapinoe: USWNT lineups could be ‘very different’ each game

(Erin Chang/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Megan Rapinoe is adjusting to her new role on the U.S. women’s national team.

While the 38-year-old forward has played in three previous World Cup tournaments she knows this one will present a different challenge than the others, she told Bleacher Report’s Taylor Rooks.

“I’ve been used to being a starter, one of the kind of obvious names on the team sheet every game,” she said. “And that’s going to look really different.”

When the 23-player World Cup roster was announced, USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski noted Rapinoe’s transition, which includes taking less minutes but also stepping up as a leader (or, as Rapinoe has called herself, the “fun grandma”).

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

That doesn’t mean that Rapinoe can’t make an impact. In the 2019 World Cup final, she scored her 50th international goal — a goal which made Rapinoe, 34 years old at the time, the oldest woman to score in a World Cup final. She also earned the Golden Boot as the top scorer of the tournament with six goals.

Still, Rapinoe’s position as a substitute is not the only change from 2019 for the USWNT, which will bring 14 new players to the World Cup. Injuries and new faces mean the lineup is not set in stone, and Rapinoe expects to see that play out at the tournament.

“I think in general our game-to-game roster could be very different,” she said. “I think we’re going to have to be really nimble. I think we’re going to have to really be finger on the pulse during the games…

“Like, if we’re up 2-0, I’m not going into the game. I’m not going to be playing in those games. But if we’re tied or we’re down or we need a different kind of spark, that’s what it’s going to look like. I don’t really know, and and to be honest I don’t think Vlatko really knows, and I think we’re we’re cool with that.”

Heading into Sunday’s World Cup send-off match against Wales, she’s focused on “whatever impact” she can have, whenever she is called upon. And she’ll draw on her previous experience to help the younger players gain some perspective.

“Everybody wants to play all the time, obviously, it’s not that I don’t want to play all the minutes,” she said. “But I’m confident and (Vlatko and I) have such a great relationship and such open communication. Like if I get used, it’s because I’m the best person to be used in that moment. If I don’t get used, then my impact will be the same.”

Even players who do not get significant minutes are still important to the “overall vibe” of the team, she noted.

“Emotional, mental and physical health of the team, it’s really important that those players keep everyone together,” she said. “Because it is hard and it doesn’t go individually the way that everyone would like. Eleven players start and we get five subs. Not everybody is going to play, not everybody is going to play every minute, not everybody is going to score every goal.

“People have different roles and, to be honest, I feel like if I can accept my role I don’t want to hear nothing about anybody else accepting any kind of role.”

RELATED READ: Megan Rapinoe to retire after 2023 Women’s World Cup, NWSL season

Caitlin Clark dunks on Michael Che in surprise SNL appearance

(Julia Hansen/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Caitlin Clark made a surprise appearance on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend, which quickly went viral.

The Iowa star showed up on the show’s Weekend Update segment to playfully call out Michael Che’s history of making jabs at women’s sports.

It started when Che joked that Iowa should replace Clark’s retired No. 22 “with an apron.” 

When Clark entered, Che said that he was a fan. But Clark wasn’t convinced – especially not when co-host Colin Jost brought the receipts of Che’s jabs.

“Really, Michael? Because I heard that little apron joke you did,” she said, before making him read some jokes of her own in retaliation. Clark finished her segment by shouting out the WNBA greats that came before her. She then got in one final dig – bringing Che a signed apron as a souvenir. 

When Che promised to give it to his girlfriend, Clark delivered her last playful dig of the night.

“You don’t have a girlfriend, Michael,” she said.

Afterward, SNL castmember Bowen Yang told People that the 22-year-old and teammates Gabbie Marshall, Kate Martin and Jada Gyamfi – who joined her at Studio 8H – “were so cool.”

“She's so charming and witty,” Yang said. “They were just the most stunning, noble people.

“Athletes just have this air about them. They know they're amazing. I mean, these are people who have numeric attachments and values to their performance. That's something that comedians never have.”

Portland Thorns, in uncharted territory, start NWSL season winless

Portland has started the season winless through four games for the first time. (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)

The Portland Thorns continue to struggle to start the NWSL season, falling 2-0 to the North Carolina Courage over the weekend to remain winless through their first four games. 

It’s uncharted territory for Portland, who has never started the NWSL regular season without a win in four games before.

Following the loss, defender Becky Sauerbrunn voiced her frustrations with the start. 

“It’s hard to find a lot of encouraging things, but what I find encouraging is that people are frustrated,” she said. “People are pissed off that we’re not doing well. We care, and I think that’s really important.” 

She also added that while the team will reflect individually, “there’s going to be no finger pointing.”

“We’re going to look at ourselves and figure out what we should have done, or I should have done better,” she said. “There is a list of things that I could have done better, and I’m going to make sure I know every single thing and watch this game back.”

The Thorns currently sit at the bottom of the league table with just one point, having allowed 10 goals – tied for the worst in the league. They’ve yet to lead in a match. And as questions grow, attention turns to head coach Mike Norris. 

Norris is in his second year as head coach of the club after leading the team to a second-place finish in the regular season last year. When asked about the possibility of pressure growing after the unprecedented start, Norris said that the pressure has been there “from day one.”

“I cannot be driven by my day-to-day and the longer vision of the pressure of the job,” he said. “We’ve got a belief in how we want to play, how we operate. We’ve got to stick with the process of that. While we do it, we have to review and see what is working, what’s not working.

“I’ll be showing up for the team and being there for what they need from me as we approach getting back together as a group next week.”

Maria Sanchez reportedly requests trade from Houston Dash

Mar 23, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Dash forward Maria Sanchez (7) warms up before the match between Racing Louisville and Houston Dash at Shell Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Maria Sanchez, who signed one of the biggest deals in NWSL history just four months ago, has reportedly requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

ESPN was the first to report the news, which was confirmed by multiple sources.

In a statement to ESPN, the team said: “​​Maria Sanchez is under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the Dash worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. At the time, it was the largest contract in NWSL history – something that was eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

The winger was a restricted free agent in the offseason, meaning that Houston could match any offer from another team and retain her rights. Should the team trade Sanchez, her contract would remain as it has been signed with the league. That limits the number of teams that could take on her contract. 

In three starts with the Dash this season, Sanchez has zero goals and an assist. The Dash are 1-2-1 through four games and have allowed a league-worst 10 goals.

The team hired a new coach, Fran Alonso, in December. Earlier this year, former goalkeeper coach Matt Lampson was fired for violating the league’s Coach Code of Conduct and Anti-Fraternization policy. 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close at midnight ET on Friday.

Canada beats U.S. Hockey 6-5 in thrilling World Championship win

UTICA, NEW YORK - APRIL 14: Team Canada raises the Championship Trophy after winning The Gold by defeating The United States in OT during the 2024 IIHF Women's World Championship Gold Medal game at Adirondack Bank Center on April 14, 2024 in Utica, New York. (Photo by Troy Parla/Getty Images)

Canada got its revenge on Sunday, winning the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship and taking down the U.S. in a 6-5 overtime classic.

Marie-Philip Poulin, a longtime star for Canada, got her first two goals of the tournament, while Danielle Serdachny had the game-winner. 

"I hate to say you're not trying to rely on it, expect it, but I know I've grown to expect it," Canada coach Troy Ryan said of Philip-Poulin. "Tonight was just a whole other level. I could see in her eyes every time we called her name that she was ready to go. It's just special."

The win came after Canada lost 1-0 to the U.S. in the group stage of the tournament. On Sunday, the two teams met for the 22nd time in 23 tournaments in the gold medal game – and the action between the two teams delivered. 

Among those scoring for the U.S. were Megan Keller, Alex Carpenter, Hilary Knight, Laila Edwards and Caroline Harvey. Julia Gosling, Emily Clark and Erin Ambrose had the other three goals for Canada, giving them their 13th World title after falling to the U.S. in last year’s title game in Toronto. 

This year’s game was held in New York, and it was the second-highest scoring final between the two teams. The U.S. won a world championship 7-5 in 2015. 

"Oh man, that feels good to win it on U.S. soil," Canada goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens said after the game. "We owed it to them and owed it to ourselves to win that one."

Canada also denied Knight a record 10th World Championship win, although she did become the most decorated player in women’s world championship history with 14 medals. After the game, Poulin gave Knight a hug on the ice. 

"We just said 'that was unbelievable,'" Poulin said.

U.S. coach John Wroblewski echoed the sentiment that it was an outstanding game after being asked about ending the game on a power-play after leaving too many players on the ice. 

"Instead of talking about the isolated events of tonight's game, I think that normally that's an interesting storyline,” he said. “But I think the entity of an amazing 6-5 game is an amazing hockey game that took place."

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