All Scores

JWS’ NWSL midseason awards: Mallory Pugh, Casey Stoney shine

Chicago’s Mallory Pugh is currently third in the Golden Boot race with six goals. (Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports)

With the end of July looming, three months of the NWSL regular season are already in the books and only two remain.

As the league dives further into the second half of the year, Just Women’s Sports is handing out midseason awards for the players and coach who have stood out so far. The San Diego Wave earn two nods, and five teams are represented in total across the six awards. Three NWSL newcomers also get a shoutout.

This list excludes our selection for midseason MVP, which we’ll name Friday from a list of frontrunners. Here we go.

Offensive Player of the Year

Mallory Pugh, Chicago Red Stars

After being named an NWSL MVP nominee last season, Mal Pugh’s impact on the Red Stars has only increased. She’s currently third in the Golden Boot race with six goals and has also contributed two assists. Of her 22 shots so far this season, 19 — or 86 percent — have been on target.

But it’s not just her scoring abilities that make her one of the best players in the league. Pugh has a dribble success rate of 76 percent, and defensively, she wins 67 percent of her tackles and has registered eight interceptions.

Defensive Player of the Year

Naomi Girma, San Diego Wave FC

Naomi Girma, 22, makes everything look easy. The rookie’s transition from college to the pros has been seamless. She looked to veteran and fellow center back Abby Dahlkemper for guidance when first joining the Wave in February, but when Dahlkemper was ruled out for a number of games due to COVID-19 and broken ribs, Girma had no trouble leading the backline line on her own. Playing every minute of the season so far, the 2022 No. 1 pick has displayed a level of composure on the ball well beyond her years and is completing her passes with 84 percent accuracy.

Goalkeeper of the Year

Phallon Tullis-Joyce, OL Reign

When she’s not debating with teammate Nikki Stanton about whether mermaids are real, Phallon Tullis-Joyce is between the posts making people’s jaws drop. Her name was hardly known coming into the 2022 season; she played just one minute as the backup goalkeeper her rookie year. Since she took over the starting spot, Tullis-Joyce’s calm demeanor and on-field leadership have quickly made an impact on the sixth-place Reign. In 12 games so far this season, the goalkeeper has recorded an impressive 83.3 save percentage, six clean sheets and 45 saves.

Rookie of the Year

Savannah DeMelo, Racing Louisville FC

The 2022 rookie class is particularly strong. Savannah DeMelo has been one of the many first years turning heads since the very beginning of the season. The midfielder is confident on the dribble and quick to capitalize on opponents’ mistakes. The fourth overall pick has also proven to be the most lethal player in the NWSL when it comes to scoring off free kicks, having buried a league-high two already this year. To add to that, she’s registered another goal and an assist for Racing Louisville.

Most Improved

Taylor Smith, NJ/NY Gotham FC

From the Courage bench to the waiver wire to a valued member of Gotham FC, Taylor Smith has had a rollercoaster of a season. After playing no more than 45 minutes in four of five games with North Carolina, she parted ways with the club in June and signed with Gotham two days later. There, the 28-year-old has made an instant impact.

In three games in New Jersey, Smith has registered four shots on goal in 219 total minutes, compared to the zero she had with North Carolina. She scored the game-winner in a 2-1 win over Racing Louisville in just her second match with the club while also playing as the lone starting forward. Gotham coach Scott Parkinson has repeatedly expressed how happy he is to have her with the team.

Coach of the Year

Casey Stoney, San Diego Wave FC

To get a team to the top of the table is one thing. To keep them there is another. To do all of that with an expansion team is superhuman, and yet that’s exactly what Casey Stoney has achieved through the first 13 games of the season since coming to the NWSL from the FA Women’s Super League.

The coach’s on-field strategy has been executed to plan, her impeccable timing with substitutes has led to goals on multiple occasions, and she treats her players with the care they haven’t always received from coaching staffs elsewhere. Stoney is intentional about never blaming poor results on the effort of her players, creating a nurturing environment that allows for mistakes and generates success.

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

The Women’s Cup Finalizes 2024 Tournament With Chile’s Colo Colo

Patricia Padium (L) of Brazils Audax/Corinthians, vies for the ball with Claudia Soto of Chile's Colo Colo during the Women Copa Libertadores final match
The addition of the Chilean side rounds out the Cup's four-team field. (FAVIO FALCON/AFP via Getty Images)

The Women’s Cup field has been finalized, with Chilean club Colo Colo joining the four-team field. 

Colo Colo will join Racing Louisville of the NWSL along with Italy's Juventus and Brazil's Palmeiras at Lynn Family Stadium in Louisville from August 9th through 13th. 

The tournament will have a $100,000 prize pool.

"We are honored to have Colo-Colo as the first Chilean Team to play in The Women’s Cup," said J.P. Reynal, CEO of The Women’s Cup, in yesterday's press release. "Women’s soccer has seen exponential growth in South America and having two of the best teams in the region participating in this year’s tournament is proof they can compete with the top teams from Europe and the United States."

"We are pleased to be considered in this important championship for women’s soccer and very proud that Colo-Colo is one of the most important exponents of this discipline in Chile," echoed Enzo Caszely, president of women’s football at Colo-Colo. "As a club, we have been pioneers in its professionalization at a national level, and this instance is proof of it."

Juventus and Colo-Colo will square off on Friday, August 9th at 5 PM ET followed by Racing Louisville and Palmeiras at 8 PM ET. Tickets can be purchased now via both The Women's Cup's and Racing Lousiville's websites.

This is Racing Louisville's third time featuring in the competition. The team won The Women's Cup's first iteration in 2021, beating German side FC Bayern in penalty kicks at Lynn Family Stadium. The Seattle Reign claimed The Women's Cup in 2022.

The Kansas City Current will also host a Women’s Cup tournament from August 14th through the 17th. The winners of each 2024 tournament will then face each other in the Global Series Finals, scheduled for February 2025.

PWHL Draft Spurs Controversy for League Champs Minnesota

pwhl draft first pick Sarah Fillier
PWHL New York kicked off the 2024 PWHL Draft by selecting Princeton's Sarah Fillier No. 1 overall. (PWHL)

The 2024 PWHL Draft took place on Tuesday, with Princeton and Canadian national team forward Sarah Fillier going first overall to PWHL New York. 

New York also added two defenders and a goaltender, as well as three forwards to make seven solid additions to next season's roster. 

But it was first-ever PWHL champions Minnesota that created the most buzz, with the draft happening just three days after they announced the abrupt departure of general manager Natalie Darwitz following a league review. 

With the 10th overall pick, PWHL Minnesota took Team USA forward Britta Curl. Fans immediately took to the internet to voice their concerns, citing Curl's social media activity. In the past, Curl had "liked" posts on X that targeted the LGBTQIA+ community, particularly transgender individuals. Her activity also showed support for Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old Wisconsin man who fatally shot three unarmed people, two fatally, during a 2020 Black Lives Matter protest.

When asked about the pick — and whether or not he had consulted with any members of the LGBTQIA+ community prior to making the pick — PWHL Minnesota coach Ken Klee opted to defend Curl.

"Did I speak to anyone from the community? I talk with players, with coaches. That’s tough to answer for me," Klee said. "I spoke with a lot of different people. I mean, at the end of the day, I was told she’s a great teammate, a great person. She’s obviously a great player."

The team also had PWHL Minnesota assistant coach Mira Jalosuo, who is married to a woman, announce the pick.

"We have people in that community and obviously Mira making that selection for us, I think that speaks volumes for us," Klee added. "We were just trying to pick the best players available. I wouldn’t want anything to take away from any of those players' experience. It’s unfortunate a little bit at the beginning, but again, it’s okay. People are entitled to their opinion."

Washington Mystics Snap 12-Game Losing Streak

Brittney Sykes #20 of the Washington Mystics shoots the ball during the game against the Atlanta Dream during the 2024 WNBA Commissioner's Cup game on June 11, 2024
Washington guard Brittney Sykes returned from injury Tuesday night to post a game-high 18 points. (Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Washington Mystics snapped a team-record 12-game losing streak on Tuesday, taking home their first win of the season over the Atlanta Dream. 

Brittney Sykes returned from injury and made an immediate impact with game-high 18 points, four assists, and three rebounds. As a team, Washington shot over 50% from behind the arc.

"The feel is it's been coming," coach Eric Thibault said after the game. "I said the other night that we're turning into a good basketball team and we just haven't had the wins to show for it yet. We've been playing better basketball now for a while.

"We're obviously shooting well, but I think the quality of the shots we're getting is really good."

Still, the team’s slow start isn't exactly in the rearview mirror. With star forward Elena Delle Donne sitting this season out, the Mystics were always predicted to face an uphill climb in what has been described as a rebuilding year. 

But with a franchise-worst 0-12 record to kick off the 2024 season, the Mystics are likely on track for a lottery pick. However, Washington can point to positive performances from star draft pick Aaliyah Edwards and league newcomer Julie Vanloo.

Elsewhere in the WNBA, the Las Vegas Aces continued their skid with a surprising 100-86 upset courtesy of the Minnesota Lynx. The reigning WNBA champions were shorthanded this week, falling to 5-5 on the season despite MVP-level play from A'ja Wilson, who scored 28 points in Tuesday's loss.

Minnesota shot over 55% as a team, with Alanna Smith leading the team with 18 points. The game marked the Aces' first three-game losing streak since 2019.

"This is a long, long, long season," Wilson said in her postgame remarks. "I'm not going to press the panic button. I'm still going to bet on us. I know exactly what's in that locker room."

Aces stalwart Chelsea Gray has been out with injury since last year's WNBA Finals run. And while she told reporters on Tuesday that she's set to return before the Olympic break, the team can’t get her back soon enough as they continue to struggle with depth. 

"I don't want them thinking too much; then you get paralysis [by] analysis," coach Becky Hammon said. "We're just not being solid in our base. Just be solid defensively. We're not a very good team right now, that's just reality. But we know we can get better. I still have a lot of belief in this ball club."

USA Women’s Basketball Releases Olympic Roster, Explains Clark’s Omission

USA Women's Basketball's Diana Taurasi #12, Brittney Griner #15 and Sabrina Ionescu #6 at April's National Team Training Camp
All the players tapped for this year's Olympic roster have senior national team experience. (Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

USA Women's Basketball announced its official Olympic roster on Tuesday, with officials noting that Caitlin Clark’s lack of national team experience played a key role in her omission.

Selection committee chair Jen Rizzotti said that the committee evaluated players according to a set of on-court criteria they were given.

"When you base your decision on criteria, there were other players that were harder to cut because they checked a lot more boxes," she told reporters on Tuesday. "Then sometimes it comes down to position, style of play for [coach Cheryl Reeve] and then sometimes a vote."

Three first-time Olympians made the squad: Alyssa Thomas, Sabrina Ionescu, and Kahleah Copper. Additionally, Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum will make the switch to the national 5-on-5 team after winning gold in the inaugural 3×3 competition at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. 

Age, Rizzotti said, was "never brought up" in player selection discussions. It’s the first time in Olympic history that a USA Women’s Basketball 5-on-5 team will travel to the Games without a single player under 26 years old.

Rizzotti commented that all the players tapped for this year's Olympic roster have senior national team experience, something that Clark does not have.

"She's certainly going to continue to get better and better," USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley added. "Really hope that she's a big part of our future going forward."

Rizzotti said it would have been "irresponsible" to base roster decisions on anything outside of a basketball context. Marketing and popularity were not on the selection committee’s list of criteria. 

"It would be irresponsible for us to talk about her in a way other than how she would impact the play of the team," Rizzotti said. "Because it wasn't the purview of our committee to decide how many people would watch or how many people would root for the US. It was our purview to create the best team we could for Cheryl."

Clark expressed that she'll be using what some consider a snub as fuel for a run at the 2028 Olympic team. 

"I think it just gives you something to work for," Clark told media after practice Sunday. "It's a dream. Hopefully one day I can be there. I think it's just a little more motivation. You remember that. Hopefully when four years comes back around, I can be there."

Watch more: "Were Caitlin Clark and Arike Ogunbowale snubbed?" on Expert Adjacent

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