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NWSL schedule: Outlining the playoff stakes for every match

The Portland Thorns are going for the NWSL Shield. (Craig Mitchelldyer/USA TODAY Sports)

The NWSL’s playoff push is coming down to the wire, with the NWSL Shield and two postseason spots still on the line heading into the final weekend of competition.

The Portland Thorns, OL Reign, Kansas City Current and San Diego Wave all have clinched playoff berths, while the Houston Dash, North Carolina Courage, Chicago Red Stars and Angel City FC are in contention for the remaining two postseason slots.

The Thorns, OL Reign and Current, meanwhile, will be battling it out at the top of the standings for the NWSL Shield.

San Diego Wave FC vs. North Carolina Courage

10 p.m. ET Friday on Paramount+

The Courage hold their playoff fate in their own hands. A win against the Wave would be enough to send them to the postseason.

If the matchup between the Courage and the Wave ends in a draw, then North Carolina would need the Red Stars to lose or tie their game against Angel City FC in order to clinch a playoff berth.

For San Diego, which has already clinched a postseason spot, a No. 2 seed is on the line.

If the Wave win and OL Reign and Kansas City both lose or tie, then San Diego would secure a bye to the semifinals.

NJ/NY Gotham FC vs. Portland Thorns

6 p.m. ET Saturday on Paramount+

The Thorns enter Saturday’s matchup against Gotham FC in first place, one point clear of OL Reign.

A win, which appears likely over Gotham, a team riding a 12-game losing streak and 488-minute scoring drought, would clinch the NWSL Shield for Portland

Should the Thorns lose or tie, the club would have to wait on the results of the Current’s and OL Reign’s matches to know their fate.

Portland, however, is guaranteed at least a top-three finish, with its league-leading goal differential of plus-25.

Washington Spirit vs. Houston Dash

7 p.m. ET Saturday on Paramount+

The Dash can secure a playoff spot with a win or draw against the Washington Spirit. If the Dash lose, they could still squeak into the postseason if the Red Stars win but fail to make up their goal-differential discrepancy with Houston. Entering the weekend, Houston is plus-7, while Chicago is plus-4.

The Spirit, on the other hand, are out of playoff contention and may rest players set to join the U.S. women’s national team on its European swing next week.

Kansas City Current vs. Racing Louisville

7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on Twitch

Kansas City will look to pull off a worst-to-first jump, with the NWSL Shield in reach just one season after the club finished last in the league.

The Current have a difficult path, however, needing a win against 10th-place Racing Louisville as well as a Thorns loss and an OL Reign loss or draw.

At third in the NWSL standings, Kansas City will also be looking to maintain their ranking to lock up a home postseason opener. If the Current lose, the club could fall as far as fifth with a San Diego win or tie and a Houston win.

OL Reign vs. Orlando Pride

10 p.m. ET Saturday on Twitch

OL Reign has its sights set on the Shield but will need some help. The Seattle club would lock up the league title with a win coupled with a Thorns loss or draw.

Riding a five-game unbeaten streak, OL Reign’s chances against the Orlando Pride, who already have been eliminated from playoff contention, look promising.

No matter what happens through the final weekend of competition, OL Reign is guaranteed to finish in the top four.

Chicago Red Stars vs. Angel City FC

6 p.m. ET Sunday on Paramount+

Depending on how Friday and Saturday’s games go, both the Red Stars and Angel City may be eliminated from playoff contention ahead of their Sunday matchup.

ACFC will rely on a North Carolina loss to stay alive. If the Courage fall, Angel City can advance to the postseason with a win.

Should North Carolina lose or play to a draw with the Wave, the Red Stars can secure a playoff spot with a win. If Houston loses, the Red Stars also could advance with a win depending on goal differential.

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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