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NWSL Week 6: Gotham FC and Washington Spirit reignite rivalry

(Roy K. Miller/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

The NWSL is back in action this weekend, with Gotham FC and the Washington Spirit highlighting the East Coast lineup, while Portland Thorns and Angel City face off in the West Coast’s marquee match.

Three Storylines To Watch

Gotham FC and the Washington Spirit continue their rivalry

Gotham FC and the Washington Spirit will reignite their rivalry Saturday, facing off at Red Bull Arena for their first regular-season matchup and third game of 2022.

There is no love lost between these two clubs after a Twitter feud erupted between Gotham and Spirit players following their Challenge Cup contest in March. The dispute started with Gotham goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris publicly criticizing Segra Field after the Spirit posted a video of Ashley Sanchez putting Ali Krieger on skates.

The social media call-out led to a back-and-forth between Harris and Washington star Trinity Rodman. The veteran goalie wrote, “Oh my bad… one camp in and she’s feeling confident hunny,” in reference to the USWNT rookie.

Rodman responded on the pitch, notching a brace in the Washington Spirit’s 3-1 win over the NJ/NY club in their second Challenge Cup battle.

Gotham FC will look to log their first win over Washington, capitalizing on home-field advantage while hosting a fatigued Spirit side. The Spirit have been dealt a grueling start to their regular-season schedule, but they should be a worthy opponent for Gotham, who have yet to deploy a consistent attack.

Can OL Reign maintain their run of clean sheets?

Solid defense doesn’t always elicit excitement, but this matchup between the Chicago Red Stars and OL Reign is one to watch, with both squads boasting stalwart defensive lineups.

USWNT star goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher has been stellar for Chicago, while Phallon Tullis-Joyce shines for OL Reign. With 24 saves in six games, Tullis-Joyce has allowed just four goals in the back of her net.

OL Reign enters Saturday’s game with four straight clean sheets and will look to continue their tidy defensive record against Chicago. Alana Cook anchors the Seattle backline, providing a sturdy presence in the center back position. Sofia Huerta has been critical for the club as well, contributing defensively while dominating the wings, recording two assists on the season.

Both sides’ defenses will be tested Saturday, as Mal Pugh is expected to get more minutes for Chicago and Rose Lavelle is coming into form for OL Reign.

NWSL turns focus to gun violence

The NWSL is turning orange Friday in recognition of National Gun Violence Awareness Day. To honor of the recent lives lost to gun violence and to call for change to address the crisis, the league is participating in the #WearOrange campaign.

The Portland Thorns will be encouraging fans to take action on gun violence during their home match against Angel City on Friday, a match that will also serve as a celebration of Pride month.

“While we celebrate Pride tomorrow, we grieve those who are unable to be here and have lost their lives to gun violence,” the club wrote in a statement, urging supporters to visit Everytown.org.

The Houston Dash and Orlando Pride both posted support of the Wear Orange movement ahead of their matchup, putting the issue of gun violence at the forefront.

National Gun Violence Awareness Day comes after a series of mass shootings, including the Robb Elementary shooting in Uvalde, the shooting at a Buffalo grocery store and the shooting at a Tulsa medical center.

Week 6 Schedule

  • Houston Dash vs. Orlando Pride, Friday at 8:30 p.m. ET on Paramount+
  • Portland Thorns vs. Angel City, Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET on Paramount+
  • Chicago Red Stars vs. OL Reign, Saturday at 3:00 p.m. ET on Twitch
  • Gotham FC vs. Washington Spirit, Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on Twitch
  • Racing Louisville vs. North Carolina Courage, Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on Paramount+
  • Kansas City vs. San Diego Wave FC, Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET on Paramount+

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

Despite fans launching a Change.org 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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