Women’s soccer took over the globe this past week, with six tournaments in the FIFA window. Amid the chaos of flipping between channels and live streams, it was perhaps easy to forget that NWSL training camps were rolling on, despite many teams missing players on international duty.
Throughout the week, clubs brought in new staff members, players found out about the U.S. women’s national team’s equal pay settlement and teams made progress in their on-field tactics.
Rest assured, we’re here to catch you up on what you might have missed this past week in the NWSL.
Orlando Pride coaches Amanda Cromwell and Michelle Akers, both former USWNT players, were not convinced their multitude of young players fully grasped the context of the national team’s equal pay resolution with U.S. Soccer. So, after the deal was announced on Tuesday morning, they went home to celebrate.
“Hallelujah, it’s about time,” Cromwell said.
“‘Hell yeah,’ that was my reaction,” said Akers, later adding, “Beers are on me. It’s so exciting.”
Akers, a 1991 and 1999 World Cup champion and regarded as one of the best women’s soccer players of all time, was a part of the USWNT’s initial movements in the fight for equal pay. In 1995, Akers and a group of other veteran players rejected their contracts from U.S. Soccer and sat out of the training camp leading into the 1996 Olympics.
Called into the same camp, Cromwell was one of the younger players at the time, fighting for a spot on the national team roster.
“We’re asking our fellow teammates like, ‘What do you want us to do?’” she said. “It was really scary for some of us like, ‘What do we do in this situation? How do we fight with you, but also maintain our position to be on this team?’”
Cromwell recalled the team agreed to respect every player’s decision, recognizing they were all on the same page about pushing for higher salaries. Having recently come across a handful of her USWNT contracts from the ’90s, Cromwell said the low numbers were “shocking.”
“It would be really interesting for people to see that,” she said.
Standing on the Pride’s training grounds in Sylvan Lake Park in Sandon, Fla., where Akers used to train with the national team, the now 56-year-old said it’s been rewarding to see how much the conditions of the locker rooms and offices have improved since she was a player.
“I’m just so excited and thrilled and have such respect for the fight of every single player, and to stick with it for so many years, especially this last group,” Akers said.
🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼 24 million times! https://t.co/BPhxopCr5G— Amanda Cromwell (@Cromwell_Coach) February 23, 2022
🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼 24 million times! https://t.co/BPhxopCr5G
Chris Petrucelli was announced as the Chicago Red Stars’ new head coach on Friday following what Chief Business Officer Vicky Lynch said was a long and careful search process.
In the wake of multiple allegations of emotional abuse and sexual misconduct against former Red Stars coach Rory Dames, Petrucelli said he’s focused on creating a positive and supportive environment where players can feel safe and unafraid to make mistakes.
“When you talk about any organization that includes athletes, the athletes always come first,” Petrucelli said on Tuesday. “The players, for me, are more important than anything else, and I view my role as a support role. I don’t view my role as a person in a position of power or things like that. I view my role as trying to help players reach their goals, try and help the team reach their goals. I work that way.
“I work with the players. Players don’t work for me.”
After a season of reckoning in the NWSL, during which multiple coaches were ousted over accusations of abuse and the commissioner resigned, Petrucelli wants to come into 2022 with a forward-thinking mindset. He expressed his commitment to support the players “in their dreams and desires” both on and off the field.
Coming to work in the NWSL was an easy decision for Petrucelli, who won a national championship as coach of the Notre Dame women’s team and was a two-time winner of the National Coach of the Year award.
“When you sit back and talk to the players, and you see the quality of the people that you have here, I think any coach would want to come work for them,” he said.
Chris Petrucelli Named as the new Red Stars Head CoachWelcome to Chicago, @cpetrucelli! 📰 https://t.co/9CONA1klBt pic.twitter.com/XRyrieUQ8u— Chicago Red Stars (@chicagoredstars) February 18, 2022
Chris Petrucelli Named as the new Red Stars Head CoachWelcome to Chicago, @cpetrucelli! 📰 https://t.co/9CONA1klBt pic.twitter.com/XRyrieUQ8u
Similar to many NWSL teams this year, the Kansas City Current are navigating preseason with a lot of new players and staff members.
Head coach Matt Potter, hired in early January, applauded the team’s veteran leadership for helping build the Current’s identity and leading the way for the younger players, seven of whom are first-timers in the NWSL.
“That type of group who have experience in the league and on these types of stages have been instrumental in allowing those new players to express themselves in a manner that they’re getting to show their talents, too,” Potter said.
The Current, who debuted as an NWSL expansion team last season and finished last in the league, have recently begun working out their big-picture tactical strategy for 2022, such as their defensive and possession structures.
“I feel that we’re making progress,” he said. “We’re trying to focus on the behavior we want to see, and in doing so, it has a great vibe to it. The camp has had a really good kind of energy, and that’s what I would applaud, but that’s been player-led for sure.”
Kristen Hamilton, 29, said the veterans were reminiscing recently about the different NWSL teams they’ve played on together, a familiarity that’s already shining through in their on-field chemistry. Before arriving in Kansas City, Hamilton was teammates with Lynn Williams, Sam Mewis and Hailie Mace on the North Carolina Courage from 2017-21, and before that with Kristen Edmonds on the Western New York Flash.
“We’ve been pretty comfortable with everyone gelling together,” Hamilton said.
Jessa Braun is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.