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Racing Louisville FC Takes Christen Press and Tobin Heath in Nwsl Expansion Draft

After an action-packed 14 draft selections in the NWSL Expansion Draft, Racing Louisville FC is out of the starting gates with an actual roster. The final two selections made the most noise, when club president Brad Estes announced that the team was selecting the rights to U.S. national teamers Tobin Heath and then Christen Press.

The two forwards with extensive USWNT experience are currently playing for Manchester United through the 2021 season, which ends in May. Neither Heath or Press were protected by their NWSL clubs, the Portland Thorns and Utah Royals, in the draft, making their rights available for Louisville to acquire.

“We feel very good about tonight,” said Louisville coach Christy Holly on the Twitch broadcast. “There was a lot of decision making that went into it, a lot of homework, research, and conversations with coaches within the league, past players, and national team members so we felt we had a real good insight into what each player brought.”

Both Utah and Portland will gain $75,000 in allocation money because one of their allocated players was taken. While the future for Press and Heath is unknown, the decision could have vast consequences for both the upcoming trading period and the 2020 college draft. If Racing had not selected either, the club would have been given $150,000, which it could have used on the top pick of the draft. Catarina Macario of Stanford is the runaway favorite to be taken first overall, if she declares.

The Thorns left all three of their keepers unprotected, which left many fans speculating that one would surely be taken. Instead, because Louisville opted to take Heath from Portland, a U.S. allocated player, it could not take anyone else from the Thorns, leaving Racing to select Katie Lund and Michelle Betos as keepers.

Lund has been learning behind Aubrey Bledsoe with the Washington Spirit, while Betos has considerably more playing experience with seven seasons in the league, most recently with OL Reign, and is also a former Goalkeeper of the Year in the NWSL.

The first player off the board was defender Addisyn Merrick, who made eight appearances for North Carolina in 2020. In last year’s college draft, she was the 28th overall pick, but boosted her standing through her play this season.

Louisville also stacked its defense with Julia Ashley, the sixth pick in the 2019 draft. After a near nine-month recovery from a back injury she suffered while playing with Adelaide United in Australia.

While Alanna Kennedy is currently playing on loan in Tottenham from the Orlando Pride, Louisville selected the versatile Australian center back. Houston Dash’s Erin Simon was also selected and is a player that Holly coached previously with Sky Blue. The final defender taken, Kaleigh Riehl from Sky Blue, is also on loan right now with Paris FC. Riehl holds the NCAA Division I record for minutes played by an outfield player during her four years at Penn State.

One of the surprises was Jennifer Cudjoe — not that she was chosen by Louisville, but that she was available at all. After making the team through an open tryout, Cudjoe played in nine games for Sky Blue with seven starts in the midfield. Now, she’s heading to Louisville.

North Carolina’s midfield was poached with the selection of Lauren Milliet, who showed off her quality in both the Challenge Cup and Fall Series. The most used sub of 2019, Cece Kizer, was taken by Louisville as well. Currently, she is on a loan to Kolbotn IL but had previously signed a two year deal with the Dash.

Louisville also added pieces before the draft even started. Chicago sent over Yuki Nagasato and Savannah McCaskill to Louisville in exchange for full protection. The Red Stars also had to give Louisville an international slot in 2021 and 2022 and the fifth overall selection in the 2021 college draft. This now seems to have been a steep price, given how many of its players a team like Portland was able to keep.

Both Nagasato in the midfield and McCaskill on the front line will add a lot to their lavender and midnight violet club. Nagasato is one of the premier setup players in the league and will have an impressive front line with which to work.

In addition to Press and Heath, Caitlin Foord’s rights were taken by Louisville. The Australian with World Cup experience is currently playing for Arsenal, but her speed and experience were too much to pass up, even if it is not a guarantee that she will ever play in Lynn Family Stadium. Foord joined Arsenal in January and signed a two and a half-year deal with Arsenal, where she has contributed four goals and five assists in six league games.

Katie McClure, who made six appearances for Washington after being drafted 23rd overall, is an exciting forward. She will join her former Kansas teammate Merrick in Louisville.

Louisville also signed Cheyna Matthews, a forward who plays for the Jamaican national team, before the draft.

On the podium during the broadcast, Leigh Nieves of the supporter group Lavender Legion spoke about how she was “excited to have players to root for.”

Holly was also happy with the players that were selected and the research that went into the process. Overall, the team was looking for players that were “hungry” and “high caliber” even if they were unproven in the league. Louisville also opted for both positional and experience balance, with “players that align with what we’re trying to do culturally.”

The draft only marks the beginning of the craziness, as the trade window officially opens Friday.

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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