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Sally Yates discusses most ‘troubling’ findings of NWSL investigation

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Following the release of Sally Yates’ lengthy report investigating misconduct within the National Women’s Soccer League, Yates and U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone addressed the findings in separate press conferences Monday.

Both agreed that while the report focused significant energy on three coaches — Christy Holly, Paul Riley and Rory Dames — the issues within the NWSL weren’t limited to those coaches or the organizations that employed them. Instead, Yates found the incidents of verbal abuse, emotional abuse and sexual misconduct to be systemic rather than isolated to specific teams.

“Our investigation over the past year has revealed a league in which abuse was systemic,” Yates said. “Verbal and emotional abuse and sexual misconduct occurred at multiple teams and was perpetuated by several coaches, and affected many players. We also found that these issues were not unique or new to the NWSL.”

Yates went on to say that misconduct among several coaches dates back to prior professional leagues and, in some cases, to the youth level.

She also emphasized the importance of listening to players and not writing anyone off as being “overly sensitive.”

“We are talking about sustained, degrading and manipulative conduct that was all about power, not about enhancing a player’s performance,” Yates said.

Holly, Riley and Dames were at the center of the investigation, but Yates said she was unable to look into every team and coach at that same level because “we were mindful of the fact that this investigation could not go on forever.”

“It’s been almost a year to the day since we were retained, and in order for there to be both transparency and accountability, and to be able to put in place the changes that need to happen, this investigation needed to end,” she said.

More investigations will follow, including those conducted by the NWSL and the NWSL Players Association, Cone said. She also said U.S. Soccer plans to follow up with Yates to obtain more information about other coaches and organizations that need to be looked at further.

According to Cone, she and U.S. Soccer received the report at the same time as it was released to the public, so they have yet to address many of the concerns brought up by Yates.

Cone, however, did reference the initial report by Meg Linehan of The Athletic, which detailed allegations of sexual coercion and emotional abuse against Riley and, she says, set Yates’ investigation into motion.

“There are steps we haven’t taken yet in the recommendations because we can’t do it unilaterally. We need a broader input,” Cone said about implementing changes based on the new findings. “And also, we don’t want to say we are ‘going to do this or that,’ without having an implementation plan.”

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Former Racing Louisville coach Christy Holly was fired for cause in August 2021. (Joe Robbins/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Cone did say that Holly, Riley and Dames no longer hold coaching licenses with U.S. Soccer.

That change is long overdue, according to Yates. During her 30-minute press conference with members of the media, Yates discussed the issue of the NWSL simply shuffling coaches around the league when players reported misconduct, rather than actually addressing the concerns.

Often, she said, these coaches were allowed to silently move from team to team, taking their abusive practices with them.

“The reasons for their departures were covered up in misleading press releases that often thanked the departing coach for his service,” Yates said. “All while those in a position to do something about it both at the league and federation, stood by and did nothing.”

Racing Lousivlle did not address the reason for its firing of Holly last year, stating on Aug. 31 that he was “fired for cause.”

When questioned, Racing Louisville’s Executive Vice President of Development James O’Connor — who is now the organization’s president — addressed whether Holly’s termination was linked to any legal wrongdoings.

“I don’t know whether I’d say illegal,” he told reporters at the time. “I don’t know. That’s a sensitive viewpoint … I plead the fifth. I’ll take the attorney line on that.”

U.S. Soccer’s report Monday revealed that Holly was accused of groping and sexually assaulting Racing Louisville player Erin Simon on multiple occasions.

When Dames resigned as coach of the Chicago Red Stars last November, the club issued a press release that reflected the cover-up concerns Yates addressed.

The release, which detailed Chicago’s acceptance of his resignation, included a quote from Dames.

“For 11 years, I have dedicated myself to help build the Chicago Red Stars into one of the top international clubs,” he said. “Effective today, I’m refocusing my attention to my family and future endeavors, and I am resigning as coach of the Chicago Red Stars. I’d like to thank the Chicago Red Stars organization, the fans and the players who I have had the opportunity to work with in their professional soccer careers. I look forward to watching the Chicago Red Stars and the NWSL continue to grow and evolve while supporting their players.”

The Red Stars organization praised Dames in the release, applauding the consistent play of the club during his tenure.

“Under Rory’s leadership we have been a remarkably consistent and excellent club on the field,” the release said. “We continually evaluate our team and front office environment, and given the dynamic change underway in the league, it is time to begin the next chapter of the Red Stars with a search for new leadership of the team.”

That press release went out less than a day before more details about his departure from the organization came to light, in a Washington Post article written by Molly Hensley-Clancy.

In addition, Yates discussed her concerns that the Portland Thorns, Chicago Red Stars and Racing Louisville all hindered the investigation with various levels of non-compliance, despite outwardly expressing to the public that they were cooperating fully with the investigation.

“We found the pushback that we did receive from some of the teams to be troubling and inconsistent with public statements of their desire to get to the bottom of this,” Yates said. “But we were also respectful of the joint investigation being conducted by the NWSL and the PA, and the fact that they’re going to be looking at this and the fact that the NWSL has the authority to be able to address coaches and coaching misconduct and discipline.”

Cone said that she didn’t think it was “constructive” to talk about individual owners or executives at this point, referring to a question asked about the teams that did not participate fully in the investigation.

“I think the report shows that we have systemic issues beyond one individual,” she said. “Do I wish that everyone had cooperated in the investigation? Of course.”

She also added that further decisions regarding those organizations aren’t entirely up to U.S. Soccer.

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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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