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Paige Monaghan Talks Being a Hometown Kid and the Upcoming Fall Series

Paige Monaghan/ JWS
Paige Monaghan/ JWS

Paige Monaghan is a forward for Sky Blue FC of the NWSL. Ahead of the NWSL’s Fall Series, we sat down with her to talk about training and competing during a pandemic, representing New Jersey as a ‘hometown kid’, and what to expect from Sky Blue FC over these next few months.

Almost a year ago last week, you recorded two goals to beat Chicago and cemented yourself as one of the league’s rising stars. Can you talk a little bit about what your first season as a professional athlete was like?

Thinking back to my rookie year, I always knew I could fit in and I also knew I could thrive, but it’s one of those things where you’re trying to get your feet wet. You’re trying to figure out to the point that you ask yourself, “Do others believe in me? More importantly, do I believe in myself? What matters? What doesn’t?”

And I think that Chicago game was that moment of showing what I can do, what I’m going to do, and what I’m determined to do. For me, it just gave me the confidence to show that I can score in games and not just in practice. Looking back, my rookie year was definitely all about getting my feet wet, but also showing me that I need to have this inner confidence to thrive in the NWSL.

So your rookie year comes to a close, and right as you’re about to head into your sophomore season, the world pauses and the NWSL season is postponed. Can you talk about your mindset when all of that happened and what it was like to train and prepare during a pandemic? 

Yeah. It’s kind of crazy to think back on this year for both Sky Blue and myself. I think we built momentum towards the end of last year. And then in the offseason, I was super determined. I got invited to National Camp with U-23s and then I got invited to the ID camp. It was like all of the pieces were coming together, and I was getting recognized for my accomplishments and play, but then obviously, as everything was happening with COVID, there was a lot of uncertainty and it looked like we weren’t going to have a season at all.

I just tried to make the most of what I had while training at home. Sky Blue prepared us well and we had our online workouts, Zoom calls, meetings, and all of that stuff. I also took a page out of our assistant coach Becca Moros’ book and made my own FootyBoard since I couldn’t physically work with her. I’d practice with that in my backyard with my dog, run in my neighborhood, do hills, and stuff like that. Basically did whatever I could from home.

Initially, there was a lot of uncertainty. Like, what are we doing? Is this actually going to happen? We’re going to Utah for what? In a bubble? But at the end of the day, I knew that no matter the circumstance, I wanted to be the best version of myself and the best soccer player I could be. So I had to dig deep and really looking at myself and say, “Okay, am I going to make an excuse and sit on the couch, or am I going to make the most out of this?”

I’m also very fortunate to have my family throughout all of this. Some days honestly sucked, but they would always be there to hilariously cheer me on, even during some of those tough sprint workouts up and down my street. So, having their support plus a really hard look at myself, I knew that at the end of the day, I just wanted to be better.

So after a few months of isolated training, you head off to Utah for the NWSL Challenge Cup. What was life like for you when you got to the bubble? 

We had pretty strict protocols to follow. Every day felt a little Groundhog’s Day-y, but it was like, wake up, temperature check, symptoms check, meals together, go to training, come back, meals again, meetings, dinner, bed. And then sometimes there were games, but that was basically it, over and over.

Bubble life honestly felt a little dorm-like, a bit like college, which honestly, I enjoyed and I think our team did a really good job just making the most of it. We all were on the same floor together and we would hang out, watch a lot of Netflix, watch NWSL games, watch MLS games, host ping pong tournaments, and doing pretty much anything we could. I’m more of a relaxer and FaceTimed some family and friends, but yeah, the bubble was interesting. We really only went from the hotel to the soccer field because they wanted to guarantee our safety. We couldn’t go out for coffee, all of our meals were catered, but really we just hung out and shared a lot of meals together. That’s kind of the simple answer because there really wasn’t a lot going on.

Safety was the priority, so ‘simple’ is definitely a positive in this situation. 

Right, right. I think other leagues had different things. I know some of the MLS guys, they went golfing. We didn’t have that. Our bubble was just our hotel. And it was funny because when you would go to training, you’d see other teams and it was almost like summer camp because you’re like, “Hi!” to your friends, but you only can wave and you can’t hug each other. But yeah, we liked hanging around the coffee truck. That was our time to mingle.

Aside from hotel bubble life, there was also a tournament to compete in. Can you talk us through what Sky Blue’s expectations were going into this Challenge Cup? And now that it’s over, what are the takeaways? 

We had big plans for this year, especially after last year and how we wanted to play. We had people who wanted to be here. We made some awesome trades. And we had all of these people who really wanted to buy into us, our team, staff, and the whole organization.

But again, it was like everything we wanted to do, we had to do in a short span. So we went in committed to who we wanted to be and how we wanted to play. We wanted to keep the ball and just stick to our game. And even though we didn’t score a lot of goals, which as a forward is frustrating because you’d love to score four goals a game and walk away, we were committed to just play how we wanted to play, and I think coming out of this tournament, this was a big building block for us.

I didn’t walk away from the tournament thinking we played our best soccer ever, but I also didn’t leave saying that we were trying to be someone we weren’t. We stuck with who we wanted to be, how we wanted to play and I think that’s just a good addition going forward for whatever’s next to come. We’ll build on that, and one point of emphasis will be scoring goals.

Most definitely. This tournament was truly a test given during the direst of circumstances. So regardless of the outcome, this is something you’ll all look back upon and can really be proud of. 

Definitely. And honestly, I hope we can do it again in some way or form, which sounds so weird because going into it, I did not think I’d ever say that again, but it really was a gritty tournament and just taught me a lot. It taught our team a lot, too.

Thinking back, I had some interviews there and people were like, “Oh, you guys aren’t scoring goals.” But it’s almost like if you think of Sky Blue last year and how we got better over time, you saw that watching us in March versus October was like watching two completely different teams. So, given that we had to perform in such a short time, I’d say that we’re all very proud of what we put together and I’m just really excited for our team moving forward.

So you said you’d be down for a Bubble: Round 2? 

Totally. Maybe Hawaii for the next one would be fun. I mean, they did a great job putting this together, but maybe next time we can be by a beach or something more of my style.

Switching gears, playing for Sky Blue definitely hits home for you as one of the local kids on the roster. So as a ‘Jersey girl through and through’, can you tell us what it’s like to play for your home state and what it will be like to play in front of them at Red Bull Arena?

Looking back at last year and being able to play at Rutgers and at Red Bull Arena, it’s definitely surreal. I think Jersey people are Jersey. I know that sounds silly, but I think there’s a lot of pride in living in New Jersey and for women’s sports in New Jersey, and I’m honored to be a part of it.

It was really cool to see so many younger fans, people from my hometown, and people who watched me when I was younger come up after games and say that they can’t believe that I’ve grown into this woman and that I’m playing for this club. I’m just so honored to be one of the hometown kids for Sky Blue and I always have such a fun time playing here in New Jersey.

Ideally, I hope to do this for as long as I can. Jersey people are just… Jersey! I know that sounds funny, but only it’s something that only Jersey people would really understand.

The team recently returned to training. What has that been like after the mini-break following the Challenge Cup?

It’s kind of funny. Once we got back and saw each other again, we were like, “So what’s been new?” because we went from living together for over a month to then not seeing each other at all. Honestly, I think everyone needed some time off just to decompress, reflect. But training has been good. The energy and commitment that this group has, even with all of the injuries and overseas loans, has been amazing. I’m really excited for our whole team to be back together. We’re all so committed to getting better and I think everyone really wants to put in the work, wants to learn, wants to grow, and is excited for whatever comes next.

Next up, you’ll be heading into this Fall Series with a few games slated for this season. What are your expectations for this mini-season? 

We have some great games to play against Chicago and Washington and expect to use them as another building block to show who we are at Sky Blue. Even though some of our players are abroad or hurt, we still expect to play our game at the same level we brought to the Challenge Cup.

The bubble had a lot of games in a short amount of time, whereas this is more spread out. This time around, we will also have more time to actually train and prepare for teams. I’m looking forward to playing games with my teammates because I know how hard we all have been training, on and off the field. So it’s really exciting to just put on my uniform and head to battle with them again this fall.

Looking even further, what are some of your goals for 2021 as you look towards year 3?

So, I am a big goals person. I have my lists for what I do every day, what I need to get done, and what I want to accomplish. But for going forward, I really want to make an impact with Sky Blue, I want to make an impact in the NWSL, and I want to be wearing that US crest. So, I have a lot to do before then and I’m just so excited to grow and develop as a player.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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