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Dash’s Sophie Schmidt ‘up there in MVPs’ after resilient season

Sophie Schmidt celebrates her first-half goal in the Dash’s quarterfinal loss to the Current. (Erik Williams/USA TODAY Sports)

It was a “Holy Schmidt” kind of moment. Literally.

Connecting on a one-timed, left-footed volley off a corner kick at the back post, Sophie Schmidt blasted the ball into the back of Kansas City’s net to score the equalizer for the Houston Dash in their NWSL quarterfinal match at PNC Stadium on Sunday.

1-1.

It was Houston’s first playoff goal, in their first playoff game and in front of the largest crowd in Dash franchise history. In fact, the 21,284 fans in attendance marked the second-biggest crowd for women’s professional soccer in the state of Texas.

The goal came less than 20 minutes after Kansas City’s Lo’eau Labonta buried the game opener from the penalty spot in the fifth minute.

Schmidt admitted after the match, which Houston ended up losing 2-1 in the final minute of stoppage time, that she was supposed to be a part of the group of players in the six-yard box crashing toward goal to receive the corner, but she had a gut feeling the ball would get knocked further. So, she held her run.

Kansas City goalkeeper AD Franch got a hand on the ball, but it fell to Schmidt. What transpired from there felt like slow motion.

“It was bizarre,” the three-time Olympic medalist said. “I was like, ‘Heeere I comeee,’ and I was like, ‘Left-footed volley, don’t hit it over.’ So that was the process in my brain. I was like, ‘Ohhh,’ but as soon as it left my foot, I was like, ‘I hit that well,’ and then it just took a little ricochet and then and I was like, ‘Oh, this is amazing.’”

The goal was the highlight of an impressive performance by Schmidt, a double-sided six who started dangerous attacks while also making key interceptions in Houston’s defensive third. The game exemplified the form the Canadian has shown all year as one of the Dash’s most reliable players.

On Just Women’s Sports’ shortlist of 2022 NWSL MVP nominees, Schmidt, who originally joined the NWSL in 2013 with Sky Blue FC, came into the quarterfinal with a career-high four goals and an assist from the regular season.

“I think Sophie, obviously I’ve said already in a few interviews, should be a candidate for the MVP of the league,” said Dash interim head coach Juan Carlos Amorós.

Midfielder Marisa Viggiano describes her teammate as world-class.

“I think she’s totally proved that this season and definitely should be up there in MVPs,” she said. “That’s Sophie. She’s going to put her head down and go to work everyday no matter what, for the good of the team. I can’t speak more highly of her.”

Just last year, Schmidt was excluded from Canadian national team coach Bev Priestman’s original 18-player roster for the Tokyo Olympics. Listed as an alternate instead, she ended up on the team only when Olympic roster sizes expanded to 22 players. Even then, Schmidt was limited to playing one game in Tokyo.

“I think taking the news that I was going to be an alternate to the Olympics was probably the hardest hitting thing I’ve ever heard,” she reflected on Sunday.

The news shocked the rest of Canada, too. With over 200 caps at the time, Schmidt had been a big part of Canada’s two bronze medals in 2012 and 2016.

At 33 years old, Schmidt took a step back and asked herself if she wanted to continue playing. If so, she had to throw herself into it wholeheartedly. She figured she had only a few years left, and no room for regrets.

But at the beginning of the 2022 season, Schmidt’s impact in the midfield was in doubt. James Clarkson, who was suspended as head coach in April at the recommendation of the NWSL and NWSLPA’s joint investigation into discrimination and abusive behavior, was considering playing her at center back instead.

“I think, because my role and opportunities were questioned, it made me very focused in, and I think also I became more free on the field somehow,” Schmidt said. “I feel like I’m playing my best soccer in this moment. I feel alive on the field.”

Schmidt ended up starting all 18 of the games she appeared in for the Dash this season. Amorós praises the midfielder’s ability to organize play, drive into the final third and defend opposing attacks.

“She’s instrumental in the way we do things,” Amorós said. “She’s worked so well and for me, it’s a pleasure to have someone like Sophie on my team.”

Schmidt helped lead the Dash to their winningest season in the team’s nine-year history. They earned a franchise-record 10 victories, including a league-high seven road wins. And despite playing two fewer games than in five of their previous seven regular seasons, the Dash still managed to set a club record with 36 total points.

As Dash players answered questions from the media after Sunday’s heartbreaking quarterfinal loss, they took time to reflect on their special season and the possibilities ahead, with Schmidt’s lesson in resilience guiding the way.

“Playing with Sophie this year has been probably one of the greatest moments of my career,” Viggiano said. “I look up to her in so many ways, not only as a player but as a person. I think she has really allowed me to play a little bit more free.”

Jessa Braun is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.

Clark, Martin Square Off in First Pro WNBA Matchup

Kate Martin #20 of the Las Vegas Aces and Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever look on during the game
Things looked a little different Saturday night as the former Iowa teammates went head-to-head in Las Vegas. (Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images)

Former Iowa teammates Caitlin Clark and Kate Martin shared the court once again on Saturday, this time as professionals.

It was Martin’s Aces that got the 99-80 win over Clark’s Fever in Las Vegas. The pair's former coaches Lisa Bluder, Jan Jensen, Jenni Fitzgerald, and Raina Harmon were all in attendance to watch their Hawkeyes — Clark, Martin, and former national player of the year Megan Gustafson — take the court.

"It’s super special. It’s cool for our program, cool for Lisa, for Coach Jan, for all of them," Clark said in a pregame press conference. "They’ve known me since I’ve been 13 years old and now I’m 22 getting to live out my dream and they’ve been a huge part of that and helping me get here and helping Megan and Kate to get here too. It’s a great moment for them and I’m sure they’re not complaining about a trip to Vegas."

As for her college teammate, Clark had nothing but good things to say ahead of the showdown. 

"I’m just really happy for her and everything Coach [Becky] Hammon says about her is so true," she said. "Every person that played at Iowa and was around her knows that to be true. She’s the ultimate teammate, ultimate person, ultimate leader."

In the end, Martin stole the show with 12 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes, while Clark amassed eight points, seven assists, and five rebounds over 29 minutes of playing time. 

"It was weird," Martin admitted after the game. "I'm not going to lie — just looking out on the court and seeing her in a different jersey than me, it was obviously different. But it's really fun. We're both living out our dreams right now."

The Aces next meet the fever on July 2nd at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Barcelona Beat Lyon to Win Back-to-Back Champions League Titles

Barcelona's Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas celebrating after beating Lyon at the 2024 Champions League final
Ballon d'Or winners Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas helped Barcelona to a second-straight UWCL title on Saturday. (Ramsey Cardy - Sportsfile/UEFA via Getty Images)

Barcelona was crowned champion of the Champions League on Saturday with a 2-0 win over Lyon in Bilbao.

Alexia "La Reina" Putellas, who recently re-signed with Barcelona, came off the bench to score the team's second goal. Fellow Ballon d’Or winner Aitana Bonmatí provided the team’s first. After the game, defender Lucy Bronze said Putellas was nicknamed "the queen" for a reason.

"Alexia is the captain of the team and she's the queen of Barcelona for a reason,"  defender Lucy Bronze told DAZN. "She's got the quality to do that in the last minute of the Champions League final when we were up against it at the end and it just sealed the win for us. It was amazing."

The victory marked Barcelona's first win over Lyon in a UWCL final, having previously gone up against the French side at both the 2019 and 2022 Champions League finals. It's also Barcelona's second Champions League title in a row.

"It's hard to win it once, but to do it back-to-back, Lyon showed how difficult it is and this team has finally done that," Bronze said. "I think we go down in history as one of the best teams in Europe."

This season, the team also secured a quadruple for the first time in club history, having already won Liga F, the Copa de la Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. The win ensures that coach Jonatan Giráldez — who has officially departed the team to join the NWSL's Washington Spirit — leaves Europe a champion.

"It was an incredible game. I am really happy, it's one of the best days of my life for sure," Giráldez told broadcaster DAZN after the game. "We did an amazing job. I am very proud of all of them."

Following the win, Putellas said her team "can't ask for anything else."

"Our objective was to win four out of four," the Spain international told reporters. "We have achieved everything we wanted. Every minute of sacrifice has been worth the effort — and I'd say that not after the game, but before, just entering in the stadium, with all the support we had here, it was worth it."

2024 Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Aitana Bonmatí said that the crowd support made it "feel like Camp Nou."

"I am on cloud nine right now," she said. "It is an historic day which we will remember forever."

Sun’s Alyssa Thomas Ejected After Flagrant 2 on Sky Rookie Angel Reese

Angel Reese said there were "no hard feelings" stemming from Alyssa Thomas's flagrant foul. (Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Angel Reese might have gotten knocked down on Saturday, but she got right back up again. 

Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas was ejected from the Sun’s 86-82 win over Chicago following a flagrant foul 2 on Reese — the first of her career. While the two were battling for a rebound, Reese took a clothesline hold around the neck courtesy of Thomas before hitting the ground.

After the game, Reese told reporters that there were "no hard feelings" and she appreciated Thomas for playing her hard beneath the basket.

"I know she purposely probably didn’t do it towards me," Reese said. "But just being able to come out there and just be strong and stand on two feet, it was going to be a tough game and that’s what I’m built for. And my teammates had my back throughout the whole game. So I was prepared for it."

She also didn’t buy into the idea that it was a "Welcome to the WNBA" moment, but thanked Thomas "sending a message" because it helped her get back up and "keep pushing."

"It’s not just because I’m a rookie. I’m a player. I’m a basketball player. They don’t give a damn if I’m a rookie. I mean, I want them to come at me every day. I want them to come at everybody," she added. "I mean, they’re not supposed to be nice to me. I hope y’all know that. They’re not supposed to be nice to me or lay down because I’m Angel Reese or because I’m a rookie."

Reese finished the game with 13 points, five rebounds, and two assists over 33 minutes.

Barcelona to Face Lyon in Champions League Rematch This Weekend

UEFA Women's Champions League Final"Barcelona FC - Olympique Lyonnais"
Saturday's game will be the third UWCL final meeting for Barcelona and Lyon, having previously gone up against each other in 2019 and 2022. (ANP via Getty Images)

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off in Bilbao on Saturday, with a couple of familiar foes set to face off for the trophy.

Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, making its 11th final appearance since 2010, will go head to head with a Barcelona side making its fourth final appearance in a row.

This will be the third time these two teams meet in the UWCL title game, having previously appeared in the 2019 and 2022 finals. Lyon won both of those prior games against Barcelona, alongside a total of eight Champions League trophies. That’s double that of any other club, with Eintracht Frankfurt coming in a distant second with four. 

Should Barcelona win, this would be the team's third title — breaking a tie for the third in the UWCL total titles race. 

But as these teams return to the UWCL final, it also marks the end of an era for both clubs. The game will be the last for both club managers, as Barcelona’s Jonatan Giráldez and Lyon’s Sonia Bompastor depart for new jobs after the season's end.

Giráldez is set to leave for the NWSL's Washington Spirit, while Bompastor will take over for incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes at Chelsea. Both coaches have earned one UWCL trophy during their tenures, while Bompastor also brought two Champions League trophies to Lyon as a player. She was the first coach to win a UWCL trophy as both a coach and player.

This season, Barcelona is looking for its first quadruple, having won a fifth Liga F title alongside the Copa de La Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. 

"We hope he can go out with the four trophies because we know how competitive and ambitious he is," Barcelona midfielder Patri Guijarro told ESPN. "It has been a winning era with him in charge and for him to go out with all four trophies would be historic and incredible."

But Lyon's Damaris Egurrola is excited about her team's chances of overcoming Barcelona once again — and to do it in front of family and friends.

"Lyon have something special," she told Forbes ahead of the weekend's final. "We have a great team and we have the players with enough talent to win any match."

The game will be a homecoming for Egurrola, who began her professional career with Athletic Bilbao.

"I’ve been thinking of this day and night," she said. "I’ve been dreaming of playing this match. Having the opportunity to play in San Mames is amazing. This is where it all started for me."

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off Saturday, May 25th at 12 PM ET and is free to stream on DAZN.

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