All Scores

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.

Esme Morgan Signs With Washington Spirit

Esme Morgan of England inspects the pitch prior to the UEFA Women's EURO 2025 qualifying match between England and France
The England national will join the Spirit in DC on July 15th. (Naomi Baker - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

English defender Esme Morgan has signed with the Washington Spirit, the club announced Thursday. 

Morgan had been with WSL side Manchester City since 2017, with one year remaining on her contract. She’ll now make a move to the NWSL, with City receiving a fee for the move. 

"I wanted to join the Spirit because they have the ambition and tools to be the best team in the NWSL, and trying to achieve that will be a great but enjoyable challenge," Morgan said in a club statement.

"On an individual level too, the opportunity to work under Jonatan [Giráldez], one of the world's best coaches, is really exciting and I look forward to learning from him and pushing myself to become the best player I can be, hopefully helping the team to success."

According to ESPN, Morgan’s lack of playing time under City manager Gareth Taylor played a key role in her decision to leave the league championship runners-up. She’ll join the Spirit in Washington, DC on July 15th, but won’t be able to begin play until August. 

Spirit president Mark Krikorian called Morgan an "exceptional talent" and added that the club is "thrilled" to add her to the roster.

"I think she’s pretty talented," Giraldez told reporters on Friday. "A young player with a great future, but with experience already in a great league and with the national team. She’s been surrounded by great players and also great coaches, so she can give us experience."

Ledecky Goes for 4 at Olympic Swimming Trials

Swimmer katie ledecky swimming at Toyota US Open
Decorated swimmer Katie Ledecky is aiming to make her fourth-straight Olympic squad. (Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

The US Olympic Swimming Trials begin this weekend, running from June 15th through June 23rd in Indianapolis, with Katie Ledecky eyeing her fourth-straight Summer Games.

While traditionally held in Omaha, Indiana's Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, has been fitted with a 50-meter pool to host the meet that will determine the 2024 Paris Olympics roster.

All eyes will be on seven-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky, who will be competing in the 200-meter, 400-meter, 800-meter, and 1500-meter freestyle — all events in which she’s been an Olympic champion. 

Rival Ariarne Titmus had her trials last week, breaking the world record in the 200-meter freestyle. Ledecky’s 200 is intended to qualify her for the Olympic relay. Meanwhile stateside, Katie Grimes stands to be a challenger in the 1500-meter freestyle has already qualified for the Paris Olympics in the 10km open water event.

Other competitors of note include 47-year-old Gabrielle Rose, who stands to become the oldest US Swimming Olympic qualifier in the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke.

Additionally, Kate Douglass — an NCAA and World Champion — is a favorite to make her first Olympic team in the 200-meter IM and 200-meter breaststroke. Simone Manuel, an Olympic champion in the 100-meter freestyle, is also looking to make her third-straight Olympics.

Where to watch: The Trials will be streaming all week on Peacock, with later qualifying heats airing live on USA Network and event finals airing in primetime on NBC.

Orlando and Kansas City Shoot for 13 in NWSL Weekend Action

NWSL's T. Chawinga #6 of the Kansas City Current passes the ball during the first half of their game against the Utah Royals FC
The Kansas City Current hopes to extend its NWSL unbeaten streak to 13 with a win over Chicago. (Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

The 13th match weekend is fast approaching in the NWSL, with two season-long unbeaten streaks on the line.

League-leaders Kansas City and Orlando will attempt to survive the weekend with their unbeaten runs intact, as the Current host Chicago on Friday and the Pride travel to North Carolina for Saturday's match.

But while Kansas City and Orlando have been the gold standard this year, they're still a number of wins away from tying Washington's record for longest unbeaten streak in a single NWSL season. In 2021, the Spirit went 20 games without a loss en route to the club's first NWSL championship.

Both Gotham and Louisville are carrying momentum into their matchup on Saturday. Louisville is unbeaten in three games, and they’re looking to finally leapfrog Chicago and claim sixth place in the league standings. Gotham, on a seven-game unbeaten run, is into fifth place.

Portland and Seattle will face off in the Cascadia Clash this weekend, with Golden Boot contender Sophia Smith absent, as the decorated forward was shown a red card last weekend for time-wasting on the bench.

The Reign could use a win against their long-time rivals, as a difficult start has 13th-place Seattle registering only two wins amid nine losses so far this season.

Elsewhere in the league, 2024 expansion teams Bay FC and Utah meet for the first time this weekend, as both look to rise from the bottom half of the standings. And Washington will ride a four-game winning streak into Saturday's game against a San Diego side that's earned two hard-fought draws in recent weeks.

Watch more: "Sophia Smith is INNOCENT!" on The Late Sub with Claire Watkins

WNBA All-Star Voting Starts on June 13th

Phoenix Mercury mascot Scorch waving a 2024 WNBA All-Star flag at a 2023 home game.
Phoenix Mercury will host the 20th-annual All-Star Game on July 20th, 2024. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Voting for the 2024 AT&T WNBA All-Star Game opened at 2 PM ET today and runs through June 29th.

All active WNBA players are eligible to make the All-Star Game, set for July 20th in Phoenix. Unlike previous formats that featured two voted-in All-Star squads, this year’s contest pits a single All-Star team against the already-decided Olympic-bound USA Women’s National Team.

Fans can submit a daily ballot nominating up to 10 athletes via WNBA.com or the WNBA App.

Fan-submitted ballots account for 50% of vote, with the other 50% split equally between current WNBA players and members of the media. The top 10 athletes will automatically make the All-Star Game, with league coaches then voting from a pool of the next 36 to complete Team WNBA’s 12-player roster. The final lineup will be announced on July 2nd.

This year's All-Star Game format presents an opportunity for fans to vote for players they might consider Olympic snubs. Indiana rookie Caitlin Clark and Dallas’s Arike Ogunbawole seem like shoo-ins given the discussion surrounding their Olympic omissions, while Connecticut stars Brionna Jones and DeWanna Bonner are also expected to snag All-Star nods.

And after a career-high 20-point, 10-rebound double-double in last night’s 83-75 loss to the Sun, Chicago rookie Angel Reese could also secure a spot.

Regardless, it won't necessarily be smooth sailing for Team USA, as history has tended to favor the underdog. 

The first USA vs. All-Stars matchup took place in 2021, with the league’s squad humbling the Tokyo Olympians 93-85. With 26 points, Ogunbawole was named All-Star Game MVP after barely missing the Olympic cut. Could she and Clark turn the tables on Team USA this year?

Watch more: "Were Caitlin Clark and Arike Ogunbowale snubbed?" by Expert Adjacent

Start your morning off right with Just Women’s Sports’ free, 5x-a-week newsletter.