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The player behind Taylor Kornieck’s complicated position identity

Taylor Kornieck is on the verge of making the USWNT’s World Cup roster while also playing her second season with the San Diego Wave. (Daniela Porcelli/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Taylor Kornieck knows what her opponents see when she runs on the field. The San Diego Wave forward is the tallest field player in U.S. women’s national team history, an asset she uses to her advantage in aerial challenges in the midfield and towering headers in the attack.

“I do think that it’s something that no other team has, just a huge 6-1 girl running straight down the middle, and it’s a very dangerous thing to have,” she said with a smile before San Diego’s season opener, a 3-2 win over the Chicago Red Stars last weekend.

But her obvious physical attributes sometimes make it easy to overlook other skills she brings to the game, not least of which is a voracious desire to learn and improve.

At halftime of their season opener, the Wave found themselves knotted in a 2-2 draw in front of over 30,000 home fans. Head coach Casey Stoney had drawn her midfield up into a box formation for the game, with Kornieck at the top of the box. Teams have extensive scouting reports for a player like Kornieck, especially for late in a game when set pieces can make the difference. Against Chicago, the Wave’s midfield approach began to stretch the Red Stars’ defense late in the match, helping Alex Morgan draw a penalty and score the game-winning penalty kick in the 89th minute.

“I think when Kornieck’s in the game, you’re almost stupid to not play to her strengths, because what she does is so special in our game,” Chicago Red Stars head coach Christ Petrucelli said after the opener.

But what those strengths are have been put under a microscope as the midfielder continues to make her case for the USWNT roster. An attacking midfielder for her club, Kornieck has been slotted in as a forward attacking midfielder, a defensive midfielder and, she says, sometimes even at center back when training with the U.S. The juggling act makes it harder to get a clear picture of a talented player who has yet to reach her ceiling.

Kornieck’s ascension to the USWNT began with a fresh start in 2022, just two years into her professional career. A standout at the University of Colorado, Kornieck was selected third in the 2020 draft by the Orlando Pride, highly touted not only for her physicality but her ability to progress play with the ball at her feet. The season that followed was not what Kornieck — or anyone else — expected. Weeks into preseason, the NWSL canceled their regular season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and held the first-ever Challenge Cup as a stopgap tournament.

But the Pride didn’t get a chance to participate. Players tested positive for COVID right before the tournament was set to begin, making travel to Utah impossible for the group.

Without a real rookie year, Kornieck played her first regular season with the Pride in 2021 and grew more unsure Orlando provided the trajectory she wanted for her career. She registered two goals and three assists as the Pride lost head coach Marc Skinner to the WSL’s Manchester United midseason and finished eighth out of 10 teams.

“I didn’t really have the greatest year,” she says. “I just knew deep down I could strive to be so much better than how I was playing there.

“I think I don’t even look back at Orlando anymore, because I just know that that truly wasn’t me. Now I’m starting to sprout here and really blossom in who I want to become.”

Kornieck finished with three goals and three assists for the second-place Wave last season. (Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

As San Diego began roster-building for the first time, Kornieck immediately saw the expansion club as a good fit for her, and worked with her agent to make a trade out West a reality. The new club presented not only a chance for her to move closer to home in Las Vegas, but also to grow into the player she knew she could be with the right guidance.

“I felt like in Orlando, I mean, even in college, I really didn’t get the opportunity to learn truly and, and learn properly from — I had great coaches, don’t get me wrong — but I just felt like in a professional career, you just need a little bit more,” she says.

The 24-year-old found that guidance under Stoney, who led the Wave to third place in the 2022 regular-season standings and the semifinals of the playoffs, marking the best finish by a first-year expansion side in NWSL history.

The process begins in training.

“She gives us the space to feel free to make mistakes, and I think that’s something that’s not really taken that seriously at other clubs,” Kornieck says. “Mistakes are what make you grow.”

Providing the space to make mistakes is an intentional approach by Stoney, who says she did a lot of listening in her first year as an NWSL coach to understand what players coming in from other clubs needed in a training environment.

“I listened about their experiences and what they had previously undergone with other coaches, and mistakes were not allowed,” Stoney says. “The consequences were huge, the way that they would get almost screamed at and disciplined if they did make mistakes.”

Stoney’s approach has given her players the freedom to make the occasional risky pass, a skill Kornieck showcases with the ability of a veteran. She plays an attacking role in the midfield for the Wave, sitting right underneath Alex Morgan, who was also a teammate in Orlando.

“I think she has more of a clearer idea of what is expected of her from Casey,” Morgan says. “Which I think really helps her a lot in inner confidence, and knowing exactly what she needs to do on and off the field.”

Kornieck credits her first season in San Diego for helping her tighten up her positioning in space, which then allows her to focus on receiving and progressing the ball. When asked about her underrated strengths, she says she trusts her own vision in tight spaces, sometimes making the pass that no one else sees.

“I think it gives me more space in my brain to focus on other things,” she says.

Kornieckhas leaned on veteran Alex Morgan's guidance while adjusting to her many roles. (Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The ability to adjust her positioning has proven to be her greatest asset to the national team, where head coach Vlatko Andonovski has used the midfielder in many different roles primarily off the bench.

“Of course everyone sees her as one of the tallest players, if not the tallest field player, in the league, but what people didn’t maybe see until last year was just how good she is at her feet, and getting out of situations that most people wouldn’t be able to get out otherwise,” says Morgan.

As a No. 6 option at the international level, Kornieck solves problems through short passes, minimizing risk in dangerous areas and not playing the tricky ball she’s known for in the NWSL. Once again, she’s had to learn to adapt to wildly different roles based on the game she’s entering, but Kornieck approaches the challenge with the same desire to improve.

“I need to just focus on me as a player,” she says, “and knowing my characteristics as a player instead of a certain position.”

Playing for the USWNT, the No. 1 team in the world, comes with a certain amount of outside pressure. Kornieck relies on Morgan, a USWNT veteran, for guidance on how to adapt to two very different roles for club and country.

“I’m always just picking her brain on just any more information she could give me,” Kornieck says.

Defensive positioning and simple passing are her focused areas of improvement, but she’s eager to pick up the skills to become a more well-rounded player.

“If you teach me how to do that, and I get some of that in my game as well on top of playing that long ball, which I do feel really comfortable doing, I think you could create something incredible,” she says.

For the USWNT, Kornieck embraces being whatever type of player she’s asked to be, with the goal of making her first major tournament roster for the 2023 World Cup. With just one national team camp left before Andonovski names the roster, Kornieck has continued to get consistent call-ups, most recently for the April international window, and appears to be one of the young players close to achieving that goal.

For the Wave, the task at hand is simpler: generate attack, score goals and keep improving. The club isn’t happy to simply repeat their 2022 success; they want to win every trophy available to them this year and play more nuanced styles of soccer, which requires the consistent progress that Kornieck embodies.

“I’ve worked closely with Taylor now for a year, I’ve seen so much growth and improvement,” Stoney says. “And I want to continue on that streak with her, because I think her ceiling is very high, and there’s so much more growth to come.”

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

Two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas Re-Signs with Barcelona on Two-Year Deal

Alexia Putellas on the field for barcelona
The two-time Ballon d’Or winner has been with Barcelona for 12 years. (Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

Alexia Putellas has re-signed with FC Barcelona on a new two-year deal that will run through 2026. The agreement includes an option for a one-year extension. 

The two-time Ballon d’Or winner has been with Barcelona for 12 years, and her previous contract was set to expire next month. However, she’s spent the better part of the last two seasons battling injuries, starting with an ACL tear that kept her out of the 2022 UEFA European Women's Football Championship and limited her participation in Spain’s FIFA Women's World Cup win last summer. 

Putellas returned in March from her latest injury setback, making 25 appearances across all competitions for Barcelona this season and scoring 10 goals. 

In total, the midfielder has made 400 appearances for Barcelona. Among her 20 major trophies with the club include eight Liga F titles and two UEFA Champions League titles — including helping the team to its first European trophy in 2021. 

She then won the Ballon d’Or in back-to-back seasons in 2021 and 2022. 

Putellas could add a third Champions League trophy next weekend, when Barcelona faces familiar foe Lyon, a team they’ve lost to in two previous Champions League finals. Should they secure the UWCL, they would win the quadruple for the first time, having already won Liga F, the Copa de la Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. 

WNBA on Pace for Record-Breaking Season

onquel Jones #35 of the New York Liberty rebounds during the game against the Indiana Fever on May 18, 2024 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn
Indiana's game against New York on Saturday was the most-watched WNBA game to ever air on ABC. (Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

The WNBA continues its historic trajectory one week into the season, with attendance and viewership skyrocketing across the board. 

Indiana’s Saturday game against the New York Liberty was the most-watched WNBA game ever on ABC, drawing 1.71 million viewers. The Sparks vs. Aces matchup that followed became the third most-watched WNBA game broadcast on ABC with 1.34 million viewers.

On Monday, the tense finish between Indiana and Connecticut drew 1.56 million viewers to ESPN, the second most-watched WNBA game to ever air on cable.

Outside of the league’s viewership, both in-person attendance and merchandise sales have also been on a meteoric rise. On Saturday, the game between New York and Indiana shattered the single-game ticket revenue record in the WNBA, with the Liberty pulling in $2 million in sales. 

New York and Indiana played their home openers in front of more than 17,000 fans, with attendance up 14% year-over-year, according to the league. Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Aces, the Liberty, the Wings, the Dream, and others have already sold out of their 2024 season ticket allotments.

Since April’s WNBA Draft, revenue from the WNBA’s official online store is up 2,260%, already blowing past total sales for the entire 2023 season.

While the numbers may cool somewhat as teams settle into their seasons, the pop in demand has already overwhelmingly delivered for the WNBA in 2024.

Angel Reese Adds USL Team Owner to Growing Résumé

chicago sky rookie angel reese speaking at an event
Star rookie Angel Reese is all in on the USL Super League. (JC Olivera/Variety via Getty Images)

Chicago Sky rookie Angel Reese continues to add to her résumé, becoming the newest member of the DC Power Football Club’s ownership group

The No. 7 pick in the WNBA draft joins an group that includes the MLS team DC United as well as other DC-area community members and business owners. One of the USL Super League’s inaugural clubs, DC Power FC is set to begin play in August. 

"I want to help grow women's sports and elevate female athletes across the board," Reese, who's from Maryland, said in a statement. "We're taking over, and I'm honored to be able to support Power FC and invest in women's soccer in the DMV (District, Maryland, Virginia) community."

The USL is a sanctioned Division I league, meaning that it is on par with the NWSL and MLS in the United States. The league's eight current clubs are Brooklyn FC, Carolina Ascent FC, Dallas Trinity FC, DC Power FC, Fort Lauderdale United FC, Lexington SC, Spokane Zephyr FC, and Tampa Bay Sun FC.

DC Power FC will also be playing their home games in a familiar location: Matches will be hosted at DC’s Audi Field in partnership with MLS side DC United. Audi Field also home to the NWSL’s Washington Spirit.

"Angel's decision to be a founding investor alongside us in Power FC is groundbreaking," Jason Levien, DC United's CEO and co-chair, said in a statement. "As a Maryland native, Angel is so passionate about being a catalyst for positive change in women's sports in the DMV as well as globally while inspiring the next generation of female athletes. We're looking forward to her partnership in the boardroom as an equity partner."

It's been speculated that the Super League ultimately intends to compete outright with the NWSL. But in its first year, the league will focus on featuring the depth of women's soccer talent in the US.

Former NWSL players like Taylor Aylmer (Spokane), Jordyn Listro (Tampa Bay), Erika Tymrak (Tampa Bay), and Domi Richardson (Tampa Bay) have already announced a return to professional soccer via the USL.

The league is aiming to provide counter-programming to summer women's sports in the States, with a season running from fall to spring like the European calendar.

In a social media post, Reese said that she’s "grateful & blessed" to be part of the new ownership group. It’s the latest move in what has been a whirlwind spring for Reese, which included getting drafted, attending the Met Gala, signing a new partnership with Good American, and debuting with the Chicago Sky, among other achievements.

"Looking forward to creating new opportunities for women in professional soccer," she tweeted. "I’ve always had to desire to invest in a local team as a Maryland native!"

Reese is the latest female athlete to buy into a women’s sports team, joining the likes of Naomi Osaka, who owns a stake in the North Carolina Courage, and Serena Williams, who's part-owner of Angel City FC. 

Other pro athletes involved in women's sports team ownership include Patrick Mahomes, who shares ownership responsibilities of the Kansas City Current with his wife Brittany. Kevin Durant and Eli Manning are part-owners of Gotham FC, while NFL superstar Tom Brady is part-owner of the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces.

Nelly Korda Continues Unprecedented LPGA Run

LPGA golfer Nelly Korda poses with Mizuho Americas Open trophy
Nelly Korda took home the title at the Mizuho Americas Open on Sunday. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Nelly Korda continued her unprecedented LPGA run on Sunday, winning her sixth tournament in the last seven starts. 

The 25-year-old Florida native took home the title at the Mizuho Americas Open, becoming the first LPGA player to record six wins in a single season since 2013 — and that’s with three majors and a little over half the season left to play.

"Oh, my gosh, six," Korda said after the win. "I can't even really gather myself right now with that, the head-to-head that Hannah and I had pretty much all day. Wasn't my best stuff out there today, but fought really hard on the back nine."

Korda is just the fourth player on tour to win six times before June 1st, joining LPGA Hall of Famers Babe Zaharias (1951), Louise Suggs (1953), and Lorena Ochoa (2008).

Should her victory run continue, Korda could break the current record for single-season wins, currently set at 13 by Mickey Wright in 1963.

Korda ended Sunday's tournament one shot ahead of Hannah Green, finishing the 18th with a par putt to win it all.

"I mean, to lose to Nelly kind of like is — it's sad, but then it's also Nelly Korda," Green said of her second-place finish. "You know, like she's obviously so dominant right now. To feel like second behind her is quite nice. Unfortunately the bogey on the last has a little bit of a sour taste."

Next up is the US Women’s Open, a tournament that Korda has yet to win in her career. 

"Obviously it's on the top of my priority list," she said. "I just know there is never any good when you put more pressure on yourself. Just going to stay in my bubble that week and take it a shot at a time."

Earlier this year, Korda became the fastest player to collect $2 million in prize money over a single season. This latest win earned her an additional $450,000, bringing her season total up to $2,943,708.

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