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After suicide attempt, Taylor Smith finds long-term home with Gotham

HARRISON, NJ – JULY 02: Taylor Smith (20) of NJ/NY Gotham FC shoots during the second half of the National Womens Soccer League game between NJ/NY Gotham FC and the Chicago Red Stars on July 2, 2022 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Taylor Smith felt helpless.

In a short period of time, the soccer star suffered an ACL tear, was cut from the U.S. women’s national team and went through a break-up.

Smith joined Snacks co-hosts Sam Mewis and Lynn Williams on Snacks for Mental Health Day last week to chronicle that period of her life and her ongoing battle with depression in hopes of helping others who find themselves in similar situations.

“Anything that could go wrong went so wrong,” she told them. “I had such a hard time coping with it. When I was in it I felt so frustrated, but now I look back and see that I needed to have more empathy for myself.

“I genuinely felt that there was nothing in this world that was going to make me happy.”

Eventually, Smith felt that she couldn’t cope anymore. The trauma and mental health issues she’d battled since childhood took over her mind, and Smith attempted to take her own life.

Smith ended up in the hospital and continued to struggle with suicidal thoughts. And while they haven’t gone away completely, through therapy, Smith has learned how to cope with the depression that’s controlled her for so long.

“I felt like I was in survival mode for 25 years,” the 28-year-old forward said. “It was just exhausting, and you can’t thrive when you are in that state of mind.”

These days, Smith is thriving. She’s learned to take time for herself and carve out a routine that brings her joy. She loves walking her dogs, journaling and chatting with friends. When Smith was deep in her depression, she says that she neglected her relationships.

“You can only treat people as good as you feel,” she said.

Now, she feels good, and because of that, Smith has been able to pour more energy into her relationships with her friends and with herself.

“I wasn’t healthy so I didn’t want to open up and be vulnerable,” she said. “My coping mechanism was to isolate and be super self-sufficient.”

As Smith has learned to open up, she’s also found peace on the soccer field once more. After being cut by the USWNT, Smith was in what she calls “a bad situation” with the North Carolina Courage, a team coached by Paul Riley despite his firing from the Portland Thorns following an investigation into abusive conduct.

Now, she’s found a home for the next three seasons.

Gotham FC announced on Monday that it had re-signed Smith to a three-year contract, keeping her in New York/New Jersey through the 2025 season. Acquired off of waivers in June, Smith went on to play 18 games for Gotham, recording two goals and one assist in 15 starts.

“From the first day I arrived this summer, I’ve enjoyed every second of being a part of Gotham FC,” Smith said in a press release. “I feel valued here and cannot wait to continue to make a positive impact. I wholeheartedly believe we will build off our last performance and make everyone proud next year. The team, the fans, the city and community are second to none, and I feel so honored to be able to call this home the next three years.”

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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