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The Top 10 Goals of the NWSL Challenge Cup

BRYAN BYERLY/ISI PHOTOS

The NWSL’s Challenge Cup provided fans with a number of electric goals as soccer made its triumphant return. With the tournament officially concluded, we’re looking back at our top 10 scores. 

 

10. GROOM HITS A BULLET

Shea Groom’s shot is the definition of a banger. Receiving the pass from Houston Dash teammate Katie Stengel, Groom absolutely hammers the ball into the upper 90 of the back post. Her exceptional goal helped Houston to tie the Utah Royals 3-3 in preliminary play.

 

9. SOMEONE GIVE LAVELLE A ROSE

Rose Lavelle drives forward, slipping in a dangerous ball to her teammate, Ashley Hatch, who had made a diagonal run into the box. Although Hatch isn’t able to finish, Lavelle follows up and roofs her shot, giving the Washington Spirit their first goal of the tournament in a 2-1 defeat to the Chicago Red Stars. Name one thing Lavelle can’t do. We dare you.

 

8. GET THE BALL TO LYNN WILLIAMS

Lynn Williams used the Challenge Cup to cement her reputation as one of the league’s premier strikers. Here, she resiliently runs through a slide tackle on the flank and continues to dribble straight to goal. Cutting in front of her defender, Williams finds the perfect angle for a shot, and finishes with nothing but class, leading Carolina to a 2-0 victory of Washington.

 

7. MEWIS’ GOAL IS PICTURE PERFECT

You couldn’t have scripted this goal better if you tried. After intercepting a risky ball played out wide, Houston’s Brianna Visalli feeds a slip ball into Shea Groom, who cleverly rolls it back to Kristie Mewis. The Dash midfielder hits a spectacularly driven ball into the side panel of the goal, helping the future tournament champions edge OL Regin 2-0 in group play.

 

6. WEAVER TELLS THE REIGNING CHAMPS TO PACK THEIR BAGS

Rookies aren’t supposed to make game-winning goals look easy, but no one seems to have told that to Portland’s Morgan Weaver. Cutting in from the back post, Weaver beats her defender and places the ball just outside the reach of Carolina’s goalkeeper, earning the Thorns a 1-0 victory over the two-time defending champs. Not a bad way to start your career.

 

5. STAAB EQUALIZES WITH A CHEEKY PLAY

We swear these kids get younger everyday. A backheel flick from the winner of the NWSL’s Future Legend award Ashley Sanchez sets her second-year teammate Sam Stabb up to head the ball over Portland’s defense into the back of the net. Staab’s first NWSL goal gave her team the extra point it needed to tie the Portland Thorns 1-1 versus their third game of the tournament. Watch out for this pair of players down the line.

 

4. KAWASUMI SHOOTS HER SHOT

Nahomi Kawasumi excels at playing a short-sided game, but she also can hit the long-ball when needed. She launches this rocket from 40 yards out, catching Houston Dash’s goalkeeper Jane Campbell off her line. Kawasumi’s goal doubled Sky Blue’s lead, securing a 2-0 against the eventual Challenge Cup champs Houston Dash

 

3. SHEA GROOM, YOU’RE CLEARED FOR TAKEOFF

Tournament MVP Rachel Daly hits a total bomb, finding her teammate Shea Groom back post. An unmarked Groom takes flight, defying gravity to head the ball home in Houston’s 2-0 win against Ol Reign. ‘Groom airlines is now boarding group A. We repeat, Groom airlines is now boarding Group A.’

 

2. LINDSEY HORAN. ENOUGH SAID.

Lindsey Horan is an absolute Queen. After teammate Meghan Klingenberg hits a dinker off a free-kick, Horan’s diving header just brushes the goalkeeper’s fingertips before finding the back of the net. Horan’s score helped the Thorns tie the Spirit 1-1, and was eventually voted the play of the tournament. We might politely disagree, but we’re certainly not surprised.

 

1. GROOM PUTS THE DAGGER IN

Houston’s Rachel Daly plays a flawlessly weighted through-ball ahead to her teammate Shea Groom, who pushes straight to goal, touching the ball past Alyssa Naeher before putting the game away. Groom’s stoppage-time goal doubled Houston’s lead against Chicago in the Challenge Cup final, solidifying H-town’s victory and giving the Dash their first major title.

Caitlin Clark dunks on Michael Che in surprise SNL appearance

(Julia Hansen/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Caitlin Clark made a surprise appearance on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend, which quickly went viral.

The Iowa star showed up on the show’s Weekend Update segment to playfully call out Michael Che’s history of making jabs at women’s sports.

It started when Che joked that Iowa should replace Clark’s retired No. 22 “with an apron.” 

When Clark entered, Che said that he was a fan. But Clark wasn’t convinced – especially not when co-host Colin Jost brought the receipts of Che’s jabs.

“Really, Michael? Because I heard that little apron joke you did,” she said, before making him read some jokes of her own in retaliation. Clark finished her segment by shouting out the WNBA greats that came before her. She then got in one final dig – bringing Che a signed apron as a souvenir. 

When Che promised to give it to his girlfriend, Clark delivered her last playful dig of the night.

“You don’t have a girlfriend, Michael,” she said.

Afterward, SNL castmember Bowen Yang told People that the 22-year-old and teammates Gabbie Marshall, Kate Martin and Jada Gyamfi – who joined her at Studio 8H – “were so cool.”

“She's so charming and witty,” Yang said. “They were just the most stunning, noble people.

“Athletes just have this air about them. They know they're amazing. I mean, these are people who have numeric attachments and values to their performance. That's something that comedians never have.”

Portland Thorns, in uncharted territory, start NWSL season winless

Portland has started the season winless through four games for the first time. (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)

The Portland Thorns continue to struggle to start the NWSL season, falling 2-0 to the North Carolina Courage over the weekend to remain winless through their first four games. 

It’s uncharted territory for Portland, who has never started the NWSL regular season without a win in four games before.

Following the loss, defender Becky Sauerbrunn voiced her frustrations with the start. 

“It’s hard to find a lot of encouraging things, but what I find encouraging is that people are frustrated,” she said. “People are pissed off that we’re not doing well. We care, and I think that’s really important.” 

She also added that while the team will reflect individually, “there’s going to be no finger pointing.”

“We’re going to look at ourselves and figure out what we should have done, or I should have done better,” she said. “There is a list of things that I could have done better, and I’m going to make sure I know every single thing and watch this game back.”

The Thorns currently sit at the bottom of the league table with just one point, having allowed 10 goals – tied for the worst in the league. They’ve yet to lead in a match. And as questions grow, attention turns to head coach Mike Norris. 

Norris is in his second year as head coach of the club after leading the team to a second-place finish in the regular season last year. When asked about the possibility of pressure growing after the unprecedented start, Norris said that the pressure has been there “from day one.”

“I cannot be driven by my day-to-day and the longer vision of the pressure of the job,” he said. “We’ve got a belief in how we want to play, how we operate. We’ve got to stick with the process of that. While we do it, we have to review and see what is working, what’s not working.

“I’ll be showing up for the team and being there for what they need from me as we approach getting back together as a group next week.”

Maria Sanchez reportedly requests trade from Houston Dash

Mar 23, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Dash forward Maria Sanchez (7) warms up before the match between Racing Louisville and Houston Dash at Shell Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Maria Sanchez, who signed one of the biggest deals in NWSL history just four months ago, has reportedly requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

ESPN was the first to report the news, which was confirmed by multiple sources.

In a statement to ESPN, the team said: “​​Maria Sanchez is under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the Dash worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. At the time, it was the largest contract in NWSL history – something that was eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

The winger was a restricted free agent in the offseason, meaning that Houston could match any offer from another team and retain her rights. Should the team trade Sanchez, her contract would remain as it has been signed with the league. That limits the number of teams that could take on her contract. 

In three starts with the Dash this season, Sanchez has zero goals and an assist. The Dash are 1-2-1 through four games and have allowed a league-worst 10 goals.

The team hired a new coach, Fran Alonso, in December. Earlier this year, former goalkeeper coach Matt Lampson was fired for violating the league’s Coach Code of Conduct and Anti-Fraternization policy. 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close at midnight ET on Friday.

Canada beats U.S. Hockey 6-5 in thrilling World Championship win

UTICA, NEW YORK - APRIL 14: Team Canada raises the Championship Trophy after winning The Gold by defeating The United States in OT during the 2024 IIHF Women's World Championship Gold Medal game at Adirondack Bank Center on April 14, 2024 in Utica, New York. (Photo by Troy Parla/Getty Images)

Canada got its revenge on Sunday, winning the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship and taking down the U.S. in a 6-5 overtime classic.

Marie-Philip Poulin, a longtime star for Canada, got her first two goals of the tournament, while Danielle Serdachny had the game-winner. 

"I hate to say you're not trying to rely on it, expect it, but I know I've grown to expect it," Canada coach Troy Ryan said of Philip-Poulin. "Tonight was just a whole other level. I could see in her eyes every time we called her name that she was ready to go. It's just special."

The win came after Canada lost 1-0 to the U.S. in the group stage of the tournament. On Sunday, the two teams met for the 22nd time in 23 tournaments in the gold medal game – and the action between the two teams delivered. 

Among those scoring for the U.S. were Megan Keller, Alex Carpenter, Hilary Knight, Laila Edwards and Caroline Harvey. Julia Gosling, Emily Clark and Erin Ambrose had the other three goals for Canada, giving them their 13th World title after falling to the U.S. in last year’s title game in Toronto. 

This year’s game was held in New York, and it was the second-highest scoring final between the two teams. The U.S. won a world championship 7-5 in 2015. 

"Oh man, that feels good to win it on U.S. soil," Canada goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens said after the game. "We owed it to them and owed it to ourselves to win that one."

Canada also denied Knight a record 10th World Championship win, although she did become the most decorated player in women’s world championship history with 14 medals. After the game, Poulin gave Knight a hug on the ice. 

"We just said 'that was unbelievable,'" Poulin said.

U.S. coach John Wroblewski echoed the sentiment that it was an outstanding game after being asked about ending the game on a power-play after leaving too many players on the ice. 

"Instead of talking about the isolated events of tonight's game, I think that normally that's an interesting storyline,” he said. “But I think the entity of an amazing 6-5 game is an amazing hockey game that took place."

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