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‘There’s no other leader like Sinc’: Christine Sinclair adds NWSL Shield to historic year

(Craig Mitchelldyer / ISI Photos / Getty Images)

Before the Portland Thorns took the field for the second half against the Houston Dash on Sunday, Christine Sinclair did something she doesn’t normally do.

Ahead 1-0 and 45 minutes away from clinching the red and black’s second-ever NWSL Shield, the captain gathered her team into a huddle and talked to them with an intensity not often seen from the quiet, humble leader.

She only does it once or twice a year.

“That’s her,” Thorns head coach Mark Parsons said after the game. “She knows the moment where she needs to share the wisdom.”

The Thorns went on to hold their lead in the second half, secure the win, and claim the 2021 Shield as the NWSL club with the most points in the regular season.

“There’s no other leader like Sinc,” said Parsons. “She’s the best of the best on the pitch; she’s the best of the best off the pitch. She leads by example by having the highest standards in every moment in everything she does.”

The NWSL Shield adds to a memorable year for Sinclair, who also captained the Canadian national team to their first-ever Olympic gold, and the Thorns to both the Challenge Cup and International Champions Cup titles.

Portland hasn’t lost a title since the 2020 Challenge Cup. In last year’s Fall Series, Sinclair scored six goals, including a hat trick against OL Reign, throughout the final three matches to lead the Thorns to first place.

Parsons summed it up in the simplest, most accurate way: “Sinc wins trophies.”

On a personal level, the Burnaby, B.C. native has also been nominated for the 2021 Ballon d’Or. Since the award was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19, it’ll be the first one handed out since her historic 185th goal that made her international soccer’s all-time leading scorer.

She’s also top of her league. There are no official all-time stats for the NWSL, but according to a CBC article, Sinclair had 61 goals at the end of the 2021 Challenge Cup, while Lynn Williams had 59, and with Sinclair’s five regular-season goals and Williams’ seven, the two are tied at 66, making them the active players with the most all-time league goals. (Chelsea’s Sam Kerr still holds the NWSL record, with 88).

It makes sense why Sinclair would prefer a quieter leadership style. Her talent speaks volumes on its own.

“She’s not the type of ‘rah-rah’ leader you would expect captains to be,” said Thorns teammate and goalkeeper Bella Bixby. “She leads by example, and she leads with just a presence that we respond really well to when she’s around.”

“I think she’s someone we all look to in terms of how to manage the game and just locking it down for us.”

But humility is also just naturally who Sinclair is. She’s never been drawn to the media or sponsorships, always turns reporters’ questions about her into answers about the team, and repeatedly says that for her it’s never been about the records, it’s about being a good teammate.

“When I talk about players that I’ve learned from as a coach and as a person, I often think of many, but no one like Sinc,” said Parsons.

“She always puts everyone else first, and as a result we have not just the best player, but the best leader on our club and we’re proud of it.”

All this isn’t to say Sinclair doesn’t have her moments of being human. She’s been caught swearing in frustration at a game or getting upset with teammates. On Sunday, she was subbed out in the 75th minute, fuming and ignoring high fives on her way to the bench after playing through a nasty hit to the ankles from Dash midfielder and Canadian teammate Sophie Schmidt.

Schmidt has been playing with Sinclair the longest of anyone on the current national team. They’ll return to Canada this week, along with the rest of the Canadian squad, to start the Celebration Tour for the Olympic gold, beginning Oct. 23 in Ottawa, Ont.

Sinclair hasn’t made any indications of retiring as the Canadians head into preparations for the 2023 FIFA World Cup. She’ll have just turned 40 by the time the tournament begins.

She certainly doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

On Sunday, Parsons was impressed with her counter pressing and the way she set up the attack.

“She’s looking as good, as effective and as intense even in our fourth game in 10 days,” he said. “In the first half she was counter pressing and setting attacks up. It was just like her first game of the four games in 10 days.”

After one more regular season game on Oct. 30 against the North Carolina Courage, the Thorns will move onto the Nov. 14 semifinals where they have clinched home-field advantage.

Being backed by Sinclair’s leadership provides a sense of composure for Portland as they look to finish strong on a dominant season.

“[She’s] often there for me,” said Parsons. “Oftentimes I lean on her for support, if I ask her about the right thing that can help the team at the right time. She’s always, always set me up to help the team in the best way I can.”

Jessa Braun is an editorial intern at Just Women’s Sports. She is also the Head of North American Content for the Women’s Sports Alliance. You can 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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