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Three keys to the USWNT’s Olympic quarterfinal match against the Netherlands

Francois Nel/Getty Images

The U.S. women’s national team has advanced to the knockout stage in Tokyo, where they’ll face the Netherlands on Friday in a re-match of the 2019 World Cup.

In that final, the USWNT dominated the Dutch, rolling to a 2-0 win behind goals from Megan Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle.

The USWNT, however, looks to be in very different form from their menacing World Cup presence, having already been blown out by Sweden in their opening game and settling for a 0-0 draw with Australia in their final match.

The United States finished Group G in second place, recording a win, a tie and a loss. Playing impatient and nervy throughout each of the games, the USWNT left a lot to be desired in the Olympic group stage.

The USWNT players will have their work cut out for them against the Netherlands, who scored 21 goals in the group stage. But it’s not yet time to give up hope on the world’s No. 1 team. Heading into the knockout round, the USWNT has the opportunity to start fresh. As Alex Morgan said, “This is when the tournament starts.”

Here are the three keys for the USWNT in their matchup with the Netherlands:

1. Contain Vivianne Miedema

Miedema is already having a record-breaking Olympics. The Dutch striker has scored eight goals in the Netherlands’ three group stage matches, more than any other woman in Olympic history. At her current pace, Miedema is scoring at a rate of one goal every 22 minutes. The Arsenal forward’s historic momentum will undoubtedly be something the U.S. will have to contend with. Though the USWNT beat Netherlands in a friendly late last year, Miedema wasn’t playing. With her, the Netherlands are an entirely different team.

It doesn’t help that the USWNT’s defense has been uncharacteristically leaky this tournament, letting in four goals in three games. Miedema, an expert at exploiting gaps in the backline, will be a test to the U.S.’ hole-plagued defense. Space between the outside backs and center backs has been a problem for the USWNT so far and will be of particular concern against the Netherlands.

2. Find any offensive momentum and keep it

The USWNT isn’t exactly riding high following the team’s group stage performance, meaning the squad will have to generate its own momentum going into the Netherlands matchup.

In the U.S.’ last Group G game against Australia, head coach Vlatko Andonovski relied on a conservative approach, with an eye toward the knockout round. Andonovski’s game plan was a gamble. On the one hand, the team conserved energy for the Netherlands; on the other hand, they aren’t heading into the contest with much momentum or confidence.

The USWNT will first be tasked with jumpstarting their sputtering offense against the Dutch. According to NWSL Analitica, a Twitter account that focuses on statistical analysis, Julie Ertz currently leads the USWNT in chances created (a chance is defined as a pass that ends in a shot), with five so far. Tierna Davidson and Megan Rapinoe follow close behind with four. While a great stat for Davidson, it’s not the most promising sign for an offense when the center back is setting up so many of the team’s scoring opportunities.

Notably, Kelley O’Hara has created two chances and Crystal Dunn just one, something the team will look to fix in the Netherlands game. The flanks, where the USWNT generates most of its attack, have been awfully quiet so far this tournament. To defeat the Netherlands, the United States will have to find a way to get Dunn and O’Hara incorporated into the attack.

3. Win the aerial battle

The USWNT got burned in the air against Sweden. All three of the Swedes’ goals were off headers, leaving the USWNT’s defense without an answer. The United States will look to tidy up its set-piece defending ahead of Friday’s quarterfinal in an effort to address the team’s vulnerabilities in the air.

On the other side of the ball, the USWNT should hope to diversify its attack, looking to the likes of Lindsey Horan or Sam Mewis to nod balls into the back of the net.

Tune in: The USWNT will face off against the Netherlands in the Olympic quarterfinals on Friday, airing at 7 am EST on NBCSN.

Cameron Brink likes Caitlin Clark for 2024 WNBA Rookie of the Year

Cameron Brink poses with Caitlin Clark at 2024 wnba draft in new york
Cameron Brink poses with fellow draftee — and possible WNBA ROY —Caitlin Clark. (Photo by Emily Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Cameron Brink already has her rookie of the year pick for the upcoming WNBA season, and it’s Indiana-bound star Caitlin Clark

In the latest edition of Kelley on the Street, host Kelley O'Hara caught up with Brink in New York hours before the Stanford phenom went No. 2 overall to the Los Angeles Sparks at the 2024 WNBA Draft. When O’Hara asked who would win the WNBA's rookie of the year, she answered without pause.

"Caitlin Clark," she said, while a fan commented that she thought Brink would take home the award. Brink later added that the extra foul granted to WNBA players will be "good for me."

"I hope it’s me," Charisma Osborne, who was later drafted by the Phoenix Mercury, said when asked her ROY prediction. "But, I don’t know — we’ll see."

Watch more of Kelley on the Street:

Dash winger Maria Sanchez confirms trade request a day shy of NWSL deadline

María Sanchez of Houston Dash during a NWSL game
In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the club worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. (Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images)

Maria Sanchez issued a statement on Thursday, confirming recent reports that she has requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

In it, she revealed that the club has been aware of the request "since late March."

"This has all taken a toll and isn’t an easy thing to talk about, but I want to confirm that I’ve requested an immediate trade," she wrote. "My expectations and reasons have been clear. I trust that my current club’s management will honor my decision in a timely manner and proceed with accepting a trade."

"I’m eager to refocus and dive back into what I love most: playing football," she concluded.

Reports of Sanchez's trade request first surfaced on ESPN last week, and were later confirmed by multiple sources. 

In December of last year, Sanchez signed a three-year contract with the Dash valued at $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. It was the largest contract in NWSL history at the time — a figure that would be eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

Sanchez spent the offseason as a restricted free agent, meaning that Houston could match any other team's offer to retain her rights. Should the Dash trade Sanchez, her current contract terms would remain intact, limiting potential buyers to teams able to afford to take on an inking of that size.

The Dash has yet to address the trade, instead reiterating to ESPN that Sanchez is "under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close tonight, April 19th, at 12 a.m. ET. The window will stay closed through the next 11 regular season games, reopening on August 1st, 2024.

Seattle Storm debut state-of-the-art $64 million practice facility

Jewell Loyd #24 of the Seattle Storm during warms up during practice on July 11, 2020 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida
Jewell Loyd, seen here practicing at Florida's IMG Academy, and her team are in for a major upgrade this season. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

The four-time league champion Seattle Storm unveiled their new practice facility on Thursday, with Storm co-owner Lisa Brummel dubbing Interbay's Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance the team’s "new home."

"It's just such a special space," Brummel told Fox 13 Seattle. "I think when the players get here, it's gonna be overwhelming."

The sprawling 50,000-square-foot, $64 million property is just the second designated practice facility to be designed and built expressly for a WNBA team, with the Storm further noting that 85% of all design and engineering team members involved in the project's construction were women and people of color. The finished product holds two professional indoor courts, two 3x3 outdoor courts, a state-of-the-art locker room, and players' lounge, plus designated areas for strength and conditioning, kitchen, dining, and nutrition, and recovery. 

"This facility reflects our commitment to providing our athletes an exceptional environment that supports their growth, health, and performance," said Storm co-owner Ginny Gilder in an official team release. "It’s built for women, by women, embodying our dedication to leading the way in professional women’s sports."

For their part, the team can't wait to make the faciilty their own.

"It's amazing," Storm guard Jewell Loyd told Fox 13. "Not having to drive everywhere around, knowing you have access anytime of the day to get into the gym, to workout." 

Head coach Noelle Quinn said she predicts the team is "never going to leave this building."

"Which is a good thing for me," she continued. "You talk about having an edge in performance. We want our athletes to not only perform on the court, but get whatever they need."

All of the Storm's staff and operations will now live under one roof, and the team also has plans to launch a youth basketball program operating out of the building.

Mystics relocate game to accommodate Caitlin Clark fans

Maya Caldwell, Erica Wheeler, and Lexie Hull of the Indiana Fever celebrate Caitlin Clark
Get ready — Caitlin Clark is coming to town. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Caitlin Clark effect is quickly making its mark on the big leagues, as WNBA host teams around the country rush to upgrade their Fever games to larger arenas in order to accommodate surging ticket sales.

With Clark mere weeks away from her Indiana Fever debut, both the Las Vegas Aces and Washington Mystics have officially relocated their scheduled home games with head coach Christie Sides' squad. On Thursday, the Mystics became the latest to adjust their plans, moving their June 7th matchup from Entertainment & Sports Arena in Southwest DC to the more centrally located — and much larger — Capital One Arena "due to unprecedented demand."

The Mystics home court's capacity taps out at 4,200, while Capital One Arena — home to the Wizards, Capitals, and Georgetown Hoya's Men's Basketball — can fit nearly five times that crowd at some 20,000 spectators.

"The move to Capital One Arena will allow for additional fans in the stands as well as premium hospitality options, including Suites and the all-new all-inclusive courtside Hennessy Lofts," the team announced via Thursday's press release.

The Aces were one of the first teams to switch venues, aiming to take on the Indiana Fever in front of as many as 20,000 fans inside T-Mobile Arena on July 2nd. That’s a sizable a boost from their home venue, which holds just 12,000.

For those still planning to face the Fever in their home arenas, ticket prices have skyrocketed. Previously scheduled construction has already forced the LA Sparks to relocate their first five games — including their May 24th clash with the Fever — to Long Beach State's Walter Pyramid. The temporary venue is quite the downsize, holding just 4,000 in comparison to Arena's near-19,000. As of Friday, the get-in price for that game started around $400.

Despite fans launching a petition urging relocation, the Chicago Sky say they're unable to move their June 23rd Fever meeting from Wintrust Arena's 10,000-seat facility to the 23,500-seat United Center due to a concert. Tickets for that game start around $325 as of Friday.

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