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Midge Purce: ‘Everyone should be terrified’ of USWNT at 2027 World Cup

Savannah DeMelo, Alyssa Thompson, Ashley Sanchez and Naomi Girma are part of the next generation of USWNT stars. (Brad Smith/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

Opponents should be afraid of what the U.S. women’s national team is capable of accomplishing at the 2027 World Cup, or so USWNT forward Midge Purce believes.

This year’s squad flamed out in the Round of 16, a historically disappointing World Cup run capped off by a 238-minute scoring drought. Uncharacteristic as the early exit was, young stars provided bright spots — particularly Naomi Girma at center-back.

The USWNT defense allowed just two shots on goal across the entire tournament. And Girma played a key role on that backline, proving that she has more than earned her roster spot at just 23 years old.

“She is class. She makes it look so, so easy,” Purce said after Sunday’s shootout loss to Sweden. “She’s so good. I mean, she was phenomenal, and I’m so happy for her. I’m so sad for her, yeah, but she has such a bright future.”

Yes, some onlookers are hitting the panic button on the USWNT in the aftermath of the World Cup elimination. A number of veterans are retiring or nearing the ends of their careers, and the squad inevitably will look different in the years to come.

But that’s not a reason to panic, and this isn’t the end of the story, Purce told her co-host Katie Nolan on the latest episode of Just Women’s Sports‘ “The 91st.” Purce missed out on the World Cup with a quad injury, but she has been an avid follower of the team’s journey.

“I think it’s so interesting the way we look at World Cups and big tournaments as if that tournament is the end of the movie, there’s nothing else to be seen,” Purce said. “This is a long journey. It’s a long story. These kids [are] probably gonna have three or four World Cups under their belt. And it’s the next one that I think everyone should be terrified for.

“They have a chip on their shoulder. They have broken hearts, they’re hurting. It’s hard and they’re good, they’re better than what they got. They’ve put out better performances individually than what they’ve received. … So I just think that there’s so much more to be excited for on the landscape of U.S women’s soccer. It’s going to be incredible.”

Players aged 23 and younger accounted for almost a quarter of the USWNT’s minutes in this World Cup, including Girma, who played every minute of all four games. Sophia Smith, 22, and Trinity Rodman, 20, also were staples in the starting lineup.

“They all started. They’re gonna be foundational players for this team moving forward,” Nolan said. “[The] silver lining [is] we have a lot of young players on this team. Talent-wise, the pool is deep for years to come.”

Of course, nothing is guaranteed at the 2027 World Cup. And the team has the 2024 Olympics in Paris up next. But USWNT defender Becky Sauerbrunn, who missed the 2023 tournament with a foot injury, is looking forward to seeing how players respond to the disappointment of losing the World Cup.

“I think for a lot of the players it’s going to be this, like, driving fuel that they use in preparation for the Olympics,” Sauerbrunn said. “And in the past, historically with this team, if we don’t win a World Cup we wind up winning the Olympics or vice versa. So I think and what I’m hoping to see is that there’s just this drive to be better, to improve the areas that maybe players feel that they struggled in.

“I think it’s going to be really interesting to see how overall, [from the] top down, how leadership approaches tactics and formations and the future. There’s this huge influx of youth and you start phasing out some of us older players. It’ll be interesting to see and I’m excited for the future because I think we already know that we have such a strong core of players and now it’s just complimenting them.”

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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