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USWNT ‘will do anything possible’ to support Canadian players

USWNT captain Becky Sauerbrunn was instrumental in her team’s equal pay fight. (Ira L. Black/Getty Images)

The U.S. women’s national team showed support for archrival Canada ahead of their SheBelieves Cup match Thursday, after the players of the Canada women’s national team told the public they will be playing the tournament in protest of their federation.

USWNT players have had their fair share of conflict with their own federation, leading to a landmark equal pay agreement in the team’s most recent collective bargaining agreement. But what Canada is fighting for is greater than just compensation. Canadian players have outlined their concerns about budget cuts to both the senior national team and the youth teams that paint a bleak picture of the sport’s future.

It’s a nuance that isn’t lost on the USWNT, even as they speak up for their club teammates and fierce rivals for country.

“In a way, we did write the playbook a little bit on this, and I think that public pressure that can be put on, the pressure that can be asked of sponsors, I think those are things that we can share with them,” USWNT captain Becky Sauerbrunn told reporters Wednesday in Orlando.

“I don’t know Canada law, so I don’t quite know the distinctions between job action for Canada as compared to the U.S.,” she continued. “So what I feel like is we can support them in how they want and need right now. That might be different from what we needed when we were fighting with our federation for pay equity. We’re just trying to be supportive, and giving them the chance to allow us to support them however they need right now.”

Canadian players say they have not been paid for their international duties for all of 2022, and they intended to boycott SheBelieves games in an attempt to force Canada Soccer to come back to the bargaining table with a renewed commitment to financial transparency. Their federation said the boycott was in violation of Ontario labour laws, and players felt threatened with litigation should they not participate in the friendly tournament.

With Thursday’s game back on, there’s been communication between both teams on a way to amplify the Canada WNT’s fight to the public.

“A lot of our players know Canadian players on a very personal level, have played with them and against them for so many years,” Alex Morgan told reporters. “We’re definitely in contact with them over the last week or so, and we want to support them in any way possible. Hopefully, there’s a way to show that publicly [Thursday] as well.”

With their own CBA signed and without any formal dispute with an outside federation, the USWNT doesn’t have much jurisdiction to help the Canada WNT outside of resource sharing and signal boosting. But having gone through their own experience with the pressures of speaking out, U.S. players hope to be an outlet that can relieve some of the stress as players also prepare for games.

“We know the burden that is carried through the U.S. players as we went through the lawsuit and the fight with U.S. Soccer, deciding to strike or not, how to protest, when to protest, whether we would get support from the fans and from our country,” Morgan said.

For Canada’s players, the issues at hand need both short and long-term fixes, including financial stability that undermines the team’s fight for equitable treatment as compared to the men’s team.

“I hope it’s a shorter road for them,” Morgan said. “And we’ll do anything possible to try and publicize what they’re fighting for, and why they should achieve that.”

Megan Rapinoe told reporters she wants the U.S. to be an ultimate resource for the Canada WNT in the months to come.

“Whether it’s England winning Euros in the fashion that they did, or the WNBA and their CBA, or the (U.S.) hockey team and our team, the NWSL, Canada now, we’re all on the same team off the field,” Rapinoe said. “It all feels like a snowball effect.”

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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