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Should USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski be on the hot seat?

Vlatko Andonovski and the USWNT lost back-to-back games for the first time since 2017. (Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

In sports, perfection is a double-edged sword. It’s the ultimate goal, one that teams work toward every day. But once it’s reached, anything less is seen as a failure.

That’s where Vlatko Andonovski and the U.S. women’s national soccer team find themselves right now.

The squad has been so good, and for so long, that missteps are seen as catastrophic causes for concern. So when the United States recorded back-to-back losses this week for the first time since 2017, hands began to hover over the panic button.

Don’t push it yet, USWNT fans.

But feel free to keep hovering.

The USWNT lost 2-1 to England and then 2-0 to Spain in friendly matches, their first back-to-back losses in over five years – which, while jarring, is not too big of a deal. Let’s start with the obvious: These were friendlies. Sure, especially against England, there were bragging rights to be had, but the point of these matches is to figure out what works and what doesn’t in preparation for the World Cup, which is still nine months away.

So the losses themselves aren’t the issue. What I’m worried about is whether or not Andonovski, who took the helm after the 2019 World Cup, is actually learning anything of value from them. If the USWNT is losing while also failing to iron out a roster that works, that’s a problem.

Fifteen players were unavailable for selection for the European trip, something Andonovski made sure to mention during a press conference leading into Tuesday’s match against Spain.

But in a way, the roster limitations provided a good opportunity for Andonovski and company to get a feel for how other players can help or hurt the team going forward.

Several of the missing players, including Alex Morgan, Mallory Pugh and Catarina Macario, are locks for the roster when the team heads to Australia and New Zealand next July, so there’s less need to see them in action. Instead, less established players could make their cases.

Against England, Trinity Rodman’s would-be goal was called back, but her ability to cover serious ground and impact nearly every part of the field was on full display. We got a glimpse of a Rodman and Sophia Smith partnership that looks promising – something Smith said she was excited about – but Andonovski didn’t explore that much further. Rodman got her second start against Spain, but was subbed out at halftime before the pair could get anything going.

And when Rodman went out, Ashley Hatch came in. Those two are an elite duo for the Washington Spirit, so why not test how they would play together on the national team? Andonovski, though, rarely has done so.

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Trinity Rodman's first-half goal was called back for offsides in the USWNT's 2-1 loss to England. (David Rogers/Getty Images)

Then there’s youngster Alyssa Thompson. Andonovski is easing her into the senior team, he says. But playing her in the final minutes of two games in which the team is trailing doesn’t seem like a fair chance for her to get her feet wet, or for the staff to see if she fits in on the roster.

Also against England, in a match featuring defensive mistakes aplenty, 22-year-old Naomi Girma stood out as a difference maker on the back line. Her decision-making, awareness, speed and physicality have made her a popular player among fans. So it seemed to make sense that Andonovski would explore which players gel alongside her. Instead, Girma didn’t see the field against Spain.

The list of personnel questions goes on but can be summarized simply: The losses don’t concern me. What does concern me is whether or not those losses are being used for the team to learn and grow. I’m not in practice sessions, nor privy to Andonovski’s thoughts – but from the outside, it doesn’t seem like those questions are being answered.

It’s also important to acknowledge the overall atmosphere surrounding the team. The Sally Yates report rocked the NWSL, and in turn the USWNT. Hearts and minds were heavy, so players (and coaches) being off their game is understandable.

As spectators, it’s easy to say that players should be able to put those things aside. And there is a fair argument that Spain is going through something similar, and that squad managed to defeat the USWNT with its second-string unit.

Still, the Yates report brought to the forefront some horrible, heartbreaking stuff. And frankly, it’s much more important than two soccer matches.

The status of the USWNT, of Andonovski and of his job should become much clearer next month, when FIFA’s second-ranked team, Germany, comes to town. If the USWNT – who remains No. 1 for now – comes away with two wins, and if the answers to a few roster questions become clearer, then Andonovski likely will remain safe in his post.

But if the USWNT loses twice against Germany, then it may be time to stop hovering over the panic button and actually push it.

Esme Morgan Signs With Washington Spirit

Esme Morgan of England inspects the pitch prior to the UEFA Women's EURO 2025 qualifying match between England and France
The England national will join the Spirit in DC on July 15th. (Naomi Baker - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

English defender Esme Morgan has signed with the Washington Spirit, the club announced Thursday. 

Morgan had been with WSL side Manchester City since 2017, with one year remaining on her contract. She’ll now make a move to the NWSL, with City receiving a fee for the move. 

"I wanted to join the Spirit because they have the ambition and tools to be the best team in the NWSL, and trying to achieve that will be a great but enjoyable challenge," Morgan said in a club statement.

"On an individual level too, the opportunity to work under Jonatan [Giráldez], one of the world's best coaches, is really exciting and I look forward to learning from him and pushing myself to become the best player I can be, hopefully helping the team to success."

According to ESPN, Morgan’s lack of playing time under City manager Gareth Taylor played a key role in her decision to leave the league championship runners-up. She’ll join the Spirit in Washington, DC on July 15th, but won’t be able to begin play until August. 

Spirit president Mark Krikorian called Morgan an "exceptional talent" and added that the club is "thrilled" to add her to the roster.

"I think she’s pretty talented," Giraldez told reporters on Friday. "A young player with a great future, but with experience already in a great league and with the national team. She’s been surrounded by great players and also great coaches, so she can give us experience."

Ledecky Goes for 4 at Olympic Swimming Trials

Swimmer katie ledecky swimming at Toyota US Open
Decorated swimmer Katie Ledecky is aiming to make her fourth-straight Olympic squad. (Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

The US Olympic Swimming Trials begin this weekend, running from June 15th through June 23rd in Indianapolis, with Katie Ledecky eyeing her fourth-straight Summer Games.

While traditionally held in Omaha, Indiana's Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, has been fitted with a 50-meter pool to host the meet that will determine the 2024 Paris Olympics roster.

All eyes will be on seven-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky, who will be competing in the 200-meter, 400-meter, 800-meter, and 1500-meter freestyle — all events in which she’s been an Olympic champion. 

Rival Ariarne Titmus had her trials last week, breaking the world record in the 200-meter freestyle. Ledecky’s 200 is intended to qualify her for the Olympic relay. Meanwhile stateside, Katie Grimes stands to be a challenger in the 1500-meter freestyle has already qualified for the Paris Olympics in the 10km open water event.

Other competitors of note include 47-year-old Gabrielle Rose, who stands to become the oldest US Swimming Olympic qualifier in the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke.

Additionally, Kate Douglass — an NCAA and World Champion — is a favorite to make her first Olympic team in the 200-meter IM and 200-meter breaststroke. Simone Manuel, an Olympic champion in the 100-meter freestyle, is also looking to make her third-straight Olympics.

Where to watch: The Trials will be streaming all week on Peacock, with later qualifying heats airing live on USA Network and event finals airing in primetime on NBC.

Orlando and Kansas City Shoot for 13 in NWSL Weekend Action

NWSL's T. Chawinga #6 of the Kansas City Current passes the ball during the first half of their game against the Utah Royals FC
The Kansas City Current hopes to extend its NWSL unbeaten streak to 13 with a win over Chicago. (Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

The 13th match weekend is fast approaching in the NWSL, with two season-long unbeaten streaks on the line.

League-leaders Kansas City and Orlando will attempt to survive the weekend with their unbeaten runs intact, as the Current host Chicago on Friday and the Pride travel to North Carolina for Saturday's match.

But while Kansas City and Orlando have been the gold standard this year, they're still a number of wins away from tying Washington's record for longest unbeaten streak in a single NWSL season. In 2021, the Spirit went 20 games without a loss en route to the club's first NWSL championship.

Both Gotham and Louisville are carrying momentum into their matchup on Saturday. Louisville is unbeaten in three games, and they’re looking to finally leapfrog Chicago and claim sixth place in the league standings. Gotham, on a seven-game unbeaten run, is into fifth place.

Portland and Seattle will face off in the Cascadia Clash this weekend, with Golden Boot contender Sophia Smith absent, as the decorated forward was shown a red card last weekend for time-wasting on the bench.

The Reign could use a win against their long-time rivals, as a difficult start has 13th-place Seattle registering only two wins amid nine losses so far this season.

Elsewhere in the league, 2024 expansion teams Bay FC and Utah meet for the first time this weekend, as both look to rise from the bottom half of the standings. And Washington will ride a four-game winning streak into Saturday's game against a San Diego side that's earned two hard-fought draws in recent weeks.

Watch more: "Sophia Smith is INNOCENT!" on The Late Sub with Claire Watkins

WNBA All-Star Voting Starts on June 13th

Phoenix Mercury mascot Scorch waving a 2024 WNBA All-Star flag at a 2023 home game.
Phoenix Mercury will host the 20th-annual All-Star Game on July 20th, 2024. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Voting for the 2024 AT&T WNBA All-Star Game opened at 2 PM ET today and runs through June 29th.

All active WNBA players are eligible to make the All-Star Game, set for July 20th in Phoenix. Unlike previous formats that featured two voted-in All-Star squads, this year’s contest pits a single All-Star team against the already-decided Olympic-bound USA Women’s National Team.

Fans can submit a daily ballot nominating up to 10 athletes via WNBA.com or the WNBA App.

Fan-submitted ballots account for 50% of vote, with the other 50% split equally between current WNBA players and members of the media. The top 10 athletes will automatically make the All-Star Game, with league coaches then voting from a pool of the next 36 to complete Team WNBA’s 12-player roster. The final lineup will be announced on July 2nd.

This year's All-Star Game format presents an opportunity for fans to vote for players they might consider Olympic snubs. Indiana rookie Caitlin Clark and Dallas’s Arike Ogunbawole seem like shoo-ins given the discussion surrounding their Olympic omissions, while Connecticut stars Brionna Jones and DeWanna Bonner are also expected to snag All-Star nods.

And after a career-high 20-point, 10-rebound double-double in last night’s 83-75 loss to the Sun, Chicago rookie Angel Reese could also secure a spot.

Regardless, it won't necessarily be smooth sailing for Team USA, as history has tended to favor the underdog. 

The first USA vs. All-Stars matchup took place in 2021, with the league’s squad humbling the Tokyo Olympians 93-85. With 26 points, Ogunbawole was named All-Star Game MVP after barely missing the Olympic cut. Could she and Clark turn the tables on Team USA this year?

Watch more: "Were Caitlin Clark and Arike Ogunbowale snubbed?" by Expert Adjacent

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