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USWNT balances emotions of NWSL report with games: ‘This isn’t new’

Alana Cook was one of two players to speak with reporters from London on Tuesday. (Bill Barrett/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

On Monday, the U.S. women’s national team arrived in London for a pair of friendlies against England and Spain, starting with the Lionesses on Friday in front of a sold-out crowd at Wembley Stadium. The match against the 2022 Euro champions and FIFA No. 4-ranked team is one of the USWNT’s most anticipated games of the year, with both teams preparing for the 2023 World Cup.

Also on Monday, U.S. Soccer released a bombshell report on the findings of Sally Q. Yates’ independent investigation into abusive behavior and sexual misconduct in the NWSL. The report unveiled allegations of misconduct against three coaches who worked in the league during many of the national players’ NWSL careers.

Since the release of the findings, the players have been “horrified and heartbroken and exhausted and really, really angry,” USWNT defender Becky Sauerbrunn told the media on Tuesday. They are frustrated, she said, that outside reporting and a third-party investigation were needed to expose the league’s abusers.

Friday’s match against England is quickly approaching. As a result, the USWNT’s players, 22 of whom currently play in the NWSL, are tasked with enduring the emotional weight of the report and preparing for arguably their biggest game of the year.

For Sauerbrunn and 25-year-old U.S. defender Alana Cook, that balance is nothing new. Last year, NWSL players finished the season while grappling with the fallout from a report in The Athletic detailing allegations of sexual coercion and emotional abuse against then-North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley.

“Unfortunately, I would say that you have to get used to it and you have to ride the highs and the lows and you have to do your best and you have to enact as much change as you can, while also demanding more from those that have the power to do so,” Sauerbrunn said.

Cook agreed, adding, “I think as women, especially as a minority, this isn’t new. I think these hostile conditions are kind of now being unearthed and publicly revealed, but it’s things that we’ve been dealing with for the entirety of our careers.

“We have gotten to this point because we have learned how to deal with the difficulties surrounding what we do and the difficulties in our lives and being able to still perform.”

The approach, as Sauerbrunn and Cook explained it, is taking camp one day at a time and using training as time to think about soccer and being with teammates. They’re also trying to appreciate the small moments that bring joy.

“I think that for so long, the passion for the game has been taken away from players because of the abuse that they have faced in this league,” said Sauerbrunn. “I think that for me, I’m done allowing that to happen. I love the game of soccer. I want to be passionate and I want to play, and you need to bring that joy and accessibility back to the game.

“For me, it’s finding that joy again with my teammates and not allowing anyone to take that away from me like it’s been taken away from so many people.”

Since arriving in London on Monday, soccer has been treated as an outlet for the players and not an obligation.

As they prepare to face England on Friday before traveling to Spain for Tuesday’s friendly, players and staff are all dealing with the weight of the findings in different ways. Some need space, while others need to talk.

“That means that if they don’t want to participate in a meeting or they don’t want to participate in training, or even if they don’t want to play the game, it is up to them because this is more than that,” head coach Vlatko Andonovski told reporters on Tuesday.

“The recommendation here has been, ‘Do what you need to be OK,’” Cook said. “I think we all recognize in this moment that the things that have gone on, the things that have been unearthed, are much bigger than soccer.”

Jessa Braun is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.

Midge Purce-Backed Docuseries ‘The Offseason’ to Drop This Summer

cast of the offseason nwsl reality series
'The Offseason' follows a group of NWSL stars as they prepare for preseason play. (The Offseason)

The Offseason, a reality series created by Gotham and USWNT star Midge Purce, has officially confirmed its streaming debut, Purce announced in Cannes on Tuesday.

The six-episode, half-hour docuseries will stream this summer on X, though a specific premiere date hasn't yet been set.

The Offseason was filmed in Miami, two weeks before the NWSL preseason. It's a crucial time for athletes, a period where they prepare to join their respective teams and compete for both starting and roster spots. Production designed all the facilities, bringing in top-tier trainers, masseuses, chefs, and gym equipment to create a high-level training environment, ensuring the players were in peak condition, per the show's release. Throughout filming, athletes lived together in one house — a reality TV conceit rife for entertainment.

The series follows a number of NWSL stars, including Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Maria Sanchez (Houston Dash), Lo’eau LaBonta (Kansas City Current), Michelle Alozie (Houston Dash), Taylor Smith (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Nikki Stanton (OL Reign), Ally Watt (Orlando Pride), Taryn Torres (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Paige Nielsen (Angel City FC), and Ify Onumonu (Utah Royals).

"We wanted to create a series that truly captures the essence of what it means to be a professional athlete," said Purce. "This series has always been about more than just sports — it's about the human experience behind the athlete, as well."

The show promises a behind-the-scenes look at professional women's sports, teasing major life decisions, on-field tensions, and players taking stock of the environments they'll be entering once their preseason trip is over. The series delves into the real-life challenges faced by the athletes, including club trades, contract negotiations, burnout, and the relentless pressure from outsiders commenting on the players' personal lives.

The Offseason's official trailer, released on Tuesday, shows snippets of Hubly contemplating retirement, Sanchez joining the group after signing a high-profile contract, and a healthy amount of banter about on-field achievements.

The spirit of the series is reflected in its producers: Box To Box Films is known for their sports content (Drive to Survive, Break Point, Full Swing), whereas 32 Flavors is the creative force behind Vanderpump Rules and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. The series was funded by Seven Seven Six, and executive produced by Purce.

Lilia Vu adds Meijer LPGA Classic to tour wins record

Lilia Vu won in her first tournament in two months. (Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Lilia Vu won her fifth LPGA Tour event on Sunday, taking home the Meijer LPGA Classic title in her first tournament since March. 

The world No. 2 had been sidelined with a back injury, but returned with a vengeance. She began the day eight shots back of leader Grace Kim, and survived a three-hole playoff against Kim and former champion Lexi Thompson to take the title. 

“I think this is the most meaningful win,” said Vu, “because there was a time two months ago where I was just crying on the range not being sure if I would ever play a tournament again without pain.”

A two-time major champion, Vu hadn’t before won the Meijer LPGA Classic, but a birdie on the third playoff hole helped secure it. She’s now 2-for-3 in LPGA Tour playoffs. 

She said on Sunday that being unable to defend her title at the Chevron Championship was the “breaking point” in her season.

“Not being able to compete there really killed me,” she said. “I feel like I thought I was taking the steps in the right direction, but I’m glad that I was able to take a couple months off and reevaluate my body, let it recover, do what I needed to do to get back out here again.

“And we did the right thing and took two months off. I think it hurt me not to play competitive golf because I literally live for competitive golf, but we did the right thing and that’s why I’m here today.”

Top tennis players pull out of Olympics citing health reasons

Aryna Sabalenka will not play in the Olympics. (Photo by ALAIN JOCARD/AFP via Getty Images)

Ons Jabeur and Aryna Sabalenka joined a growing list of tennis stars opting out of the Olympics on Monday.

Sabalenka, the reigning Australian Open champion and world No. 3, told reporters in Berlin that she was looking after her health while citing WTA tournament participation requirements. The Belarusian had struggled with a stomach bug during the French Open, where she lost in the semifinals of a major for the first time since 2022. 

“Especially with all the struggles I was having last month, I feel like I need to take care of my health. … It’s too much with the scheduling,” Sabalenka said. “It’s just too much. I made the decision to take care of my health.”

Similarly, Jabeur cited the health risks that come with the change of surface. The world No. 10 has been battling knee injuries this season, and lost in the French Open quarterfinals to Coco Gauff. 

Players will spend the next few weeks playing on grass in the lead-up to Wimbledon, while the Olympics will be played at Roland-Garros and be held on clay. 

“After consulting with my medical team regarding attending the Olympics in Paris, we have decided that the quick change of surface and the body’s adaptation required would put my knee at risk and jeopardize the rest of my season,” Jabeur posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Unfortunately, I will not be able to participate in the 2024 Paris Olympics. I have always loved representing my country in any competition, However, I must listen to my body and follow my medical team’s advice.”

The two join Emma Raducanu in opting out of the Olympics. Raducanu – who has dealt with a number of injuries since her US Open win in 2021 – cited the changing surface as “not worth the risk.”

Jaedyn Shaw Breaks NWSL Record for Most Goals Scored as a Teenager

Jaedyn Shaw of the san diego wave
Jaedyn Shaw is now holds the record for most NWSL goals as a teenager. (Julia Kapros-USA TODAY Sports)

Jaedyn Shaw continues to make NWSL history, surpassing Trinity Rodman for the most NWSL goals by a teenager on Saturday. 

She did it in a game against Rodman's Washington Spirit in the 20th minute of the 1-1 draw. It brings her total to 13 league goals, after making her NWSL debut at 17 years old in July 2022. 

The goal is her third this season. Shaw currently leads Wave alongside Makenzy Doniak. 

Shaw has also been a member of the USWNT, alongside Rodman, netting seven goals over 14 national team appearances. If she gets called up to this summer’s Olympics under Emma Hayes, it will mark her first official tournament with the USWNT.

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