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USWNT shows uncharacteristic lack of poise in loss to Germany

Alex Morgan assisted on the USWNT’s lone goal in the loss to Germany on Thursday. (Eric Espada/Getty Images)

For a moment, it looked like it might be a vintage U.S. women’s national team result.

A cross from Alex Morgan. Megan Rapinoe streaking to the net. A well-placed shot. A goal. A celebration.

After going down 1-0 to Germany, the United States tied things up with a goal from one veteran to another. Morgan and Rapinoe: two names soccer fans have become accustomed to hearing.

Something they aren’t accustomed to? The collapse that happened four minutes after Rapinoe tied things up.

The goal at the 84th minute seemed enough for the U.S. to end the contest with a tie and prevent a three-game losing streak — something the team hadn’t experienced since 1993.

Instead, at the 89-minute mark, it was Germany that celebrated. And when the final whistle blew, the Americans had broken a streak they never wanted to see in the first place. On Thursday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Germany came away with a 2-1 victory, and the USWNT left with a lot of unanswered questions.

Here’s one of those questions: What happened?

A foul at midfield led to a quick free kick from Germany. It sailed to the feet of Jule Brand, who took a touch that forced goaltender Casey Murphy to challenge. When Murphy dove, it left a wide-open goal and no U.S. defenders to back her up. Germany’s Paulina Krumbiegel then tapped it home for the game-winning goal at the 89th minute.

It was a dramatic moment that pointed to a larger, more concerning trend. In the toughest moments on Thursday, the USWNT lacked poise and composure. A USWNT that can’t seem to handle the pressure isn’t a concept the soccer world has encountered for many, many years.

And the pressure is about to build, as the team plays Germany again on Sunday in the final friendly on the 2022 calendar. After losing an unprecedented three in a row, that game has the feel of a must-win.

But coach Vlatko Andonovski, in his comments after the game, didn’t seem to see a lack of poise or an inability to finish in key moments from his team. Instead, he chalked it up to bad luck.

“We didn’t see the final touch. That is what we were missing,” he said. “Even though I do want to say that we were a little bit unlucky a couple of times. I think Lindsey (Horan) hit the crossbar, hit the post. So that was positive, but not quite good enough to make a difference.”

Horan did have two shots narrowly miss after connecting with metal instead of net. And she wasn’t the only one whose quality opportunities came up short. The United States had 18 shots but finished with just one goal.

Andonovski also cited the officiating as a factor that worked against his team Thursday. Germany was assessed 13 fouls in the game, while the U.S. was whistled for seven, and there were no yellow or red cards handed out.

“I think the referees took some things away from us,” he said. “I don’t want to comment a lot on it, but I feel like the game was a little bit too much for them.”

The USWNT had eight corner kicks in the game, but they were unable to capitalize on the opportunities.

Despite the three-game slide, the multiple goals given up in each contest and just two scores in the last three games, Andonovski isn’t worried. He’d like to see more goals, he admits, but the coach remained positive following Thursday’s defeat.

“I don’t want to say I’m concerned, because I’m not,” he said. “I trust these players. I believe that these players are capable of scoring goals … I’m not concerned, but I for sure wanted to score more goals.”

In the last month, the USWNT has lost to top-ranked European clubs England, Spain and Germany. They dropped a home contest for the first time in over five years. And in the big moments, like the final minutes of Thursday’s match, they faded away, failing to capitalize when they needed to.

These matches are friendlies, yes. But given the current set of circumstances and the mounting pressure, Sunday’s game against Germany is about to be a lot less friendly, and a lot more of a must-win.

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

Caitlin Clark dunks on Michael Che in surprise SNL appearance

(Julia Hansen/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Caitlin Clark made a surprise appearance on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend, which quickly went viral.

The Iowa star showed up on the show’s Weekend Update segment to playfully call out Michael Che’s history of making jabs at women’s sports.

It started when Che joked that Iowa should replace Clark’s retired No. 22 “with an apron.” 

When Clark entered, Che said that he was a fan. But Clark wasn’t convinced – especially not when co-host Colin Jost brought the receipts of Che’s jabs.

“Really, Michael? Because I heard that little apron joke you did,” she said, before making him read some jokes of her own in retaliation. Clark finished her segment by shouting out the WNBA greats that came before her. She then got in one final dig – bringing Che a signed apron as a souvenir. 

When Che promised to give it to his girlfriend, Clark delivered her last playful dig of the night.

“You don’t have a girlfriend, Michael,” she said.

Afterward, SNL castmember Bowen Yang told People that the 22-year-old and teammates Gabbie Marshall, Kate Martin and Jada Gyamfi – who joined her at Studio 8H – “were so cool.”

“She's so charming and witty,” Yang said. “They were just the most stunning, noble people.

“Athletes just have this air about them. They know they're amazing. I mean, these are people who have numeric attachments and values to their performance. That's something that comedians never have.”

Portland Thorns, in uncharted territory, start NWSL season winless

Portland has started the season winless through four games for the first time. (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)

The Portland Thorns continue to struggle to start the NWSL season, falling 2-0 to the North Carolina Courage over the weekend to remain winless through their first four games. 

It’s uncharted territory for Portland, who has never started the NWSL regular season without a win in four games before.

Following the loss, defender Becky Sauerbrunn voiced her frustrations with the start. 

“It’s hard to find a lot of encouraging things, but what I find encouraging is that people are frustrated,” she said. “People are pissed off that we’re not doing well. We care, and I think that’s really important.” 

She also added that while the team will reflect individually, “there’s going to be no finger pointing.”

“We’re going to look at ourselves and figure out what we should have done, or I should have done better,” she said. “There is a list of things that I could have done better, and I’m going to make sure I know every single thing and watch this game back.”

The Thorns currently sit at the bottom of the league table with just one point, having allowed 10 goals – tied for the worst in the league. They’ve yet to lead in a match. And as questions grow, attention turns to head coach Mike Norris. 

Norris is in his second year as head coach of the club after leading the team to a second-place finish in the regular season last year. When asked about the possibility of pressure growing after the unprecedented start, Norris said that the pressure has been there “from day one.”

“I cannot be driven by my day-to-day and the longer vision of the pressure of the job,” he said. “We’ve got a belief in how we want to play, how we operate. We’ve got to stick with the process of that. While we do it, we have to review and see what is working, what’s not working.

“I’ll be showing up for the team and being there for what they need from me as we approach getting back together as a group next week.”

Maria Sanchez reportedly requests trade from Houston Dash

Mar 23, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Dash forward Maria Sanchez (7) warms up before the match between Racing Louisville and Houston Dash at Shell Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Maria Sanchez, who signed one of the biggest deals in NWSL history just four months ago, has reportedly requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

ESPN was the first to report the news, which was confirmed by multiple sources.

In a statement to ESPN, the team said: “​​Maria Sanchez is under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the Dash worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. At the time, it was the largest contract in NWSL history – something that was eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

The winger was a restricted free agent in the offseason, meaning that Houston could match any offer from another team and retain her rights. Should the team trade Sanchez, her contract would remain as it has been signed with the league. That limits the number of teams that could take on her contract. 

In three starts with the Dash this season, Sanchez has zero goals and an assist. The Dash are 1-2-1 through four games and have allowed a league-worst 10 goals.

The team hired a new coach, Fran Alonso, in December. Earlier this year, former goalkeeper coach Matt Lampson was fired for violating the league’s Coach Code of Conduct and Anti-Fraternization policy. 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close at midnight ET on Friday.

Canada beats U.S. Hockey 6-5 in thrilling World Championship win

UTICA, NEW YORK - APRIL 14: Team Canada raises the Championship Trophy after winning The Gold by defeating The United States in OT during the 2024 IIHF Women's World Championship Gold Medal game at Adirondack Bank Center on April 14, 2024 in Utica, New York. (Photo by Troy Parla/Getty Images)

Canada got its revenge on Sunday, winning the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship and taking down the U.S. in a 6-5 overtime classic.

Marie-Philip Poulin, a longtime star for Canada, got her first two goals of the tournament, while Danielle Serdachny had the game-winner. 

"I hate to say you're not trying to rely on it, expect it, but I know I've grown to expect it," Canada coach Troy Ryan said of Philip-Poulin. "Tonight was just a whole other level. I could see in her eyes every time we called her name that she was ready to go. It's just special."

The win came after Canada lost 1-0 to the U.S. in the group stage of the tournament. On Sunday, the two teams met for the 22nd time in 23 tournaments in the gold medal game – and the action between the two teams delivered. 

Among those scoring for the U.S. were Megan Keller, Alex Carpenter, Hilary Knight, Laila Edwards and Caroline Harvey. Julia Gosling, Emily Clark and Erin Ambrose had the other three goals for Canada, giving them their 13th World title after falling to the U.S. in last year’s title game in Toronto. 

This year’s game was held in New York, and it was the second-highest scoring final between the two teams. The U.S. won a world championship 7-5 in 2015. 

"Oh man, that feels good to win it on U.S. soil," Canada goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens said after the game. "We owed it to them and owed it to ourselves to win that one."

Canada also denied Knight a record 10th World Championship win, although she did become the most decorated player in women’s world championship history with 14 medals. After the game, Poulin gave Knight a hug on the ice. 

"We just said 'that was unbelievable,'" Poulin said.

U.S. coach John Wroblewski echoed the sentiment that it was an outstanding game after being asked about ending the game on a power-play after leaving too many players on the ice. 

"Instead of talking about the isolated events of tonight's game, I think that normally that's an interesting storyline,” he said. “But I think the entity of an amazing 6-5 game is an amazing hockey game that took place."

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