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USWNT: Which goalkeeper should get the starting nod vs. Mexico?

Casey Murphy started the first match of the Concacaf W Championship between United States and Haiti. (Jaime Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images)

A competition for the starting goalkeeper spot appears to be brewing on the U.S. women’s national soccer team.

Casey Murphy, keeper for the NWSL’s North Carolina Courage, got the starting nod in the Concacaf W Championship opener against Haiti, while veteran USWNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher was in net for the team’s Thursday match against Jamaica.

The rotation in goal led to much speculation about who owns the starting goalkeeper spot for the USWNT and who will start in the squad’s final Group A game against Mexico at 10 p.m. ET Monday.

USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski declined to name a starter for the Mexico match when asked about Naeher and Murphy following Thursday’s game against Jamaica.

Who will get the start against Mexico?

Case for Alyssa Naeher:

Naeher is an experienced goalkeeper with 81 USWNT caps and two World Cup titles to her name. The 34-year-old spent much of her national team career quietly making a name for herself as a backup to Hope Solo. Before 2015, Naeher had just one international appearance with the United States, and Solo played every minute of the 2015 World Cup run.

The 2019 World Cup served as Naeher’s breakout tournament on the world stage, with the Red Stars keeper owning the starting spot ahead of the team’s trip to France. Naeher quieted any speculation about her readiness for the bright lights of a World Cup, coming up clutch multiple times to help the USWNT clinch the championship.

Naeher again proved her poise in big moments in the Tokyo Olympics, saving three penalty kicks to seal a quarterfinal final win against the Netherlands and advance to the semifinals against Canada. The star goalkeeper’s Olympic run, however, ended in heartbreak, as she injured her knee in the team’s 1-0 semifinal loss to Canada.

Returning to the pitch in January after rehabilitation, Naeher is looking to solidify her starting spot again.

For Andonovski, Naeher offers a proven ability to make stops in high-stress situations and a veteran presence in the back. Naeher is a known quantity with the confidence to communicate with the backline.

Case for Casey Murphy:

Murphy exploded onto the scene in November with a magnificent USWNT debut, notching eight saves during the squad’s friendly against Australia.

The Courage star denied Sam Kerr multiple times, including with a stunning fingertip stop to clinch a clean sheet. The last player to log a shutout in their debut was Naeher in 2014.

At 26 years old, Murphy has tremendous upside that may be hard for Andonovski to ignore. She may not have the international experience Naeher does, but she has shown her ability to make difficult world-class-level saves.

Standing at 6-foot-1, four inches taller than the 5-foot-9 Naeher, her towering height in goal doesn’t hurt either.

The USWNT will finish their Group A play against Mexico at 10 p.m. ET Monday on Paramount+.

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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