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It’s time for the real USWNT to show up at the World Cup

Alex Morgan and the USWNT couldn’t find the back of the net in the USWNT’s 0-0 draw with Portugal at the World Cup. (Robin Alam/USSF/Getty Images)

United States women’s soccer has a catalog of heroes — players like Abby Wambach, Brandi Chastain, Mia Hamm.

They inspired generations of soccer fanatics, many of whom are playing for the U.S. women’s national team today. The 1991 and 1999 World Cup champions forged a legacy to be proud of. But instead of beaming with joy, when the camera panned to Hamm in the crowd during the USWNT’s 0-0 draw with Portugal on Tuesday, the former player was visibly nervous. With her mouth formed into a tense grimace, Hamm wrung her hands.

And in households across the United States, in the cover of night, fans likely did the same.

This wasn’t the dominant U.S. women’s soccer we’ve grown accustomed to. That team has yet to appear at the 2023 World Cup. Instead, after the Netherlands outdid them with a 7-0 win over Vietnam in the other Group E finale, the USWNT finished as runners-up and eked out a spot in the Round of 16.

There was a savior in the draw, just not one that can ever join the former players in a World Cup crowd. It was a goal post.

Two minutes into stoppage time, Ana Capeta got behind the defense and fired a shot that nearly eliminated the USWNT. It would have put the U.S. at risk of losing in back-to-back Olympics and World Cups for the first time since 2000 and 2003.

Instead, the shot ricocheted off the goal post. It was an inanimate object that saved the USWNT’s World Cup.

The United States moves on. That’s a positive.

The United States did not look like a team worthy of moving on. That’s a negative.

No matter how it happened, it happened.

“[Portugal] made it frustrating for us,” midfielder Rose Lavelle told FOX Sports after the match. “We were disappointed in ourselves, but we have another game to focus on. We made it through. So we put our energy toward that now.”

Now, the squad has a chance to erase the woes of group play. A win over Sweden, their likely opponent in the knockout stage, could do that. But it won’t be easy, especially without Lavelle, who will serve a one-game yellow card suspension in the Round of 16.

Sweden blew through its group, beating South Africa 2-1 and claiming a lopsided 5-0 victory over Italy. Their final game of group play comes Wednesday against last-place Argentina.

The last time the U.S. played Sweden was in 2021 at the Tokyo Olympics. Sweden won that match 3-0, and questions about USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski started to swirl, just as they have at this World Cup. But the players aren’t thinking about that right now.

“Our only focus is on the next game and getting that done,” said U.S. veteran Kelley O’Hara, who was caught on camera delivering a fiery message to the team in the postgame huddle. “Just continuing to be the team we know we can be.”

Where is that team?

The talent is there. Veterans like Alex Morgan, Lindsey Horan and Crystal Dunn. Rising stars like Sophia Smith, Trinity Rodman and Naomi Girma. But other than a few fleeting moments here and there, that talent has yet to translate into cohesive play and decisive results at the World Cup.

It has to in the knockout stage. Opportunities will be harder to come by, and the U.S. has already missed on its fair share of chances. They could have put away the Netherlands. They had shots to beat Portugal. But instead, they are leaving group play in second place with one win and two ties.

“That one chance might be the game-changer,” Horan, the savior in the USWNT’s previous game, told FOX Sports. “I think today, it was lacking just a little bit. We had our opportunities in front of the goal, even like two yards out. We have to finish. And we will. We are going to move forward to the next round and it’s going to come.”

Someone has to capitalize on those opportunities against Sweden. They have no other choice. To have a chance at winning their third straight World Cup title, the United States needs a real hero, not a goal post.

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

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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