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USWNT vs. Portugal: U.S. survives sloppy, scoreless draw to advance

USWNT forward Lynn Williams goes up for a header against Portugal’s Tatiana Pinto and Diana Gomes in the World Cup group-stage finale for both teams. (Robin Alam/USSF/Getty Images)

The U.S. women’s national team secured its place in the knockout stage with a 0-0 draw, but the disorganized and disinterested performance failed to inspire confidence in the direction of the team.

With the Netherlands’ 7-0 win against Vietnam, the Dutch side takes the top spot in Group E and the easier route through the bracket. The USWNT finishes as runner-up with just four points, its lowest-ever point total for a World Cup group stage. The Group G winner (likely Sweden) awaits in the Round of 16 at 5 a.m. ET Sunday.

The USWNT only has failed to win back-to-back Olympic and World Cup tournaments in 2000 and 2003. But if the two-time defending World Cup champions fail to make adjustments before the knockout stage, history could repeat.

FINAL: USWNT 0, Portugal 0

While the USWNT advances to the knockout stage with the draw, the two-time defending champions cannot be happy with their performance.

Portugal won the possession battle, holding the ball for 56% of the match, but finished with no shots on goal. The USWNT outshot its opponent 17-6 and had six shots on target but did not put any of them in the net.

90+1′: Portugal’s Ana Capeta hits shot off post

Capeta came off the bench in the 89th minute for Portugal and quickly created an opportunity for her team. Her shot went past USWNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher but bounced off the post, the first of a few threats for Portugal in stoppage time.

84′: Portugal keeper stops another Alex Morgan shot

The 34-year-old striker got another shot on goal, but Portugal goalkeeper Inês Pereira made the stop.

Just before this chance, Trinity Rodman and Emily Sonnett came off the bench for Lynn Williams and Lindsey Horan.

82′: Naomi Girma receives yellow card

The foul resulted in a free kick for Portugal from 35 yards out, but the USWNT escaped the ensuing scramble in the box.

Portugal’s Diana Gomes picked up her own yellow card several minutes earlier.

61′: Megan Rapinoe replaces Sophia Smith

The USWNT turned to the three-time World Cup veteran to inject some energy off the bench. Smith, who scored a brace against Vietnam, had played in every minute of the tournament for the USWNT to this point.

Minutes later, Portugal replaced its own young star in Kika Nazareth with Andreia Jacinto.

53′: Portugal defender clears Alex Morgan shot

Morgan collects a pass from Lindsey Horan, then maneuvers around the Portugal goalkeeper, but her low shot is cleared by Portugal defender Diana Gomes. The USWNT failed to capitalize on the ensuing corner kick.

Portugal’s Carole Costa picked up a yellow card for a foul on Morgan just a few minutes later.

52′: Sophia Smith receives yellow card

The USWNT forward made a play for the ball, but she caught Portugal’s Diana Silva in the face with her cleat.

48′: Rose Lavelle sends shot over crossbar

Meanwhile, the fire alarm was blaring in the stadium, but spectators remained in their seats at Eden Park. A sprinkler was malfunctioning, which led to the false alarm, FIFA reported.

46′: No halftime substitutions for the USWNT

To start the second half, the USWNT continued with the same lineup it utilized throughout the first half, to the chagrin of many fans and pundits.

HALF: USWNT 0, Portugal 0

Lynn Williams was the best of USWNT attack in the first half after coming into the match on fresh legs, but overall the USWNT looked disjointed. While the USWNT trailed at halftime against the Netherlands, this tie scoreline feels more disheartening — especially when compared to the Dutch team’s dominance against Vietnam in the other Group E finale.

The Netherlands took a 5-0 lead against Vietnam in the first half. If that scoreline holds, the USWNT would need to beat Portugal by three goals to take first place in group. A runner-up finish means a more difficult path through the knockout stage, starting with a likely matchup with Sweden in the Round of 16.

39′: Rose Lavelle receives yellow card, would miss next match

In her first start of the tournament, Lavelle receives a yellow card for a hard tackle of Portugal’s Dolores Silva. The 28-year-old midfielder also received a yellow card against the Netherlands, which means she would miss the USWNT’s potential Round of 16 match.

27′: Lynn Williams gets back-to-back shots

After Alex Morgan worked the ball in from the left baseline, Williams managed two shots in quick succession. Portugal goalkeeper Inês Pereira blocked the first, while the second sailed up and over the crossbar.

15′: Jessica Silva gets chance for Portugal

Jessica Silva took an open shot from outside the penalty area for Portugal, but the ball went wide.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands raced out to a 4-0 lead against already eliminated Vietnam. The USWNT claimed a 3-0 win against Vietnam to open the tournament, so even a U.S. win over Portugal could mean just second place in the group (and a tougher road through the knockout stage) based on goal differential.

3′: Lynn Williams creates early opportunity

In her first minutes of the tournament, Williams sent a low cross toward Alex Morgan from the right side. Morgan managed a shot, but it deflected off a Portugal defender and out of bounds.

Williams got her head on Rose Lavelle’s ensuing corner kick, but goalkeeper Inês Pereira made the stop.

Starting XI: Rose Lavelle gets her first start

  • United States
    • Goalkeeper: Alyssa Naeher
    • Defenders: Crystal Dunn Julie Ertz, Naomi Girma, Emily Fox
    • Midfielders: Andi Sullivan, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle
    • Forwards: Lynn Williams, Alex Morgan, Sophia Smith
  • Portugal
    • Goalkeeper: Inês Pereira
    • Defenders: Catarina Amado, Carole Costa, Diana Gomes, Ana Borges
    • Midfielders: Andreia Norton, Dolores Silva, Kika Nazareth, Tatiana Pinto
    • Forwards: Diana Silva, Jéssica Silva

No one is quite as adept at controlling the USWNT’s creativity as Lavelle, as Just Women’s Sports soccer writer Claire Watkins noted in her lineup prediction, and the midfielder gets her first start of the tournament. Williams replaces Trinity Rodman on the forward line, another change from the starting lineup deployed by head coach Vlatko Andonovski in the first two group-stage matches.

What to know about Portugal

  • Portugal is playing in its first World Cup. The World Cup debutantes lost 1-0 to the Netherlands to start the tournament but bested Vietnam 2-0 on July 27.
  • Despite the lack of World Cup experience, seven players had 100 or more international caps heading into the tournament.
  • By reaching the group-stage finale with a chance to advance, Portugal already has accomplished one of its goals, but the team is not satisfied. “We must look at ourselves and see the potential and talent we have, we must believe,” rising star Kika Nazareth said ahead of the tournament. “I am confident. If we make it through the group stage, the goal is to win everything.”

What to know about the USWNT

  • Rose Lavelle has been building up her minutes limit through the first two group-stage matches, which could allow her to play a full 90 against Portugal.
  • Julie Ertz has looked at home at center-back, a position she hasn’t played regularly since transitioning to defensive midfield in 2017.
  • Tobin Heath, who won the 2015 and 2019 titles with the USWNT, questioned head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s decision not to bring in forward Lynn Williams as a substitute against the Netherlands. “I think there were a couple different adjustments that could’ve been made to the team to get us that second goal,” Heath said. “I don’t think there’s any reason why that game had to end 1-1.”

When and how to watch

  • Tuesday, Aug. 1 — 3 a.m. ET (Fox, Peacock, Telemundo)
    • United States vs. Portugal (Wellington Regional)

The USWNT is playing its last of three group-stage matches at the World Cup. After starting the tournament with a 3-0 win over Vietnam and then a 1-1 draw with the Netherlands, the two-time defending champions will close out the group stage against Portugal at 3 a.m. ET Tuesday.

The group-stage finale is available to watch on Fox and Telemundo. It also can be streamed on the Fox Sports app and on Peacock. The Netherlands will face Vietnam at the same time in the other Group E finale.

2023 MVP Breanna Stewart Drops 31 Points in Liberty’s Huge Win Over Fever

breanna stewart and jonquel jones of the new york liberty celebrate win over indiana fever
Stewie and the Liberty dominated the court throughout Thursday's Fever home opener. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

The New York Liberty dominated Indiana on Thursday night, winning by a whopping 36 points in the Fever's home opener. 

A sold-out crowd of 17,274 was in attendance to watch as star rookie Caitlin Clark finished the 102-66 defeat with nine points, seven rebounds, and six assists. It’s the first time since January 2021 — her freshman season at Iowa — that Clark's been held to single-digit scoring. 

"The physicality is definitely up there... I'm easily pushed off screens," she told reporters after the loss. "The game seems a little fast for me right now. The more I play and the more comfortable I get, it's going to slow down a little bit. It will be easier for me to make reads, see things develop."

The Fever were outscored by a combined margin of 57 points in their first two games — the largest two-game point deficit in WNBA season-opening history, according to @ESPNStatsInfo.

"We've got to get to a level of toughness," Fever coach Christie Sides in her own postgame remarks. "When things are going south on us, we're not stopping the bleeding."

"I have great perspective on everything that happens," Clark added. "It was the same in my college career. There were some moments that were absolutely amazing. And there were some moments I was not happy with how I played and how my team performed. That's just life, that's just basketball."

Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu, who herself experienced a rocky rookie season following a much-hyped college career, offered up some insight on the matter.

"In this league, there are tough defenses all centered around not letting you get the ball, trapping, not letting you score," Ionescu said. "There were many factors that played into what was a tough first season for me in the league, but it helps you be able to figure it out. You have to have those experiences."

But it was reigning league MVP Breanna Stewart that truly stole the show, racking up 31 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals, and two blocks on the night.

"In general, I just wanted to come out more aggressive coming off of last game," Stewart said after putting up the 24th 30-point game in her career.

Stewart she also commended the fans inside Indianapolis's packed Gainbridge Fieldhouse, noting that she hopes that level of support to continue across the WNBA.

"This is how you want every game to be and when it's a sell-out crowd, it gives you a similar playoff atmosphere feel," she said. "People want to be a part of this and the thing now is to continue to sustain it, continue to take the momentum that we have and turn it into something more."

WNBA Commissioner Admits to ‘Faulty’ Charter Rollout

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert at 2024 wnba draft
Cathy Engelbert at the 2024 WNBA Draft in New York. (Cora Veltman/Sportico via Getty Images)

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert admitted to a "faulty rollout" of the new charter travel initiative on Thursday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Ahead of Tuesday's season opener, it was announced that the only teams flying private this week would be Indiana and Minnesota. The announcement came mere days after the league made a new charter flight program for all WNBA teams public. At the time, they said it would be implemented "as soon as we have the planes."

But as two teams out of 12 chartered to their first games of the season, others like the Atlanta Dream and Chicago Sky were forced to fly commercial.

A town hall meeting between Engelbert and the players was held in response to the confusion. Everything from the league's new media rights deal to private travel was covered in the meeting, with players submitting their questions ahead of time. Sky center Elizabeth Williams told Sun-Times reporter Annie Costabile afterwards that cross-country flights were prioritized.

"Flights that are across the country like [the Lynx] going to Seattle, crossing multiple time zones, or flights that usually require a connection, those were the priorities," Williams said. "That’s why New York didn’t go to DC with a charter, but Minny goes to Seattle."

What’s unclear under that metric is that the Atlanta Dream played the Los Angeles Sparks on Wednesday, which could technically be classified as a cross-country flight. 

On Tuesday, rookie forward Angel Reese shared a photo on her Instagram story lamenting the league's use of commercial flights.

"Just praying that this is one of the last commercial flights the Sky has to fly," Reese posted. The team still has at least three commercial flights awaiting them in the near future.

"Obviously, I think all teams should be able to get chartered," Reese told the Sun-Times. "But I know moving forward... going in the right direction, being able to have some teams [chartering] is cool. Within the next weeks, everybody will be flying charter, which will be really good."

On Thursday, Lindsay Schnell of USAToday Sports confirmed that the league intends to have all teams on charter flights by May 21st.

Brazil Wins Bid for 2027 Women’s World Cup Host

fifa womens world cup trophy on display
The FIFA Women's World Cup trophy on display in Bangkok after Brazil was announced as the 2027 host country. (Thananuwat Srirasant - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Brazil has been named the host for the 2027 Women’s World Cup, with FIFA announced early Friday. 

The decision came after a vote at the 74th FIFA Congress in Bangkok, with Brazil earning 119 votes to the joint European bid’s 78. 

This will be Brazil’s first time hosting the Women’s World Cup, with the country having hosted the men’s World Cup twice before in 1950 and 2014. It will also be the first Women’s World Cup held in South America. The tournament will follow the same 32-team format as the 2023 WWC in Australia and New Zealand.

Brazil winning the bid was not entirely surprising after FIFA issued a report just last week, stating that the Brazilian bid had pulled ahead as host following technical inspection. After evaluation, Brazil was given a score of 4.0 out of 5, compared to the 3.7 awarded to the Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Brazil ranked higher in a number of key areas, including stadiums, accommodations, fan zones, and transport infrastructure. Though considered to be a frontrunner, the US and Mexico withdrew their joint bid prior to the technical inspection period, saying they would instead focus their efforts on 2031.

On Friday, Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) president Ednaldo Rodrigues called it a "victory." 

"We knew we would be celebrating a victory for South American women's soccer and for women," he told reporters. "You can be sure, with no vanity, we will accomplish the best World Cup for women."

"We are working on a transformation, not only for the country but for the continent," added bid team operational manager Valesca Araujo.

Brazil intends to use 10 of the venues utilized at the 2014 men’s World Cup, including holding the final in Rio de Janeiro on July 25th. The CBF's proposal outlines that the 2027 tournament run from June 24th through the end of July. Last summer’s World Cup began at the end of July and concluded on August 19th.

Another notable element of Brazil's newly unveiled plan to grow of the women’s game is that "all [men’s] clubs wishing to take part in high-level national and continental competitions must now provide a structure for a women’s team." While the definition of "structure" was not specifically identified, the country has set targets with CONMEBOL to help increase the number of women’s club teams in the country.

In last week's inspection findings, FIFA noted that selecting Brazil as the next WWC host could "have a tremendous impact on women's football in the region."

Chelsea Eyes Weekend Finale With WSL Title in Sight

chelsea players celebrate win against tottenham in the wsl
Chelsea beat Tottenham on Wednesday, moving to the top of the table in an effort to win departing coach Emma Hayes some silverware. (John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images)

Chelsea did what they needed to do on Wednesday in order to make Saturday's slate of season-ending WSL fixtures interesting: Beat Tottenham.

The Blues are now number one in the league, with an edge over Manchester City on goal differential thanks to an eight-goal outing against Bristol City last week. 

Yesterday's result tees up a league finale for the books as Chelsea looks to send coach Emma Hayes off with another trophy to add to her cabinet. The Blues will play FA Cup winner Manchester City at Old Trafford on Saturday, while City is away at Aston Villa.

"We will be leaving nothing on the pitch, we will be giving everything and no matter what the result is," Chelsea midfielder Erin Cuthbert said after Wednesday's win. "At least we can look each other in the eye and say we gave everything."

It makes for a thrilling end to Chelsea's Emma Hayes era, as the decorated WSL coach will take over the USWNT in June. And it comes after Hayes all but conceded the title race early this month after Chelsea fell to Liverpool 4-3.

"I think the title is done," Hayes said at the time. "Of course, mathematically, it's not, but I think the title is done. Our job between now and the end of the season is to keep pushing until the end, but I think it will be very difficult.

"We will never give up. But the title is far from us; it's not in our hands. I think City are deserving, their consistency has put them in that position. Of course, we will go to the end, but I don't think the title will be going to us this year."

Be it mind games or Hayes truly thinking her team was that far off, her words lit something in Chelsea. Their following two performances showed the team’s determination to have a shot at some silverware.

As for Saturday's schedule, Hayes believes her team is facing the "tougher of the two games."

"It's a fitting finale for me, being my final game," she told BBC Sport. "As I said to the players if someone gives you a second chance in life, make sure you don't need a third one. We're in the position we want to be in, and we'll give it everything on Saturday no matter what."

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