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USWNT roster notes: Sophia Smith ‘wasn’t quite alive’ for 1999 World Cup

USWNT forward Sophia Smith poses for a selfie after a September friendly against Nigeria. (Erin Chang/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

A youth movement is taking over the U.S. women’s national team, as highlighted on the roster revealed Wednesday, which includes 14 players new to the World Cup stage.

Rising star Sophia Smith admitted she “wasn’t quite alive” for the iconic 1999 World Cup win — she was born in 2000 — but that doesn’t mean she and her teammates aren’t ready to take the tournament by storm.

Sophia Smith

Sophia Smith has been dreaming of the World Cup since childhood, she said after the roster announcement. And while she “wasn’t quite alive” for the 1999 World Cup, the 22-year-old knows what it means to the USWNT. It also helped inspire her to get to this point.

“This is something I’ve dreamed of for, I don’t even know how long, so to get that call was just kind of like a big relief, and just I just felt pure joy because you know, the past few months have been a little bit stressful,” she said. “I’ve been feeling a little anxious just because the clock has been ticking and I knew this time was coming. So to get that call was I mean it was pretty surreal and I still feel all those emotions right now.”

As for her role on the team, Smith will have a lot of expectations placed on her shoulders as one of the team’s most explosive scorers. Still, she hopes just to be herself amid the bright lights of the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

“I think every time that I go into a national team camp and just completely be myself, that’s when I have success and that’s when I can kind of bring others into the game,” she said. “I take a lot of pride in doing my role to the best of my ability, whether that’s scoring goals, whether that’s getting assists, or whether that’s being you know, the best teammate that I can be. I take a lot of pride and all of that.”

Alyssa Thompson

At 18 years old, Alyssa Thompson is the youngest player on the World Cup roster. And she’s the second-youngest player to ever make a USWNT roster for the World Cup behind Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak, who was 17 at the 1995 World Cup. It’s been a big year for Thompson, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the NWSL Draft in January and graduated from high school earlier this month.

Now she’ll take the biggest step of her career, despite having played in youth soccer just months ago.

“In October, she was playing youth soccer,” Andonovski said. “And now, in July, she will be at the biggest stage in women’s soccer.”

Savannah DeMelo

Racing Louisville midfielder Savannah DeMelo has been one of the best players in the NWSL in 2023. But she faces a big question mark ahead of the World Cup: Her inexperience on the international scene.

The 25-year-old has never played in a match for the USWNT, despite having been brought into camp multiple times, starting with the team’s Nigeria friendlies last September.

“One thing that we wanted to see from her is consistency in the upcoming season,” head coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “Sav did very well and was very consistent. Her performance in the league was one of the biggest reasons why she’s on the team.

“And based on the needs that we have in terms of opponents and different situations that we may face, we see Sav being very important for us going forward.”

Kristie Mewis

At 32 years old, Kristie Mewis is the oldest player making her World Cup debut for the USWNT. While she has been in the USWNT system for almost a decade, she missed out on the 2015 and 2019 tournaments. But, according to Andonovski, she is one of the most mature players on the 2023 team.

“She is a mature player that knows what it takes to be a successful player, that knows what it takes to bring the best out of her teammates,” he said. “She has been so selfless when she’s in camp and understands her role to a T. One thing we love about Kristie is that when she is on the field, (even) if it’s 15 minutes, then we know that we’re gonna get the best 15-minute player in the world.

“She knows that, she understands that, and she executes it very well.”

Caitlin Clark stuns 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 and shouting out the WNBA greats that came before her. She then got in one final dig – bringing him a signed apron as a souvenir. 

When Che promised to give it to his girlfriend, Clark delivered her best line 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 start NWSL season winless, in uncharted territory

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 season, falling 2-0 to the North Carolina Courage and remaining winless through its 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, answers need to be had from 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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