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What Everton needs to do to break into the FAWSL elite

@EvertonWomen

Everton have a very talented squad, a well versed manager, and all the tools they need to break into the FAWSL elite. What they lack is a mental edge, and it showed in their fifth-place finish this year. 

The team started the season strong, with four wins out of the gate. Their fifth match was against Brighton and ended in a 2-2 draw. It was a match that they should have won based on their performance, and their chances.

Still, they were unbeaten going into their next match: away at Chelsea. 

At that point in the season, Chelsea was going into the match with the exact same results as Everton, four wins, and one draw. Yet, as soon as the first whistle was blown, the hosts were all over Everton on the pitch, and the dominant and defiant Everton that had played the first five matches of the season were nowhere to be found.

Chelsea scored within the first 20 minutes, and the score remained 1-0 at halftime. Everton had a few chances to equalize but failed to capitalize. The story of the second half was similar; Chelsea were not necessarily defending well, but their opponents had little composure in front of the goal. Eventually, three late goals gave Chelsea the 4-0 win. 

“I thought our performance was really good,” said Everton manager Willie Kirk. “Nobody can convince me that’s a 4-0 performance. It’s a bump in the road but a very sore one.” 

Things after that Chelsea match did not improve, with only one win in their next seven matches. For such a strong start at the beginning of the season, Everton ended up finishing the 22 match season with only nine wins. After their seventh loss of the season, a 2-1 defeat against Arsenal, Blues midfielder, Izzy Christiansen, spoke about the team’s mental state throughout the season. The defeat came after a 94th minute penalty from Arsenal’s Kim Little.

“We just have to overcome that fear that we have against these bigger teams sometimes, it is that boundary between being good and being great,” said Christiansen, who ended the season as Everton’s top scorer with seven goals in all competitions. “We showed a lot of grit and bite today that we haven’t necessarily shown in previous games against top-three teams. I am proud of the team for that and we were really unlucky to concede the penalty, but it is a learning curve for us.”

The problem was that there were no clear signs of an easy solution. The tactics by Kirk seemed appropriate, and the players were playing well as a team for the most part. Instead, the loss of points almost always came down to lapses’ in concentration for Everton: unnecessarily penalties conceded, poor defensive decision making, and an inability to score in crucial moments despite creating big chances for themselves. 

After the Arsenal match, Everton had a chance to rectify their mistake by playing another top team in Manchester United for their last game of the season. 

United, despite being in poor forms themselves, won the match 2-0, with Ella Toone scoring an early volley in the 8th minute, and Kirsty Hanson scoring a late one in the 89th minute. 

Jill Scott, who is one of Everton’s most experienced players and is on loan from Manchester City discussed her team’s frame of mind during the match. 

“We’re disappointed with the result. We probably didn’t start the game at our best. If you go 1-0 down, you give yourself a bit of a mountain to climb,” she said. “We just got a little bit desperate at the end, the game became too open and we were always chasing that win.”

Kirk also talked about making a push for a Champions League spot next season after the match. 

“There’s an evident gap between us and the top four. We need to make changes. We need to change our working practices. We need to continue to work at the culture. There’s got to be a little bit more of a killer instinct,” he said. “As a team, I feel we’re on a cliff edge and it’s about the ones who are brave enough to jump and have a bit of faith. When you jump, there’s going to be a nice landing. Those who don’t jump, they can’t be here because we need to find a way of jumping into something positive. It’s about taking those ones with us who are brave enough and making sure we are competing for Champions League spots next season.”

There is no overnight solution for combating the problem that Everton have. But if the club wants to break into the FAWSL elite, the players and the coaching staff need to work together to instill a tougher mentality against the teams above them in the table. You can’t join the elite until you believe you belong there, and Everton has reasons to believe they do.

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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