The U.S. women’s national team’s front line showed signs of promise in the pair of friendlies against South Africa, led by rising star Trinity Rodman.

In Sunday’s 2-0 win, veteran USWNT forward Alex Morgan connected with Rodman in front of the net, setting up the 21-year-old forward for the first goal of the game. Morgan also had assisted on Rodman’s goal in the first match against South Africa, a 3-0 victory.

After Sunday’s win, Rodman thanked Morgan, and Morgan responded in kind.

“Another game, another dime ball from Alex Morgan,” Rodman said. “Thank you to her, she’s an assist queen at the moment. Hopefully I can complete a pass to her in front of the goal.”

The connection has not gone unnoticed, and neither have Rodman’s abilities. Megan Rapinoe, who made her final USWNT appearance Sunday, has called Rodman – among other young players – the future of the national team.

“That’s why I have such peace about moving on, is I look at players like Soph Smith, Naomi, Trin,” she said. “The squad is in very, very good hands if those are the ones that are holding it moving forward.”

Interim head coach Twila Kilgore said Sunday that Rodman has been “really, really good.” Her success has been building since the World Cup, when Rodman realized “a little bit more” the role she was going to play and adjusted her focus and concentration to “a different level,” Kilgore said.

“And she’s carried that with her into these past two games,” she continued. “And obviously scoring goals is a really positive thing which we’re excited to see. But yeah, I expect these things from Trin to be honest. This is kind of the expectation moving forward. I’m really happy. But I know there’s more in there.”

With her two goals against South Africa, Rodman has scored four total for the USWNT in 2023. She also has scored four goals for the NWSL’s Washington Spirit, and she’ll next take the field for the Spirit at 7 p.m. ET Saturday against the Kansas City Current.

Breanna Stewart won the 2023 WNBA MVP award despite receiving fewer first-place votes than Alyssa Thomas.

How did that happen? The New York Liberty star benefitted from the ranked voting process, which allowed Stewart to accumulate more points than Thomas.

Thomas, who posted a WNBA record six triple-doubles during her historic season for the Connecticut Sun, received 23 first-place votes, compared to 20 for Stewart and 17 for A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces. But Stewart finished with 446 points, compared to 439 for Thomas and 433 for Wilson.

Each voter on a national panel of 60 sportswriters and broadcasters listed their top five candidates, with the No. 1 player on each ballot receiving 10 points. For a second-place vote, a player received seven points, while a third-place vote equaled five points, a fourth-place vote three points and a fifth-place vote one point.

Together, Stewart, Thomas and Wilson received all the first-place and second-place votes. The trio received 59 of the third-place votes, and Las Vegas Aces guard Chelsea Gray received one. Wilson also received one fourth-place vote.

In total, Stewart received 20 first-place votes, 23 second-place votes and 17 third-place votes. In contrast, Thomas received 23 first-place votes, 12 second-place votes and 25 third-place votes; her larger number of third-place votes sunk her in the overall tally.

This marks the second time in WNBA history that the MVP runner-up finished with more first-place votes than the winner. The first time was in 2005, when Lauren Jackson received more votes for the top spot but Sheryl Swoopes won the award.

2023 WNBA MVP: Voting results


Megan Rapinoe walked off the pitch for the U.S. women’s national team for the last time, but not without taking one final bow.

The 38-year-old forward sailed into retirement with a 2-0 win against South Africa at Chicago’s Soldier Field. From the roar of the crowd before the match as she shared a kiss with fiancée Sue Bird to the standing ovation as she exited in the 54th minute to her emotional speech after the final whistle, the entire affair served as a celebration of Rapinoe’s legacy.

With the captain’s armband on her sleeve, Rapinoe celebrated with 21-year-old forward Trinity Rodman, who opened the scoring in the first half. In speaking with reporters Saturday, Rapinoe had pointed to Rodman as one of the rising stars poised to lead the USWNT into its new era.

“The squad is in very, very good hands if those are the ones that are holding it moving forward,” she said.

She also helped to set up Emily Sonnett’s goal in the second half. Rapinoe sailed a corner kick into the box, where it bounced off the hands of the South Africa goalkeeper before Sonnett headed it into the net. In the ensuing celebration, Rapinoe’s teammates made sure she struck one more signature pose.

And when she came off for the final time five minutes later, relieved by Midge Purce in the 54th minute of the match, she took a final bow before the crowd of more than 25,000 fans.

After the victory, she gathered with her teammates in the middle of the field, soaking in the moment and sharing a speech with the crowd.

“When I think about what it means to me to represent not only this team but our country, it’s just that. We’re just a little snapshot of all of you. … We have fought so hard off the field to continue to create more space for ourselves to be who we are, but hopefully I’m turning it into more space for you guys to be who you are.

“It has been such an honor to be able to wear this shirt, to play with all these amazing players and to live out my childhood dream.”

Top moments from Megan Rapinoe’s final USWNT match

A’ja Wilson is tuning out the haters after the Las Vegas Aces’ 99-61 loss to the New York Liberty on Sunday.

The 2022 WNBA MVP finished with 9 points on 2-of-14 shooting, plus 7 rebounds and 3 blocks. After the game, some WNBA fans took to Twitter to call out the uncharacteristically low numbers from Wilson, with one noting that it “ain’t no MVP performance.”

Wilson, who has been averaging 20.3 points and 9.4 rebounds per game so far this season, replied her usual humor.

“1. I see ppl saying I’m concussed .. lol I’m not,” she wrote. “Doc checked me and said I was good! 2. I doubt I’ll ever shoot 2-14 again I pray I don’t lol 3. I’m so tired of ppl talking crazy on my name when it comes to this MVP talk (I knew this game was gonna bring it out of ppl lol) basketball is a GAME ..a game I love. …

“I’m never gonna be perfect at but I’m gonna grow and have fun every time I step foot on that court. That goal post be moving like mug tho.”

Wilson also broke down her performance to reporters after the game, noting that she’s going to “hold myself accountable” and that she hopes to never “shoot like that again.” But a bad game isn’t going to hold her back.

“At the end of the day, I’m (going to) always shoot. I don’t care,” she said. “I’m going to always shoot the basketball because my teammates need that from me. Do I live with this? Of course I’m gonna live with this. I didn’t have it. But when it comes to me, career low or whatever my numbers are looking like, I could care less about that. Because that’s not going to shatter my confidence to continue to shoot that basketball.

“The Aces drafted me in 2018 to shoot that basketball. And I’m going to continue to do that because that’s just who I am. This doesn’t validate me in this league at all. So I”m not going to harp on this at all. I don’t need a stat sheet to validate who I am in this league.”

The U.S. women’s national team managed a historic run at the 2023 World Cup, but not the one the two-time defending champions wanted.

With Sunday’s 5-4 loss to Sweden on penalties, the USWNT was eliminated in the Round of 16 in its earliest World Cup exit ever. Since the first Women’s World Cup in 1991, the USWNT had never bowed out before the semifinals and had never finished lower than third place.

Just Women’s Sports has the USWNT’s complete World Cup timeline, which includes four titles across nine tournaments.

1991: World Cup championship

In 1991, the USWNT won the first-ever Women’s World Cup, defeating Norway 2-1 to take home the title.

1995: Third-place finish

The USWNT followed up its inaugural World Cup win with a third-place finish in 1995. The Americans lost to 1991 runner-up Norway in the semifinal round but won the third-place match against China.

1999: World Cup championship

Eight years after winning the first World Cup title, the USWNT returned to the throne, defeating China in the final 5-4 in the penalty kick shootout after a 0-0 draw in regulation.

2003: Third-place finish

The USWNT finished in third place at the 2003 World Cup, losing to eventual champion Germany in the semifinals.

2007: Third-place finish

As mentioned above, 2007 marks the last time the USWNT faced elimination in the group stage. The team went on to finish in third after losing to Brazil in the semifinals.

2011: Runner-up finish

This tournament continued a run of almost-but-not-quite World Cup runs for the USWNT, which lost to Japan in the championship match.

2015: World Cup championship

After 16 years, the USWNT won the World Cup once again, getting revenge on Japan with a 5-2 win in the final to win its third championship.

2019: World Cup championship

The USWNT’s fourth World Cup in eight tournaments completed a dominant title defense in 2019, with the U.S. beating the Netherlands 2-0 in the final.

2023: Round of 16 exit

A 5-4 loss to Sweden on penalties ended the shortest World Cup run in USWNT history. The teams played to a scoreless draw through regulation and extra time, but Sweden advanced in the shootout.

A poor showing in the group stage helped doom the U.S. to its fate. The two-time defending champions finished second to the Netherlands in Group E, which set up an early clash with powerhouse Sweden. In contrast, the Netherlands managed a 2-0 win against South Africa in its Round of 16 match.

Lindsey Horan took exception to Carli Lloyd’s criticism of the U.S. women’s national team, calling the comments “frustrating” but also just “noise” the team must tune out ahead of its match against Sweden.

Lloyd, who played with Horan on the 2019 World Cup team but is covering this tournament as a Fox Sports analyst, had harsh words for the USWNT following its 0-0 draw against Portugal to close out the group stage. She played with most of the current USWNT roster and for coach Vlatko Andonovski before her retirement in 2021, but questioned the culture and mentality of the team of the 2023 squad.

While Andonovski called it “insane” to question the team’s mentality, Horan dismissed the criticism the team has faced as “noise.”

“It’s kind of frustrating for me to hear, especially knowing this team and knowing how much we put into every single game, how much preparation we put into every single game, seeing our trainings, seeing how hard we work,” Horan said Thursday.

“Again, it’s noise and, again, it’s an opinion and everyone is entitled to their own opinion — we know that’s how it goes. But for me, I always want to defend my team and say: You have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes. You have no idea every single training what we’re doing individually, collectively, et cetera.”

Lloyd attempted to clarify her postgame comments Wednesday, noting that she wants people “to understand that I care deeply about this team” and that the comments were coming from a place of caring. She also noted that her comments were “based off a legacy” of success that has been passed down through USWNT generations.

And while Horan said the questions of the team’s fortitude “hurt,” she and her teammates are doing their best to tune them out.

“For anyone to question our mentality hurts a little bit but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. I don’t really care,” she said. “It’s what’s going inside of the team and getting ready for that next game.”

Admittedly, the USWNT did not play well against Portugal – players have said as much. Still, they have reached the knockout stage and are are setting their sights on Sweden, who they will face at 5 a.m. ET Sunday.

“In this game, you can’t question that we didn’t want to win the game, you can’t question that we weren’t working as hard as we possibly could,” Horan said. “We know that things could have been better, we know that we could have done more, we know that we could’ve scored opportunities.”

Tobin Heath and Christen Press gave voice to what plenty of U.S. women’s national teams fans are thinking following the 1-1 draw with the Netherlands in the World Cup group stage.

The two-time World Cup champions are watching this year’s tournament from home and are breaking down each USWNT match as the hosts of “The RE-CAP Show.” On the latest episode, Heath and Press criticized the team’s decision-making, especially in what Heath called a “disastrous” first half.

“If I was to close my eyes right now, and if you were to tell me that we tied the Netherlands 1-1, I think I would have said, ‘OK, not terrible,’” she said. “But I didn’t close my eyes and watch that game. They were wide open. And what I will say is there’s a result and then there’s performance.”

Looking at the result, a 1-1 draw still gives the USWNT a solid chance to win Group E with a win against Portugal at 3 a.m. ET Tuesday.

“But performance — I mean, that first half was disastrous. And I don’t think there’s any one individual that you point to and say that individual didn’t play well,” Heath said. “I think I looked out on the field and I saw a lot of people that didn’t know what they were doing.”

After the USWNT entered the half trailing 1-0, a much-improved second half saw the team tie the score on a Lindsey Horan header. The energy and belief in the final 45 minutes reminded everyone “what we love cheering for about the U.S.,” Heath said. She also described how Horan had manifested her game-tying goal in conversation with Heath before the match.

“I’m so proud of her,” Heath said. “She told me that she was gonna do that, and she did it. Like, that to me is a U.S. women’s team captain. When the team needed something, she brought it.”

While the USWNT scored on a corner kick and finished with 11 in the match, Heath keeps “coming back” to the ways in which the team could be more effective on corner kicks and other set pieces. A lack of consistency has made it hard for the team to get the timing right, she said.

Later in the show, injured Netherlands striker Vivianne Miedema came on to discuss the match with Heath. Miedema echoed Heath’s tactical analysis, noting that the USWNT would have done well to create more width in their attack.

“If they would have made it a bit wider, you could have run at them. As you know yourself as a winger, you would have loved to get the ball and then go into one-on-one,” Miedema said. “I think you guys then create those opportunities.”

Miedema also questioned whether the USWNT’s tactics played to the strengths of its roster, specifically referring to Alex Morgan, who head coach Vlatko Andonovski has said is playing in a “bit of a different role” at this World Cup.

“I think it’s hard to see some of your players not being able to actually get into their strengths,” she said. “I think if you look at Alex Morgan, she’s probably one of the best strikers in the world for more than a decade now. But she obviously doesn’t get the balls into the box that she probably needs. So you probably need to adjust a bit to the players that you have, and I felt like in our game that didn’t happen.”

To Miedema, Rose Lavelle made a “big difference” in the second half, which helped the USWNT play better from that point.

Still, despite some stronger and weaker individual performances, the team’s play as a whole is the root of the problem. Press described an “intangible feeling” that is lacking so far from the 2023 squad.

“The reason that the U.S. women’s national has won consistently is because of the intangible, and the intangible feeling was there,” she said. “I was even just reading what people were saying in the second half and it was the feeling that every single person in this country believed that we were going to come back and score, and they played like that.

“And I’ve been on the pitch with this team and I haven’t felt that. And that’s what scares me the most.”

That does not mean the team will not be able to build its identity during the World Cup. And that process already is underway.

“To me, it’s another performance where in that first half I saw 11 individuals out on the field trying to play a game of soccer,” Heath said. “And then in the second half I saw 11 individuals that came together as the U.S. women’s team to try to win a game.”

The U.S. women’s national team needs to do a better job of finishing its chances, two-time World Cup champion Carli Lloyd told Fox Sports.

The missed opportunities in the USWNT’s opening win against Vietnam continue what Lloyd called a “worrying” trend under head coach Vlatko Andonovski. The USWNT finished the 3-0 win with 28 shots, seven of them on target.

“I don’t think you saw that fluidity with the U.S. in the first game,” Lloyd said. “Why would you? That lineup had never played together. The first goal Sophia Smith scored was really the only moment where you saw three players — Lindsey Horan, Alex Morgan and Soph — have that movement off one another where it was synchronized.

“Everything else was just these Hail Mary balls that were being lumped into the box. Those aren’t effective often.”

Vietnam did turn in a sound defensive performance, with 26 goal preventions. The underdogs also forced 91 turnovers. The USWNT completed 381 of its 460 total passes for an 83% completion rate.

The USWNT also had a strong defensive showing, conceding no shots or corner kicks. And Naomi Girma looked stellar as the starting center back, completing 79 of 88 pass attempts for a 93% pass completion rate. She also had six ball recoveries against Vietnam.

Lloyd’s main concern, though, did not arise from Vietnam’s defense but from the USWNT’s lack of cohesion and killer instinct under Andonovski, who took over as head coach after the 2019 World Cup.

“To be perfectly blunt, this has been a general theme with Vlatko ever since he became the coach in 2019,” Lloyd said. “Two years ago at the Olympics, we had chances that we weren’t putting away. That’s worrying. Because when you go deeper in a tournament, those opportunities are going to be few and far between. You might get 20 or 30 chances against Vietnam. You won’t against the top teams. So it’s really important to capitalize on the ones you get.”

While players on the USWNT certainly know how to finish, they need to follow through even when the circumstances of the game are working against them.

“It was a mindset, a visualization thing. These players all know how to finish. If you work on crossing with no defenders, they’re all going to score,” she said. “But when an opponent is maybe pushing you a little bit off balance, you have to really hone in on keeping your eye on the ball and attacking it.

“I’m thinking of the shot Megan Rapinoe had against Vietnam. There was no movement toward the ball. I’ve done that in my career, where I’m just not switched on, just kind of standing there. It’s not effective.”

Even still, there were moments – as with Sophia Smith’s assist on Lindsey Horan’s goal – in which the team showed glimpses of what it could be.

“Things like the weight of the pass matter. If you look at Sophia Smith’s assist, it was purposeful,” Lloyd said. “She’s attacking the ball in a great spot, takes a perfect touch and she executes. And it allows Lindsey to put it away. It should be that easy.

“The best teams and the best players capitalize on those half chances. A half chance is still a chance.”

The U.S. women’s national team won its 2023 World Cup opener 3-0 against Vietnam, a far cry from its 13-0 victory against Thailand to kick off the 2019 tournament.

For 2019 World Cup champion Abby Dahlkemper, though, the narrower margin of victory should not be a knock on the USWNT but rather a sign of the growth of the women’s game.

Vietnam proved “a little bit tougher than people expected,” noted Dahlkemper. The 30-year-old defender is missing the World Cup with a back injury, but she still is following the team, and she shared her thoughts with USWNT teammate Midge Purce and sports broadcaster Katie Nolan on the the second episode of Just Women’s Sports’ World Cup show “The 91st.”

“I thought their goalkeeper came up multiple times with pretty good saves,” Dahlkemper said, while defensively Vietnam was “pretty structured and disciplined.”

Still, getting a few goals on the scoresheet and having Alyssa Naeher get a clean sheet under her belt helps with momentum as the USWNT prepares to face the Netherlands at 9 p.m. ET Wednesday, she said.

And while some pundits compared Vietnam to Thailand ahead of the World Cup opener, Vietnam is a different team and women’s soccer is in a much different place than in 2019.

The latter point has been underscored in several group-stage games so far. France tied 0-0 with Jamaica. England eked out a 1-0 win against Haiti. Sweden needed a last-minute winner against South Africa.

“I think, just as a whole, you can see even from the beginning of this tournament just the evolution of women’s soccer,” Dahlkemper said. “Every country is getting better, and they’re investing in women, some of them. But these countries like Vietnam came in and did really well and put up a good fight.”

Players from up-and-coming contenders also are making splashes in the club scene. Jamaica’s Khadija Shaw plays for Manchester City in England’s Women’s Super League, and Nigeria’s Asisat Oshoala is a star for Barcelona.

“When we played Thailand, I’m not sure many of them even had teams to play on or were playing professionally,” Dahlkemper continued. “So I think that’s a huge thing as well, just to be able to get regular games in.”

Teams such as the Philippines, which is the first from its country to reach the World Cup, have elicited joyous fan reactions. And New Zealand secured its first World Cup win in history in front of a record crowd on home soil.

“It’s exciting to see the evolution of the women’s game, and it’s growing,” Dahlkemper said. “Even an upset, Norway losing to New Zealand in the opening game, it’s exciting to see.”

Lynn Williams will make her World Cup debut this summer as one of the top forwards for the U.S. women’s national team.

But the journey to the 2023 tournament hasn’t been without its challenges. Williams was passed up for the 2019 World Cup roster, a moment she called “devastating.”

“Looking back now, obviously 2019 was devastating for me. I wasn’t even on the team all of 2018, I believe, or going into 2019,” she told co-host Sam Mewis on the latest episode of their Snacks podcast. “And it was obviously devastating because I thought I deserved to be there. I felt like I was good enough.”

Hindsight, though, is 20/20, and Williams admits now that she may not have been mentally prepared for a World Cup. At the time, Williams was touted for her speed – and she still is. But her game has grown: her defensive presence, her scoring touch and more make her a well-rounded star for the USWNT and a threat to opponents.

“Looking back, I’m like: Was I mentally ready to be there? I don’t think so,” she said, before noting the change in her game and her confidence.

“I believe I’m good enough. I believe I’m more than just being fast. I bring more to the team than just that,” she said. “But because the outside world has said this to me for so long that like at some point, I started believing it. I started putting so much of my game into what other people thought.

“And now I think like as I’ve gotten older, I’m like, ‘So what if I’m fast? Like if you can’t stop it, who cares?’ I don’t think that that’s all I am.”

Williams has been one of the best American players to start the year, for both club and country. She has seven goals in NWSL play, tied for third in the league, and she scored mere minutes into her return from injury for the USWNT in January.

So heading into the USWNT roster decision this time around, she had a good idea that she would be making the team. She credits her success on the field and her confidence in her World Cup spot to her change in mindset: She no longer cared about how other people defined her on the field, she said.

“I’m just going go play. I don’t care. I put everything into it. And at the end of the day, it’s subjective… But I literally did everything I could possibly do,” she said.