All Scores

USWNT’s problems run deeper than generational divide

Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan connected for the USWNT’s lone goal in Thursday’s loss to Germany. (Omar Vega/Getty Images)

After the U.S. women’s national team stumbled to a bronze in the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, fans and coaches alike came to a consensus: The team needed to get younger, quickly.

The extra year between the 2019 World Cup and the Olympics pushed the USWNT’s “run it back” approach to the brink. The U.S. relied on its veterans, and a number of younger players who now are key parts of the team did not even make the trip.

The tournament yielded bronze, but the team looked sluggish and out of sorts — and like it could use an infusion of fresh talent.

In the first true roster rebuild of head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s tenure, the pendulum swung quickly and decisively. He took only younger players on a trip to play Australia twice in December 2021, and the green roster seized the opportunity, garnering a win and a tie.

The 2022 SheBelieves Cup roster in February featured a similar build, and the U.S. again did well, winning the tournament behind Catarina Macario’s best run of form in her still early career.

Still, questions persisted: When would veterans be called back in? Had Andonovski gone too far in sidelining experience in favor of youth? In doing so, did he jeopardize the passing of the torch that comes with interpersonal mentorship across generations?

Andonovski did eventually call Becky Sauerbrunn, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe back into the fold prior to this summer’s World Cup qualifying, but they returned to a team that had already changed its hierarchy. The coach also proved somewhat cagey about other long-time mainstays, saying Christen Press had more she needed to do before making a return.

Macario’s progress was halted by an ACL injury she sustained in June. Andonovski felt it important to emphasize that there will be a place for her when she returns, a decision made obvious by her value to the team, but also something of a mandate of rigidity.

Lindsey Horan has taken over the captain’s armband, a move that grounded the team in Australia and at the SheBelieves Cup. She’s kept the honor even with the return of more seasoned veterans.

The idea was that the next generation needed to build their minutes in high-stakes contests, and that the wealth of different experience levels would eventually meld into a perfect balance by the 2023 World Cup. But that process has not been linear, and after a third consecutive loss, fans are left asking still more questions.

The USWNT’s win over Canada in July’s Concacaf W Championship showed a step toward generational cohesion. The U.S. successfully maneuvered a tightly-wound contest and found a galvanizing force in Alex Morgan’s clinical finishing from the penalty spot. But that game also featured a number of badly missed chances and a lack of connectivity.

Against Germany on Thursday, with Morgan back in the lineup and a 29-year-old losing streak record on the line, the U.S. didn’t look like they’d made significant gains toward a full-team mentality.

The USWNT dominated stretches of the first half, and increasingly bad luck. But they also let themselves get pushed off the ball, and their sight lines became too narrow when they found themselves in quality goal-scoring positions.

Relying too much on athleticism and mentality has been a criticism of the USWNT for most of its existence. Indeed, the entire philosophy behind Andonovski’s program is that once the team modernizes, players will not need to have the mental fortitude of world-beaters in order to get the results they need.

But with the margins at the international level becoming increasingly thin, those kinds of intangibles matter, and the USWNT cannot find them when the time comes.

It’s perhaps unfair to overanalyze one of the smallest moments in a 90-minute game, but in the second half the intangibles came from the veterans.

Morgan and Rapinoe (who is quite effective off the bench) created a goal-scoring opportunity that was almost beautiful in its simplicity. In a lull in play, Morgan high-pressed the Germany backline into a mistake. Before the defense even knew what was happening, Morgan slotted a free pass to Rapinoe, who made a late run towards goal.

After an hour of futility, suddenly scoring seemed simple enough: press, pass, shoot, score.

Those kinds of heads-up moments come from a certain amount of confidence and execution and, yes, experience. The last time the U.S. played (an admittedly very different) Germany in 2018, the same kind vision netted the USWNT the lone goal of the game: a long kick by Alyssa Naeher, flicked on by Morgan, finished by Rapinoe.

In 2022, one of Germany’s youngest players flipped the script for their own game-winner. Lena Oberdorf is already one of the best midfielders in the sport, and she saw a long-ball opportunity down the field during a stoppage in play that the U.S. wasn’t ready for.

Oberdorf just won Young Player of the Tournament at the Euros, and she was paying attention when the time came to swing the game. Again, a result forced by confidence, execution, and experience, with no age limit required.

It’s a mistake to blame any player of any experience level for what we’re seeing from the USWNT in 2022.

Younger players haven’t necessarily looked comfortable or empowered to play at their most free after the reintegration of large personalities back into the team. Veterans look similarly limited in their influence, with the process that brought them back into the team possibly sidelining them unfairly.

And Andonovski has increasingly begun to focus on the players that still are not with the team instead of catering to the ones that are.

Rather than the old-school/new-school divide, what the USWNT must take a nuanced look at approaches, communication styles, core values, and maybe a little bit of a classic bite. In short, managing the U.S.’s locker room dynamic is the same monumental challenge that it has always been, and it’s up to the coaching staff to unlock the potential of players young and old.

Barcelona Beat Lyon to Win Back-to-Back Champions League Titles

Barcelona's Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas celebrating after beating Lyon at the 2024 Champions League final
Ballon d'Or winners Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas helped Barcelona to a second-straight UWCL title on Saturday. (Ramsey Cardy - Sportsfile/UEFA via Getty Images)

Barcelona was crowned champion of the Champions League on Saturday with a 2-0 win over Lyon in Bilbao.

Alexia "La Reina" Putellas, who recently re-signed with Barcelona, came off the bench to score the team's second goal. Fellow Ballon d’Or winner Aitana Bonmatí provided the team’s first. After the game, defender Lucy Bronze said Putellas was nicknamed "the queen" for a reason.

"Alexia is the captain of the team and she's the queen of Barcelona for a reason,"  defender Lucy Bronze told DAZN. "She's got the quality to do that in the last minute of the Champions League final when we were up against it at the end and it just sealed the win for us. It was amazing."

The victory marked Barcelona's first win over Lyon in a UWCL final, having previously gone up against the French side at both the 2019 and 2022 Champions League finals. It's also Barcelona's second Champions League title in a row.

"It's hard to win it once, but to do it back-to-back, Lyon showed how difficult it is and this team has finally done that," Bronze said. "I think we go down in history as one of the best teams in Europe."

This season, the team also secured a quadruple for the first time in club history, having already won Liga F, the Copa de la Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. The win ensures that coach Jonatan Giráldez — who has officially departed the team to join the NWSL's Washington Spirit — leaves Europe a champion.

"It was an incredible game. I am really happy, it's one of the best days of my life for sure," Giráldez told broadcaster DAZN after the game. "We did an amazing job. I am very proud of all of them."

Following the win, Putellas said her team "can't ask for anything else."

"Our objective was to win four out of four," the Spain international told reporters. "We have achieved everything we wanted. Every minute of sacrifice has been worth the effort — and I'd say that not after the game, but before, just entering in the stadium, with all the support we had here, it was worth it."

2024 Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Aitana Bonmatí said that the crowd support made it "feel like Camp Nou."

"I am on cloud nine right now," she said. "It is an historic day which we will remember forever."

Sun’s Alyssa Thomas Ejected After Flagrant 2 on Sky Rookie Angel Reese

Angel Reese said there were "no hard feelings" stemming from Alyssa Thomas's flagrant foul. (Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Angel Reese might have gotten knocked down on Saturday, but she got right back up again. 

Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas was ejected from the Sun’s 86-82 win over Chicago following a flagrant foul 2 on Reese — the first of her career. While the two were battling for a rebound, Reese took a clothesline hold around the neck courtesy of Thomas before hitting the ground.

After the game, Reese told reporters that there were "no hard feelings" and she appreciated Thomas for playing her hard beneath the basket.

"I know she purposely probably didn’t do it towards me," Reese said. "But just being able to come out there and just be strong and stand on two feet, it was going to be a tough game and that’s what I’m built for. And my teammates had my back throughout the whole game. So I was prepared for it."

She also didn’t buy into the idea that it was a "Welcome to the WNBA" moment, but thanked Thomas "sending a message" because it helped her get back up and "keep pushing."

"It’s not just because I’m a rookie. I’m a player. I’m a basketball player. They don’t give a damn if I’m a rookie. I mean, I want them to come at me every day. I want them to come at everybody," she added. "I mean, they’re not supposed to be nice to me. I hope y’all know that. They’re not supposed to be nice to me or lay down because I’m Angel Reese or because I’m a rookie."

Reese finished the game with 13 points, five rebounds, and two assists over 33 minutes.

Barcelona to Face Lyon in Champions League Rematch This Weekend

UEFA Women's Champions League Final"Barcelona FC - Olympique Lyonnais"
Saturday's game will be the third UWCL final meeting for Barcelona and Lyon, having previously gone up against each other in 2019 and 2022. (ANP via Getty Images)

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off in Bilbao on Saturday, with a couple of familiar foes set to face off for the trophy.

Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, making its 11th final appearance since 2010, will go head to head with a Barcelona side making its fourth final appearance in a row.

This will be the third time these two teams meet in the UWCL title game, having previously appeared in the 2019 and 2022 finals. Lyon won both of those prior games against Barcelona, alongside a total of eight Champions League trophies. That’s double that of any other club, with Eintracht Frankfurt coming in a distant second with four. 

Should Barcelona win, this would be the team's third title — breaking a tie for the third in the UWCL total titles race. 

But as these teams return to the UWCL final, it also marks the end of an era for both clubs. The game will be the last for both club managers, as Barcelona’s Jonatan Giráldez and Lyon’s Sonia Bompastor depart for new jobs after the season's end.

Giráldez is set to leave for the NWSL's Washington Spirit, while Bompastor will take over for incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes at Chelsea. Both coaches have earned one UWCL trophy during their tenures, while Bompastor also brought two Champions League trophies to Lyon as a player. She was the first coach to win a UWCL trophy as both a coach and player.

This season, Barcelona is looking for its first quadruple, having won a fifth Liga F title alongside the Copa de La Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. 

"We hope he can go out with the four trophies because we know how competitive and ambitious he is," Barcelona midfielder Patri Guijarro told ESPN. "It has been a winning era with him in charge and for him to go out with all four trophies would be historic and incredible."

But Lyon's Damaris Egurrola is excited about her team's chances of overcoming Barcelona once again — and to do it in front of family and friends.

"Lyon have something special," she told Forbes ahead of the weekend's final. "We have a great team and we have the players with enough talent to win any match."

The game will be a homecoming for Egurrola, who began her professional career with Athletic Bilbao.

"I’ve been thinking of this day and night," she said. "I’ve been dreaming of playing this match. Having the opportunity to play in San Mames is amazing. This is where it all started for me."

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off Saturday, May 25th at 12 PM ET and is free to stream on DAZN.

World No. 1 Iga Swiatek Headlines a Stacked 2024 French Open

Iga Swiatek serves against Coco Gauff during the group stage of the 2023 WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico
Iga Swiatek serves against Coco Gauff during the group stage of the 2023 WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico. (Robert Prange/Getty Images)

The 2024 French Open starts on Sunday, with a match schedule that promises to wrap the short clay court season up in style.

Looking for her fourth title at the major is three-time Roland Garros champion and World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, considered the favorite to win the whole Slam. Three of her four major titles have come at the French tournament. 

Swiatek's career record at the French Open is a dominating 28-2, and she's currently on a 16-game winning streak fueled by victories at tune-up tournaments in Madrid and Rome.

But that doesn't mean she won't face some serious challengers along the way. Get to know some of the Polish tennis champ's strongest competitors.

Aryna Sabalenka

Sabalenka is ranked No. 2 in the world and faced Swiatek in the finals at both Madrid and Rome. She lost in three sets in Madrid, which included a close third-set tiebreak, before losing in straight sets at the Italian Open. 

She enters the French Open having won the Australian Open in January, successfully defending her title in the first Slam of the season. At last year’s French Open, Sabalenka reached the semifinals — a career best — before being ousted by Karolina Muchová in three sets.

Season record: 25-7

Coco Gauff

Currently sitting at No. 3 in the world, the highest-ranked American on the schedule is none other than Coco Gauff. Gauff won her first major at the US Open last year, and reached the semifinals of this year’s Australian Open. She faced Swiatek in the semifinals of the Italian Open last week, losing in straight sets. 

But her first major final came at the French Open in 2022, before being ousted by Swiatek in the quarterfinals at last year’s French Open. The two are on a crash course for a meeting before the finals, as Gauff anchors the other quadrant on Swiatek’s side of the draw, should they both advance deep into the competition.

Season record: 25-8

Start your morning off right with Just Women’s Sports’ free, 5x-a-week newsletter.