Goodbye 2022: The NWSL reckoned with abuse and the USWNT struggled to find an identity

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, Dec. 19, 2022

What a long, strange trip it’s been. This past year has been a jumble of highs and lows, for both the NWSL and the USWNT.

(Editor’s Note: The IX will be off for all of next week, Dec. 26-30. The next edition of Soccer Monday will come to you on Jan. 2.)

So let’s take a look at the year that was:


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JANUARY

The NWSL and its players association agree to the league’s first collective bargaining agreement on the final day of the month.

The NWSL Board of Governors unanimously voted to approve the request of several investors of the Washington Spirit to become full equity shareholders, paving the way for Y. Michele Kang to take control of the Spirit.

Sam Kerr broke Australia’s all-time leading goal scorer record with 4 goals in an Asian Cup victory over Indonesia, to surpass Tim Cahill’s record.

Michelle Akers joined the Orlando Pride as an assistant coach.

Shannon Boxx and Hope Solo were named to the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame.

FEBRUARY

Because the CBA was ratified on the last day of January, it took a bit of time for the details of the contract to come out. Here’s a quick rundown from the NWSLPA. The Board of Governors approved it, making it all official.

Soon thereafter, Trinity Rodman became the highest paid player in the NWSL.

With the contract done, the NWSL opened training camps.

The Washington Post publishes Molly Hensley-Clancy’s investigative piece on Rory Dames.

The USWNT won the She Believes Cup. Teams included the Czech Republic, New Zealand and Iceland.

U.S. Soccer agreed to settle the discrimination lawsuit with the players, paving the way to the Equal Pay settlement. I wrote this in the aftermath.

MARCH

March opened with the sad news about the death of Stanford goalkeeper Katie Meyer.

Cindy Parlow Cone won her bid as U.S. Soccer president.

Jessica Berman was named NWSL Commissioner.

Photo courtesy of the NWSL

The Challenge Cup tournament started.

APRIL

Significant injuries marred the Challenge Cup. Marta, Lynn Williams, Tierna Davidson and Sarah Gorden sustained season-ending injuries.

Hope Solo was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. She was found asleep at the wheel in in a Walmart parking lot with her twins in the back seat.

James Clarkson was suspended by the Dash.

The NWSL embarked on it 10th season with two new teams, the San Diego Wave and Angel City.


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MAY

EQUAL PAY! EQUAL PAY! EQUAL PAY!

Here was my story at the time.

Becky weighed in.

Shannon Boxx entered the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame. Hope Solo deferred because of her legal issues.

Marcel Jean Soubrier is born!

JUNE

Vlato Andonovski left Christen Press off of the USWNT roster for World Cup qualifying, signaling a shift in direction for the team. Press, meanwhile, tore her ACL and was lost for the season.

Olivia Moultrie became the youngest player to score in the NWSL.

Tobin Heath joined the Reign.

Becky Sauerbrunn scored a rare goal in a match for the Thorns.

The U.S. Supreme Court effectively overturned Roe v. Wade. Knew it was coming, but still a shock. Megan Rapinoe spoke with reporters about it:

JULY

I went to Mexico and watched the USWNT qualify for the World Cup, along with Canada, Jamaica and Costa Rica. The United States, as winners of the tournament, also qualified for the 2024 Olympics.

Jaelene Daniels skipped Pride Day for the Courage against the Washington Spirit. If you can’t support your teammates on their special day then you shouldn’t be on the roster. The Courage waived her in October.

The Euros were a big deal. Even Shania Twain was watching. And yes, England won.

AUGUST

Laura Harvey became the winningest coach in the NWSL.

Julie Ertz welcomed son Madden Matthew Ertz!

The International Champions Cup was played in Portland. Lyon defeated Monterrey for the title. I got a photo of Sam Kerr.

San Diego took over the top of the table in the NWSL. Incredible showing for an expansion team.

Kris Ward was dismissed by the Washington Spirit following a confrontation with a player during practice, as well as a disappointing record.


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SEPTEMBER

Crystal Dunn returned to play for the Thorns four months after giving birth.

The Wave set the NWSL record with a crowd of 32,000 at Snapdragon Stadium for a match against Angel City.

Racing Louisville’s Nadia Nadim tore her ACL in a match against the Thorns.

OCTOBER

The Sally Yates report dropped, rocking women’s soccer.

It was much, much worse than we knew. Erin Simon deserves all of our love and care forever. Here was her statement, emailed to the AP.

“There are too many athletes who still suffer in silence because they are scared that no one will help them or hear them. I know because that is how I felt. Through many difficult days, my faith alone sustained me and kept me going. I want to do everything in my power to ensure that no other player must experience what I did. This report allows our voices to finally be heard and is the first step toward achieving the respectful workplace we all deserve. It is my sincere hope that the pain we have all experienced and the change we have all brought about will be for the good of our league and this game we all deeply love.”

The Thorns fired executives Gavin Wilkinson and Mike Golub in the aftermath, and owner Merritt Paulson stepped away from an active role with both his clubs.

The USWNT travelled to Europe, and while the opening game against England attracted nearly 77,000 to Wembley, the U.S. lost 2-1. The U.S. also lost 2-0 to Spain before coming home.

The NWSL playoffs ended with the Portland Thorns winning their third title. The championship game was played on network TV in primetime. Big.

NOVEMBER

The USWNT lost to Germany in Fort Lauderdale. First 3-game losing streak for the team since 1993, and first home loss in five years.

Mallory Pugh saved the day by scoring the go-ahead goal in the 56th minute for a 2-1 win over Germany in the second game of the USWNT’s series at Red Bull Stadium. It was my birthday, so thank you Mal.

Nadia Nadim’s mother died while she was on-air at the World Cup. After briefly returning to Denmark for the funeral, Nadim returned to Qatar.

DECEMBER

Merritt Paulson announced he is selling the Thorns.

Jill Ellis and Lauren Holiday were inducted into the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame.

Thorns coach Rhian Wilkinson resigned just five weeks after she led the team to NWSL title because of an attraction to a player that she did not act upon.

Chicago Red Stars owner Arnim Whisler announced he is selling his stake in the team.

UCLA defeated North Carolina for the NCAA women’s soccer title.

Grant Wahl, a celebrated soccer writer who promoted the women’s game, died while covering a World Cup match.

The NWSL and NWSLPA released their investigation into misconduct in the league. There were new revelations about verbal and emotional abuse, and misconduct was pervasive.

On that note, I’m heading back on my vacation. Happy holidays to all. Here’s looking forward to a great 2023. AND THE WOMEN’S WORLD CUP! I can’t wait!

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: Eleni Demestihas, @strongforecheck, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer


Written by Annie Peterson