Challenge Cup opens amid March Madness, what you may have missed — Woso links — Ali Krieger after her Gotham debut

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, March 21, 2022

Because it’s NCAA Tournament time, I’ve had to turn my attention away from soccer. That was unfortunate, because the Challenge Cup got underway!

If you are like me and got distracted by March Madness, here’s a look at what happened over the weekend as the NWSL’s preseason tournament kicked off. Essentially, the themes were new teams, new homes and new players. I don’t think we got a really good handle on how the league’s teams will perform or even what they’ll necessarily look like going forward. In other words: Preseason.

The Reign hosted the Thorns at Lumen Field, their new home! Sofia Huerta scored first, and Christine Sinclair equalized in the 28th minute. From there it was a scoreless fight to the end. Final, 1-1 draw.

The story here was really Lumen and the Reign settling into their new home. The crowd was announced at 7,343.

I think that is a good start. But, you know, I think we always want more, right? Like we want the fans to keep coming back. We want even more fans to show up because the more fans that come through the gate, the better the atmosphere, the better the show. — Reign coach Laura Harvey.

Friday’s other game was also a 1-1 draw between Racing Louisville and the Kansas City Current. Interesting to see the new faces on both sides: Jess McDonald for Racing and Sam Mewis and Lynn Williams for the Current. CeCe Kizer scored for Racing and Addie McCain scored for the Current.

I think there’s so much to grow from, from that performance, and so much for us to build on and learn from so I’m really proud of the group and the way we played and proud of Addie, proud of all the subs who came in and made a huge difference. I think that was really important tonight, we had a bunch of our rookies get their first games, Addie got her first goal. So it can’t be overstated how important that was. Definitely a lot to learn and grow from but definitely proud of the group for the performance. — Current captain Sam Mewis.

The draws continued on Saturday, with the Orlando Pride and Washington Spirit going scoreless. This game became notable when the Black Swans supporters’ group sought to display a sign that said GAY, in reference to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation. They were told the sign was political. Not a good look.

Angel City and the San Diego Wave played to a 1-1 draw. The result on the field really took a backseat to the celebration surrounding the return of top-tier women’s professional soccer to California.

Predictably, it had Hollywood flare.

And CHARLIE!

Angel City is playing its Challenge Cup home games at Cal State Fullerton. They’ll move to Banc of California Stadium in downtown Los Angeles when the regular season starts. The crowd was announced at 6,307.

Savannah McCaskill scored Angel City’s first ever goal in the 49th minute. Kaleigh Riehl answered with the first for the Wave in the 81st.  

“It being the 10th season now of the NWSL, I think it was time for a team or multiple teams in California. I’m very happy to be at the very foundational blocks of San Diego Wave and to see Angel City also trying to grow club at the same time. I think it’s just great for soccer in California, but also I might be biased, I think Southern California is the mecca of youth soccer. So to give that next generation access to us week in and week out is so important.” — Alex Morgan.

Brianna Pinto and Abby Erceg both scored in North Carolina’s 2-0 victory over Gotham. Check out new Gotham defender Ali Krieger’s comments below.

I posed a question on social media for those who follow me: How should we view the Challenge Cup? Is it preseason in the traditional sense, or is it something more? I know there’s a trophy, but since it doesn’t count toward the regular season, it will be interesting how intensely teams compete.

I think for some teams, like newcomers Angel City and San Diego, the Challenge Cup will be more about looking at what works than lifting a cup. I even believe that the Portland Thorns, the reigning Challenge Cup champions, will treat the tourney as more preseason-y while Rhian Wilkinson implements her vision. In other words, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.


LINKS!

Claire Watkins from Just Women’s Sports did this handy guide to each of the league’s teams for the Challenge Cup.

Meg Linehan did one for The Athletic, too!

And don’t miss Catilin Murray’s Challenge Cup preview for ESPN.

The Guardian with a story on Natalie Portman’s vision for Angel City.

The Equalizer’s Jeff Kassouf writes about the homecoming for Press and Morgan.

The Sporting News looks at the top NWSL players heading into the 2022 season.

All For XI’s take on the weekend’s matches.

Nice Q&A here from The Athletic with Jasmyne Spencer.

Howard Megdal’s story for Forbes on Gotham FC’s business side.

Sandra Herrera’s Power Rankings for CBS Sports heading into the Challenge Cup.

The Raleigh News & Observer did a nice feature on Jess McDonald.

The Washington City Paper profiled Spirit coach Kris Ward.

The Toronto Star’s Laura Armstrong took a look at the Canadian talent in the NWSL.

Steph Yang with a story this morning on the USL W League.

The Los Angeles Times writes about Angel City’s debut.

Canada’s Celebration Tour continues with two games against Nigeria.

The Orlando Sentinel’s Austin David profiles Orlando goalkeeper Erin McLeod.

Five at The IX: Ali Krieger

Ali Krieger spoke with reporters about her new club, Gotham FC, following the Challenge Cup opener. Here’s what she said. Questions from Jenna Tonelli and Emily Higginbotham! Really I just wanted an excuse to post the video above with Sloan.

Sloan has her own fashion Instagram. Definitely worth a follow.

Question: Obviously your first game with your new club, not the result you wanted but wondering your you know how it felt to get out there with the team for the first time?

Krieger: Thanks for the question. It was so exciting to play for Gotham FC tonight and start the Challenge Cup and start the season with my new squad. I was very, very thrilled. It’s obviously an honor to play with the players that I’m around and they’re very, very good and make me look good. So it’s exciting to be out there. Unfortunately, yes, we wanted a different result, but we will get there. It’s definitely climbing a mountain and you don’t want to peak too soon. So this is good to get out, kind of get the cobwebs out a little bit and iron out a little more detail into next week. DC will be our focus this week and we’ll get back out on the training field, watch video and see what we can do better and things that we need to clean up and and finalize for next week and start preparing for DC.

Question: Do you think that your presence on the team as a veteran player who’s been around this league for a long time with all of the new faces a lot of rookies on this team, how is that relationship for you?

Krieger: It’s been really, really welcoming and the team is wonderful. They’ve welcomed us with open arms. Me specifically, I feel very comfortable with the girls and I am really grateful for this opportunity to be able to impact the team in any way that I can. Especially with you know my experience, I try to just be me and bring Ali Krieger every day and stay consistent, stay confident and then encourage the players around me to want to be their best. I’m really thrilled to be a part of such a great group. The players that we have are credible, and some of the best in the NWSL and so I’m lucky we’re here. And to be also coached by such a fantastic coaching staff who have built a lot of confidence in us is wonderful. So I feel right at home and I’m excited for the upcoming season.

Question: On the backline, how do you feel like your chemistry and understanding is growing with them stepping into this new team?

Krieger: I mean we’re all pretty experienced and we’re all very professional. So, we’re doing what’s asked of us and we’re organized, we’re communicating, we’re pretty solid. So I feel very confident with each and every defender on this team, and anyone can step in at any time and it’s pretty seamless. That is what kind of keeps the fire in us every single day on the training field to be our best in order to earn the spot. It’s a fight but good we’re encouraging each other we make each other better every day and it’ll continue to get better throughout the season. We obviously haven’t played too too long together, these past six weeks only, so it’s definitely an adjustment but since we are experienced we’re professionals we can kind of get out there and do our job and do it well.


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: Anne Tokarski, @annetokarski, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Annie Peterson