Fallout from WaPo story on Rory Dames — A look at the SheBelieves opponents — Becky Sauerbrunn speaks

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, February 14, 2022

I’m sure many of you have seen it by now, but Molly Hensley-Clancy wrote a very comprehensive long-form investigative piece on the alleged misconduct by former Red Stars coach Rory Dames when he was a youth coach.

Coupled with the story about the Portland Timbers’ Andy Polo and a police report that detailed alleged domestic abuse last May — before the team extended his contract — well, it’s been an emotionally heavy week.

I’m so tired, as I’m sure many of you are. I’m having a lot of anguish about the Polo story in particular. He needed to be suspended immediately when the incident occurred.

A group of USWNT players put it better than me in a letter to the federation. Good to see Carli Lloyd joined.

We will not stop fighting until we can ensure that this sport is safe for ourselves, for our
daughters, and for every little girl who cheers us on and dreams of one day playing the sport we
all love.”

That said, I’m going to turn my attention to this week’s SheBelieves Cup. The field might not be as strong as in years past — COVID-19 continues to be an issue — but it does offer a good chance for the American kids to get some valuable playing time. Obviously everything now is about the 2023 World Cup.

So here’s a look at the opponents:

New Zealand already has an automatic berth in the World Cup as co-hosts. Former U.S. national team coach Tom Sermanni was coach of the Ferns for a spell, but he was dismissed after the Tokyo Olympics. The new coach is Jitka Klimkova, a former defender for the Czech Republic, who also coached the U.S. under-19 and under-20 teams from 2015-19. She’s the first woman to coach the Ferns. Y’all may remember the last U.S. match against New Zealand: It was a 6-1 rout at the Tokyo Games. The Ferns are ranked No. 22 in the latest FIFA world rankings.

Iceland is currently ranked No. 16 in the World. The team is looking forward to a busy summer. They’re in the midst of qualifying for the World Cup, currently sitting in second in their UEFA group behind the Netherlands. They’ve won three group matches and lost one. They also have Euro group stage matches in July. The team is coached by Thorsteinn Halldorsson. Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir, who just had a baby in November, is not on the team’s roster for the tournament, but former Portland Thorn Dagny Brynjarsdottir is.

Most of the players for the Czech Republic play in their home country, but there a handful of exceptions, including goalkeeper Barbora Votikova, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain, and Andrea Staskova, a rising star with Juventus. Franny Cerny, who grew up in California and played at DePaul, is on the roster. Karel Rada has coached the team since 2017. The Czech Republic is currently ranked No. 24 in the world. Interestingly, they’ll face Iceland on April 12 in World Cup qualifying.

And with that, we all look forward to Thursday. And I look forward to spelling everyone’s names.


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LINKS!

Kicking this all off is Caitlin Murray’s handy explainer on the national team CBAs. Bookmarking now.

Sandra Herrera’s preview on the North Carolina Courage for CBS Sports.

Here’s her Gotham preview, too.

Jessa Braun from Just Women’s Sports with a nice feature on the Reign’s original three.

Steph Yang’s delightful Q&A with Sam Mewis and Lynn Williams for The Athletic.

Caitlin Murray’s story for ESPN on the end of the Spirit’s ownership debacle.

She also wrote about the players accusing US Soccer of not even doing the bare minimum to prevent abuse.

The Equalizer’s Jeff Kassouf on the letter the US players wrote criticizing US Soccer.

The Courier-Journal reports that Dr. Nadia Nadim might be back by June, maybe sooner.

Interesting story from the Sports Business Journal on the NWSL and WNBA getting stronger based on recent deals.

Steven Goff from the Washington Post on how players are looking ahead after ownership thing is settled.

Lindsey Horan is out of the SheBelieves Cup because of a knee injury.

My story on Kang’s win of the ownership squabble.

Wrote a couple of stories on the fallout from Molly’s story. Here’s one.

The Philippines women’s soccer team responds to criticism that they’re not Filipino enough.

Meg Linehan explains the US Soccer elections for The Athletic.

Highly recommend this from Rachael Kriger on Bianca Sierra and the rise of Liga MX.

Caitlin Murray looks at the newbies to watch in the SheBelieves.


Five at The IX: Becky Sauerbrunn

We had a few moments with Beck Sauerbrunn before she headed off to USWNT training camp for the SheBelieves Cup. Please note, this was before the Andy Polo abuse became public.

Question: Tenth season, 2 new teams coming in, do you feel secure about the NWSL at this point?

Sauerbrunn: I would love to tell you 100% I feel secure about this league. I’ve unfortunately been through a league that’s folded and I was surprised by that when it happened. But I think we’ve gotten to the 10th year which is multiples more than we did the last professional leagues. And I think we’re getting these expansion teams, some really great owners. So I think the league’s going to continue to grow and to expand and become more and more stable. I hope we get more sponsors, I hope we get more eyes on the product that we have, some more broadcasting deals and things like that, but I think this league is gonna continue to be around and to grow exponentially.

Question: Given the turbulence that kind of happened last season and is continuing into this season, are you encouraged by the fact that sponsors have not departed, and some of them — like Ally, are strengthening their relationship?

Sauerbrunn: I’m glad that the sponsors are getting stronger. I think they’re also demanding that the league fixes itself. We had a very tragic year last year and we’re still feeling the ramifications of that. There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done around that but it’s good to have sponsors. It’s good to feel supported and to know that they’re investing and hopefully they’ll see a return on investment.

Question: You’ve lost a couple of key midfielders? How does that change the team?

Sauerbrunn: I feel like, as a player that’s gone through this a lot, teams are always gonna change and never look the same season to season and so you always have to make adjustments. Losing Lindsay and losing Ang was always going to be tough. They cover a lot of ground and do a lot of great things. So it’s just finding the players and then training them up as best as they can be, putting out there and letting them grow each day. It’s a process and I think you have players here that can fill those shoes. They are big shoes to fill, but I think it’s a process and I think we’ll get it done.

Question: Can you tell us your experience coming in to camp this season?

Sauerbrunn: So personally, I came in, I decided to freeze some eggs over the break rand so I was physically a little bit more deconditioned than I wanted to be, picked up a few knocks getting back, but I’m feeling really good the last few weeks and training fully. And then, as you’re trading fully you’re coming in with a new technical staff that’s introducing new tactics, potentially new formations, that sort of thing. But I’ve really enjoyed Rhian, I really enjoyed how she coaches. I like her dynamic. I like Mike Norris a lot, he just got introduced to us over in Bend. So it’s a great staff and it’s really energetic group and we’re just really chomping at the bit, really want to get going.

Question: How is the team jelling?

Sauerbrunn: The camaraderie has been really great. I think you’ve got a good mix of players that have been around a lot and new faces, and that’s always a great injection of energy, with the consistency of the more experienced players. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s fun getting to know the younger players each year. I’m kind of like, `Oh my gosh, I’m so much older than you!’ But it’s been really great. I would say at times we’re almost over energetic or trainings can actually be hectic because everyone wants to do so much. But that’s a great thing to have in the preseason.

Question: How to you feel about the CBA?

Sauerbrunn: I’m thrilled about the CBA. I played in the WPS and we were trying to get a CBA, we were trying to be recognized as a union and we never got there. It’s taken a while for us in the NWSL to be recognized as a union and then to actually have our first CBA executed. It’s just going up the standards is gonna protect the players. It just does so many good things and it’s truly monumental and Women’s Professional Soccer in the US to have that first CBA and I’m thrilled to be a part of that.

Question: Does the CBA give you less to worry about going into the season?

Sauerbrunn: It is women’s soccer. There’s always something to worry about. So to have the CBA off the plate that is settling for sure. It’s nice to go into a season knowing, just the policies and the things that can be enforced, and if we have problems with things we actually have a CBA that says this is the problem, we’re going to file a grievance until the league fixes it. So to have this protection it feels really, really good.

Question: Some players are heading overseas. What are your thoughts about that?

Sauerbrunn: I always wanting to stay in the U.S., I wanted to help grow this league. I do understand that this league is now at a point where it’s pretty stable. We’ve got great players that are coming in. And so I know some of my American teammates know they want to play overseas. They want to experience that because it’s a whole new soccer culture that you get to be a part of and you get to grow and learn and I got to play in Norway for about four months. I got to play in Champions League. It’s truly an amazing experience and when they come back here, or come back with the national team, then you know, they’re just adding things to the table that they learned overseas. So I think it’s really great that the leagues all across the world are bigger and they’re growing and they’re more competitive. I’m always going to believe the NWSL is the best, but that’s just my opinion.


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