Let’s talk about Croix Bethune!

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie Peterson, June 17, 2024

Happy Soccer Monday! First off from this morning: It’s officially official. My story: The Reign have been sold.

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Let’s address an issue from Sunday, when the match between the Reign and the visiting Thorns wasn’t on CBS until the second half due to an LPGA event that went long. Nothing against the LPGA! The redirect to the CBS Sports app didn’t work either. It said, “NFL programming currently off air.” It would have been nice to get a free stream on NWSL+ (where games are supposed to stream to viewers outside the United States, anyway).

Saturday night’s NWSL After Dark match between the Houston Dash and Angel City ended on a controversial note. In the final moments of stoppage time, Messiah Bright appeared to score from close in, which would have given Angel City a much-needed win. From at least one camera angle, it looked like the ball crossed the line between Dash goalkeeper Jane Campbell’s legs. But the replay also seemed to show a handball. So who knows? The PRO referees association usually issues a report later in the week.

Two things: The NWSL sure could use goal-line technology! But it’s expensive, and even MLS doesn’t have it. Second, it would sure help if the refs would have announced what VAR showed and whether the handball factored in. PRO usually issues reports on VAR determinations, but it won’t come until later this week. So we’ll see.

Angel City coach Becki Tweed said she would not comment on the matter. But she did express concern about the ever-rising stoppage times across the league.

There was also some fantastic soccer this weekend, including this goal from Washington Spirit rookie Croix Bethune in stoppage time.

The goal gave the Spirit the 1-1 draw at home in front of a club record 19,897 fans. Jaedyn Shaw had scored an early goal for the Wave.

Bethune has two game-changing goals scored five minutes or more into stoppage time this season —she’s the first NWSL player to do that. Her goal was the second-latest in club history (Ashley Hatch had a plus-10 goal two years ago, also against San Diego).

“I had a feeling that we weren’t going to lose and we just needed one chance for it to go in the back of the net, and it fell into my feet,” Bethune said.

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Bethune has five goals this season, second only to Ouleymata Sarr with six, and she leads the team with eight assists.

And Bethune is already racking up accolades: She was Rookie of the Month for May. She also earned a call-up to the USWNT as a training player.

And there’s the wardrobe:

The Kansas City Current and the Orlando Pride are STILL undefeated.

Another bright spot: Sophia Smith got engaged!

Must-click links

Defector with a story on Barbra Banda.

Giraldez has wrapped up Barcelona, headed to the NWSL

SF Chronicle (subscription) takes a look at Bay FC at the midpoint.

Also from the Chronicle, a feature on Racheal Kundananji.

Sports Business Journal looks at the candidates for an NWSL franchise.

The USWNT falls to No. 5 in the latest FIFA rankings, lowest ever ranking.

Where else might we see a one-off NWSL games like the one at Wrigley.

Esme Morgan is headed to the Spirit.

Lindey Horan’s fiance is chief soccer officer for new MLS club San Diego FC.

Chicago Red Stars game may be bumped for Riot Fest.

Sam Coffey out injured for the Thorns ahead of the Olympics. (My understanding is that this isn’t super serious, and that holding her out is a precaution with the Olympics in mind.)

The Olympic channel’s Courtney Hill wrote about Alex Morgan’s confidence in what she brings to the table.

ESPN’s Jeff Kassouf wrote a really nice story on the deaf national team.

Christen Press is back at training for Angel City. Not quite full training, but she’s getting closer!

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Five at The IX

Aubrey Kingsbury and Croix Bethune talk to media

Croix Bethune and goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury spoke to the media after their game Saturday night. Here’s what they said:

Question: Talk about your goal.

Bethune: We had a lot of chances, and from my point of view I knew that we were going to get one in the goal. As many chances as we had, we just needed one to go in. Eventually, we were getting it wide and sending them into the box. Casey [Krueger] played a great ball in. When a defender is running backwards, often the ball is going flick backwards, so I just chested it and finished it near post.

Kingsbury: They hardly got out of their half in the second half, so I was pretty close for it, actually. When Trin [Trinity Rodman] went down, we were just talking, “Get crosses in. Get numbers in the box. It’s gonna come.” Casey had a great ball and an incredible finish. You knew she was gonna score before it even left her foot.

Question: How did the spirit adjust to San Diego’s wide shape?

Bethune: They were very wide, so it was kind of hard for us to press because there was a lot of space in the midfield. The six was picking up the ball a lot, and there was just confusion on whether we should step or stay. I feel like at half we readjusted our shape and that allowed us to prevent the six from getting the ball or there being such a big gap in the middle of the field.

Kingsbury: San Diego was very organized. I thought they were a great opponent today, put in a great shift. But towards the end, you could tell they were tired. So, I think we wore them down. Even in the beginning, we had a lot of clear chances in the first half. [Croix] hit the post. [Kailen] Sheridan had a great save on Trin’s shot. Just one of those nights where we just couldn’t seem to score, but overall proud of the way we played.

Question: Croix, explain your goal celebration?

Bethune: I’m shooting dice. Because when you shoot dice, seven, 11 is gonna hit every time, so you wanna hit seven when you roll.

Question: Aubrey, can you talk about Hal Hershfelt‘s shift to the back line?

Kingsbury: She played there a little bit when we were in Portland, and ironically she played there a little bit at national team camp, so it was kinda like a running joke like “right back Hal.” Not so funny now that she has to play there; she’s a midfielder, for sure, but it’s great to have her be willing and open to fill whatever role that’s needed of her. She did a great job. Unfortunately, with Gaby [Carle’s] injury and the state of some other injuries, she had to fill in. I think she did a great job and hope that she didn’t have to defend too much and got to be on the ball.

Question: Croix, what was going through your mind in the final minutes?

Bethune: Just to continue to go. The game isn’t over until the final whistle. So, at the end of the day, I had a feeling that we weren’t going to lose, and we just needed one chance for it to go in the back of the net. And it fell into my feet.

Question: Is there pressure to win in front of such a big crowd?

Bethune: I wouldn’t necessarily say there’s pressure. I feel like we’ve been putting in the work, and it’s been showing off in that the fans come out and want to support us. So, of course, we want put on a show for them and come out with a win, but sometimes things don’t happen that way. At the end of the day, we want to perform our best and hopefully get a win. Sometimes you don’t get the win, but the way that you play is enough for the crowd to enjoy the game of soccer.

Kingsbury: I wouldn’t say more pressure, but more desire to really give them something. Now, it’s not us and our teammates; it’s us and 19,000 of our closest friends, and we really want them to feel the joy we have when we play with each other. Especially, it’s been since 2019 when we had this crowd. We were really building then, and then COVID hit. It’s been a long time coming, so for us to remember what a sold-out Audi — or close to it — feels like, to get that feeling back was incredible, and I hope it stays for the rest of the season.

Question: What was it like to have all of your teammates celebrate the goal?

Bethune: We’re family. I love how we all celebrate for each other’s goals. Even if I don’t score, it’s fun celebrating for someone else to score because at the end of the day we do it for each other. It’s amazing. Like you said, Ouleye [Sarr] ran off the pitch to celebrate with us on the field. It’s amazing to have everyone close in a huddle and to feel that love and support.

Kingsbury: “I was booking it because it’s the worst when you run all that way and then it’s over. So I didn’t see the actual celebration, but I was huffing and puffing and got some good hugs in there. Great feeling.

Question: Croix, how has your national team experience helped you?

Bethune: Of course, you can take little keys and ideas and implement them in my game with the Spirit. Anything that I can learn from older players or at camp, I love to add to my game.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
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Written by Annie Peterson