Hall of Fame final thought as turmoil strikes the Red Stars — again

Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, May 8, 2023

The 2023 National Soccer Hall of Fame class was enshrined on Saturday. I wrote last week about Lauren Cheney Holiday, and indeed it was emotional when she received her red jacket.

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This is a bit long, but my goodness, so powerful. Please give it a read. With all that’s going on in the world, Holiday’s words lend not only perspective, but show us both the power of sport and the importance of living in the moment.

Six years ago while pregnant with my daughter, we found out I would have to undergo brain surgery. It was single handedly the hardest thing I ever had to go through. Unlike the toughest moments I’d enjoyed in sports. I couldn’t work or train my way out of it. I had to come to terms with the fact that I’d never be fast enough to outrun the fear of leaving my family too soon.

At times, waiting felt unbearable. But it was in these moments that I realized soccer had prepared me for this. When I would run fitness I would figure out the exact timing I would need to accomplish my goal. And I would tell myself while running, you can do anything for a minute. You can do anything for two minutes. Hell on the beep test, you can do anything for 12 minutes, but you got to get to level 20. I could do that over and over. Waiting to deliver my daughter and four weeks later have surgery, I break up the waiting with the belief that all I had to do was to get through the next hour, or the next 10 minutes. And I would repeat Pslams 30 verse five, `There may be pain in the night but joy comes in the morning.’ Every time I repeated this to myself, I found the strength to keep going.

Soccer teaches us that every season has an ending. It also teaches us that the work we do after this ending can, in many ways, be the catalyst for our strongest comeback yet. The sheer will to show up for ourselves, even on our darkest days can transform our life in the most powerful way. Every day, the work we do on and off the field to fight for our fellow players can make it seem like the joy will never come. Trust me, I know. But the strides that we make as we fight for gender pay equity, the safety of our fellow players and the next generation of women’s soccer, it makes the week worth it. So keep showing up fighting and taking up space. And every time you do remember, the joy will come.

Wanted to emphasize Holiday’s message before drawing attention to a far darker issue: Former Utah Royals coach Craig Harrington was hired by a youth club associated with the Chicago Red Stars despite being banned by the NWSL for two years. HOW?

Meg Linehan had the details in a story for The Athletic. She reached out to the Red Stars, who proactively dismissed GM Michelle Lomnicki. She had just been promoted into the position in January after serving as associated GM.

I just don’t understand the thinking behind hiring Harrington in a youth soccer position, especially given the details in the NWSL’s investigation. I know that Harrington denied the allegations when he was ultimately fired by the Royals. But the decision was a mistake.

On to…


Nice story here from The Oregonian’s Ryan Clark on Bella Bixby and her goal.

Could the Women’s World Cup be blacked out in Europe? Media rights are an issue ahead of the tournament.

Aside: It would be a shame if a blackout happens, but I’m guessing that deals will ultimately get done. There are reports in Germany that an agreement there is close. I don’t begrudge FIFA for trying to get top dollar for the media rights, but the organization’s reputation in recent years makes demands on broadcasters appear greedy. At the same time, FIFA would be foolish to allow any blackouts given that women’s soccer is arguably one of its biggest areas growth.

Here’s FIFA’s take.

Another ACL injury: Fran Kirby will miss the World Cup.

Yahoo Finance with a story on Jessica Berman and her strategy for growth.

In the wake of last weekend’s rain-delay game in Houston, what is the weather policy in the NWSL? From The Equalizer.

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The NYT on the media rights issue.

Can Jamaica be a World Cup surprise?

Not Sam Kerr. Won’t allow it.

Barbra Banda’s recent form bodes well for Zambia.

Interesting story on the Philippines national team.

The Nations League will determine the European teams in the 2024 Olympic (with hosts France).

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FIVE AT THE IX: Wow, Gotham and Chicago

In an effort to catch up with teams that aren’t the Portland Thorns, I watched the match between Gotham and Chicago on Sunday.

Gotham rookie Jenna Nighswonger scored her first NWSL goal in Sunday’s 2-1 victory over the Chicago Red Stars.

It was a game filled with drama. After scoring, Nighswonger, who started in the midfield, had to come off because of a knee injury. She was replaced by Sinead Farrelly.

Nighswonger, as it turned out, needed stitches after getting caught with a cleat. We also found out afterward that goalkeeper Michelle Betos broke her hand the weekend before against North Carolina (and played for 30 minutes!) Mandy Haught started in goal for Gotham.

Oh and Lynn Williams scored, too, as she continues to make her case for inclusion on the U.S. World Cup roster. Williams has six goals in all competitions this season for Gotham, and four in the regular season.

And there’s this:

Gotham moved to 4-2-0 this season and sat in fourth place in the standings. That’s stunning given that Gotham won just four games all of last season. Credit to GM Yael Averbuch and coach Juan Carlos Amorós for a dramatic turnaround.

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Here’s what Jenna Nighswonger had to say after the match:

Question: Talk about your first goal.

Nighswonger: Yeah, I’m really excited. Obviously I would have liked to play a little bit more minutes. But I’m excited to have gotten the start at left wing and have made an impact.

Question: Your first goal, if you could just kind of walk through it, what what happened, what you saw and then how you felt?

Nighswonger: We talked a lot about just being aggressive in the T zone. And I think when Taylor got the ball, it was just a good moment for her to go one-on-one, she’s obviously so good at that. And I saw that for her, so I think it was just all about her doing really well and getting the one-v-one and having the cross, and me just putting myself in a good situation where if there’s any rebounds, being there to get a tap-in and that’s kind of what just happened. But all credit to Taylor because it was an amazing one-v-one play for her to get the cross off and everything.

Question: Obviously we saw you go off there. How is the knee?

Nighswonger: Yeah, the studs just like caught my knee. So I like basically just came open. I don’t know. I got some stitches, so it’s fine.

Question: We’re used to seeing you in a more defensive role, can you talk about the conversations with coach about the change and how you felt in the new position.

Nighswonger: There wasn’t like a ton of conversation. I know that going into the game, we really wanted to exploit the wide areas. So I think Bruninha and I just had a good pairing in doing that.

Question: How did it feel being there?

Nighswonger: I was really excited to have a more forward roll. It was good bein out there, I think it was nice to be involved in a few different attacks. I’m obviously happy to get on the field, whenever, but I’m hoping to get a few more minutes there.

Question: How have you been able to gel with the team so quickly?

Nighwonger: I think the month we spent in Florida was really helpful, just getting to know everyone. Obviously, we’re forced to spend — like we had double days and three meals together most of the time so it just allowed me to get to know everyone and everyone’s been so nice to me and so welcoming. So I think it’s just easy to join an environment like this.

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: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Annie Peterson