NWSL

USWNT star, Reign legend Megan Rapinoe to host new HBO series

USWNT star, Reign legend Megan Rapinoe to host new HBO series

Megan Rapinoe’s world takeover continues.

When the U.S. women’s soccer star isn’t making statements with her epic post-goal celebrations, the OL Reign legend is using her time off the pitch to fight for activism, pay equity, and LQBT rights.

Now, Rapinoe is hosting a new series featuring some of the nation’s major political and cultural figures. 

Seeing America With Megan Rapinoe will feature the two-time U.S. World Cup winner in an “ongoing cultural conversation that has been taking place during this significant time in this country’s history.”

Rapinoe will be joined by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Netflix's Patriot Act host Hasan Minhaj and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones.

In the trailer, the star-studded guest panel discusses the upcoming presidential election, the challenges we face as a nation, and how we can move forward together.

It is an honor to host a show with a critical conversation between some of America’s most innovative thought leaders. I am so thankful to HBO for providing such a powerful platform for this important dialogue. -- Megan Rapinoe

Rapinoe has long used her platform to advocate for change and justice. 

Recently, U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow apologized to Rapinoe for how the federation responded to her decision to join Colin Kaepernick in protest of racial injustice when she kneeled during the national anthem ahead of USWNT games. She became the first white U.S. pro athlete to kneel during the anthem in 2016. 

Rapinoe joined Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson at the virtual ESPYs in June, calling for an end to racism. She referenced Kaepernick’s ongoing fight for racial injustice. 

Colin Kaepernick never shied away. He knew that discomfort was essential to liberation, and that fighting the oppression against Black people is bigger than sports. So will it be uncomfortable? Yes. In speaking up, will we make mistakes? Yes. That cannot stop us from trying, and not just for a few days or for a few [Instagram] posts. -- Megan Rapinoe

Tune into Seeing America With Megan Rapinoe as the USWNT star once again uses her platform to shed light on important dialogue. The special will air on August 1 on HBO at 7:00 p.m. PT.

NWSL announces Los Angeles expansion for 2022

NWSL announces Los Angeles expansion for 2022

Women’s soccer continues to rise in popularity, talent and support in the United States.

It may have something to do with the US Women’s National Team dominating world tournament after world tournament but that support has trickled down to the NWSL as well. 

[RELATED]: Portland Thorns FC season opener attracts record television audience

Speaking of the USWNT, arguably the G.O.A.T. of women’s soccer Mia Hamm, teased a huge announcement on Monday night that had us all playing detective.

What could the 48-year-old soccer prodigy, two-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time World Champion (1991, 1999) be alluding to? 

We got our answer on Tuesday morning when the NWSL made an announcement that sent ripples through the soccer world.

Hamm not only teased the announcement, but she is a part the large group of in investors the includes 13 fellow former USWNT members

According to the official press release, "the founding investor group includes Serena Williams and daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian, Jr., actors Uzo Aduba, Jessica Chastain, America Ferrera, Jennifer Garner, and Eva Longoria, late night talk show host Lilly Singh, former US Women’s National Team players including twelve representing Southern California including Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, Rachel Buehler, Shannon Boxx, Amanda Cromwell, Lorrie Fair Allen, Ronnie Fair Sullins, Joy Fawcett, Angela Hucles, Shannon MacMillan, Tisha Venturini Hoch, and Saskia Webber, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and FIFA World Cup Champions Lauren Cheney Holiday and Abby Wambach, author and activist Glennon Doyle, Netflix VP Original Content Cindy Holland, tech entrepreneur and filmmaker Casey Neistat, Founding Board Member of Baby2Baby, Sabina Nathanson, Media Executive David Nathanson, Baby2Baby Co-President Norah Weinstein, and Bad Robot President and COO Brian Weinstein."

[You can read the entire NWSL press release HERE]

How does the expansion impact the Portland Thorns and OL Reign? Well, a lot.

It started back in August 2019 when Portland Thorns and Timbers FC owner Merritt Paulson announced that the league would add two more teams in 2020 and a third in 2021.

“We’ve had multiple expansion groups in Portland for the last couple games,” said Paulson, who is a chief player in the NWSL’s small expansion committee. “We’ve got commitments from teams for 2020 and for 2021. We’re going to stabilize this league and we’re going to grow it.”

In December 2019, Jeff Kassouf of The Equalizer reported that Louisville is the confirmed expansion team in 2021.

Now that Los Angeles has “entered the chat”, the league has expanded to 10 teams.

Thorns goalkeeper Bella Bixby reveals she has suffered torn ACL

Thorns goalkeeper Bella Bixby reveals she has suffered torn ACL

As the Portland Thorns take the pitch against Houston Dash on Wednesday in the semifinal round, they’ll have to do it without Bella Bixby. 

Bixby had an impressive NWSL Challenge Cup debut and kept the team afloat with three draws in four games, but sat out of Friday’s upset victory over two-time defending champion North Carolina Courage due to injury. 

In a “bittersweet,” message on Twitter, Bixby, who entered the 2020 NWSL season as third-string goalkeeper, reveals she is heading back to Portland after suffering a torn ACL in practice. She does say however, it wasn’t a complete tear, which is positive news for the former Oregon State standout. 

Goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom sprang into action due to Bixby’s absence. Eckerstrom shut out the Courage on Friday with a total of eight saves, including two saves off of her line in the 86th minute to keep Portland's lead intact. It was Eckerstrom’s first appearance since last August. 

Thorns FC goalkeeping coach Nadine Angerer was forced out of retirement to dress as the backup and will likely be asked to do it again as the tournament continues. Angerer, who was the Thorns goalkeeper in 2014, retired from professional play and became director of goalkeeping for the club instead. 

Under her coaching, Portland won the NWSL Shield in 2016 and the NWSL Championship in 2017, while goalkeeper Adrianna Franch was named NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year in consecutive seasons. Franch remains out of the Challenge Cup due to a knee injury. 

Thorns FC won’t have long to recuperate from the loss of Bixby. They are headed to the semifinals against the Dash, who they’ll play on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. PDT in Utah. 

Meghan Klingenberg on facing N.C. Courage: “We freakin’ hate em’”

Meghan Klingenberg on facing N.C. Courage: “We freakin’ hate em’”

While previewing Friday's quarterfinals matchup against the North Carolina Courage (4-0-0), Portland Thorns FC (0-3-1) defender Meghan Klingenberg did not hold back. 

The way that we feel about [OL Reign] is the way that we feel about North Carolina: We fricken hate 'em. -- Meghan Klingenberg

As of late, the Courage haven't had to worry too much about Portland, however. 

Last season, North Carolina humiliated Portland 6-0 in Providence Park and then defeated them 2-1 to open the NWSL Challenge Cup in front of a record-setting audience. North Carolina topped Portland in nearly every statistical category: shots (15-10); shots on goal (5-3); corners (13-5); crosses (36-17)...

Despite that, Portland believes they can turn the tide in the rivalry. 

Thorns head coach Mark Parsons will approach this match a tad differently.

Maybe last year we tried to defend Carolina and play Carolina. That’s not who we are. Our identity is to attack teams so this will be no different. — Head Coach Mark Parsons

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon].

Portland is 0-3-1 at the Challenge Cup and still looking to play that complete game and one they know they can do. The Thorns have seen plenty of action in the box, but just haven’t had the luck with finishing. 

The more we are a team in this game, in every element of the word team, our chances increase. — Thorns Head Coach Mark Parsons

I think as a team we have gotten better and better. It’s going to come and we feel that… It’s been shoeing in every game. — Rocky Rodriguez

Kickoff for this quarterfinals matchup is at 9:30 AM (PT) on Friday, July 17.

Thorns FC goalkeeper Bella Bixby gives us some perspective on playing with no fans

Thorns FC goalkeeper Bella Bixby gives us some perspective on playing with no fans

It’s been quite a journey lately for Bella Bixby, who was listed as the Portland Thorns’ third string goalkeeper heading into this season.  

However, the former Oregon State soccer goalkeeper made her Thorns debut as starting goalkeeper in Portland’s first game of the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup in Utah on June 27.

In her first start, Bixby made four saves against the North Carolina Courage. However, the Thorns lost 2-1. 

The 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup tournament kicked off on June 27 at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah. Due to the ongoing global pandemic no spectators have been or will be in attendance.

Bixby has been training and playing with the Thorns in Utah, but she also recently caught up with our Justin Meyers on The Bridge Podcast.

She shared her thoughts on playing games in front of zero fans. The Oregon State product has found that playing in an empty stadium has been "jarring" but it does also help her and her teammates communicate a lot better.

It was definitely a little jarring to walk into an empty stadium, certainly. Being on the sidelines and seeing, and growing up with Portland’s crowd at Providence Park is 25,000 people – it’s pretty loud and crazy and wonderful. It was a little jarring [in an empty stadium], but it also came with a lot of benefits. I was able to communicate with my teammates without any outside distractions.  -- Thorns goalkeeper Bella Bixby on The Bridge Podcast

[Listen to the latest Bridge Podcast with Justin Myers and Bella Bixby].

Bixby played in 72 games at Oregon State, getting 18 clean sheets. She also set a university record for most career saves with 394.

The Thorns selected her in the 3rd round of the 2018 NWSL College Draft.

Portland (0-3-1) is still looking for its first win after playing in five matches thus far in the Challenge Cup tournament.

"As far as me and my back line, I feel like we’ve been getting better every game," Bixby said on The Bridge Podcast. "We’ve been making adjustments. We’ll continue to make adjustments, but the preparation going into these games hasn’t changed. It’s just about it coming together on the field right now."

Next up, the Thorns will face the North Carolina Courage Friday, July 17 at 9:30a.m. Pacific Time in the NWSL Challenge Cup Quarterfinals. 

How former OSU goalkeeper Bella Bixby stayed ready for her Portland Thorns debut

How former OSU goalkeeper Bella Bixby stayed ready for her Portland Thorns debut

Bella Bixby might have been listed as the Portland Thorns’ third string goalkeeper but that all changed on June 27, 2020. 

The former Oregon State soccer goalkeeper made her Thorns debut as starting goalkeeper in Portland’s first game of the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup currently in Utah.

In her first start with the Thorns, Bixby made four (impeccable) saves against the North Carolina Courage. However, the team lost 2-1.

Listed as a third string means a lot of waiting and waiting and waiting for your name to be called. That time passed along with a little nerves of your first professional start would be reason enough to knock any athlete off their game.

Not Bixby.

How did she manage to stay ready and stay in the moment?

Well, having teammates such as Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan and Christine Sinclair shoot rockets at you during practice might have had something to do with it…

I’ve been third string for the last two years but basically being in goal as target practice for some of the best players in the world the last two years - Lindsey Horan, Christine St. Clair, Tobin Heath - shooting on me for the last two years. I felt very prepared. — Bella Bixby

Going up against the best brings out the best in you. It’s an iron sharpens iron philosophy that worked in Bixby’s favor.

But when it came down to the game itself, Bixby relied on herself and the support from her teammates.

I was mostly just focused on making simple decisions, very clear decisions to not put my teammates in any danger and just playing my game because at the end of the day, I’m a goalkeeper. I’ve been playing this position for a really long time. The staff and my teammates obviously felt that I was ready for this… — Bella Bixby

The 24-year-old goalkeeper from Milwaukee, Oregon spent her collegiate career at Oregon State (2014-2017)and set the Oregon State career record with 394 saves, the third-highest total in Pac-12 history. She played 72 career games, holding 18 clean sheets.

Bixby was selected by the Thorns in the third round of the 2018 NWSL Draft.

The Thorns will face NW rival OL Reign on Monday, July 13. 

Bethany Balcer’s stoppage time goal secures Reign’s first win of NWSL Challenge Cup

Bethany Balcer’s stoppage time goal secures Reign’s first win of NWSL Challenge Cup

It only took 15 shot attempts and three games for the OL Reign to record their first goal of the NWSL Challenge Cup, but on Wednesday, they finally found the back of the net. 

In stoppage time, NWSL 2019 Rookie of the Year Bethany Balcer scored on a header to give the Reign the 1-0 victory and their first win of the tournament. Balcer was ultimately named Budweiser Woman of the Match. 

The score came in the 91st minute when Yuka Momiki, who came off the bench in the 81st minute, found Balcer who nodded in the game-winning goal. 

It feels really good. It feels like it’s been a long time coming. Our first two games, we didn’t really feel like we showed who we are, so it felt good to get the win. -- Balcer told OLReign.com

It was also a special moment for coach Farid Benstiti, who secured his first win since becoming the Reign’s head coach in January.

It was a game like we wanted it to be. The pressure was good and positive for us. We had a lot of pressure to do well. The pressure on the players must be positive. Even if you have to get a result, you have to be calm to be good and to listen to what we wanted, what we expected them to do. That’s the great thing. We expected that. The timing was good for everything. We were humble. We were passionate and we wanted our substitutes to come on the field fresh. It looks like a movie. They are happy because the result is positive.” -- Farid Benstiti

The preliminary round concludes on Monday, July 13, when the Reign and Portland Thorns clash at 9:30 a.m. PT. The Thorns are coming off a 1-1 draw vs. Washington Spirit and remain winless in the 2020 Challenge Cup. 

[RELATED: Despite Lindsey Horan's best efforts Portland Thorns FC draws once again]

Thorns look for first NWSL Challenge win without Becky Sauerbrunn 

Thorns look for first NWSL Challenge win without Becky Sauerbrunn 

The Portland Thorns (0-1-1, 1 point) are still looking for their first NWSL Challenge Cup victory in Utah and Sunday’s matchup with Washington Spirit will be no easy feat. 

[RELATED: Portland Thorns and Chicago Red Stars finish with scoreless draw]

During the team’s recent media availability, coach Mark Parsons shared that veteran Becky Sauerbrunn could be sidelined for the remainder of the Challenge Cup due to a left hip injury. This means the center back minutes will be divided between Emily Menges, Christen Westphal and Autumn Smithers on Sunday. 

She won’t play Sunday. It’s not too bad. Right now, it looks doubtful she’ll play another game in the tournament. And when I say that, that sounds bad. Let me be clear. I think if this tournament was another couple of weeks longer, she’d be back. So, it’s not too bad. Obviously disappointing. -- Mark Parsons

While Sauerbrunn won’t take the field on Sunday, that doesn’t mean she won’t still have an impact on the game off the field. Parsons said Sauerbrunn’s “support, her experience and her standards off the field are going to help us for this tournament.” 

[RELATED: Thorns add elite talent with addition of two-time World Cup winner Becky Sauerbrunn]

First-overall 2020 NWSL draft pick Sophia Smith will not be available for the Thorns once more, as she continues to rehab a left knee injury. 

The Thorns will, however, have numerous options off the bench. Parsons could look to the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft Morgan Weaver to get in another game this weekend. The former Washington State star made her debut vs. the Courage. 

When asked about his philosophy on the squad’s rotation, Parsons told The Philadelphia Inquirer that he believes his team could be a bit “fresher” in the second half vs. first half of Sunday’s matchup. 

I look at this game against Washington [on Sunday], they stuck to a very strong group between the first two games. If they stick to that again, my best bet would be the first 10-15 [minutes] they probably look a bit better than us. Because we had changes on Wednesday [and] we’ll have a couple more changes this game. I think for us, we would then build into the game, and you’d see us get back to understanding and being tactically back to who we are, and the non-verbal communication between players in individual relationships come through.

I think this game, because we made changes in the last, we haven’t had the reward of what Washington had that stuck to their guns. But potentially on the physical sides, there’s an advantage at some point in the game. -- Mark Parsons

How to watch

Date: Sunday, July 5

Time: 7:00 p.m. PT

Location: Zion Bank Stadium | Herriman, Utah

TV: CBS

[RELATED: Portland Thorns, North Carolina Courage kneel during national anthem before NWSL Challenge Cup]

Portland Thorns and Chicago Red Stars finish with scoreless draw

Portland Thorns and Chicago Red Stars finish with scoreless draw

Wednesday marked the third matchday of the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup, which will have eight matchdays in the preliminary round. The knockout stage begins in the middle of July.

The day started with a 0-0 draw between the Portland Thorns and the Chicago Red Stars.

Even though there were a lack of goals at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah on Wednesday, there was still plenty of optimism for the Thorns especially after seeing their second half effort.

It was a hard-fought match on both ends. [The] first half was a little rocky, and [the] second half, we got a lot more chances, got in the box. Players came on the field and did really well, so I’m proud of the team… Obviously we wanted a better result, but getting a tie against Chicago, who’s a great team and had a good roster coming off resting some players… I thought that was good. -- Thorns midfielder Lindsey Horan postgame

Chicago and Portland both earned their first point of the cup after both clubs lost their opening games on Saturday.

The Thorns had the majority of shots and shots on goal: 16 total shots with three on goal compared to Chicago's five shots and zero on goal.

But, Portland was ultimately unable to get it past two Chicago goalkeepers, Emily Boyd and Cassie Miller, who were making tournament debuts.

NEXT UP: The Portland Thorns will take on the Washington Spirit at 7:00p.m.

Portland Thorns, North Carolina Courage kneel during national anthem before NWSL Challenge Cup 

Portland Thorns, North Carolina Courage kneel during national anthem before NWSL Challenge Cup 

To protest racial injustice, police brutality and systemic racism against the Black community, the Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage took a knee ahead of the first match of the NWSL Challenge Cup on Saturday in Utah. 

All 22 players on the field and sideline kneeled while wearing shirts that said, “Black Lives Matter.” 

The two National Women’s Soccer League teams released a joint statement, demanding that liberties and freedoms that this nation was founded upon be extended to everyone. 

The teams choice to kneel comes just days after the USSF Board of Director’s voted to repeal a policy which required players to stand for the national anthem. The policy was created in 2016 after Megan Rapinoe joined Colin Kaepernick in protesting police brutality and racial injustice in the U.S. 

The NWSL is the first major professional soccer league in the United States to return to action following the coronavirus shutdown. They are also the first league to play games following the unfortunate killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.