Spirit look to build on World Cup momentum with full roster

Spirit look to build on World Cup momentum with full roster

After a whirlwind month of June amid the fervor of the World Cup, the Washington Spirit have reloaded with every World Cup player ready to play against Sky Blue in New Jersey on Wednesday.

Rose Lavelle, Mallory Pugh, Chloe Logarzo, Amy Harrison, Elise Kellond-Knight and Cheyna Matthews are hoping their successes big and small will carry over from their World Cup experiences to make the NWSL have a larger impact in the coming years.

“Hopefully people come and watch it, take their first glimpse and realize that it’s not all mayonnaise in this league it’s a pretty good product,” head coach Richie Burke said. 

Part of that starts with more media coverage, including the new deal the NWSL signed with ESPN to carry games on their network. The league had a deal with Yahoo! Sports and NBC Sports Washington announced a broadcast deal with Monumental Sports Network and the team in January ahead of the World Cup.

"In the NWSL it’s been frustrating because you have those same players that you saw in the World Cup, they’re all here, not all of them, but a large majority are here. So it’s kind of like why are people not engaging with it?" said captain Andi Sullivan said.

For the Spirit, the ESPN deal was validation that the sport was growing.

“I think it’s been frustrating that sometimes, you turn on ESPN and there’s like corn hole or cricket," Pugh noted. "Everyone is saying how great and competitive this league is and I think people just need to see that and now that we have the option and they actually can do that it’s absolutely amazing.”

“I’m actually shocked that there hasn’t been a broadcast deal [with ESPN],” Australian national Chloe Logarzo said. “It should’ve happened a really long time ago.”

ESPN will carry the Sprit's game against the Houston Dash on Sept. 25 at 9 p.m. and it will air on ESPN2. NBC Sports Washington will carry the Spirit's remaining home games through Sept. 28 when they take on Reign FC.

That media coverage also includes print and online mediums showing up to games after the first-week post World Cup spike that every NWSL team experienced.

“Part of what will continue to grow this is to have more media coverage forever,” Chief Marketing Officer Gretchen Hamm said.

“It can’t just be a once every four years kind of thing or once every two years kind of thing," Logarzo noted. "It just needs to keep rolling.”

In addition to the media deal, most of the international players hope that the exposure helps force their federations and FIFA to invest more, and hopefully help them reach equal pay.

“The first step is taking the first step,” said Jamaican national Cheyna Matthews. Matthews hopes the Reggae Girlz first appearance in the World Cup, coupled with the success of other CONCACAF teams, will “put pressure on the JFF (Jamaican Football Federation) not only to talk about the things they want to do for us but make those things happen.” 

“The argument and the discussion [for equal pay] started before World Cup,” said recent acquisition Elise Kellond-Knight. “I’m a part of our player's union back in Australia, the PFA (Professional Footballers Australia), and we actually put a legal case together." 

The union called on FIFA to expand the player payment pool from $30 million to $57 million. "There’s actually some grounds here to what’s going on that the percentage increase for the females wasn’t anywhere near what the males have received for their World Cup," Kellond-Knight said.

Spirit ownership have noted that disparity and owner Steve Baldwin helped bring in sponsorship deals, including one with local insurance giant GEICO.

“He (Baldwin) feels that they are underpaid, under-recognized, under-appreciated and he’s doing everything within his power to change that,” Burke said. “I’ve been involved in football for a long time and lot of different levels and never known an ownership group or executive branch to be so committed to a team.” 

 “All the people who are working for us now are saying ‘this is the bare minimum now and we’re gonna push this so far,”” Sullivan said.

Eventually, the hope is that this iteration of a professional women's soccer league will last.

"I think that the engagement will stay and I think having all these international players with such great play such great character such great stories, I think that that is what will resonate with the community,” Sullivan said.

After meeting another Rose Lavelle, the Spirit's Lavelle hopes that people will cheer on the younger Lavelle in the NWSL in years to come.

“Hopefully little Rose Lavelle will come up and everyone will forget about old Rose Lavelle,” Lavelle noted.


Washington Spirit score sneakiest goal you'll ever see at Audi Field

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Washington Spirit score sneakiest goal you'll ever see at Audi Field

A goalie's nightmare came true at Audi Field on Saturday night when Orlando Spirit (and USWNT team) goalie Ashlyn Harris got her pocket picked by a Washington Spirit player on a routine pass back.

Crystal Thomas' steal and hit to the back of the Pride net put the home team up by one in the ninth minute of the game. 

Marta got revenge for the Spirit, tying it up at one in the 31st minute, but Washington came away with the win.

The Spirit, who play most of their home games at the Maryland SoccerPlex, return to Audi Field on Sept 14th to welcome Megan Rapinoe and Reign FC. 




Premier League Roundup: Sheffield United avoids injury scare from Callum Robinson

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Premier League Roundup: Sheffield United avoids injury scare from Callum Robinson

Two weeks into the Premier League season and there's already been a little bit of everything on the pitch. Teams are prepping for Matchday 3 and are having to navigate some early season injuries before getting there. 

Here are the latest news and notes surrounding the Premier League:

Team/Player News

Brighton & Hove Albion: Striker Tomer Hemed has departed for Championship side Charlton Athletic. The Israel international has been on the books at Albion for four seasons, scoring 33 times in 108 appearances for the club. He was a key part of Brighton's Championship squads, scoring in double figures for two seasons as they won promotion at the second attempt, though his game time has been limited since they made it to the top tier.

Chelsea: Full-back Davide Zappacosta has joined Roma on loan until January, with the deal including the option to extend the loan until the end of the year.    
Zappacosta saw his role reduce when Maurizio Sarri took control of the club, seeing just 125 minutes of league action during the 2018-19 season. Chelsea has also extended Zappacosta's contract through the 2022 season. 

Manchester City: There were concerns when Oleksandr Zinchenko went down clutching the back of his left thigh on Saturday (vs. Tottenham). However, after a brief pause in play, Zinchenko was cleared on-field to continue, and he completed 90 minutes. Speaking to CityTV after the match, he confirmed. "It was just a cramp. Everything is okay." 

Once again they could be without their center back John Stones who missed City's last match. City released a statement before their Tottenham tie on their revealing that Stones had "suffered a rectus femoris strain" which would keep him out of the match. Nicolas Otamendi was handed a recall, and the Argentine could continue at Bournemouth on Sunday as the thigh problem is likely to rule Stones out of game week three as well. "He has a muscular problem," Pep said in his post-match press conference. "A week to ten days [before he can return to play]."

There is good injury news though as defender Benjamin Mendy has returned to training for the first time since a long-term knee injury. He'll like have to battle Zinchenko for a starting spot as the Ukrainian has established himself as Pep Guardiola's first-choice left-back.

Sheffield United: The Republic of Ireland international, Callum Robinson, limped off with a muscular problem before the hour mark on Sunday, and there were fears that he could be set for spell out. But Robinson moved quickly to quell those fears by insisting he will be ready for the visit of Leicester citing fatigue and hamstring tightness. Robinson has been the preferred attacking partner of Dave McGoldrick in the first two games, but Chris Wilder would have no hesitation in selecting Oli McBurnie who is eager to impress following his arrival from Swansea. "You’ve seen a glimpse of what Oli offers you today, and I think everyone is excited," the United boss said post-match.

Source: NBC Sports Rotoworld