World Cup winner McDonald waits for NWSL to “skyrocket” back

USWNT
Photo by John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images
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It’s an incredibly challenging time for all athletes, whether their seasons were disrupted midstream or delayed before they could begin their runs.

Spare a thought, relatively-speaking, for the players of the USWNT and National Women’s Soccer League. Women’s soccer is arguably at its peak worldwide, but their leagues have to rest on its laurels with the knowledge that their brightest players won’t get to shine on the Olympic stage until 2021.

There’s also the ongoing equal pay lawsuit by the USWNT against the U.S. Soccer Federation, which has also been delayed five weeks.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

In the case of the NWSL, Opening Day was supposed to start Saturday but of course has been delayed indefinitely. Jessica McDonald and her NC Courage team would be starting their defense of three-consecutive NWSL Shields and two-straight NWSL Championships.

McDonald, instead, is training with one teammate — fellow USWNT star Abby Dahlkemper — and wondering how much the coronavirus pandemic delay will affect her sport. She knows the league can

She says the league was well set-up for this challenge, as much as it could be, but that she can’t help thinking of the “What ifs?”

“We were kinda on this momentum in the U.S. for women’s soccer,” McDonald told ProSoccerTalk on Friday (listen to the entire conversation here).

“I thought that coming into 2020 we were going to (come in) with a bang in the NWSL as a whole organization. I was pretty excited to see what the fan base was going to be like in comparison to last year. For this to cause this delay during this pandemic, we’ll see what kind of fan base there’s going to be because it’s not going to be what I expected.”

NC Courage
(Photo by Diego Diaz/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

The delay began before the announcement that the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo would not take place this summer.

That meant the two-time defending World Cup champions would need to wait even longer to avenge their failure to medal at the 2016 Games in Brazil, the first time the USWNT finished off the podium at the Olympics.

For some players, it could be their only shot to compete at the Olympics. Others, their last. And McDonald admitted to thinking beyond soccer when lamenting her possible chance to hit the Olympic pitch.

“It was devastating to all of us athletes,” she said. “We have people who are thinking about retirement after they are done (with the Olympics). Think about gymnasts. They can only go so far with their age before going into their career fields. It’s insane to be a part. Pushing it back, a lot of us were devastated and disappointed but if it’s to secure our health, so-be-it.”

McDonald’s no stranger to disappointment and delays at the international level. After representing the U.S. at the U-17, U-20, and U-23 levels en route to being drafted No. 2 overall in the 2010 NWS Draft, she tore a patella tendon early in her rookie year and then found out she was pregnant with her son Jeremiah.

She worked at a factory while building back to fitness and didn’t make a full USWNT until 2016.

Suffice it to say that a World Cup celebration in 2019 didn’t seem a possibility.

“Looking back on all of that is mind-blowing,” McDonald said. “I went through the injury. Docs are telling me that physically I won’t be as fast. I wouldn’t measure up to being a full potential athlete. I fully ruptured my patella tendon, found out I was pregnant at the same time.”

“I found my motivation through my kid. Because I’ve been a mom since the NWSL has been the NWSL, day one. Scraping pinnies while trying to juggle motherhood was very challenging. It’s gonna be an inspiring thing for me in the future. I was inspired by him, and I want him to be inspired by me. He’s at an age where he’s going to remember all this. I’m just here to show him how hard your life journey gets some time but if you’re inspired by something, you hold onto that and use that until you reach your goal. Don’t stop until you get there.”

“The two of us are always gonna have that bond. He’s gonna remember that moment and we’re gonna be talking about that in the future. And I cannot wait.”

The celebrations took a turn due to the equal pay law suit the USWNT filed against the federation, and even more so when court documents showed belittling language against the women.

Jessica McDonald
(Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

McDonald admits to being stung by the words and says the feelings were universal. Teammate Megan Rapinoe didn’t buy the ensuing apology from USWNT president Carlos Cordeiro, who’s since resigned.

“Obviously we were furious: It was blatantly sexist,” she said. “It was almost like a slap in our face but the bond we have in our team, it is so strong. You saw how powerful this case got. We have people in France, entire stadiums, screaming out equal pay together in a whole other country, here having our backs? This is something historical… It’s so strong and powerful when we do come together, it moves people. We kinda walk with some confidence because we’ve proven ourselves as female athletes. It’s frustrating but we’ll see what the outcome’s gonna be.”

We may have the answer to that before McDonald and the Courage begin their latest title defense, one which will prominently feature the 32-year-old.

“Since we have the core of this team together for five years,” she said. “The advantage is how well we know each others as players and the really cool camaraderie we have in the locker room. It’s one of a kind.”

McDonald is among the more decoated players in the nascent history of the NWSL, having also won the 2016 NWSL Championship with the Western New York Flash before the franchise moved to Cary. She’s scored double-digit goals in three markets, and also had success in a brief stint for Australia’s Melbourne Victory.

We wouldn’t bet against her adding to it. When the NWSL does return, McDonald’s and her crew will be ready to help the league quickly regain any lost ground.

“Everybody’s gonna be fueled up,” she said. “Momentum is gonna skyrocket.”

(Listen to the entire conversation with McDonald here).

Brentford vs Southampton, live! Score, updates, how to watch, stream, videos

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Brentford will try to extend their unbeaten run, which began all the way back in October, when they host bottom-of-the-table Southampton at Gtech Community Stadium on Saturday (watch live, 10 am ET on Peacock Premium). 

STREAM LIVE BRENTFORD vs SOUTHAMPTON

The Bees’ (30 points) eight-game unbeaten run (4W-4D-0L) has taken them up to 8th in the Premier League table, now closer to the top-four (nine points) than the relegation zone (13 points) in their second-ever season in the PL. Saints (15 points), meanwhile, are living dangerously at the bottom, though the gap between themselves and safety in 17th place is just two points.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Brentford vs Southampton

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


How to watch Brentford vs Southampton live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10 am ET, Saturday
Online: Stream via Peacock Premium

GOALLL! 2-0 to Brentford. Mbuemo slots home. The Bees are buzzing and catch Saints on the counter. Two goals in three minutes for the hosts. Saints look stunned.

GOALLL! Right before half time Brentford take the lead. Ben Mee bravely heads home a brilliant cross from Mbuemo. 1-0 to the Bees.

Not much going on in west London. Saints happy to sit back and Brentford struggling to create chances on the counter.

An even game so far with Saints having a few chances early on and Brentford have caused problems with crosses into the box.


Key storylines & star players

Last time out, Brentford settled for a frustrating 0-0 draw with Leeds, but before that they rattled off successive wins over West Ham, Liverpool and Bournemouth with just one goal conceded in three games. Ivan Toney is 3rd in the Premier League with 13 goals, trailing only Harry Kane (16) and Erling Haaland (an absurd 25). After initially struggling to replace the creativity of Christian Eriksen (4 assists in 11 appearances last season), Thomas Frank’s side is firing once again thanks to Mathias Jensen (4 in 20), Toney (3) and Josh Dasilva (2) picking up the slack.

After losing 3-1 to Newcastle over two legs in the League Cup semifinals, Southampton return their attention to the ongoing relegation battle. Having won just one of their last nine Premier League fixtures (1W-1D-7L), Saints made four first-team signings to strengthen the midfield and attack. They brought in some experience (30-year-old midfielder Mislav Orsic from Dinamo Zagreb and 28-year-old forward Paul Onuachu from Genk) along with some youth and potential (a pair of 20-year-olds, midfielder Carlos Alcaraz from Racing Club and winger Kamadeen Selumana from Rennes).


Brentford team news, injuries, lineup

OUT: Pontus Jansson (thigh), Frank Onyeka (hamstring), Shandon Baptiste (adductor)

Southampton team news, injuries, lineup

OUT: Valentino Livramento (knee), Kyle Walker-Peters (hamstring), Juan Larios (adductor), Alex McCarthy (ankle)

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Wolves vs Liverpool, live! Score, updates, stream link, video highlights

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Liverpool hopes it can boost its top-four hopes by hurting Wolves’ plans for Premier League safety when the duo meet Saturday at the Molineux (watch live, 10am ET Saturday online via Peacock Premium).

It’s the third meeting since early January between the sides following a 2-2 draw in the FA Cup and a 1-0 Liverpool win in the replay.

STREAM LIVE WOLVES vs LIVERPOOL

Wolves sit 17th with 17 points, only outside of the bottom three due to Bournemouth’s poor goal differential. Last place is just two points away, as there are seven teams within three points between 14th and 20th.

Liverpool, meanwhile, is 10 points off the top four but has played at least one fewer match than all but two of the eight teams ahead of them (Sixth-place Brighton and leaders Arsenal).

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Wolves vs Liverpool.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


Wolves vs Liverpool score: Wolves lead 2-0 on early o.g., Dawson debut goal


How to watch Wolves vs Liverpool live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday
Online: Premier League on Peacock


Liverpool own goal video: Wolves 1-0 Liverpool

Craig Dawson goal video: Debutant makes it 2-0 to Wolves with rare goal

 


Key storylines & star players

Winning games is about scoring goals and only two Wolves players have more than one. Daniel Podence has collected five, while Ruben Neves has four. Even more surprising, Wolves are still waiting on a goal from Raul Jimenez, Diego Costa, or injured Pedro Neto. Perhaps Matheus Cunha or Pablo Sarabia will chip in soon.

Liverpool has one win from its last three Premier League outings, but there’s a heaping helping of bad luck to their struggles. The Reds have 24 goals from open play and 20 allowed in that same situation. Their expected goals in those spots is 34.6 – 24. Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez have been especially unlucky despite combining for 12 goals and six assists on the season.


Wolves team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Pedro Neto (ankle), Sasa Kalajdzic (torn ACL), Boubacar Traore (undisclosed), Chiquinho (knee)

Liverpool team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Virgil van Dijk (thigh), Roberto Firmino (calf), Ibrahima Konate (hamstring), Luis Diaz (knee), Diogo Jota (thigh), Arthur Melo (thigh)

Brighton vs Bournemouth, live! Score, updates, stream link, video highlights

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Brighton will continue their chase for European qualification, while Bournemouth try to climb out of the relegation zone, when the two sides meet at Amex Stadium on Saturday (watch live, 10 am ET on Peacock Premium). 

STREAM LIVE BRIGHTON vs BOURNEMOUTH

Graham Potter and Roberto De Zerbi have, between them, guided Brighton (31 points) all the way up to 6th place in the Premier League table. The gap to 5th-place Tottenham is five points; the gap to Manchester United in 4th in eight. Bournemouth, meanwhile, are in the bottom-three for the first time this season after picking up just one point from their last five PL games.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Brighton vs Bournemouth

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


Brighton vs Bournemouth score, video highlights: 0-0


How to watch Brighton vs Bournemouth live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10 am ET, Saturday
Online: Stream via Peacock Premium


Brighton team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Alexis Mac Allister (suspension), Jakub Moder (knee), Adam Lallana (undisclosed), Levi Colwill (undisclosed), Evan Ferguson (ankle)

Bournemouth team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: David Brooks (thigh), Lewis Cook (knee), Neto (thigh), Dominic Solanke (knee), Marcus Tavernier (thigh), Ryan Fredericks (undisclosed), Junior Stanislas (undisclosed)

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Manchester United vs Crystal Palace, live! Score, updates, how to watch, stream, videos

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Manchester United looks to keep climbing up the Premier League table when its hosts improving Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Saturday (watch live, 10am ET online via Premier League on Peacock).

United has won all three of its cup matches since a Jan. 22 setback at Premier League leaders Arsenal, and now face Palace before two matches with Leeds

STREAM LIVE MANCHESTER UNITED vs CRYSTAL PALACE

Palace hasn’t won in 2023, though the Eagles managed back-to-back draws with Manchester United and Newcastle in their past two matches. Both of those were at Selhurst Park.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Manchester United vs Crystal Palace.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


How to watch Manchester United vs Crystal Palace live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday
Online: Premier League on Peacock


Key storylines & star players

Man United’s lost Christian Eriksen through April but acted quick and in impressive fashion with the loan addition of Marcel Sabitzer from Bayern Munich. Desperate for playing time and a more attacking role than what was asked of him by Bayern, the Austrian star may be just what the doctor ordered even before Eriksen went down. This is a hard-edged player with plenty of attcking firepower to boot.

Palace, of course, is still all about their creative players, as Wilfried Zaha, Michael Olise, Eberechi Eze, and Odsonne Edouard can deliver the goods with just a half-chance, but look out for Deadline Day adds Albert Sambi Lokonga, on loan from Patrick Vieira’s former team Arsenal, and Naouirou Ahamada, who they hope will add a needed ball progressor in the heart of the pitch.


Manchester United team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Christian Eriksen (ankle), Donny van de Beek (knee), Mason Greenwood (suspension – MORE) | QUESTIONABLE: Jadon Sancho (undisclosed), Anthony Martial (undisclosed), Diogo Dalot (thigh), Luke Shaw (illness), Scott McTominay (undisclosed)

Crystal Palace team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Wilfried Zaha (hamstring), Joachim Andersen (calf), Nathan Ferguson (undisclosed), James McArthur (groin)