Utah Royals

Dell Loy Hansen
Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Dell Loy Hansen to sell MLS, NWSL teams amid racism allegations

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Dell Loy Hansen, the investor and operator of Utah Soccer Holdings, the entity which owns Real Salt Lake (MLS), Utah Royals FC (NWSL) and Real Monarchs (USL), has agreed to sell the company days after allegations of racist comments attributed to Hansen were brought to light.

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The allegations of racism against Hansen, which were reported this week by The Athletic, are long and ugly.

Hansen first came under public fire on Thursday when he slammed his players for opting against playing their league game the previous night as they stood in solidarity with athletes from other American sports who refused to play in protest of the shooting of Jacob Blake by Wisconsin police.

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“It’s like somebody stabbed you and you’re trying to figure out a way to pull the knife out and move forward,” he said at the time, before walking back some of the comments in his second radio interview — on a station he owns — that day. Dell Loy Hansen also pinned blame on the players for forcing him to cut “40 to 50 jobs again” as he vowed to no longer welcome fans to future home games at Rio Tinto Stadium after what had occurred the night before. He reversed course on that comment later in the day as well.

Hansen announced on Friday that he would take a leave of absence while the leagues conduct investigations into the allegations against him.

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Hansen released a statement following Sunday’s announcement of sale, in which he apologized for “speaking too quickly, without pausing to consider the feelings or good intentions of others” and for “allowing [his] words to travel unfiltered as to their significance and impact.”

USWNT star Kelley O’Hara on NWSL restart, launching podcast

Kelley O'Hara
Photo by Bryan Byerly/ISI Photos/Getty Images
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When USWNT star Kelley O’Hara launched her own podcast, she didn’t mess around with the star power of her guests.

Launched in July, the “Just Women’s Sports” podcast has hosted three incredible guests including the first post-pregnancy interview with USWNT teammate Alex Morgan as well as talks with Olympic star Chloe Kim and WNBA hero Candace Parker.

A Stanford connection with fellow alum Haley Rosen put the two-time World Cup winner on the path to hosting the show, and O’Hara admits that she was driven by the chance to lift the lid on athletes’ true feelings beyond the shield that comes up while talking to reporters.

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“Even as an athlete I know that I have a little of my guard up when I’m talking to a reporter because sometimes they’ll take it and use it for their own narrative or agenda,” she said in a conversation with ProSoccerTalk. “There’s an ability to be vulnerable and be safe because you’re talking to someone who has a general idea of what it feels like to be an athlete. Nothing about it is trying to catch them.”

Part of that comes with O’Hara realizing she has a massive stage on account of her accomplishments. The USWNT is one of the most-watched teams in the world, on-and-off the pitch.

While she felt more like someone achieving a life goal when she first became a pro, the simultaneous life under a microscope and on a platform has inspired her to take advantage of her role model status.

“You come to realize that with the success that we have had, individually and with the national team, you do influence people,” O’Hara said. “You have an impact. You have this ability to be a role model and do good things in the world. That’s one of the reasons that I wanted to do this podcast; I have the ability to lend my platform to other athletes and give people a voice and a space.”

O’Hara was speaking as the National Women’s Soccer League put a bow on its return to the pitch with the NWSL Challenge Cup.

O’Hara’s Utah Royals fell to eventual champions Houston Dash in the quarterfinals, but the completion of the tournament in itself was a bright spot to a dark summer.

“I’m really proud about what the NWSL was able to create there,” O’Hara said. “There was a lot of uncertainty around the Challenge Cup because of COVID, but the fact that the NWSL was able to create an environment to get back on the field has been fantastic. Obviously you have Orlando that wasn’t able to come but since every team has arrived, not one player has tested positive so the NWSL deserves a lot of credit for designing this whole set-up.”

PST asked the 32-year-old how much credit should go to the players, considering how many other leagues have been thwarted by the negligence of athletes or staffers around COVID-19.

“When the NWSL was proposing everything, they told us it was built on trust. If players weren’t going to be responsible, it wasn’t going to work. It’s great that we all want to be competing, I feel we’re very lucky to be able to compete, but that’s contributed to people following the rules. You didn’t want to be the one person who ruins it.”

Learn more about the Just Women’s Sports crew, which includes Olympic heroes Kerri Walsh-Jennings, Hilary Knight, and Maggie Steffens as well as former WNBA No. 1 overall pick Nneka Ogwumike, at their official web site.

Portland acquires two-time World Cup winner Becky Sauerbrunn

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Photo by Naomi Baker - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images
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PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Thorns have acquired veteran U.S. national team defender Becky Sauerbrunn from the Utah Royals.

The long-rumored deal was made official Tuesday. The Royals acquired defender Elizabeth Ball and $100,000 in allocation money, with the possibility of additional allocation money if future conditions are met.

Sauerbrunn is in Orlando, Florida with the national team, preparing for the SheBelieves Cup tournament. The United States opens the tournament on Thursday night against England.

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In an interview published on the Portland Thorns’ website, Sauerbrunn said she was excited to come to Portland, where she lives in the offseason.

“As a player, I’ve lived my life in two parts, where my life with my team has been away from where I (otherwise) lived,” she said. “Going to Portland at this point in my career, having lived there for five years, that changes. This move allows me to play at home.”

Sauerbrunn has played professionally in the National Women’s Soccer League since 2013, starting with FC Kansas City before moving to the Royals in 2018. She’s been named NWSL Defender of the Year four times.

Thorns general manager Gavin Wilkinson said he appreciated Utah’s cooperation in the deal to bring Sauerbrunn home.

“Becky will give us tremendous experience and leadership at the back,” Wilkinson said. “Her addition to a group of players with championship capabilities and aspirations is exciting on all levels.”

Sauerbrunn was on the U.S. team that won the World Cup in 2015 and again last summer in France. She also won the Olympic gold medal with the team in 2012. She has 174 appearances with the national team.

Becky Sauerbrunn reflective as US sets sights on World Cup

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To hear Becky Sauerbrunn reference the “twilight” of her career is a bit unsettling. It’s abundantly clear from watching the 32-year-old defender on the field that she’s still at her peak.

But Sauerbrunn is thinking about a legacy as the U.S. national team readies for World Cup qualifying this fall. If the defending champions make the field for women’s soccer’s premier event in France next year, it will be her third World Cup.

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For Sauerbrunn, that legacy means using her voice to effect change. It includes her team’s public push for equitable pay – which culminated with a new contract last April with U.S. Soccer.

And more recently it includes her effort to send a team of underprivileged girls to the Street Child World Cup in Moscow this summer.

“I’ve been given a platform and I want to do good with it. I’ve been playing sort of in the twilight of my career and I’d really like to leave the game better than when I found it,” she said.

Sauerbrunn spent the beginning of the year recovering from a foot injury. She made her first appearances of the season in a two-game series against Mexico, coming in as a sub in the opening game, a 4-1 U.S. victory, then starting the second, a 6-2 win on Sunday.

“The stress reaction I had in my foot is better. I’ve been getting MRIs and it’s healing, which is great,” she said. “I really feel like I’m coming back healthy and now it’s about getting back into soccer form.”

A center back, Sauerbrunn helped anchor the stellar backline that was key to the team’s title run at the 2015 World Cup in Canada. The difference this time around is that the United States won’t have goalkeeper Hope Solo, who set records during her lengthy career but left the team on bad terms following the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

The search for the team’s new goalkeeper continues, with Jane Campbell of the Houston Dash getting the latest starting nod in Sunday’s friendly.

“We’re feeling really good,” Sauerbrunn said about the team’s mentality. “It’s unfortunate because we have quite a few injuries, so we’re missing four or five of our core players (including Tobin Heath and Julie Ertz). But what’s good about that is that it provides the opportunity for other players to show what they have and gain some valuable experience.”

Coach Jill Ellis continues to experiment with the backline although the dependable Sauerbrunn is a lock as a starter if she’s healthy. Crystal Dunn started as a fullback in Sunday’s game but moved up to an attacking position and Ellis indicated she liked versatility.

“I think overall what we’re looking for – these players obviously have to do the job defensively, but it’s also looking at what they can bring to our attack,” Ellis said.

For now Sauerbrunn is busy helping the Utah Royals open their first National Women’s Soccer League season. Sauerbrunn, a three-time NWSL Defender of the Year, played for FC Kansas City since the league’s inception in 2013 – but that team folded earlier this year and the players collectively went to the Royals.

The Royals will be looking for their first win of the season Saturday when they host the Chicago Red Stars.

She’s also lending her voice to raising funds for the Street Child World Cup team. The event in Moscow prior to the men’s World Cup this summer seeks to draw attention to the plight of homeless and orphaned children across the globe.

Sauerbrunn caused a stir recently on social media when she posted a photo of a baby soccer jersey and shorts, along with her cat. The tweet sent shockwaves through soccer fandom with speculation that she was pregnant.

“I’m like internally cringing just thinking about that. That was a prank gone awry. Do not use Twitter as a format for pranks,” she said. “I was cleaning out my apartment and saw this little Nike uniform and I thought, `Wow, it would be so funny to pull a prank.’ Such a backfire. Mia Hamm texted me and said, `Congratulations,’ and I thought, `I’m a terrible, terrible person, I just tricked Mia Hamm.’ Never again.”

For the record, she’s not pregnant. She’s got some things she’d like to accomplish on and off the field first.