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An unlikely journey to Benfica helped Katelin Talbert find herself – Equalizer Soccer



Photo Courtesy Isabel Cutileiro

Growing up, Katelin Talbert’s dream of becoming a professional soccer player was too unlikely to be spoken aloud. Recently, however, it became a reality when Talbert signed her first professional contract with a team in a top division. Then came the success.

On Sunday, the 23-year-old played in front of a record crowd for a women’s soccer match in Portugal. Over 14,000 people showed up to see reigning Portuguese champions Benfica defeat Lisbon rival Sporting CP to once again secure the Campeonato Nacional Feminino championship and qualification for the UEFA Women’s Champions League. Talbert made several important stops, highlighted by an amazing penalty save.

Talbert’s journey to get to Sunday featured a struggle that few ever saw or knew about. Battling the isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to an extreme decline in her mental health. But Talbert went from an NCAA Division 2 school, and never having had a dedicated goalkeeper coach, to signing a multi-year deal with Benfica.

Out of high school, Talbert attended Humboldt State University, an in-state school that offered the California native a scholarship. There, she gained confidence in her game, facing a high number of shots but not necessarily playing the toughest opposition. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020, when everything shut down. Talbert planned to train with the team that fall before graduating, but that was taken from her, as it was from so many athletes. Gone, too, was her source of joy. 

“I say that the one thing that keeps my mind off [my mental health issues] is playing soccer,” Talbert said. Without that, she didn’t know her identity.

After those early months of the pandemic, Talbert was able to train once or twice a week with her WPSL team, the California Storm, but it was the least consistently she had ever trained. Talbert credits the Storm with keeping her playing after college but this huge change greatly affected her mental health. Because of this, she was not taking care of herself properly, she said, and she lost a significant amount of weight. She describes some of this journey in a since-deleted tweet that she shared with The Equalizer. 

She posted that Tweet in spring 2021 after she was invited to OL Reign’s preseason camp. She had not been expecting any invites after entering the NWSL Draft as an unknown and going unselected. So, when the opportunity to follow her dream arrived, she says, she wasn’t prepared. 

“I would say that the reason that I was not physically or mentally ready for the Reign in Seattle was because 2020 is when I went through probably the lowest point in my life,” Talbert said. “My body was so weak and frail. As soon as I got that call I started feeding myself better… but I just didn’t have enough time to fully recover from that.”

Despite not making the Reign roster, the team encouraged her to go overseas and get experience. Buoyed by the confidence instilled in her by her supportive preseason training-camp roommates, Talbert signed to play with a second-division team in Iceland. That led to a training opportunity with West Ham United in England where, for the first time, she worked with a full-time goalkeeper coach.

Training there gave her a new perspective. Talbert had always relied on her pure athleticism to make saves in the past, but in London, she learned to fine-tune her craft. However, under the new Brexit rules limiting internationals in the league, she was unable to sign for the club and had to look elsewhere. She ended up looking in Portugal.

Now, Talbert is the starting goalkeeper for Benfica. She trains in top-class facilities and works regularly with a goalkeeper coach. She just helped her club win the Portuguese top division. More importantly, she is loving life.

“I would say that now I’m in the best place mentally than I’ve probably been my whole life,” she said. “And I think one thing that’s helped me is the fact that I’ve been able to accomplish my dreams… And I would say now I have a lot more confidence than I probably ever have in my whole life.”

Unfortunately, at the same time, this has exposed Talbert to a significantly larger audience, which can bring harsh criticism. While she loves playing professionally, she still struggles with her mental health, which is especially affected by hateful comments on social media. The above Twitter post was deleted because of the comments it received after her notoriety grew. Now, her uncle and dad keep her updated on social media discourse because she is often too scared to look, she said. While she receives lots of positive messages that make her feel good – particularly in the wake of Sunday’s victory – the few nasty comments can override all of that love and support.

“It’s the only thing that can make you question if all this is worth it… because I go crazy in my head and it’s not good for me,” she said, adding that it is “the hardest part about being in entertainment.”

Talbert hopes that by sharing her experiences she can help others feel less alone and destigmatize the topic. 

“I want to be a mental health advocate, because I have struggled my whole life with anxiety, depression, ADHD, a lot of stuff,” she said. 

Talbert hopes that people will see that working through mental health issues is not a linear process, but one which needs to be consistently addressed. Her story, she hopes, shows that finding one’s self should not prevent someone from being a professional athlete.

“I have a lot more confidence than I probably ever have in my whole life,” she said. “Which is great, because I actually never thought that I would feel this good. I always thought it was impossible.”

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Press lifts Angel City past Spirit; Wave stay top with win over Chicago – Equalizer Soccer




Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The National Women’s Soccer League’s two expansion teams sit atop the table after Week 3 following Sunday victories for Angel City FC and San Diego Wave FC. Alex Morgan scored again to help San Diego stay perfect through three games, while Christen Press scored in Washington, D.C., to lift Angel City to its first road win in franchise history.

The Skinny: Angel City earned there first ever win away from home in a strong performance against the reigning NWSL Champions that saw them shut down the Spirit’s high octane offense while Christen Press scored the winner.

One Key Moment: This one is obvious, it is Press’ game winner and first regular season goal for Angel City. The individual skill to settle the long ball, get around her defender, drive at the defense and then find the back of the net from what seemed like an impossible angle is, simply put, impressive.

Inside the Game: Coming into this game Angel City had limited defensive options with Ali Riley out in COVID protocol, this led to the decision to play Tyler Lussi, typically an attacker, at left back. This move worked out quite well for LA as Lussi has the pure pace and soccer intelligence to keep up with Trinity Rodman. Rodman, typically so deadly to her opponents, was kept quiet throughout the match as she had to put in a ton of defensive work on Press and Lussi who in turn combined to shut her down.

The match was fairly even statistically but the particularly interesting fact is that Washington were held to just 9 shots the entire match, only one of which was on target. Those shots only combined for an xG (expected goals) of 0.65, based on the StatsPerform model, indicating the lower quality of the chances. Angel City’s xG was even lower but Press’ individual magic prevailed over the numerical probabilities.

Some good news in terms of roster for Angel City though, their French international signing Clarisse Le Bihan made her debut and did not look out of place. In defense, Paige Nielsen made her long awaited return from injury which will only strengthen their backline moving forward.

The Goals:

  1. Angel City FC – Christen Press (Vannessa Gilles), 42’

— Bella Munson

San Diego Wave FC 2, Chicago Red Stars 1

The Skinny: In the first ever meeting between the San Diego Wave and the Chicago Red Stars, San Diego took home the win, holding onto the lead even through a slight stoppage-time surge from Chicago.

One Key Moment: Early in the second half, San Diego’s Sofia Jakobsson went down in the box and Alex Morgan did her job on the subsequent penalty kick, putting the Wave up 1-0. Before this goal, this game looked like it could belong to either side; afterwards, however, San Diego’s confidence sharpened, and Chicago ultimately couldn’t catch up. The tally was Morgan’s fifth of the season after scoring a league record-tying four goals last week against Gotham FC.

Inside the Game: The word of the evening was “game-changer.” The leadup to the match was shaped by uncertainty on Chicago’s side, with so many significant players on the injured list, and it was clear the Red Stars would need someone to shake things up. Who that person would be, however, remained unclear.

And ultimately, a game-changer never totally emerged from Chicago’s side; rather, the first, and perhaps biggest shake-up came from a 33rd-minute substitution for San Diego, when Jakobsson went on for an injured Amirah Ali. Jakobsson immediately turned the engines on for San Diego’s front line and helped force Chicago to play a defensive game to finish out the half, a slightly different look from the extremely even nature of the game up until then. 

Jakobsson and Morgan didn’t necessarily connect in the first half, but in the 56th minute, Jakobsson was fouled in the penalty box and Morgan took the penalty kick, rewarding San Diego with not only a goal but the energy needed to essentially govern the rest of the game.

For most of the second half, Chicago struggled to generate attacking opportunities and didn’t look hungry for the ball, and this modesty ultimately led to another Wave goal in the 89th minute from Kaleigh Riehl, but was then almost immediately chased by a Chicago goal from Ava Cook. The game’s chaotic last few minutes were exciting, with that intoxicating anything-can-happen feeling specific to NWSL matches, but it was ultimately San Diego’s for the taking. When the Red Stars next play, maybe their much-needed game-changer will emerge. 

The Goals:

  1. San Diego Wave – Alex Morgan (PK), 56’
  2. San Diego Wave – Kaleigh Real, 89’
  3. Chicago Red Stars – Ava Cook (Yuki Nagasato), 90’

— Julie Schreiber

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Kerr’s extra-time goal lifts Chelsea to second straight FA Cup title – Equalizer Soccer




Sports Press Photo

Chelsea won a second straight Women’s FA Cup on Sunday, defeating Manchester City 3-2 in extra time, at Wembley Stadium in front of 49,094 fans — a record for the competition. Sam Kerr scored the game-winning goal nine minutes into extra time to deliver Chelsea a second trophy in a week, after the Blues clinched the league title on May 8.

Kerr opened the scoring on Sunday in the 33rd minute before Lauren Hemp struck an equalizer for Manchester City nine minutes later to send the teams into halftime level at 1-1.

Erin Cuthbert put Chelsea ahead in the 63rd minute on a stunning strike which clipped the underside of the crossbar.

The Blues looked like they had the game wrapped up during regulation, but second-half substitute Hayley Raso struck the equalizer for Manchester City in the 89th minute after brilliantly settling the ball in front of her defender and taking a quick shot.

Kerr gave Chelsea the lead for the third and final time in 99th minute, driving at goal after Alanna Kennedy stepped to win a ball near midfield but missed, leaving Kerr with 50 yards of space to run into.

Chelsea’s FA Cup triumph comes six months after their previous one. The Blues defeated Arsenal, 3-0 in December in a final that was delayed from last season due to COVID-19 and government regulations.

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Pride play Current to dramatic draw – Equalizer Soccer




Photo: © Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports.

The Skinny: All of the action came in the second half as Kansas City were arguably the better team, but Orlando was bailed out by a stoppage time penalty, ending the match with a 2-2 scoreline

One Key Moment: When Kristen Hamilton scored at the beginning of stoppage time it looked like it would be the winner. Hamilton’s tally was a really well worked goal after forcing the turnover and a hopeful sign for the Current, who scored their first two goals of the regular season.

Inside the Game: Kansas City came out firing, creating chances as they looked to break their no scoring streak start to the regular season. But after the first 10 minutes or so, the Pride took over, stifling the Current with their high press and forcing turnovers. Orlando was unlucky at net, when Leah Pruitt rounded goalkeeper AD Franch but hit her shot off the post. Orlando looked dangerous but lacked the finishing touch.

Not long into the second half, the Pride took the lead they had been looking for. Darian Jenkins found space down the right side and sent in a high quality cross that was headed down by Sydney Leroux so Gunny Jónsdottir could poke it home.

After conceding, the Current kicked everything up a notch in the search for an equalizer. They engaged their own high press and got opportunities out of it but Erin McLeod made fantastic save after save to deny them. The visitors finally put one past McLeod in the 78th minute to equalize and score their first goal of the regular season. The goalscorer — Elyse Bennett — was a game changer when she came on, injecting energy and providing the focal point to the attack, and her goal sealed that status.

Kansas City kept up the pressure as they looked to score a winner, though McLeod continued to make huge saves to deny them all the way up until stoppage time. Bennett was once again the difference maker, providing the assist to Hamilton. But just minutes later, Orlando was awarded a questionable penalty kick and the chance to steal a point. The penalty was awarded for a foul in the box by Desiree Scott. For Orlando, Toni Pressley stepped up and slammed the ball upper 90 to equalize at two apiece.

The Goals:

  1. Orlando Pride – Gunny Jònsdòttir (Sydney Leroux), 51’
  2. Kansas City Current – Elyse Bennett (Lo’eau LaBonta), 78’
  3. Kansas City Current – Kristen Hamilton (Elyse Bennett), 90’+1’
  4. Orlando Pride – Toni Pressley (PK), 90’+6’

Bella Munson

Racing Louisville 1, Houston Dash 1

The Skinny: Racing Louisville and the Houston Dash battled to a 1-1 draw, with good chances coming from both sides, but goalkeepers Jane Campbell and Katie Lund had a busy night in front of net.

One Key Moment: The equalizing goal from Jessica McDonald was set up picture-perfectly from Lauren Milliet. The service was easily one of the best assists in competition this year.

Inside the Game: After some back-and-forth between Houston and Racing, and a few nice saves from Lund and Campbell, the breakthrough came in the 77th minute. On a corner kick, Houston got a head on the ball, but Lund made a leaping save, pushing the ball to the crossbar. However, instead of going up and over, the ball bounced back into play and found the head of Nichelle Prince.

Prince slotted the ball on a seemingly empty net, as Lund was recovering from her leaping save.

However, Houston’s lead on the road didn’t last long. Jessica McDonald scored in the 82nd minute, off an assist from Milliet. McDonald snuck between two defenders in the box, when taking the header from Milliet.

Lund finished the evening with three saves, while Campbell was credited for one save. That was Louisville’s second-straight draw after going 2-2 with OL Reign last weekend on Mother’s Day.

The Goals

  1. Houston Dash — Nichelle Prince, 77′
  2. Racing Louisville FC — Jessica McDonald (Lauren Milliet), 82′

Rachael Kriger

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