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What to expect from The Equalizer in 2023 – Equalizer Soccer



That’s us speaking with NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman (Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports)

What an exciting year ahead. The new National Women’s Soccer League season is upon us. The 2023 World Cup starts in four months.

The Equalizer is the best place to keep up with all the daily news around the NWSL and the United States women’s national team. Our coverage is increasingly global and we will have loads of content around the World Cup, the fourth one that we’ll cover as a collective media outlet. We regularly produce exclusive content, from breaking news via our deep network of sources, to analysis you can’t get anywhere else. Storytelling is at our core, and I feel strongly that we do that as well as anyone in the space.

That might mean bringing you inside the mind of a player, like Bekki Morgan did recently in her interview with Racing Louisville defender Carson Pickett. Or, it could mean we dive deeper into the player-safety reforms taking place league-wide and what it means for players, as Jenna Tonelli did earlier this month. It could play out as a blend of exclusive reporting and deeper context you won’t get anywhere else, like my recent stories on the NWSL’s internal dialogue around its calendar problems. You’ll get the long version of how the Utah Royals saved the NWSL, abruptly folded, then were reborn, plus first access to insight from NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman. Blair Newman will keep providing exquisite tactical analysis on topics like OL Reign’s defensive shape, or why Naomi Girma might be the most important player for the United States at the World Cup.

If you subscribe to The Equalizer Extra, you already know this and hopefully you’ve read those stories among the many we produce regularly and exclusively for subscribers. If you don’t subscribe, we’re currently offering a first year of annual subscription at $23 — over 60% off our base price — to invite you to join. Sign up and you will get our entire season of NWSL coverage, with experts scattered throughout the U.S., plus our best-in-class U.S. women’s national team coverage. We’ll have boots on the ground at the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand this summer.

Regardless of which category you fall into, I think it’s important to be transparent about who we are and what we will do, and to get feedback from you all.

We began this journey in 2009 as a small website dedicated to women’s soccer news. For a long time, we aggregated and chased all news because literally nobody else did. The landscape has changed for the better, and basic information is easier to find. Now, we leverage our experience of cumulative decades covering the game at various outlets to bring you context and insight you can’t get elsewhere. That shift began in earnest in 2018, when we moved to a freemium subscription model. 

If you can afford to subscribe, you help us keep so much of our content free for everyone, including new fans discovering the sport (and yes, you still get the best content exclusively as a subscriber). Plenty of our base-level reporting is free. Subscriptions are the reason we exist as a site of a dozen-plus regular, paid contributors, and they allow us to go out and do the work to bring you these stories. So much of that you never see: phone calls to chase sources and get interviews, research, travel. Sometimes you will see it, like this weekend, when I’ll be in San Diego and Los Angeles on back-to-back nights for NWSL opening weekend, bringing you content from on the ground (with bigger stories to come from the trip in the coming months).

With all that said, and to be explicit, we are not strictly a “news site.” We cover news and we break a whole lot of it still, but we also aim to bring you the why and how, to answer the question: What does this mean?

So, some housekeeping notes as you follow along with us this season. We will adapt and improve as we always do, so things can certainly change, but here’s the brief version of what you can expect from us.

What’s coming each week?

In short, plenty. NWSL coverage that dives into pressing topics at a league level, teams that are struggling, players that are thriving. Real, independent coverage. Our goal is to vary that in form and make sure we have a national footprint in that coverage. Inherently, some teams will demand more of the conversation than others, but you can expect regular coverage of every team. Again, that isn’t a team ‘beat’ that updates every piece of news, but it means keeping you informed on the big picture and trends for each team, and providing you with reading material you didn’t know you needed. These will consist of multiple items daily in addition to the regular rotation below. We’re quality over quantity, but we deliver plenty of both.

What that looks like on a guaranteed basis:

·       I’ll be writing a weekly column that thinks critically about a pressing topic in the women’s game. I’ve covered this league since inception, founded this site 14 years ago, and have covered the past two World Cups on the ground from start to finish. I’ve written for ESPN, SI, NBC, Fox, and managed a newsroom at FourFourTwo (in addition to building this site). I’ll bring you real-time analysis with that experience as my foundation.

·       Every Tuesday and Friday morning, you’ll get our 4.8-star-reviewed podcast in your ears with a small rotation of our EQZ experts, including myself.

·       Blair Newman has a professional scouting background and provides some of the best, regular analysis on the women’s game out there and publishes roughly twice per week at EQZ.

·       Twice per week, we’ll email you a high-level roundup of our best stories.

Other changes

Our comments section has long been an issue with a select few people who sometimes created hostile environments. I will personally take ownership that we have not come up with a better solution than Disqus, and the automated moderation that didn’t really work. We’re still a small staff (I am our lone, full-time member) and we can’t see everything, but yes, we should have done more.

As of this week, we’ve turned off comments on future articles until we find a better solution. We have viable options, but they too require moderation levels that we are not yet positive we can commit to, and until we can, we don’t want to start something half-hearted.

Some people will not like that comments are gone. I’ve seen remarks through the years that The Equalizer’s comments section is what made the site great in the early years. That is a gross misunderstanding of the work we’ve put in above the fold to bring 14 years worth of news and analysis to this sport. Yes, we once had a day where there were 500 comments on an article. That does not mean those were better days, or better articles. Our content today remains incredibly valuable to anyone new to the space or following along closely.

Other perks

In 2019, we organized a unique trip that has not been replicated, partnering with a travel agency to give you access to us and some familiar faces around the women’s game while watching soccer and seeing a new country. We did it in France, and we’ll do it again in New Zealand and Australia this summer. Those of you who subscribe already got access to the discounts on your trips, and we’re looking forward to seeing you there. If you’re interested in going, there’s still time to get involved.

There’s much more to come. Our record of storytelling and reporting speaks for itself in terms of quality, and our mission is to continue setting that standard in the present and future. This letter is probably longer than intended already, and it only really scratches the surface.

If you’re ready to subscribe, I personally invite you to do so at our discounted, $23 annual rate (for your first year) and join us on this journey. We’ll only be offering this rate for roughly another week, to mark the start of the NWSL season.

Please contact us at info [at] equalizersoccer [dot] com if you have questions or feedback and we’ll do our best to read and answer as much as we can.

If you go to just about any NWSL stadium this season, you’ll see one of us there along the way. The header photo for this article is my colleague, Dan Lauletta, and I talking to Berman in Philadelphia in January, ahead of the 2023 draft. You’ll see us at U.S. women’s national team games, in New Zealand and Australia for the World Cup, and online.

Wherever we go, we are there because of you, our subscribers.

Thank you.

Jeff Kassouf

Founder, The Equalizer

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How San Diego and Portland returned to core values in a dramatic draw – Equalizer Soccer




(Photo Copyright Abe Arredondo-USA TODAY Sports)

Since the San Diego Wave entered the National Women’s Soccer League last year, every match with the Portland Thorns has been close, with only one game decided by more than one goal. Heading into Week 9 of the 2023 NWSL season, both West Coast teams sat at 15 points, one behind current table leader NJ/NY Gotham FC. Both squads were coming off slight rough patches, so their matchup on Friday was going to test their resilience.

Earlier in the week, San Diego and Canadian national team goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan told The Equalizer, “I think there’s always [an] edge when you play Portland. They’re consistently a top-level team, and you always want to beat the top. They’re coming for us just as hard as we’re coming for them. But yeah, definitely a little edge there. And I’ve got a bunch of my Canadian crew over there, so it always feels good to hand them the loss.”

Portland came out aggressive early, maintaining possession and using its press to keep San Diego away from the ball and out of the Thorns’ defensive third. In response, San Diego did what it’s been known to do well: It absorbed the attack, defended well, and tried to use its speed and counterattack to create chances.

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How the USWNT depth chart is adjusting to injuries ahead of the World Cup – Equalizer Soccer




Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Only eight weeks remain until the first match of the 2023 World Cup kicks off, but U.S. women’s national team head coach Vlatko Andonovski is still facing some uncertainty regarding his World Cup roster.

On Tuesday, forward Catarina Macario announced that she has removed herself from World Cup selection due to the setbacks she’s faced recovering from the ACL tear she suffered last June. Despite hopes that she would rehab in time for the tournament, she has yet to take the field competitively in almost a year. Tuesday also brought the news that midfielder Rose Lavelle might not get any club minutes ahead of the World Cup, thanks to a setback in her recovery from an unspecified knee injury.

These two injuries are worrying enough, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg in terms of injuries the team has faced over the past couple of years. Players are out or of a questionable fitness level across all lines, but with the United States talent pool as deep as it is, there are plenty of choices Andonovski can make to round out the squad.

It’ll be another month or so before the roster is revealed, but here’s a rundown of the biggest challenges the team is facing and what solutions they may find.

Worrying trends

Injuries are an unfortunate fact of life for most professional athletes. What’s been so concerning these past couple of years is the sheer number and severity of the injuries.

In addition to Macario, Mallory Swanson is also out after tearing her patellar tendon this past April. She had been in phenomenal form up until her injury and many people expected her to lead the attack in Australia and New Zealand. Additionally, midfielder Sam Mewis, forward Christen Press and defender Abby Dahlkemper were all key parts of the 2019 World Cup team and all haven’t seen competitive minutes since last year after all facing serious injuries.

Even among players that are shoo-ins, there are questions about fitness. In addition to Lavelle, captain Becky Sauerbrunn has been out with a foot injury for the past few weeks. And although Julie Ertz is back and looking good after more than a year away from the field, we’ve hardly been given a big enough sample size to really gauge her form. And, like Lavelle and Sauerbrunn, she’s also been marked as questionable thanks to what was reported as a thigh injury.

Of course, it’s very possible Lavelle, Sauerbrunn and Ertz are on minutes management specifically to keep them fresh for the World Cup. But the fact three key players need such careful management isn’t exactly confidence-inspiring amidst all the other injuries – especially with so many bubble players also in questionable form. For example, defenders Tierna Davidson and Casey Krueger have had a rough time finding their form after returning from injury. Lindsey Horan hasn’t quite been herself either after rehabbing from a lingering knee issue. Taylor Kornieck has just returned from an extended abdominal injury and Midge Purce has missed games with a hip injury. Although not currently injured, Kelley O’Hara and Megan Rapinoe have been increasingly injury-prone in recent years.

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The last time the United States previously faced even close to this many injuries was when Abby Wambach, Leslie Osborne and Cat Whitehill all missed the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Wambach broke her leg in a friendly against Brazil while Osborne and Whitehill both suffered ACL tears. Despite a less-than-perfect performance in the final against Brazil, the U.S. did in fact go home with Olympic gold that year off a game-winning goal from budding star Amy Rodriguez in her first major tournament.

Likewise, Andonovski is going to have to look for up-and-coming young talents to be the difference-makers during the World Cup as the U.S. looks to defend its title and compete for a third consecutive championship. Luckily for him, there are quite a few to choose from.

Exploring the depth

Although it seemed unlikely at the beginning of this year, it is increasingly likely that Angel City forward and teenage phenom Alyssa Thompson has worked her way onto the World Cup roster. She’s the closest the United States has to a replacement for Swanson which is evidenced by her being immediately called up to finish the second of the pair of friendlies against Ireland after Swanson was injured during the first leg. Whether Thompson gets significant minutes with players like Alex Morgan, Trinity Rodman and Sophia Smith ahead of her is yet to be seen, but there’s no question she’s a player the team will want to build around in the future.

Although not a young up-and-comer, it is as good as certain that Lynn Williams will be on her way to her first World Cup this July. After returning from her own major injury in 2022, she’s come back in excellent form and has five goals in eight games with Gotham. Although the loss of Swanson and Macario will be felt acutely, an attack featuring Smith, Morgan, Thompson, Rodman and Williams is hardly something to sneeze at. Ashley Hatch and Megan Rapinoe are also good bets to step in and round out the group. Although Hatch has been getting called up to the senior team since 2016, this will be her first major tournament, should she get the call from Andonovski.

In terms of midfield depth, both Sam Coffey and Taylor Kornieck have received senior call-ups, although they’ve missed the most recent camps. Coffey has been on a hot streak with the Portland Thorns and notched two assists last week against the Chicago Red Stars. Kornieck is just coming back from injury, but offers versatility across the line, and at 6’1″ she’s the tallest field player in program history which gives her a unique angle no other player can match.

There’s also been increasing noise around whether versatile midfielder Savannah DeMelo is deserving of a call-up to the national team. The Racing Louisville player has been on fire lately and has scored four goals and notched an assist in her last five appearances. With all the questions surrounding the midfield, could DeMelo have a shot at making the roster? Possibly, but Andonovski has said in the past he wants to bring players with senior team experience, and DeMelo, unfortunately, remains uncapped. Only once in United States history has a player with no caps made a World Cup roster – Shannon Boxx in 2003 – so it seems unlikely, but if Lavelle faces an even more severe setback or another player drops in form significantly, DeMelo may find herself on the plane to Australia and New Zealand.

Injuries everywhere

While it’s certainly far from a positive development, the one thing the United States has going for it in terms of injuries is that they’re far from alone in losing key players. Almost every single top team has lost at least one important player, most often to ACL tears. To name just a few, Canada’s Janine Beckie tore hers in the NWSL preseason, England’s Leah Williamson ruptured hers in April, and Dutch star Vivienne Miedema tore hers in November. And just yesterday, it was announced that France’s Delphine Cascarino ruptured her ACL as well. Of these players, only Miedema has a shot at making the World Cup roster, but even if she does, there’s no guarantee she’ll be in top form.

ACL tears are nothing new in women’s sports but as schedules get denser and play becomes more physical and demanding, they seem to be happening more often. While more needs to be done to prevent these injuries in the future, in the meantime, they’ll almost certainly impact how this World Cup ultimately plays out as coaches rework their rosters to accommodate missing players. That’s the task ahead of Andonovski as he’s tasked with finalizing the 23-player roster for the United States and seeing if he can put together another championship squad despite some key pieces missing.

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Macario, Lavelle news; USWNT roster questions – Equalizer Soccer




OL Reign midfielder Rose Lavelle

Photo credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Bekki Morgan and Jeff Kassouf react to the news that Catarina Macario will not be on the roster for the Women’s World Cup, and that Rose Lavelle may not play in the NWSL before the tournament. What can we expect from the U.S. women’s national team midfield this summer? How will Mallory Swanson’s injury impact the forward line?

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Start your FREE, 7-day trial of The Equalizer Extra for industry-leading reporting and insight on the USWNT, NWSL and beyond.

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