USWNT on-field victories tempered by post-Roe world

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SANDY, UTAH – The U.S. women’s national soccer team took to the field on Tuesday night in Sandy, Utah, in a paradoxical world.

Tuesday night’s friendly vs. Colombia marked just the second game in which USWNT players received equal pay to their male counterparts after the two teams agreed to a landmark CBA last month.

And yet, four days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade – and in a state where a near-total abortion ban is on the verge of going into effect — players spent more time expressing their empathy with women throughout the country than celebrating a historic payday thanks to two consecutive shutouts vs. Colombia.

“It’s hard times I think for everyone,” said Ashley Hatch, who made her 10th appearance for the USWNT during Tuesday night’s 2-0 win in Utah. “To have each other, I think it helps, and I think we get the most joy of stepping on the field together. So anytime we can just go out onto the field and have a stadium like that – that brings us joy.”

Utah is one of 13 states with various “trigger laws,” which were designed to take effect swiftly upon last week’s Supreme Court ruling. On Monday, a Utah judge blocked the state’s nearly total abortion ban from going into effect for 14 days, allowing time for the court to hear challenges to the state’s trigger law.

“Obviously, a very difficult situation in the environment,” said USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski. “I know the players had a chance to talk and as a staff, we’ve talked about it, but one thing I know is, the moment we put this shirt on, the moment we put the crest on, that’s what it’s all about. You know, we want to be good ambassadors of this country, good ambassadors of the game and role models for everyone that is coming in to see us.”

Making its seventh all-time appearance in Utah, the USWNT improved its record in the Beehive State to 7-0-0 and extended its home-game unbeaten streak to 69. The team’s appearance out west – which also included a 3-0 victory vs. Las Cafeteras on Saturday in Denver – also inspired a team outing for nearly 20 athletes from U.S. Ski & Snowboard, spearheaded by moguls skier Kai Owens, who rallied the all-women’s field trip to the game from nearby Park City.

“In terms of self-empowerment, watching the women’s U.S. national team has been really, really powerful for me to trust myself as an athlete and to see what those women can do and how they can advocate for themselves,” said alpine racer Alice Merryweather.

“I think it’s so inspirational how they advocate for women’s rights, and LGBTQ+ community rights, because it’s so important that they use their platforms to help convey that message all the people that watch to the rest of our country, especially at these times,” added alpine skier Kaitlin Keane.

That this is all unfolding less than one week after the 50th anniversary of Title IX was not lost on U.S. Ski & Snowboard chief of sport Anouk Patty, who was particularly pleased for the U.S. winter athletes to be exposed to some of the world’s best summer athletes performing at peak form.

“It’s just really inspiring for our athletes to come out and see the women warm up, how they get ready and their focus and intensity, but in a different environment,” said Patty, who’s a U.S. Ski Team alum and an NCAA giant slalom champion while at Dartmouth. “It’s great for our athletes to see that and recognize that there are other women out there who are working just as hard and leveling up their game as well.”

Knowing that fellow national team athletes were in the crowd was especially inspiring for 26-year-old defender Carson Pickett, who made her first cap for the USWNT on Tuesday and wrote a new line in the history books in the process, becoming the first player with a limb difference to play for the team.

“Women coming together, no matter what, and no matter what sport you’re in … I think that in the United States, if we can all kind of stick together and be each other’s biggest fans, I think it’s incredible,” said Pickett, regarding the visit from the national team skiers.

“There are things that are bigger than soccer,” she continued. “I think that we have to stick together, we have to realize that soccer does come second sometimes, but sometimes it is kind of an escape to help us. We’ve got to continue to focus and, obviously, with what’s going on — our hearts go out to everything that’s happening.”

Along with her historic appearance Tuesday, Pickett notably reaped the rewards – and dollars – available under the new CBA that was ratified in May. Under the new agreement, she received an $8,000 appearance fee plus a $5,000 bonus for the win, making her first cap all the sweeter.

“It’s incredible,” said Pickett about the $13K payday. “And I have everyone who was in the CBA negotiation negotiations – Alex (Morgan), Kelley O’Hara, so many people – to thank for that. I think that we can all say a massive ‘thank you’ to them. They work so hard and to be able to be called in under the new CBA – it’s just it’s a dream come true.”

The USWNT is back in action on Monday vs. Haiti in the Concacaf W Championship, which runs July 4-18 and serves as a qualifier for both the 2023 Women’s World Cup and the 2024 Paris Olympics.

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USWNT on-field victories tempered by post-Roe world originally appeared on NBCSports.com