USWNT wins wild match despite rain-soaked pitch, plus NFL QB speed dating

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Good morning! Don’t play in the rain today. If you do, win.

While It Was Raining: Well, that was certainly a soccer match

Last night’s W Gold Cup semifinal between USWNT and Canada was supposed to be a referendum moment for American women’s soccer. Stakes were high. But all we could talk about — at first — was the pitch. 

That’s because it looked like the picture above: torrentially soaked. Watching the match was like a dark comedy, as professional soccer players fumbled over an unpredictable ball in dangerous conditions. Both USWNT legend Julie Foudy and San Diego Wave head coach Casey Stoney called for the game’s stoppage in the first half. 

I mean, just look at how the ball moves before this goal from Jaedyn Shaw:

The field improved after halftime … as did the match. The Americans defeated the Canadians (and the soggy conditions) to win 2-2 on penalty kicks. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher saved three penalty attempts. Gutty. 

USWNT advances to face Brazil in Sunday’s final. See our full story on last night’s wild and wet win here.

QB Speed Dating: Kirk Cousins really might be a Falcon

We focused yesterday on the quarterbacks in the NFL Draft. But an intense game of do-si-do is happening with free agent QBs and landing spots, including some possible shocks. 

Our Zack Rosenblatt literally predicted every possible QB job opening and who fills them. I want to cherry-pick my two favorites: 

  • Atlanta actually lands Kirk Cousins. There have been rumblings on this for a few days now, and our Dianna Russini reported serious interest from the Falcons. We have little idea what Cousins is thinking, but the appeal is there: a new, hungry coaching staff along with a dazzling array of skill players. Cousins — whose wife is from Atlanta, too — probably makes this a playoff team.
  • The Vikings choose … Sam Darnold and Zach Wilson. Legitimately snorted. Two prominent Jets busts join forces to persuade Justin Jefferson to stick around. Hoo boy. I am now rooting for this. And it’s plausible. If Minnesota loses Cousins, I would expect a push to get Baker Mayfield, but signs point to him staying in Tampa for a fat check.

The full list has plenty of spider-web fun, too. Justin Fields to the Browns? Michael Penix Jr. staying in Seattle? See all the picks here.

News to Know

Knights make a splash
The Calgary Flames are trading defenseman Noah Hanifin to the Vegas Golden Knights, league sources confirmed to The Athletic yesterday, pushing an already good top defensive pairing to title-worthy. Hanifin was No. 1 on our trade board before the deal, and is only 27 years old, which means he could become a franchise cornerstone. This was a big one. See the full trade — and its implications — here.

The busy Bills
Safety Jordan Poyer, center Mitch Morse and cornerback Tre’Davious White were among a cadre of players cut by Buffalo yesterday, eliminating most of the Bills’ $43 million cap deficit. Among other moves, the team also restructured Von Miller’s contract yesterday to lessen his cap hit.

More news

Hi, My Name Is: Khaman Maluach and Duke’s generational wealth

Yesterday, we linked a story on Khaman Maluach, the 7-foot-2 South Sudanese center who might be the No. 1 pick in the 2025 NBA Draft. Yesterday brought an important update. Let’s zoom out for a full view: 

  • Maluach is teased as the next Victor Wembanyama because he profiles almost exactly like the Frenchman — an unnaturally tall man with unnatural guard skills. Maluach is already an elite rim protector at 17 years old. Also: He might not be done growing. Scary! In a good way.
  • Maluach’s journey is engrossing. He fled war-torn South Sudan at a young age, grew up in Uganda and now attends the NBA Academy Africa in Senegal. He has already helped the South Sudanese national team qualify for the Olympics for the first time.
  • And yesterday, he committed to play college basketball at Duke. His pledge adds a gigantic boost to Blue Devils head coach Jon Scheyer’s second No. 1 recruiting class in three offseasons since taking over for Mike Krzyzewski. 

Maluach’s current top competition for that first draft pick? No. 1 recruit Cooper Flagg, the Maine wunderkind who’s also heading to Duke next year. Good luck, everyone else.

Watch This Game

NCAAM: No. 5 Arizona at UCLA
9:30 p.m. on ESPN
Get a glimpse at the Wildcats, a projected No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, for some final tune-up work before the Pac-12 tournament. 

NBA: Celtics at Nuggets
10 p.m. ET on TNT
The road gets no easier for Boston, which gets to travel across the country to face the defending champs after that brutal loss in Cleveland on Tuesday. A losing streak? For this team? In this economy? Highly possible.

Pulse Picks

The mania surrounding Caitlin Clark can be best described simply: hoopla. We’ve seen it with Clark, Stephen Curry, Jimmer Fredette and more. Dana O’Neil wrote a fantastic story about the people participating in the hoopla — which represented a real cross section of this country. Loved this. 

“Branch, there’s more than Caitlin Clark.” We know this well. Here are five non-Clark storylines to follow in women’s college basketball this week as conference tournaments get underway. (Geaux Tigers.)

More tourney things: Peter Keating and Jordan Brenner put their math brains together and came out with 12 possible bracket busters on the men’s side. Get in early. 

Armando Bacot has been at North Carolina for what feels like a decade, and he got a poetic sendoff in front of the home crowd this week. His story — and the Tar Heels’ — isn’t over, though

Speaking of the Bills: Tim Graham has a great piece out today, with exclusive interviews, on how the Bills are squandering Josh Allen’s prime. Appearances from Rich Gannon and Warren Moon, too. 

NFL Network announced its popular “Good Morning Football” show is moving from New York to Los Angeles. Richard Deitsch explains the logic behind the move and reports on a staff surprised by the switch.

A wild story: Scott Powers and Jay Felicio write about a Connor Bedard trading card that drew a $1 million bounty

Can Jackson Holliday win Rookie of the Year? If he does, the Orioles will make ROY history.

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(Photo: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

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