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Saturday Sports: USWNT in the World Cup; Messi in Miami; new owner for the Commanders

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

So nice to say, and now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Team USA scores a shutout, but what's ahead? Lionel Messi makes his U.S. debut with a flourish. And the NFL's Washington football team - now called the Commanders - gets a new owner. Michele Steel of ESPN joins us. Michele, thanks so much for being with us.

MICHELE STEELE: You bet, Scott.

SIMON: Team USA made its debut at FIFA Women's World Cup last night, defeating Vietnam 3-0. Look, it was a shutout, but the coach thinks maybe they could have scored a few more goals.

STEELE: Yeah. You know, a lot of people were expecting almost a redux of that season opener in 2019 - the World Cup opener in 2019 - where the U.S. beat Thailand 13-nil. It wasn't that. You know, 3-nil is a solid score by many estimates but definitely short of what was expected considering the talent differential, considering the dynamic attack that's really characterized the U.S. in the past. Now, you got to hand it to USA's Sophia Smith. She had two goals and an assist in this game. She made plays when it mattered. A win's a win. It was still a fun watch, Scott.

SIMON: Yeah. Next match is Wednesday night against the Netherlands. This might be a little more complicated, right?

STEELE: Yeah. Yeah. You know, the Netherlands were the runners-up from the last World Cup, right? And this U.S. team, they haven't got a ton of reps together. So you're right. They need to gel very quickly.

SIMON: Lionel Messi, the veteran, the current world champion - or with the Argentine side - considered by many the best player of all time, at his first appearance for Inter Miami last night against Cruz Azul - boy, he made an impression, didn't he?

STEELE: Yeah. You know what? There's a...

SIMON: Wait, wait. Hold on. Goal. Yeah?

STEELE: (Laughter) There's people doing - I love that, by the way - there's people, you know, doing Barbieheimer (ph) this weekend. You could have done U.S. women's national team and Messi on a split screen last night. It was...

SIMON: Yeah.

STEELE: ...An absolute Hollywood start for the biggest soccer player in the world. You had LeBron James, Serena Williams - hold on for this - Kim Kardashian in the house, a host of others to see Messi. He came in as a sub - remember, he hasn't played in a while.

SIMON: Yeah.

STEELE: Came in as a sub in the 54th minute. And with the score tied at one apiece, he scored in stoppage time on a free kick. He just curled it into the top corner with that legendary left foot. And Inter Miami, the worst team in Major League Soccer, has gotten a boost, Scott, that fans can only dream of and that Major League Soccer can only dream of, too.

SIMON: The guy looks good in pink, doesn't he? I noticed that.

STEELE: I think he wears it well.

SIMON: Yeah.

STEELE: I think he wears it well.

SIMON: The Washington Commanders finally sold this week - a partnership led by Josh Harris, who also owns the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils - $6 billion. This has been a franchise riddled not just with losing, but charges of sexual harassment and abusive behavior under Daniel Snyder. What do you see ahead?

STEELE: You know, I was monitoring some of the local reporting, some of the local coverage in D.C. on this. And I think the movie "The Wizard Of Oz" best summed up the feeling, Scott. And I quote, "ding-dong, the witch is dead. Which old witch? The Wicked Witch." It really feels - like, one Twitter user said - Washington, D.C., is getting back something that they thought they lost in 1999 when Snyder bought the team. You're right. They were always mired in irrelevance. His off-the-field conduct - you know, he was squeezing old ladies for ticket money. He served expired peanuts at one point, the more serious charges around harassment, an embarrassment to fans, an embarrassment to the region and, finally, to the league. Happy days are here again.

SIMON: Michele Steele. Thanks so much.

STEELE: Sure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon
Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.