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USWNT Pledges to Stay ‘Unified’ as Mass Shooting Devastates New Zealand Before World Cup

USWNT Pledges to Stay Unified as Mass Shooting Devastates New Zealand Before World Cup 2
United States starting line-up before a game between the United States and Wales on July 9, 2023 at PayPal Park in San Jose, California. Karen Ambrose Hickey/SPP/Shutterstock

The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team is safe after a mass shooting in Auckland, New Zealand, resulted in multiple casualties.

Hours before the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup was set to kick off on Thursday, July 20, a gunman opened fire at a construction site in downtown Auckland. Police referred to the shooting as an “isolated incident” in a Twitter statement, later confirming that three people died — including the suspect. An additional six were left injured.

U.S. Soccer swiftly took to social media to inform fans anticipating the beginning of the international tournament that players and staff “are accounted for and safe” after the incident. “Our security team is in communication with local authorities and we are proceeding with our daily schedule,” read a statement.

The federation later addressed the fatalities as concern for players’ safety grew. “U.S. Soccer extends its deepest condolences to the families of the victims who were killed in the shooting in the downtown Auckland today,” a second Twitter statement noted. “We are saddened by the inexcusable loss of life to gun violence, and our thoughts are with the people of Auckland/Tāmaki Makaurau and Aotearoa New Zealand.”

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Several team members also responded to the tragedy before their first game against Vietnam. “Unfortunately, I feel like in the U.S. we’ve dealt with this far too many times. But there was definitely a sense of, ‘let’s come together,'” forward Lynn Williams noted during a press conference. “We still have a job to do. But [we’re] also recognizing that there were lives lost and that is very real and very devastating.”

Williams, 30, added that she and her teammates were “thankful” they were safe and that first responders reacted quickly to the incident.

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Defender Crystal Dunn extended her condolences to those affected. “This is very real,” she said. “I think everyone handles these situations differently, so it’s important to realize that [and] to give people the space that they need to work through the trauma that has occurred today.”

USWNT Pledges to Stay Unified as Mass Shooting Devastates New Zealand Before World Cup
The USWNT during the send-off celebration after a game between the United States and Wales on July 9, 2023 at PayPal Park in San Jose, California. Karen Ambrose Hickey/SPP/Shutterstock

She continued: “But just understanding that we’re a unified team, and we give people space that they need, and, hopefully, we were able to get on the pitch and have ourselves a kick around and just try to be connected again on a tough day.”

The U.S. team is one of eight based in Auckland during the group stage of the tournament, which officially began Thursday. The FIFA Fan Festival — which had not yet opened at the time of the shooting — is also in close proximity.

Dunn, 31, Williams and more U.S. athletes are in the running for their third consecutive Women’s World Cup — but the pressure hasn’t fazed the team.

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“I would say it’s business as usual,” longtime player Carli Lloyd recently hinted to Fox News. “I would say that the approach is always the U.S. is favorites, [the] No. 1 team in the world. Everybody wants to go out there and beat them. There’s a target on their back. They’re most likely not even talking about a three-peat or really talking about the history that they can potentially make. Everybody just knows that.”

Earlier this month, soccer superstar Megan Rapinoe announced she plans to retire at the end of the year. She made her national team debut in 2006 and is now appearing in her fourth career World Cup.

“I can’t wait to be untethered,” Rapinoe, 38, told The Ringer in an interview published Wednesday, July 19. “And be able to take trips, and do stuff, and move on, or move to a different area in my life. But I’m also like, this is so much fun. I’m still good. I still play on a really good team. I’m still on the national team. I think having the World Cup is also just something big, hopefully, knock on wood, to go out with. I’m just like, this is fun.”

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