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AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — The United States women’s national team was preparing to eat breakfast and practice Thursday morning when Auckland’s downtown waterfront area was on lockdown due to a shooting at a nearby construction site.

A gunman killed two people and wounded five others just hours before the start of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Police confirmed that the 24-year-old shooter is dead.

A US Soccer spokesperson told FOX Sports that no team members were walking during the incident and that the team’s training session was delayed by about an hour. The USA plays its first game against Vietnam on Friday (9 pm ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App).

Eight teams, including the US women’s national team, are based in Auckland during the group stage and many of their hotels were very close to where the shooting took place. It was also in the same area as the FIFA Fan Festival, which had not yet opened.

US Soccer quickly tweeted as the situation unfolded to say that all 23 players and staff “are accounted for and safe” and that their “security team is in communication with local authorities, and we are proceeding with our daily schedule.”

The team was told not to leave the hotel until the scene had been cleared. US Soccer said it was in contact with local authorities and the State Department at all times and received constant updates.

“There was definitely a sense of coming together,” forward Lynn Williams said later that afternoon. “We still have work to do, while acknowledging that lives were lost, and that is very real and very devastating.

“We were thankful that we were safe, that first responders arrived and everything was very fast.”

‘Our hearts are sad’: Rob Stone reflects on New Zealand shooting

'Our hearts are sad': Rob Stone reflects on New Zealand shooting

 

Left-back Crystal Dunn echoed the sentiments of her teammates.

“This is very real, and our condolences go out to the families of the victims and the lives that were lost,” Dunn said. “I think everyone handles these situations differently, so it’s important to realize that, to give people the space they need to move past the trauma that has occurred today.

“But I just understand that we’re a unified team, and we give people the space they need, and hopefully we were able to get on the field and have fun and try to connect again on a tough day.”

Before practice finally began, the team met with Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, who traveled to head the US Delegation to the World Cup. He is expected to attend the USWNT opener.

Subsequently, the federation issued an official statement:

“US Soccer extends its deepest condolences to the families of the victims who died in the shooting in downtown Auckland today. We are saddened by the unforgivable loss of life from gun violence, and our thoughts are with the people of Auckland/Tamaki Makaurau and Aotearoa New Zealand.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins held a news conference in the capital Wellington on Thursday and said the tournament would go ahead as planned. Co-hosts New Zealand play Norway at Eden Park in Auckland in the opening game on Thursday, while Australia take on the Republic of Ireland at Stadium Australia in Sydney in the evening’s cup.

New Zealand and Norway share a moment of silence before the game to honor the victims of the Auckland shooting

New Zealand and Norway share a moment of silence before the game to honor the victims of the Auckland shooting

 

“Clearly, with the FIFA World Cup kicking off tonight, there are a lot of eyes on Auckland,” Hipkins said. “The tournament will go ahead as planned. I want to reiterate that there is no broader threat to national security. These appear to be the actions of one individual.”

“Police have neutralized the threat and are not looking for anyone else. The safety of New Zealand and the safety of our visitors is our first priority.”

Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball, and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today, and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of “Strong Like a Woman,” published in the spring of 2022 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.

 



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