The 2019 NWSL season through the first three weeks has been wild. We’ve already seen the best teams inexplicably drop points, some amazing goals, and even a freak April snowstorm.
Here’s a few takeaways from NWSL Matchweek 3.
When A Draw Feels Like A Win
For all the steps Sky Blue are— slowly, haltingly, achingly— taking to make things better, they still have a long way to go. It’s going to be some time before the organization demonstrates consistent operational excellence, much less fields a team that can truly compete with anyone else in the league.
But at the end of the day, you’ve got to work with what you’ve got. And that’s what made their 2-2 draw against the Thorns so important.
It’d be easy to look at this game as the 2018 NWSL Championship runners-up dropping points unnecessarily. But I think that detracts from Sky Blue’s accomplishment here. It’s not easy for anyone to get a result against Portland, and this fixture could’ve easily turned into a bloodbath. That SBFC managed to get that point shows that this team has some promise.
Sure, this has a whiff of a missed opportunity, given that Sky Blue were up 2-0 at one point and then proceeded to blow the lead. But getting that point is still valuable and important... IF they manage to build on that.
What If There’s No Stopping North Carolina, Ever
It’s not just that the Courage won their second in a row to stay unbeaten in 2019— it’s that both were blowout wins.
NCC rolled up on a fairly solid Houston side— one which could very well be competitive this year— and just wrecked them. It wasn’t as bad of a drubbing as what they did to Orlando in Week 2, but it was bad enough.
More to the point, it’s unclear what, or who, can slow this team down right now. Surely they’ll lose some of their firepower when the internationals all head off for World Cup prep, but the rest of the league won’t fare much better in that regard, and North Carolina’s bench is still pretty solid. Plus, their star players will be back in time for the race to the post-season.
I’m not sure what the league will look like in the long-term, or even medium-term, if the shape of things really does end up being North Carolina vs Everyone Else, with NC almost always end up on top. At the moment, though, it really does feel like NC’s house.
Still Orange Ball Szn
Chicago weather can be fairly unpredictable. Even so, a snowstorm in late April seemed a bit excessive.
Red Stars vs Reign on Saturday night ended up being postponed shortly after the scheduled kickoff time. When the two teams tried again the next day at lunchtime— underneath abundant sunshine— Chicago emerged with their first win of 2019.
What was important here was that two of the Red Stars’ three goals came from players who aren’t going to France this summer. Chicago have a solid bench, but even so, the prospect of navigating the middle of the season without their internationals has been one of the biggest question marks hanging over this team. Players like Yuki Nagasato and Brooke Elby— who posted the latter two goals for Chicago— are really going to have to perform this summer if the Red Stars are to have any really chance of making the playoffs again, much less getting to the Championship Final. The win over Reign FC suggests maybe they’ll do ok afterall.