While the USWNT were kicking off their pre-WC tour, NWSL shenanigans carried on more or less as normal. We saw a broken winning streak, a surprise at the top of the table, and one team in particular glancing at the Panic Button.
Here’s a few takeaways from NWSL Week 5.
... The Harder They Fall
Something happened this weekend that hasn’t happened in almost a year. Long enough that some of us— ok, maybe just me— started to wonder if it would ever happen again.
The North Carolina Courage lost a game.
I know, right?
In some respects it wasn’t a fair fight; both NC and the Chicago Red Stars were missing core players who are off with the USWNT for World Cup prep, but the Red Stars still had Sam Kerr, which feels a bit cheaty. And indeed, she tagged North Carolina for two goals en route to Chicago’s 3-1 win over the defending NWSL champions.
The last time North Carolina lost a game was in June 2018, when they dropped a game to Utah. Hyperbole aside, it was only a matter of time before they took another L. Realistically, it was most likely to happen while their internationals were off on national team duty.
All that aside, this game solidified the idea that the Red Stars are one of a very few teams who can go toe-to-toe with a North Carolina side that otherwise seems indomitable.
Cue Old Town Road in Houston?
If you have cats, you’ve probably had to deal with your kitty inexplicably getting into some high-up part of your house, with no idea how that happened or how to get them back down. It’s as hilarious as it is befuddling.
I had a very similar feeling when I looked at the league table on Sunday night.
A few of us here at AfXI HQ— Kim in particular— had them pegged to surprise some folks this season and maybe even challenge for a playoff spot. I don’t think any of us expected this.
With the caveat that it’s only Week 5 and the table doesn’t mean a whole lot at this early stage, it’s entirely possible that Houston have started to figure things out. In two months’ time we may be mulling over a genuine shift in the power balance of the league.
Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down
So, to be fair to the Orlando Pride, they’re had to face the Portland Thorns twice this season— including the 3-1 loss at home this past weekend— and also got pasted by North Carolina in Week 3. In the context of their competition to start the season, their struggles are understandable.
Even so— finishing Week 5 without a win is... not a great look.
The big question hanging over this team right now is: at what point do you write the season off? When are they just too far gone?