We spent two weeks away from the NWSL so when it returned, we weren’t sure what to expect but almost every game scheduled for this past weekend was set to capture our imagination once again.
We had a heist at The Banc, we had an expansion team continue to defy expectations, we had teams racking up the goals and we had goalkeepers playing out of their skins to try and keep their team in the hunt for a playoff spot.
The NWSL is back baby!
- If you had asked me what the final score would be after Angel City were up by two against OL Reign at half-time, I wouldn’t have said a 3-2 win for the away side. OL Reign had created chances and missed a penalty in the first half while Angel City had made the most of their limited chances and usually when that happens, you feel like it’s just not going to happen for the team currently down by two goals. OL Reign reminded me and anyone else watching that they have the mental fortitude and the talent to turn around any situation. Despite DiDi Haračić’s best efforts, Jess Fishlock, Sofia Huerta and Tobin Heath have too much quality to be denied forever and they scored three fantastic goals to turn things around for OL Reign. Angel City are a gritty team but they tend to flag after 60 minutes. OL Reign took full advantage of that and pressed them until they got the goals they needed to win. What should’ve been another solid win in front of a massive crowd at The Banc turned into a devasting loss right at the death.
- What can you say about San Diego’s remarkable season that hasn’t been already stated? The new team to the NWSL shouldn’t be performing this well. After all, expansion teams tend to falter for awhile before picking up steam after two or three season. The Wave have decided to buck that trend and sit on top of the table after taking all three points when they visited Soldier Field this past weekend. Despite going down to ten players for a long stretch of the game, Kailen Sheridan’s heroics and Mal Pugh’s lack of prolificacy in front of goals allowed the Wave to pick up an improbable win against the Chicago Red Stars. San Diego have played more games than anyone else but their standing at the top of the league isn’t a fluke. This team has all the makings of becoming one the NWSL’s most regular playoff contenders.
- The Portland Thorns continue to quietly go about their business, picking up three points more often than not. They travelled to Louisville and finished up as 2-1 winners over Racing Louisville. Sophia Smith returned with a bang for the Thorns and Hina Sugita continues to have a sterling season with her new team. Behind the Wave, the Thorns are the most in-form team in the NWSL right now and with the return of their international players, are a formidable side for anyone to face as we get to the business end of the regular season. They have shown resilience when needed and scored goals by the bagful, while also maintaining a solid defensive structure. Everyone may be talking about San Diego right now but keep an eye on Portland. Rhian Wilkinson is doing a masterful job over there.
- The NC Courage and the Washington Spirit have decided to ignite a rivalry this season that stemmed from the Challenge Cup final. Every game that these two have featured in this season has been an end-to-end battle from the first whistle to the last. This past weekend was no different as they battled each other to a 3-3 draw on Friday night. Trinity Rodman was on song for the Spirit, nabbing two goals but so was Diana Ordóñez for the Courage who also found herself on the scoresheet twice. Both teams defensively could not keep a lead and it showed with the final score. The Courage stay rooted to the bottom of the league (not something I could’ve ever imagined at the start of the season) while the Spirit are in tenth, having played more games than most teams in the league. The window for both teams to make the playoff is getting smaller with each game they can’t find a win in, and for both teams to not make the playoffs? That would be one of the wildest moments this league has seen yet.
- Gotham, you have a problem. A 4-2 loss to the visiting Houston Dash makes it three games out of the last five where the New Jersey-based side have lost by multiple goals. At least this time they managed to score two goals but against the Portland Thorns, San Diego Wave and the Red Stars, they were just as abject defensively as they were against the Dash. The return of Estelle Johnson, Midge Purce and Ify Onumonu may have stop the slide that Gotham are currently on but those players won’t solve some very obvious issues that this team has. They may have played less games than anyone else in the league but if they don’t start winning soon, those games in hand won’t matter.
- The Orlando Pride are such a confusing team. After all that they had to deal with on and off the pitch, they continue to put together stretches in games which on one hand, convince you that there’s a good team hidden in that roster but on the other hand, that team has a lot of holes to fill. Against the KC Current, the Pride were ahead in the beginning of the second half by two goals. They just had to hang on for a little longer to get a huge three points for their season. Instead they collapsed and KC scored two goals to tie the game. Had it not been for Erin McLeod, the Current probably would’ve won the game outright in the second half. There’s still time for the Pride to try and reach the playoffs but their inconsistency may end up costing them again. KC on the other hands, despite losing key players for the season, are right in the playoff hunt and have shown enough to convince me that they have enough to safely navigate a playoff berth when all is said and done.