We started off the season in North Carolina with the Courage picking up a 1-0 win against a new look Kansas City Current but it was the two evening matches on Saturday night and Sunday night, that reminded us why we love watching this league so much.
San Diego Wave FC hosted the Chicago Red Stars, who they last saw during the playoffs last season and as fate would have it, the game played out in a similar fashion; goalkeeping errors mixed in with great attacking and lulls in play.
The game started off cagey, with both teams looking to see what the other had to offer. It seemed as though both midfield were cancelling each other out and the game was headed towards a moment where the first goal would open things up. That’s exactly what happened when, just as it happened last year, Chicago took the lead. A scramble in the box allowed Yūki Nagasato to smash the ball home from close range, silencing a vociferous crowd in San Diego.
As if it was scripted from last season, Kailen Sheridan’s decision to come out was not a good one and led to the goal. Having Alex Morgan marking Nagasato was also a poor choice and it led to San Diego conceding a sloppy goal by their standards.
Last season’s script being re-written in front of our eyes again wasn’t quite finished as San Diego found the equaliser through an error by Alyssa Naeher. Christen Westphal went for goal and Naeher looked to tip the ball or possibly catch it. Instead, the ball came off her hands, off the crossbar and right into the onrushing Amirah Ali’s path, who couldn’t miss from there. The back and forth of this game wasn’t done yet as ten minutes later, Jaedyn Shaw scored a great goal to put the hosts up by one. No one expected her shot and with Naeher unsighted, the ball went whistling by the Red Stars goalkeeper and into the corner of the net.
The ‘NWSL After Dark’ narrative rolled on as the next goal came through a foul inside the box by Danielle Colaprico, former Red Stars stalwart, now starting midfielder for the Wave. Mal Swanson scored the penalty, despite Sheridan getting finger tips to it, and the game swung back on to level terms once again.
The final twist of the game came late, as Alex Morgan found the game-winner just as she did last time out against Chicago. Morgan kept her cool and placed the ball right into the corner, giving Naeher no chance at saving the penalty.
The vibes didn’t just end on Saturday night in San Diego, Sunday night in Los Angeles was just as enthralling with VAR taking center stage in the game between Angel City and NJ/NY Gotham FC.
After Alyssa Thompson made her long awaited debut in Los Angeles and scored a debut goal to boot, VAR took over the game with two decisions that the home fans will not want to see happen again.
The first, when Jun Endo noted that Abby Smith was way off her line and proceeded to chip her from at least 30 yards out, which was ruled out due to a foul during that sequence of play; and the second which led to Gotham’s equalising penalty from Midge Purce. Lynn Williams also scored what turned out to be the winner but had it not been for VAR giving Gotham a boost in the first half, this may have been a different result for the visitors,
So far, VAR had had a quiet but efficient outing in the NWSL but Sunday night saw it become the ‘enemy’ so many fans view it to be. If you’re an Angel City fan, VAR will not be your favourite piece of technology right now considering how the match panned out against Gotham.
If you’re a fan of ‘NWSL After Dark’ however, VAR just became your favourite person because it’s now an added layer to what’s already been a fascinating aspect of the NWSL’s evening matches.
Despite the late hour for anyone not on the west coast, this is what makes ‘NWSL After Dark’ such a fun experience. The games tend to veer from absurd to thrilling in 45 minute increments and they always leave you feeling like staying up to watch the broadcast or heading over to the stadium on that weekend evening was well worth it. The energy during these evening matches tends to be intensely captivating and thus, constantly living up to it’s nickname. As Jordan Angeli jokingly mentioned on the broadcast to NWSL commentating newcomer Jacqui Oatley, “welcome to NWSL After Dark”.
Welcome back ‘NWSL After Dark’. We’ve missed you.