CARY, NC - SEPTEMBER 12: Debinha #10 of the NC Courage controls the ball as Shea Groom #6 of the Houston Dash looks on during a game between Houston Dash and North Carolina Courage at WakeMed Soccer Park on September 12, 2020 in Cary, North Carolina.

The NWSL is officially back. The Fall Series kicked off the first week of September and will run through the middle of October, with each team guaranteed four regional games. The league wasted no time in picking up where it left off after a wildly successful Challenge Cup, delivering a bevy of highlights in its opening matchups.

 

5. PURCE CASHES IN

How does one defend a duo like that of Mallory Pugh and Midge Purce? The answer: you probably can’t. Sky Blue’s new pickup, Pugh dribbles diagonally across the field, placing a perfectly weighted ball in front of her teammate Purce, who cuts in front of her defender to gain the inside edge. Purce drives to goal, drawing the Spirits’ keeper before finally tucking the ball away into the side panel. Purce’s 91st-minute goal gave her team an opening Fall Series win, as Sky Blue downed Washington Spirit 2-1. We’re sure this won’t be the last you’ll hear about these two.

 

4. BLEDSOE HOLDS HER GROUND

Chicago Red Star’s Kealia Watt cuts inside on her defender and cracks a shot from way outside. The ball ricochets off the crossbar, rebounding to Dani Rhodes, who takes a shot from point-blank range. But Washington’s Aubrey Bledsoe makes a remarkable reactionary save, blocking the shot from near the six. Bledsoe’s heroic stop kept her team to a one-goal differential in a 2-1 loss to Chicago.

 

3. GROOM IS UP TO HER USUAL TRICKS

Challenge Cup Championship MVP Shea Groom reads the backline defender perfectly, stripping the ball before diving to the goal and selflessly serving up her teammate Veronica Latsko on a platter. Latsko slits the ball into the back of the net, equalizing the game at 1. Unfortunately, the goal wasn’t enough as the Dash fell to the Courage 4-3 in their Fall Series debut.

 

2. SCARPA BEATS THE BUZZER

In the 93rd minute of a tied game, Washington Spirits’ Crystal Thomas spins her defender and plays a dangerous ball behind the backline. Scarpa sneaks behind her defender and, sliding, knocks the ball into the back of the net, earning her first career NWSL goal. Scarpa’s buzzer-beater score gave her team a 2-1 win over the Red Stars.

 

1. DEBINHA’S TOP 10 ROCKET

Debinha’s goal was No. 7 on Sports Center’s Top 10 plays, and it’s easy to see why. After receiving a pass from a teammate, Debinha dummies her defender before hitting an absolute screamer into the upper 90 of the back post. Debinha scored two goals in the opener for Carolina and currently has a 100% goal conversion for shots on goal…that’s good, right? Her two scores helped Carolina edge Houston Dash 4-3 in their opening game.

After so much talk ahead of the Fall Series was about who wasn’t playing, Debinha reminded us all that arguably the best player in the league is still on the field.