We got our first glimpse at NWSL games sans Olympic athletes this week and we learned… a lot.
I overestimated North Carolina without their Olympians. I underestimated Gotham FC. And most notably, I severely underestimated what an unreal season “Own Goal” is having. MVP candidate, and maybe even the favorite.
Kansas City will hope a week off will be the reset their players needed to find themselves in the NWSL win column. They next play a North Carolina side who has struggled to win without it’s international stars. Could this be their chance?
OL Reign didn’t make headlines for their play in last weekend’s 3-1 loss to Chicago. They did, however, give fans something to look forward to with the announcement that the club’s first head coach, Laura Harvey, would return after the Olympics. Until then, the Reign will try to find a win with a talented roster that lacks cohesion and consistency.
Louisville was the other team without a game last weekend. They’re positioned to do well in this stretch, losing no international players (unless you count Christen Press and Tobin Heath, but it’s hard to say Louisville ever had them to begin with). The Olympic break was perhaps less welcome for them than for Kansas City. They face the Spirit this weekend, who they beat 2-0 earlier this year.
The Courage without Abby Erceg and their midfield stars are a bit like a broken record. I feel like I keep seeing: A center back plays the ball into the midfield. The midfield turns it over 30 yards from goal. Counter attack. Goal. I know the Courage have a distinct style of play, but they don’t have the personnel to do so at the moment. I expect (or at least hope) to see some changes in style or lineup.
The Pride are another team that simply aren’t the unit they were when the stars are away. The Thorns deserved to win and dominated them last weekend. The Pride’s late, dramatic ties have put bandaids on some recent performances that haven’t been as good as their early season form, but there were no heroics in Portland. They face a struggling OL Reign this weekend as they look to get back on track.
Two weeks ago, the Dash were victims to a breakout performance by aforementioned star “Own Goal.” This week, they made sure to not let it happen again. They tightened up their back line, capitalized on Courage errors and got the W. They host the Thorns on Saturday for a chance at a statement win.
All jokes about “Own Goal” aside, the Red Stars are a dangerous team. There’s a reason teams are scoring against themselves and it’s because the likes of Mallory Pugh and company are looking ridiculously dangerous around the goal and whipping balls in. I also like the looks of this non-Olympian Red Stars side.
I said the Spirit needed a win to keep the top spot. They were victim to a soft (and later rescinded) red card early in the game and still put up a hell of a fight before falling 3-2 to Gotham FC. If they could have sorted their set piece marking they likely would have won, even down a player.
Gotham got the win last weekend and have to feel confident heading into their game against Chicago on Sunday. Imani Dorsey played a fantastic game and set up Midge Purce for a beautiful goal that was ultimately the winner. When those two link up, Gotham is hard to beat.
Another week. Another new No. 1. This league is chaotic, but as of late, the Thorns have been steady. Bella Bixby has come back from injury stronger than ever. The forward crew is finishing more of their chances. One lingering question? Who to put on PKs while Christine Sinclair is away.