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NWSL power rankings: Thorns, OL Reign in tight race for top spot

Thorns goalkeeper Bella Bixby scored a backheel goal at the death to lift Portland to a draw with Angel City on April 29. (Troy Wayrynen/USA TODAY Sports)

Time has flown. With five games already played in the 2023 NWSL regular season, we’re nearing the quarter mark of the domestic soccer calendar.

Now that fans have had a chance to see a month’s worth of performances from each team, we took a look at how clubs are picking up points, and who’s trending in the right (or wrong) direction with a fresh edition of power rankings.

1. Portland Thorns

Standings: 1st (3-0-2)

Portland holds the top spot in both the league standings and in the power rankings after a quarter of the regular season. The Thorns needed a shocking equalizer from goalkeeper Bella Bixby this weekend to stay undefeated in league play, but the “whatever-it-takes” mentality from the 2022 reigning champions has made them difficult to beat in the early going of the season.

2. OL Reign

Standings: 2nd (3-1-1)

The Reign also needed a furious comeback to draw Racing Louisville 2-2 last weekend, but most importantly they’re finding ways to score goals when necessary. The Reign dropped five goals on the Red Stars in their fourth match of the season, and they still have a number of important contributors working their way back from injury.

3. Washington Spirit

Standings: 4th (2-0-3)

The Spirit have been turning in consistent performances as new head coach Mark Parsons balances long-term projects with win-now results. Washington is still undefeated in regular season play, opening the year with a solid win over the Reign and proceeding to accumulate three draws in five games, most recently in a strong attacking performance against Chicago. The Spirit aren’t a finished project yet, but they look much steadier after a tough 2022.

4. San Diego Wave

Standings: 3rd (3-2-0)

San Diego looks as sharp as ever but has suffered two losses in its last three games, dropping them to fourth in this week’s power rankings. The Wave have had no problem scoring goals, but their end-to-end style of soccer sometimes leaves them vulnerable on the counterattack, as in their most recent 3-1 loss to last-place Orlando this past weekend.

Lynn Williams has scored five goals in seven games across all competitions for Gotham. (Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports)

5. Gotham FC

Standings: 5th (3-2-0)

Gotham isn’t immune to a rough defensive performance, but last year’s NWSL basement dwellers look like a team ready to compete in the playoffs in 2023. Lynn Williams has proved to be an excellent pick-up on the team’s frontline, especially as Midge Purce has struggled with injuries early in the season. The return of midfielder Allie Long has similarly provided a boost, with Gotham picking up key points early in the season.

6. Kansas City Current

Standings: 7th (2-3-0)

Don’t look now, but after an 0-3 start and the dismissal of head coach Matt Potter, the Current are on the rise. Kansas City has rattled off two straight regular season wins behind the excellent play of Debinha, who is growing into her role with her new club with every passing game. The Current are also benefiting from the growth of rookie defenders Gabrielle Robinson and Croix Soto, as they take more risks to spring Hailie Mace out wide and get the attack cooking.

7. Houston Dash

Standings: 6th (1-1-3)

The Dash have looked like a solid playoff contender through the first five games of the season, but they occasionally play like they’re saving their best performances for the future. Houston’s attacking three of María Sánchez, Diana Ordoñez and Ebony Salmon are still gelling, though their underlying stats indicate that the goals are coming soon.

8. Angel City FC

Standings: 9th (1-2-2)

Sometimes it’s hard to tell exactly what version of Angel City you’re going to get on any given evening. With the addition of Julie Ertz to the midfield, and Alyssa Thompson looking very comfortable in attack, the team has the ability to go toe-to-toe with anyone. But they can also let results slip from their grasp, especially against deeper sides.

9. Racing Louisville

Standings: 10th (0-1-4)

Racing Louisville’s 2-2 draw against OL Reign this past weekend showcased the highs and lows of a team still figuring itself out. Savannah DeMelo has continued her excellent run of form in her second year, but a mistake also earned her a red card, allowing the Reign to come storming back with Louisville down a player. Racing Louisville is making the right strides, but the final piece could be a greater sense of discipline.

USWNT defender Emily Fox leads a North Carolina team that has dealt with a series of strange twists. (Maria Lysaker/USA TODAY Sports)

10. North Carolina Courage

Standings: 8th (2-3-0)

The Courage have looked competitive in every game they’ve played thus far, with all but one match decided by one goal or less. They’ve also had a very weird couple of weeks with weather delays, picking up a quick win over Houston on Friday after the match was abandoned following 52 minutes of play. North Carolina has a talented squad, but their rhythm has been disrupted through the first month of the season.

11. Orlando Pride

Standings: 12th (1-4-0)

The Pride have had a rough go of it in the early days of the 2023 NWSL season, but they put all their attacking woes behind them with a 3-1 win over top-four side San Diego last weekend. Orlando’s depth and defensive switches at key points in games have been issues thus far. But the ideas are there when everything is clicking, and they’ll feel a little bit of weight off their shoulders after picking up their first win.

12. Chicago Red Stars

Standings: 11th (1-3-1)

It’d be easy to blame Chicago’s struggles on the loss of Mallory Swanson to a knee injury, and she is missed every time they take the pitch. But the surprise has been the Red Stars’ issues on defense, with the team giving up two or more goals in every game outside of their most recent draw with the Spirit. The team’s three-back system has been strained with new midfield personnel in front of them, begging the question of whether the Red Stars need to adjust their formation to avoid a longer skid.

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.