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NWSL Week 3: What to watch for in each game

OL Reign forward Sofia Huerta and Portland Thorns forward Sophia Smith battle for the ball in a Challenge Cup match on March 18. (Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Cascadia rivalry headlines the NWSL’s weekend matchups as teams fight to knock San Diego from the top of the table.

Portland Thorns vs. OL Reign

Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network

The Cascadia rivalry is heading to Portland, with the Thorns and OL Reign set for a Friday night showdown at Providence Park.

OL Reign enter the matchup on the heels of a 2-2 draw with Racing Louisville — and after a hectic start to the season, in which they played the Spirit in their regular-season opener and the Challenge Cup semifinals in the span of three days.

The Thorns, on the other hand, haven’t played a game in two weeks and will enter Friday well-rested.

Portland’s Sophia Smith has been on a tear this season, lighting up the attack for club and country. OL Reign will look to slow Smith down while executing their own chances in the box against a solid Thorns backline.

Orlando Pride vs. Kansas City Current

Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET on Paramount+

Kansas City will travel to Orlando on Saturday in search of the club’s first win of the season.

After surging to the Challenge Cup semifinals, the Current has failed to score in their first two regular-season contests. Kansas City will need to get its offense going against the Pride, who are coming off a 1-0 win over Angel City.

NJ/NY Gotham FC vs. North Carolina Courage

Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on Paramount+

Gotham FC needs a solid home performance against a tough North Carolina side after the club’s harrowing 4-0 loss to San Diego Wave. The New Jersey/ New York team has struggled to find consistency at the start of the season, with Gotham’s attack appearing disjointed.

The Challenge Cup champion Courage will test Gotham with their lethal attack and organized midfield.

Racing Louisville vs. Houston Dash

Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on Twitch

Racing Louisville and the Houston Dash already faced each other twice in the Challenge Cup, with the clubs each taking home a win.

The Dash notched their first shutout of 2022 in last Sunday’s matchup against Kansas City as Houston looks to shore up its defensive woes. The Dash will have their hands full against a lively Louisville side as they hope to improve upon their defensive performances.

San Diego Wave FC vs. Chicago Red Stars

Sunday at 5 p.m. ET on Paramount+

The San Diego Wave lead the NWSL standings heading into the weekend after notching a 1-0 shutout against Houston and a 4-0 blowout over Gotham FC to open the season. The expansion club’s backline looks solid as Alex Morgan goes on a tear up top, making the Wave hard to contain.

The Red Stars are unbeaten so far this season as well after winning their opener against Louisville, even with their lengthy injury list, which includes star Mallory Pugh.

San Diego and Chicago both feature solid backlines and impressive keepers, meaning Sunday could turn into a defensive battle.

Washington Spirit vs. Angel City FC

Sunday at 5 p.m. ET on Paramount+

The Washington Spirit will host Angel City on Sunday after a grueling Challenge Cup final loss to North Carolina.

The Spirit’s attack appears to be firing on all cylinders, with Ashley Hatch, Trinity Rodman and Ashley Sanchez gelling in the final third.

With some defensive issues still to be worked out, Angel City’s backline will be tested by Washington’s relentless press.