The San Diego Wave have taken the NWSL by storm. The expansion club leads the league standings at the international break in its first season.
The Wave can’t get too comfortable, though. New talent, shifts in form and national team call-ups could shake up the table.
San Diego Wave FC
The Wave (5-2-3) have been stellar in their start to the regular season, capping off their early run through the season with an emphatic 3-0 win over Gotham FC. Veteran forward Alex Morgan has served at the Wave’s anchor, scoring a league-leading 11 of San Diego’s 16 goals.
But as Morgan and fellow attacking force Taylor Kornieck report to international duty for the USWNT and Swedish international Sofia Jakobsson heads out for the Euros, the Wave’s humming attack could be tested.
Speaking of a humming attack, the Portland Thorns have been on a goal-scoring tear, leading the NWSL in goal differential at plus-14. The Thorns have managed to rack up an average of 2.3 goals per match while only conceding 0.8 goals per game, a promising stat for the Portland club.
Sophia Smith, the team’s leading scorer, and Becky Sauerbrunn, the club’s defensive anchor, will be with the USWNT for the Concacaf W Championship come July, presenting Portland with a challenge. The Thorns, however, have impressive depth and may fair better than other teams in terms of international player absences.
Sophia Smith gets a deserved second. Portland are brushing aside Orlando with ease #PORvORL (🎥 @NWSL)pic.twitter.com/WRSWpECJLl— AllForXI (@AllForXI) June 19, 2022
Sophia Smith gets a deserved second. Portland are brushing aside Orlando with ease #PORvORL (🎥 @NWSL)pic.twitter.com/WRSWpECJLl
Chicago Red Stars
Like San Diego and Portland, Chicago’s attack is propelled by a red-hot USWNT striker. Mallory Pugh leads the Red Stars with six goals and two assists, helping the club a 4-1-4 record to start the season. Sitting on a seven-game unbeaten streak heading into the international break, Chicago has some padding to cushion the potential blow of Pugh’s national team duty.
Houston has endured a roller coaster start to the NWSL regular season, sitting fourth in the standings with a 4-2-3 record.
Canadian international Nichelle Prince and England’s Rachel Daly have been solid for the Dash, notching five and four goals, respectively. A feisty team, leading the league in successful tackles per match with 16.1, Houston knows how to put together a win. The Dash, however, need to find some consistency and will hope a thrilling 4-3 win ahead of the break will be just the momentum they need.
OL Reign have all the talent — and more on the way — but has yet to live up to its potential. The Seattle club recently signed Tobin Heath, Kim Little and Jordyn Huitema to join a stacked lineup that includes Rose Lavelle, Jess Fishlock, Bethany Balcer and Sofia Huerta. With only a total of seven goals scored, OL Reign are second to last in goals per match at 0.8, even with their attacking firepower.
Heading into the break, OL Reign will look to get their team in sync in the final third and hopefully get Tziarra King more minutes on the pitch while doing so.
Make that two for Tziarra King. OL Reign take the lead with a few minutes to go before half time #NWSL (🎥 @NWSL)pic.twitter.com/mEBtvDg5GA— AllForXI (@AllForXI) May 8, 2022
Make that two for Tziarra King. OL Reign take the lead with a few minutes to go before half time #NWSL (🎥 @NWSL)pic.twitter.com/mEBtvDg5GA
Angel City FC
The expansion club was dealt a crippling blow in its penultimate match ahead of the international break. Marquee player Christen Press tore her ACL, sidelining the star forward for the season. Without Press, the likes of Simone Charley and Jasmyne Spencer will have to step up as the new headliners of ACFC’s forward line.
Perhaps no team needs a break more than the Washington Spirit. The club weathered a packed start to the season, with coach Kris Ward relying on heavy rotation to rest his star players. Now, seven Spirit players will be away from the team as Ashley Hatch, Aubrey Kingsbury, Kelley O’Hara, Trinity Rodman, Ashley Sanchez, Emily Sonnett and Andi Sullivan head to the Concacaf W Championship with the USWNT.
Washington enters the international team break on a 10-game winless streak and is in need of some synergy once the squad is rested and reunited.
Trinity Rodman is CLINICAL 💫 Washington Spirit break the deadlock 💥 pic.twitter.com/r8LHvNnpoN— Attacking Third (@AttackingThird) June 18, 2022
Trinity Rodman is CLINICAL 💫 Washington Spirit break the deadlock 💥 pic.twitter.com/r8LHvNnpoN
There were high hopes for Gotham FC ahead of the 2022 season, with many even referring to their campaign as a “win-now” scenario. The NJ/NY club has looked anything but “win now,” posting a 3-4-0 record on the year. Gotham’s attack has struggled, with the team only scoring five total goals for a discouraging 0.7 goals per match.
Heading into the international break, Gotham FC will need to build out its midfield, securing the lineup so Kristie Mewis can be released into the attack.
Racing Louisville heads into the break after a promising 2-2 draw against the Washington Spirit. Nadia Nadim’s return from her ACL injury has buoyed the team, with the veteran scoring in her first two 2022 appearances with the club. Nadim’s potential to link up with Jessica McDonald could bode well for a Racing Louisville team that appears to be slowly growing into their season.
Kansas City Current
Kansas City was dealt a devastating blow to start the season, with new acquisitions Sam Mewis and Lynn Williams both sidelined due to injury.
Though down the standings and without key players, the Current have some positives to hold on to. Kansas City ranks third in the league in big chances created, according to FotMob, with Kristen Hamilton headlining the team’s attack. If the Current can button up their defense and convert more of their opportunities up the pitch, the club may be able to move up the table.
Kristen Hamilton with a breakthrough goal for the Current 🌟 pic.twitter.com/SXJuFahjCu— Attacking Third (@AttackingThird) June 12, 2022
Kristen Hamilton with a breakthrough goal for the Current 🌟 pic.twitter.com/SXJuFahjCu
The Orlando Pride has had a trying 2022, falling to 11th in the NWSL standings at the international break.
With five losses on the season and a staggering goal differential of minus-15, Orlando could use a pick-me-up. The team stumbled into the break after falling to the Thorns 6-0 in a thumping from the Portland side, following up their 5-0 thrashing from the Dash. With coach Amanda Cromwell on leave pending an investigation into alleged retaliation in violation of league policy, Orlando will look to turn around a rocky regular-season start on and off the pitch.
North Carolina Courage
The Courage have struggled since taking home the Challenge Cup title in May.
After several COVID-19 absences, North Carolina seems to be growing into their season. Debinha and Kerolin have been explosive for the Courage, while Carson Pickett continues to dominate the flanks. Though North Carolina is currently last in the standings, the team holds a level goal differential, forecasting a promising next leg of the 2022 campaign.