The Women’s Super League kicked off its season over the weekend after a week’s delay to honor Queen Elizabeth II, who died Sept. 8 at 96.

The opening matches featured new names, familiar faces and stunning upsets amid a swell of excitement and record ticket sales.

WSL plays of the Week

Rachel Daly’s dream debut

Rachel Daly returned to the WSL in style.

The English international notched a brace and an assist in her debut with Aston Villa, helping her side to a 4-3 win over Manchester City.

Daly signed with the club in August, ending her six-season stint with the NWSL’s Houston Dash.

It took just 22 minutes with her new club for Daly to make her mark, as she assisted Alisha Lehman for Aston Villa’s opening goal. Ten minutes later, Daly buried a goal of her own, rifling a curler to put her side up 2-0.

Daly’s most consequential contribution, however, came in the 76th minute, when she tapped in the game-winner to secure Aston Villa a thrilling victory.

“Some would say a dream debut,” Daly said after the match. “Obviously it’s nice to get on the scoresheet not one but twice, but importantly three points at Villa Park in front of a great crowd.”

Beth Mead’s brace

Beth Mead is on a tear, riding momentum from the Euros into the WSL season.

The England national team forward logged two goals and an assist while creating four chances in Arsenal’s 4-0 shutout over Brighton.

Both of Mead’s goals came in the second half, as she buried her first in the 63rd minute and her second in the 83rd minute.

The 27-year-old’s impressive season opener comes after a breakthrough 2022 Euro tournament in which Mead clinched the Golden Boot award, logging six goals and five assists for the Lionesses.

Ashleigh Neville’s rocket  

Ashleigh Neville struck the rocket of the weekend, powering a long-range banger to help Tottenham to a 2-1 win over Leicester City.

The 29-year-old ripped a stunning shot from 35 yards out to put the Hotspurs up 1-0 early.

“I took that kind of touch and saw it and just thought why not,” Neville said after the match. “It went in, so yeah, happy with that.”

Portland Thorns defender Becky Sauerbrunn is speaking out on Rachel Daly’s blockbuster transfer from the Houston Dash to Women’s Super League club Aston Villa.

Daly, who served as captain of the Dash, spent seven years with Houston, scoring a franchise-high 33 regular-season goals during her tenure. The English star said her decision to play in the WSL was guided by her need to be closer to family.

“I think she is such a loss to the league because she has such a great personality and she’s been such a cornerstone for Houston,” Sauebrunn said on Men in Blazers’ The Women’s Game podcast. “She’s definitely one of those players that I know I hate going up against because she is that good and some players think they’re that good and that’s also super irritating to me, but she is actually that good. So, in a weird way, I am gonna miss her.”

Daly responded to Sauerbrunn’s remarks on Twitter, writing, “Wow thank you Becky Sauerbrunn your words mean a lot! I definitely won’t miss playing against you,” accompanied with a crying laughing emoji.

The 30-year-old’s exit has instigated a conversation around the NWSL’s ability to retain top talent. International stars, including Australia’s Sam Kerr and the Netherlands’ Vivianne Miedema, have opted to play in the WSL, where salaries are more lucrative.

The NWSL’s CBA, however, has worked toward rectifying the disparity between leagues, with Rookie of the Year Trinity Rodman signing a landmark four-year $1.1 million deal.

Rachel Daly was on hand Friday night to bid farewell to the Houston Dash, with the English star heading to Women’s Super League club Aston Villa.

The 30-year-old was honored before the Dash’s home game against Racing Louisville, with Houston’s mayor proclaiming August 12th Rachel Daly Day.

Daly spent seven years with the Dash before announcing her transfer to Aston Villa in early August. The Houston captain decided to return to the Women’s Super League to be closer to home.

“I’m so passionate about this club. It holds such a special place in my heart…they’ve been an absolutely amazing club to be a part of,” Daly said of the Houston Dash.

Daly has served as the face of the Dash, helping to establish the team as a competitive force in the NWSL.

In her seven years with the NWSL club, Daly tallied 40 regular-season goals and ten assists, leading Houston to a pivotal 2020 Challenge Cup title.

Daly’s transfer to Aston Villa comes after the fullback clinched a maiden Euro title with England in July.



England women’s national team forward Rachel Daly has joined Women’s Super League club Aston Villa on a transfer from the NWSL’s Houston Dash, the two teams announced Tuesday.

Daly, who served as captain of the Dash and spent the last seven years with the club in the NWSL, recently won the Euros title with England.

She was drafted by Houston in the 2016 NWSL college draft and has appeared in 116 games for the club, helping lead them to the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup. In her tenure, she scored 42 goals and added 12 assists. Her 33 goals during the regular season stands as the most in club history.

Daly said she is stepping away in order to be closer to family.

“It pains me to say goodbye,” she wrote in a statement posted to her Twitter account. “This past year for myself and my family has been incredibly tough. The silver lining has been bringing football home and getting the opportunity to be around family. This made me realize this is exactly what I needed, to be home.”

Calling herself the Dash’s “number one fan from afar,” Daly says that the “club, the city and the people will always have a special place in my heart.”

“It’s been my honour to play and represent this city,” she added.

Daly has been regarded as the “face of the Houston Dash,” with the Houston Chronicle’s Danielle Lerner detailing her loyalty to the team despite the club having a hard time qualifying for the playoffs during her time in Houston.

“Rachel has been an integral part of the Houston Dash for seven years and she will be missed not only as a world-class footballer, but also as a driven and passionate leader on and off the pitch,” Dash president Jessica O’Neill said in a release. “This transfer will result in Rachel being much closer to her loved ones, a request we wanted to make every effort to honor. We’re deeply grateful for the commitment and loyalty she’s shown to this city and wish her the best in her next adventure.”

Daly has spent previous time in England with Leeds United, Lincoln Ladies and West Ham United. She now joins Aston Villa on a three-year deal and will play for the club as a forward.

“This is a big signing for us and one we’ve worked hard on completing. Rachel is a top forward and a proven goalscorer,” said manager Carla Ward. “Having performed admirably at full-back this summer, she showed us that she is a player you simply need in your team.”

Kansas City and the Houston Dash collected three points each in the Challenge Cup standings, with both clubs pulling out hard-fought wins on Friday night.

First, the Dash came back from a two-goal deficit to overcome Racing Louisville 3-2 at Lynn Family Stadium.

Louisville opened up scoring with Kirsten Davis scoring her first career goal to put her side up 1-0 in the 16th minute.

Jessica McDonald doubled Louisville’s lead in the 40th minute, volleying in an artful shot over Jane Campbell for the forward’s first goal in a Louisville uniform.

The Dash came out after the half on the attack, with a pair of goals from Marisa Viggiano and María Sánchez equalizing the game at 2-2.

The game’s decisive goal came in the 64th minute when Rachel Daly drew a foul in the box before converting from the line to hand the Dash the 3-2 win.

Kansas City also stamped a come-from-behind win on Friday, defeating the Red Stars 2-1.

Chicago opened up scoring with Vanessa DIBernardo firing a deflected long-range shot past Adrianna Franch to take the lead.

The Current’s equalizer came in the 58th minute when Hailie Mace struck a banger past Alyssa Naeher to put the game at 1-1.

Kansas City’s game-winner came in the 86th minute off another brilliant play by Mace. The Current defender looped the ball over Chicago’s backline to find Kristen Hamilton, who beat Naeher one-on-one to secure the game for her side.

The Current sits atop the Central Division standings, while the Dash moves to third following Friday’s wins.

The Houston Dash’s Rachel Daly returned to the pitch for the first time since her father’s passing on Wednesday, scoring a brace to lead the team to a 3-2 win over the Portland Thorns.

“It’s been a really tough period of time for her,” Dash coach James Clarkson said postgame, acknowledging that what’s been happening in the league this past week combined with the loss of Daly’s father has been a lot.

“She’s a warrior, a fighter, an unbelievable football player. Fantastic goal.”

Daly later posted in remembrance of her father.

The matchup between the Dash and Kansas City proved to be a lively one, as the teams traded goals until the final whistle.

KC opened up scoring in the 13th minute, when Amy Rodriguez tapped in a well-placed ball from Mallory Weber to go up 1-0.

Houston responded in the 60th minute with a redirected header from Rachel Daly to equalize. Sunday night’s performance solidified Daly as Houston’s all-time leading goal scorer.

Only five minutes later, Houston added to their lead. Kristie Mewis sent a lofting corner kick into the back post where Shea Groom knocked in a bouncing header to put the Dash up 2-1.

Then, in extra time, Taylor Leach powered in a last-minute header to even the score at 2-2.

Kansas City now has two ties to start their first season in the NWSL and will look for their first win against the Chicago Red Stars on Wednesday. The Dash will hope to turn their season around, after opening with a loss and a tie, when they face the Washington Spirit on Wednesday.

Rachel Daly plays for both the Houston Dash of the NWSL and the English national team. She spoke with Just Women’s Sports about the ongoing NWSL Challenge Cup, what gives the Dash their mental edge, and what she expects from the club the rest of the way. 

Overall, how has your experience been living in a bubble and playing games under these conditions? 

We haven’t left our hotel other than to go to training, which is hard, but I think we’ve managed it quite well. We play ping pong tournaments. I’ve learned how to juggle. We play Mario Kart. Just things you wouldn’t do a whole lot of if you were at home. I think it’s a good time obviously for the team to get to know each other on a deeper level as well. It’s quite a unique experience.

As far as the games, we started off really well. We were disappointed obviously to tie the first game. I think we dominated that whole game, it just didn’t go our way at the end. The OL Reign game was good for us and was a massive confidence boost for the team. I think we needed that. I think we actually played really well. It was good for our team to get a good win and the media started to recognize us for who we are versus our old Dash ways. I think that was positive. Then, we took a bit of a hit and lost to Sky Blue, but some players were rotated. I think it’s obviously hard in tournaments to manage everyone’s game loads and things like that. It was a really disappointing result for us, but we still have a lot to look forward to.

What’s surprised you about the quality of play so far? 

I think what’s been exciting about us is obviously the amount of goals we scored. Five in the first two games is quite a big deal for us. We’ve never scored that many goals in the past in two games, but we’ve been pushing this past month or so in preseason on getting people in the box and creating scoring chances.

I think soccer games are quite tight all over, really. When you watch MLS now, their games are nil-nil, one-nil. Even the Premier League in the first week, I think there were about eight nil-nil games. I think it’s just getting that fatigue out of your body when you’re in quarantine and you can’t really train. You come into preseason, you’re only playing against each other. The shock of playing against another team and trying to get up to speed with the level of play again has been tough.

How has it been playing without fans?

You know what? I honestly don’t even notice it to be honest. At first I felt it was going to be a bit weird, having no sound, whatever. I think once you get out there, I think the only thing you’re thinking about is football.

You’re coming off a good year last year and a successful semi final World Cup run with England. Now you’re a co captain of the Dash. What does all that mean to you and how have you built off that momentum during the tournament?

It’s obviously been a long year of not playing since the off season last year. For me, this was just about trying to get through this tournament and get a positive result. Getting to the semifinal, getting to the final, that’s obviously something we’re pushing for. I think if I can help the team in any way I can, obviously for me that’s important. Dash has been a big part of my life for the past five years. The club means a lot to me, so I think every time I step out on that field, I think it’s more of a proud moment too versus just playing football, going out, and enjoying yourself. I’m actually playing to represent a club that I have loved for the past five years.

You’ve talked about this “do or die” Dash mentality elsewhere and how the team is often seen as an underdog. Can you speak to that idea?

Yes, I think we always have been an underdog, but we’ve brought that on ourselves. We’ve never performed to the level we should have. We’ve always come in the league and been sixth, seventh, eighth. We’ve never ever made the playoffs. That’s through our own fault. I think for us this year it was all about earning respect and gaining respect from the opposition, from the media, from the fans, and I think that attention came to us a little bit after the Reign game, which was nice.

For us, it is a do or die attitude. We had a lack of structure these past few years, but now we’ve actually got a really good quality team. We’ve got players that are new this year, players that have come back from last year, and the previous years. Different people, different personalities, different ability levels. I think that’s something that we capitalize on. There’s also the fact that you don’t have a US national team player on our team. That boosts our team a little bit more to push on, do well, and perform without that. I think we’re the only team in the league that doesn’t have one. That’s a big thing for us. We just want to go out in this tournament and show people what we can do and what we are capable of.

What are your expectations for the remainder of the tournament?

We want to win. We go out every game, we want to win every game. Obviously, it’s a bit of a weird one because everyone makes the knockout round, so people can rest and whatever, but I think we’ve gone in with the attitude every game to win. That’s not changed and that’s not going to change. Hopefully, we get a good draw in the quarters and push on. Our ultimate goal is to be in the final.