NWSL’s regular-season finale makes waves, but not on airwaves
None of the final weekend's six matches aired on television.
Between Chelsea reclaiming the top spot in the table and breaking a WSL record for consecutive wins, Manchester City putting up seven goals over Brighton & Hove Albion last Sunday, and new signings making immediate impacts on their squads, there’s a lot happening in the FA Women’s Super League.
While depth is proving to be more important than anything else amidst a slew of make-up games, superstars can still be the deciding factor in any given contest. And with five games set to take place this weekend, we’ve got you covered on who to look out for.
Chelsea vs. Tottenham
Sunday, January 31st at 7:30 am ET
Lifting Chelsea to victory in a match against Aston Villa last Wednesday was Pernille Harder, who added a goal in the 68th minute to put her team up 3-0. Harder has been consistent in every contest she has appeared in this season, with Wednesday’s game being no exception, as the Blues went on to score a fourth and keep their opponent scoreless.
When Harder is in sync with teammates Sam Kerr, Fran Kirby, and Bethany England, Chelsea’s offense is nearly unstoppable, and they have the record to back it. Altogether, the Blues have scored an impressive 34 goals against their opponents this year, and on Wednesday, the high-caliber squad broke the WSL record for the longest unbeaten streak with 32 games.
At the center of it all? Pernille Harder. A threatening presence in the attacking third, Harder has contributed four goals to Chelsea’s total while notching two assists.
Still not impressed? Announced earlier this month, Harder was named the Women’s World Player of the Year by World Soccer, with the magazine citing her eye-popping stats — 38 goals in 33 games across all competitions, nine of those goals being in the Champions League — and her status as the most expensive female player in the world (Chelsea paid a €300,000 fee to Wolfsburg for the young star) as two major factors in their decision to honor her. To put it quite frankly, we agree with their choice.
If Chelsea is going to continue its unbeaten streak against Tottenham on Sunday, expect to find Harder at the center of the action.
Manchester City vs. West Ham United
Sunday, January 31st at 9:00 am ET
An unsung hero in Manchester City’s most recent victory, center back Steph Houghton logged two goals as City overwhelmed Brighton & Hove Albion last Sunday by a score of 7-1. Though the pair of goals were Houghton’s first of the 2020/2021 season, any defender that scores not one but two goals in the same match has achieved quite the feat — one that Houghton made look like part of her everyday routine.
In her time with Manchester City, the 32-year-old has scored 9 goals and led her team to two FA Women’s Cups, three Continental Cup successes, and the FA Women’s Super League title.
With so many titles under her belt, Houghton is nothing short of impressive — and she also captains both City and the English national team, a testament to her leadership on and off the field. In fact, Sunday’s contest marked Houghton’s 150th appearance in the FAWSL, making her the first player to reach such a milestone. And what better way to celebrate than by scoring a brace?
Manchester City has finally edged into third place in the table with last Sunday’s win, a mere five points separating them from second-place Manchester United. United has played twelve matches as opposed to City’s eleven, a factor that could prove to their disadvantage as the season winds down. City will need to rely on the consistency of veterans like Houghton when making up the five-point difference, and the captain’s recent performances indicate that she can and will deliver.
Manchester City will be taking on 10th place West Ham United this Sunday, a game they desperately need to win in order to remain superior to Arsenal and stay competitive in the fight for a top-three finish. Tune in at 9:00 am ET to catch Steph Houghton leading the charge.
Manchester United vs. Everton
Sunday, January 31st at 9:30 am ET
Also hitting a milestone in her career this past weekend was Leah Galton, who recorded her 50th appearance in Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Birmingham City on Sunday. Galton has been outstanding as of late, scoring a goal against Birmingham to bring her season total to six goals in twelve games played. As a result of her efforts, Galton was named the Player of the Month for December after scoring four goals in only three matches.
In a post-game interview following the win over Birmingham, United manager Casey Stoney had high praise for Galton and her performance, calling her “one of the best”:
“I think Leah is one of the best left-wingers in the country, if not the best at what she does,” she said. “She’s powerful, she’s quick and can go one-on-one. She can get in the box and score. I think she influenced the game heavily and it was really great to see. We knew [Birmingham City] would be really organized and hard to break down, and Leah created quite a few chances.”
With their undefeated streak snapped by Chelsea two weeks ago, Manchester United will almost certainly be looking to to climb back into first place with a series of wins. The Reds are slotted to take on Everton this weekend, with the odds seemingly in their favor as Everton has dropped three of their last five contests. Should Chelsea lose to Tottenham this weekend, United can easily slide back into first place with a win and three points on Sunday.
All things considered, United has a lot at stake this weekend — and the team will need to utilize Galton’s agility, scoring abilities, and sharpness on the ball to achieve the result they are gunning for.
None of the final weekend's six matches aired on television.
Chicago can clinch a playoff berth with a win over Angel City.
Gotham FC played to 3-3 draw with the Thorns.
OL Reign defeated the Orlando Pride 3-0 to claim the NWSL Shield.
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