The week began in the NWSL with Orlando Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner giving a very honest and passionate press conference detailing the shortcomings of his team in there opening week defeat to Portland Thorns. There was to be no let up for the former Birmingham City Manager, three days later his Pride team were thumped 5-0 by last season’s champions, North Carolina Courage. Crystal Dunn scored a brace, Lynn Williams and Jessica McDonald also getting on the score sheet, while Swedish midfielder Julia Spetsmar also marked her NWSL debut with a goal.
The weekend’s action got underway with three matches on Saturday and if you were one of the lucky ones to watch the first two games at the civilised time of 8.30 pm and 11.00pm you were in for a treat.
The first game was a wild affair between the Chicago Red Stars and Portland Thorns in the wonderfully named ‘Seatgeek Stadium’ in a very windy Chicago. Canadian icon Christine Sinclair opened the scoring in the 16th minute for Portland with a looping shot. Chicago immediately responded with equalizing with a penalty scored by Yuki Nagasato for a handball in the box. Chicago took a 2-1 lead through Aussie star Sam Kerr who stole the ball after a defensive mixup from USWNTs Emily Sonnett.
Portland equalised on the half-hour mark with a headed goal by Ana-maria Crnogorcevic. Sinclair’s second just after half time to put Portland 3-2 up. This see-saw of a game continued when Chicago’s Michele Vasconcelos equalised only for Sinclair to break the home side’s hearts when she secured a hat trick. The drama wasn’t finished as Nagasato secured the point for both sides with a 90th-minute equaliser to finally end this epic of a contest in this eight-goal thriller. The crowd of just under 13,000 got there money’s worth even if the defending from both teams were much to be desired.
The second game was a much tighter affair but equally entertaining as Lionesses utility player Rachel Daly‘s Houston Dash team travelled to Sky Blue FC in New Jersey. Dash were much the better team but Sky Blues keeper Kailen Sheridan kept her team in it with a string of outstanding saves. Two time FIFA player of the year Carli Lloyd had a chance for the home team in the first half but it went just wide. Daly had a superb game as Houston’s lone striker and made some electrifying runs, even if her composure in front of goal was somewhat missing. The game was settled on 83 minutes with Sofia Huerta pouncing on the loose ball to score and give Houston a well deserved 1-0 win.
The late game on Saturday was played in front of a superb crowd of over 18,000 as Utah Royals got there campaign off to the perfect start with a 1-0 home win over Washington Spirit. Lo’eau La Bonta scoring the decisive goal.
The final game of the weekend saw Mark Skinner become prove that third time is a charm as he picked up his first point as his Orlando Pride team drew 1-1 at FC Seattle Reign. Australian international Alanna Kennedy scored Orlando’s first goal of the season with a sixth minute overhead kick, only for Bethany Balcer to equalise for FC Reign 15 minutes later. Orlando had a chance to win it when Reign’s goalkeeper Michelle Betos made a great save to deny Brazilian legend Marta in the 85th minute. This was the sixth successive meeting between these two teams to end as a draw, and five of them have ended 1-1. It was an uneventful night for the two England players in this game with Reign’s Jodie Taylor only notable contribution was her second-half booking for a bad foul and Orlando’s Chioma Ubogagu was a 63rd-minute substitute.
The pick of this weekend’s games sees Rachel Daly’s Houston Dash at home to the in from North Carolina Courage. All games are available to watch live and free on the official NWSL app & website. If you can’t stay up that late then I will be back next week to summaries everything that you might have missed.
Sunday 28th April (BST)
Orlando Pride v Utah Royals 00:30
Chicago Red Stars v Seattle Reign 01:00
Houston Dash v North Carolina courage 23:00
Sky Blue FC v Portland Thorns 23:00