NWSL Update: Opening Weekend

Houston Dash celebrating
Houston Dash celebrating

USA’s National Women’s Soccer League began in earnest last weekend. The main talking point before the league started was that what many believe to be the best women’s domestic league in the world didn’t have a TV deal after the NWSL ended their partnership with ‘A&E Networks’ after two years into a three-year deal a month before the competition was due to begin. Although matches are to be available to watch live online both in the US & overseas through Yahoo, the NWSL website and the official App.

2018 champions North Carolina Courage at home to Chicago Red Stars were one of two games to start the league on Saturday night. North Carolina’s legendary USWNT star, Heather O’Reilly, and the last active player to play with Mia Hamm announced that this was to be her final season as a player. The midfielder has also played for Arsenal in the WSL last season.

I had the pleasure of watching this game and North Carolina showed why they had beaten Portland Thorns 3-0 in last year’s final with some dominant play in the opening exchanges. There were some positive runs from former Chelsea midfielder Crystal Dunn on the left but the game was turned on its head with a well-worked goal against the run of play from Chicago’s Australian striker Sam Kerr.

North Carolina came back into the game well and Dunne eventually salvaged a point via a Jessica McDonald throw in half way through the second half.

North Carolina vs Orlando Pride
North Carolina vs Orlando Pride.

Saturday’s other game was Washington Spirits 2-0 win over Sky Blue FC with young defender Sam Staab and Megan Crosson both getting on the scoresheet.

Sunday’s matches saw former Birmingham City boss, Marc Skinner, make his league debut as Orlando Pride head coach in front of over 7,000 fans. This was the highest attendance of the weekend as they welcomed Portland Thorns. It was one to forget for Skinner as Caitlin Foord and US national team’s Tobin Heath scored in a comfortable 2-0 win for Portland.

Portland Thorns celebrate against Orlando Pride
Portland Thorns celebrate against Orlando Pride. Photo @NSWL

The final match of the weekend was Rachel Daly’s Houston Dash hosting Jodie Taylor’s Seattle Reign. Nichelle Prince opened the scoring for Houston only for Darian Jenkins to equalise for Seattle. In the dying minutes, Taylor won a penalty, although her spot-kick was brilliantly saved by Houston goalkeeper Jane Campbell. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen in an important World Cup match!

The ninth and final team in the league will make there debut this weekend at home to Washington Spirit, a full fixture list for the week ahead with all games available to watch live on the NWSL official website & app here in the UK.

Saturday 20th
Chicago Red Stars v Portland Thorns 20:30 (All BST)
Sky Blue v Houston Dash 23:00

Sunday 21st
Utah Royals v Washington Spirit 02:00

Monday 22nd
Seattle Reign v Orlando Pride 03:00