The National Women’s Soccer League began their sixth season this past weekend. A lot of teams definitely looked like they were fresh out of preseason and everyone needs time to truly gel, especially with most rosters in some degree of flux, but that didn’t mean there weren’t some good matchups. Here’s how USWNT players did during the 2018 opening weekend of NWSL.
North Carolina Courage 1 - 0 Portland Thorns
Horan was a calming midfield presence for Portland. She got her pocket picked a bit, but had some decent moves to shuttle the ball out of the middle.
She had her work cut out for her in this game but made some big moves as the Courage stubbornly kept knocking on the door. She also made some big pushes up the middle, trying to motivate Portland to find the equalizer as time ticked down.
She had a god early chance and threatened to get in behind Portland’s back line, which often relied on just three or even two defenders.
Dunn was everywhere for the Courage in a resounding display of her many talents. She was fast in the transition, a chance creator, pressure maker, and just all around overwhelming threat.
She did a serviceable job controlling Portland’s early attack in Ifeoma Onumonu, but Onumonu was not that threatening to begin with in this game. But in general she did help limit Portland to a measly one shot on goal.
Orlando Pride 1 - 1 Utah Royals
Despite Utah’s early goal against her - a bit of letdown from Harris’ defense - she didn’t have terribly much to do, which is a nice way to ease into the season.
It took a while for Orlando’s offense to dig into this game, but Morgan managed to get in behind Utah’s defense eventually. It’s unfortunate her time was cut short when a header challenge from Abby Smith at the end of the first half resulted in a midair collision; Morgan did not return to the game due to concussion protocol.
She got some important stops on Marta and was sharp to cut out crosses. She also looked to be coordinating with a new keeper, with former Boston Breaker Abby Smith now backstopping Sauerbrunn’s defense. It was an extreme misfortune that Sauerbrunn gave up a penalty kick off of a phantom handball, an absurdly bad call from the referee that gave Orlando the equalizer.
She formed a good partnership with Diana Matheson right off the bat and had some good moments drilling into the center of the pitch.
Seattle Reign 2 - 1 Washington Spirit
A sub-optimal game from Smith, who still seems like her confidence was shaken after getting subbed out during SheBelieves. She had a hell of a task trying to deal with Megan Rapinoe and mostly was not up to it.
She made some good simple passes out of pressure and hustled back on defense, but wasn’t able to quite be a difference maker for Washington this game. Still, it was her very first game as a pro, so manage your expectations.
It took her some time to dig into this match and she missed a couple of vital chances, but once again, it’s only the first game of the season and everyone needs time to calibrate properly.
She did her best to apply pressure along the left side of the pitch and eventually looked as though she might singelhandedly try to drag Washington to a result. Throughout the game Pugh created opportunities for the rest of her attackers arriving.
Rapinoe was utterly dominant throughout this game. She opened her account for Seattle in the 7’ with a curling free kick to make it 1-0 and added an assist later on. Whether she was pulling wide or drifting centrally, she was the most dynamic player on the field.
An untroubled, settled performance from Long who created some good pressure to keep up midfield momentum and stayed vigilant on defense.
She had some good hustle off her line to back up her defense and tried to distribute the ball fairly deep. Naeher tried to cover the goal against by Houston but her defender didn’t manage her marking closely enough.
Chicago didn’t have a lot of rhythm in this game but Huerta tried her best to keep midfield pressure turned on and eventually drifted in from her right midfield position into a 9 role.
She had some nice moments distributing out. Campbell looked like she could have had a stronger go at Chicago’s stoppage time equalizer but for her own defender on the line, but it was also quite a nice header from Taylor Comeau.