The first week of NWSL Season 5 is now complete, and life is good because of it. Hopefully your team managed to win in week one, but it is still early if your team fell in defeat (or a draw, shoutout to Sky Blue and Seattle fans). A lot of good came out of the first week with only a smattering of bad, so here are a few of our takeaways as we head into the second week.
The Thorns Mostly Sharp in Rose City – Luis Hernandez
The historic first nationally broadcast regular season NWSL game on Lifetime, saw the Portland Thorns cruise to victory in front of the Portland faithful over the Orlando Pride keeping its record of opening day wins perfect (5-0-0). Nadia Nadim converted from the spot after an uncharacteristic handball in the box from Pride defender Alanna Kennedy in 32nd minute and Christine Sinclair finished an Allie Long pass in the 67th minute to finish the scoring for the day.
The only worry Portland needs to settle down is the erratic play of Adrianna Franch who would have been made to pay by a better organized attack instead of the second year Pride. Franch stats would make her a lock in goal to replace the departing Michelle Betos; however, she displayed poor decision-making, and unspectacular distribution. Franch even fouled Chioma Ubogagu just outside the box in the 42nd minute. The Thorns managed to keep a clean sheet but if the team wants to bring the NWSL championship back to the Rose City. Franch can’t play as poorly as the first match. Britt Eckerstrom might see time sooner rather than later.
The League Pulls Off Television Broadcast and Match Streaming Mostly – Luis Hernandez
Within the first few moments of the go90 app streaming the first match of the season with the Houston Dash hosting the Chicago Red Stars, the production value dwarfed whatever was on YouTube from season’s past. Matches were available for replay fairly quickly on go90. Despite the commercial issues during Sunday’s game, all seemed pretty well. Unless you were an international fan using the NWSL website, in which case, we are sorry.
For our international fans, we are experiencing a routing issue with the stream of #HOUvCHI & are currently working to address the problem.
— NWSL (@NWSL) April 15, 2017
We all figured it wasn’t all going to go off without a hitch, but after all the Saturday matches were done, the league should be given credit the accomplishment of making most NWSL fans happy by producing on the statements made. The Lifetime broadcast was even more impressive. The broadcast teams provided an air of legitimacy. The inclusion of Julie Foudy with Dalen Cuff worked. Additionally, Jenn Hildreth working with Aly Wagner provided an entertaining and professional experience. Granted, I’m still waiting for the Lifetime replay, and there will always be a vocal group of negative experience, but the broadcast didn’t suck and the streams were clear. Nice job.
Labbé Saves the Day in Washington, Well Almost. – Jordan Small
Saturday’s 1-0 loss to the North Carolina Courage was not the ideal start for the Washington Spirit. In the first half alone, the Spirit conceded a goal to the courage and also lost two starters to injury. The one positive light in the game was the play of Canadian international Stephanie Labbé in net.
Labbé’s play in the back not only saved the Spirit from a disastrous opening weekend, but also proved that she was already in top form. North Carolina had 21 shots, 9 of which ended up on frame, but only one goal to show for it. It seemed as if every save that Labbé racked up was one for the highlight reel. There are many things that the Spirit must address heading into week 2 when they face Orlando, but the goalkeeping situation is not one of those.
Two Key Additions Make NC Courage Even Better – Jordan Small
With very little change in the lineup that won the 2016 NWSL Championship game as the Western New York Flash, it was not a surprise to see the North Carolina Courage come out firing on all cylinders. Two key offseason additions solidified a lineup that looks to bring the relocated franchise to the playoffs for the second consecutive years.
Brazilian midfielder Debinha came in to an already solid Courage midfield and made it even better. Her ability to create scoring chances and her strong presence on the ball made her a force to be reckoned with in the opening weekend match. The Courage also brought in Japanese centerback Yuri Kawamura to fill in for the departed Alanna Kennedy. With Kawamura adding a stable presence in the middle of the backline, leftback Jaelene Hinkle was more free to get up and down the outside flank. Both of these additions sured up a very good Courage lineup.
Haley Kopmeyer Is Good at Goalkeeping – Leigh Nieves
In a game where Seattle most likely should not have gained a point, the Reign’s keeper kept their squad above water in a match against a threatening Sky Blue FC. Seattle’s defensive line was no match for the attack of Sam Kerr & Co. and Kopmeyer ended up with 8 impressive saves by the end of the game.
Though it could be blamed on lack of playing time with the team from a few starters in the off season, it is troubling that the Reign is back to opening their season without a win at Memorial Stadium. On the other hand, it’s very encouraging to see such a strong showing from a Sky Blue team that has struggled in the past with having a relative mediocre season. It seems like moving Kelley O’Hara up in your formation to help lead on the attack actually can help your squad.
Leroux Makes a Comeback – Leigh Nieves
FCKC met the Boston Breakers for the final game of Week 1 on Sunday and walked away with a 2-0 win with goals from Sydney Leroux and Amy Rodriguez. Despite Amy Rodriguez’s injury casting a rather dark shadow on the game, it was wonderful to see Sydney Leroux back in full form. Leroux not only scored a beautiful goal with a clinical finish early in the first half, but also could have bagged two more had it not been for the crossbar.
With the return of Syd the Kid and a solid showing from rookie Christina Gibbons, FC Kansas City seems to be on track to make a decent impression within the league this season. Even some outstanding footwork from Boston’s Rose Lavelle couldn’t stop the Blues from getting 3 points and a shutout. Now we can only hope that A-Rod makes a speedy recovery and can help with their run.
These are the things that stood out to us from week one in the NWSL. What stood out to you? Was there something we missed? Leave a comment below for your takeaways.