An unpredictable Week Two in the NWSL has now come to a close. We saw the first win of the season for the Boston Breakers, the absolute rout of Houston from Seattle, and the first appearance of Marta in Orlando. Here are a few of our takeaways:
Orlando Pride Draw 14,452: What That Really Means — Luis Hernandez
The Pride held the first match in the new Orlando City stadium which holds 25,500 hoping to break the league attendance record set last year in Orlando’s inaugural home opener. To do so, the club’s marketing department rolled out its “Fill The Bowl” campaign, Pride players made personal appearances, and were on radio and television pushing the #FillTheBowl message. Outsiders will be quick to point this out as a disappointment or a failure to draw in more crowds than before even with the signing of Marta, but I think after a closer examination this is not a bad thing, but a good thing.
The high attendance number of the first game didn’t carry over for the rest of the season. As the city of Orlando grew the sport of soccer on the men’s side, the club needs to do the same for the women, and that will take time. First year, first game brought in those looking for some novelty, and wanted to “check out” the new team for the club. Orlando has a lot going on besides soccer, and this year three teams are playing in the stadium. People are being selective, so the 14K strong in attendance to see the Pride take on the Spirit were more actually fans of WoSo who are more than likely to have a greater number return. The number in attendance isn’t cause for alarm yet for the Pride; however, the next home game falls on Mother’s’ Day, so looking big picture and long term would be the smart way moving forward.
Parity, It’s a thing – Luis Hernandez
The North Carolina Courage seem to be the strongest team out the gates going into Week Three as they host the Pride. Yet looking at the standings with the results of the first two weeks, all the teams have at least a point. The Dash beat the Red Stars Week One then get blasted by Seattle and Chicago holds off FC Kansas City. The Reign could only draw the first week against Sky Blue, and KC provided to be too much for the Breakers. Fast forward to Week Two, Boston gets a win over Sky Blue.
See where I’m going here? In this league, each team needs to be ready to give maximum effort, and execution; otherwise it will be a long match (looking at you Houston). Orlando was finally able to get a point from Washington by creating quality in the final third for one moment after the Spirit were able to improve their team’s performance from Week One. No game is going to be a gimme, and that level of competition is one of the hallmarks of the league, not found in most women’s leagues. May it continue for the rest of the season.
The Injury Bug Keeps Biting the Washington Spirit – Jordan Small
In last week’s opening weekend matchup with the North Carolina Courage, the Spirit had to use two subs in the first half due to injuries. Joanna Lohman is out for the rest of the season because of torn left ACL and Cheyna Williams missed this weekend’s match because of a strained right adductor. Things got even worse for the Spirit on Saturday.
In the 19th minute of the match vs. the Orlando Pride, forward Katie Stengel had to be subbed off because of what appeared to be a knee injury. If Stengel is unable to play against the Houston Dash next week, that would leave the Spirit with just three true forwards on the roster. Lohman, Stengel, and Williams join Caprice Dydasco, Cali Farquharson and Kelsey Wys on the list of injured Washington players.
Franch is Not Bad, But Also Not Great – Jordan Small
If you look at the box scores of the first two weeks of the season for the Portland Thorns, there doesn’t seem to be a lot wrong with the goalkeeping. A 2-0 win at home and a 1-0 loss on the road are two very respectable results. But what if I told you that the goalkeeping is a position of concern for the Thorns heading into the rest of the season?
Adriana Franch has been the starter for Portland in both matches this season. Despite allowing just one goal in that time, Franch had multiple mistakes that really put her team in harms way. Franch’s distribution out of the back has been suspect this season, forcing her backline to clean up her mistakes. Her mistakes have not cost her team on the scoresheet just yet, but how long will Mark Parsons wait before putting Britt Eckerstrom?
Houston, We Might Have a Problem? – Leigh Nieves
It’s difficult to say if Houston was purely having an off night, or if they really didn’t remember what is was like to play the Seattle Reign. Their shaky defense and questionable starting line up was a complete 180 from their first game vs Chicago. The one thing that was unquestionable? Seattle’s lethal attack.
Saturday night was the game many Reign fans were waiting to see. Jess Fishlock opened the scoring with a lovely ball that slid right past rookie keeper, Jane Campbell. This was only the beginning of Campbell’s nightmare-esque pro debut. In the next fifteen minutes, the Reign bagged two more goals, one from the deadly left foot of Megan Rapinoe and one from rookie defender, Kristen McNabb. Houston only continued to deteriorate, getting only one goal in the 84th minute from Poliana and ending the game with a 5-1 loss.
Houston should have a pretty decent offensive side this year with Kealia Ohai and Rachel Daly leading their formations, but the duo was practically invisible against the Reign. Maybe we can chalk this up to Houston’s bad luck vs Seattle (the Reign is 8-0 all-time against the Dash), or maybe there needs to be a big change in tactics for the next game.
Boston is Good? – Leigh Nieves
The Breakers closed out Week Two with a 1-0 shutout vs Sky Blue. And yes, they looked solid. A beautiful pass from Rose Lavelle to Natasha Dowie resulted in the game’s only goal. Sky Blue found themselves struggling against Boston’s ability to maintain possession and break (see what I did there) down Sky Blue’s attack. Though SBFC’s Christie Pearce seemed to be a dominant force in the first half, their second half performance lacked connectivity in the midfield. Ultimately, I would not be worried as a Sky Blue fan, but I would be hyped as a Breakers fan.