Welcome to NWSL Two-In-One, featuring twice the games and twice the marshmallow goodness per game. We’ll get one match week of three games Wednesday through Friday and another set of games Saturday and Sunday. Today I’ll look at the first half, since I’m sure there will be returns, absences, injuries and all the assorted coaching suspensions that moot advance drafting.
North Carolina Courage (3-0-0) vs. Seattle Reign (2-0-0)
Wednesday 4/18 7:00pm EST
The battle of the unbeaten. The tussle of the titans.
Samantha Mewis has made her way onto the questionable side of the injury report, which is a big step forward for the NCC midfield. They’ve been a powerhouse, with goals from a wealth of players (Zerboni, McDonald, Williams and Dunn) and a solid back line, but the Washington game is the only one they’ve looked loose and flying after two 1-0 wins. Debhina remains on international duty, while the NWSL bubbles about whether she was released later than requested, giving a potential advantage to NCC.
Seattle comes in with Megan Rapinoe (a league leading 13 shots, with two goals and an assist) out with a hamstring injury and Williams, Catley, Kawasumi, and Utsugi all on international duty. This is a depleted Seattle team will lean on Michele Betos in goal and Jodie Taylor up front, but there’s a risk of domination by the Courage. If you’re the betting type, now put everything on Seattle with five Fishlock-to-Long goals, because they certainly have talent that hasn’t shone through this season.
Chicago Red Stars (1-1-1) v. Houston Dash (0-0-2)
Wednesday 4/18 7:30PM EST
Chicago will still be without reigning MVP Sam Kerr (international duty) and Julie Ertz (injury), among others, and last weekend in Utah they looked like a team with some issues—merely offensive issues and defensive issues, though, so they’ll rebound at some point if the head coach didn’t lose everyone by calling out player(s) a few weeks ago. Taylor Mautz continues to lead the team in goals (2) and Sofia Huerta leads the league in assists (2) but they haven’t been producing in that end of the field.
Houston was expected to be a flaming dumpster fire this season and has been at least mildly competent in both of their games, with potential to be highly competitive. Their only scoring has been a Savannah Jordan to Kimberly Keever tally in the first game (and neither player has a profile image on the league site, still). The Dash are only scheduled to miss Kyah Simon (international duty) so the possibility of a Kealia Ohai/Rachel Daly/Kristie Mewis build-up could be quite promising in front of future All XI Jane Campbell.
Portland Thorns (2-1-0) vs. Washington Spirit (0-2-1)
Friday 4/20 10:30PM EST
In a diabolic move, the league has scheduled the Spirit to play after their young stars’ bedtimes. BAON’s Tobin Heath should get minutes opposite Skyline Chili’s Mallory Pugh in the sort of match that puts eyes onto screens.
Portland remains a superteam, with Christine Sinclair leading the league in scoring and Adriana Franch showing that she should be in the USWNT mix. Portland’s back line will probably still be missing Emily Menges, but has mostly gotten the job done without her so far. Washington, apart from Pugh, has had a solid start from less-heralded talents like Joanna Lohman.
North Carolina Courage vs. Utah Royals 3:30 PM/Lifetime
Chicago Red Stars vs. Sky Blue FC 8:30 PM
Orlando Pride vs. Houston Dash 5:00 PM