Another round of National Women’s Soccer League action has come and gone, and here are my updated Power Rankings for Week 2.
1 (+2): North Carolina Courage (2-0-0; def. Portland 1-0)
The highly anticipated rematch between North Carolina and Portland did not have the offensive outburst of the epic semifinal last fall but the result was unchanged, as the Courage defeated the Thorns in their inaugural home opener at the new Sahlen’s Stadium in WakeMed Soccer Park. North Carolina’s intense pressure stifled their visitors on both ends of the field and successfully forced Portland out of their game plan, becoming the first team in NWSL history to record shutouts in their first two matches.
Next match: 4/29 vs Orlando at 4 PM EST
2 (+2): Chicago Red Stars (1-1-0; def. Kansas City 1-0)
Unlike the season opener–where Chicago controlled most of the game but fell thanks to two costly defensive mistakes–this week the Red Stars made their dominance pay off, riding a Julie Ertz goal to a 1-0 victory in the Midwest Derby. While their inability to put their opposition away remains an unsolved concern for now, Chicago should gain a measure of confidence from their result, and will look to carry that confidence into the formidable atmosphere of Providence Park.
Next match: 4/29 @ Portland at 4 PM EST
3 (-1): Portland Thorns FC (1-1-0; lost to North Carolina 1-0)
It’s not often that a team as packed with international star power as Portland can look like the inferior side, but that’s exactly what transpired against North Carolina. The Thorns were lacking ideas offensively and were once again very shaky defensively. While Adrianna Franch did save a penalty to keep the Courage off the board initially and there was not much she could have done to prevent the goal by Debinha, her poor distribution under pressure severely limited the attacking options of the Thorns and doomed them to defeat.
Next match: 4/29 vs Chicago at 4 PM EST
4 (-3): FC Kansas City (1-1-0; lost to Chicago 1-0)
After a stellar opening match, Kansas City came crashing back down to earth, falling to their Midwest rivals. The season-ending injury to Amy Rodriguez took its toll on the Blues’ attack, turning an offense that appeared world class against Boston into the ineffective mess that was an all-too-common sight in 2016. Vlatko Andonovski will need to regroup his reeling squad and turn the ship around quickly.
Next match: 4/30 at Sky Blue at 6 PM EST
5 (+2): Seattle Reign FC (1-0-1; def. Houston 5-1)
Return to form or one-off? After coming off second best in a draw against Sky Blue, Seattle jumped out to an early lead against their perennial punching bag, the Houston Dash, and never looked back, firing five strikes past rookie keeper Jane Campbell to record their 8th straight victory over the disappointed team. The Reign will look to gain further momentum as they travel to face the Boston Breakers, a team that they have never lost to in their 10 previous matches.
Next match: 4/29 at Boston at 7 PM EST
6 (+2): Boston Breakers (1-1-0; def. Sky Blue 1-0)
Happy day in Boston as the home crowd was treated to what has been a rare sight for the Boston faithful–a Breakers win. Rising star Rose Lavelle’s skills were on full display, controlling play in the midfield and setting up Natasha Dowie for the only goal of the match. And the return of longtime Breaker and captain Julie King to the lineup was a huge boost for the Boston defense, sending the Jersey side home without a goal for the first time since June 19, 2016.
Next match: 4/29 vs Seattle at 7 PM EST
7 (-2): Sky Blue FC (0-1-1; lost to Boston 1-0)
Back to reality? Sky Blue were completely held in check by a strong performance from the Boston backline and looked nowhere near the strong attacking force that shredded a rebuilt Seattle squad. Talisman Sam Kerr was MIA for most of the night, both Kelley O’Hara and Leah Galton were ineffective in the attack, and not even the best efforts of Captain America could salvage a result for Sky Blue.
Next match: 4/30 vs Kansas City at 6 PM EST
8 (-2): Houston Dash (1-1-0; lost to Seattle 5-1)
Our first beat-down special of the season goes to the Houston Dash, who made the somewhat baffling decision to start Jane Campbell in goal over Lydia Williams. A decision that backfired in spectacular fashion. Campbell proved unable to steady a sieve-like Dash defense, and surrendered 5 goals in a debut that was memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Next match: 4/29 @ Washington at 7 PM EST
9 (-): Orlando Pride (0-1-1; drew Washington 1-1)
A frustrating outing for Orlando, as the Pride could only manage a draw, wasting numerous opportunities in front of goal. And the reinforced backline has been a disappointment, putting Ashlyn Harris to work far too often. But on the positive side, new signing Marta finally made her debut for the Pride, and while there are still issues to be resolved in Orlando, the Pride offense was much more dangerous once she entered the game.
Next match: 4/29 @ North Carolina at 4 PM EST
10 (-): Washington Spirit (0-1-1; drew Orlando 1-1)
Washington’s performance on the road in Orlando was much improved over their listless showing against North Carolina. The Spirit repeatedly split apart a disorganized Pride backline and tested Ashlyn Harris far more than they did Sabrina D’Angelo, netting their first goal of the season on a poor clearance by the former Washington keeper. But a late lapse in concentration cost the Spirit two points, and further mistakes this week could cost them all 3.
Next match: 4/29 vs Houston at 7 PM EST