The 2017 season of the National Women’s Soccer League has just concluded its opening round of matches, and here are my Power Rankings for Week 1.
1. FC Kansas City (1-0-0; def. Boston 2-0)
The two-time champions rebounded from a sub-par 2016 to earn a win in their home opener (their first home opener win in 5 attempts) over last year’s wooden spooners. Solid offense and strong defense carried the day for the Blues – although the win came at the cost of losing Amy Rodriguez for the season with a knee injury – and they will look to build on their good start against their Midwest rivals this weekend.
Next match: 4/22 @ Chicago at 4 PM EST.
2. Portland Thorns FC (1-0-0; def. Orlando 2-0)
A quiet offseason for the current shield holders paid off, as Portland maintained its perfect record in home openers. Although it was not a perfect performance – newly minted starter Adrianna Franch was shaky, gifting Orlando a number of chances that the visitors could not capitalize on – the offensive power of the Thorns won the day.
Next match: 4/22 @ North Carolina at 7:30 PM EST.
3. North Carolina Courage (1-0-0; def. Washington 0-1)
New name, same results – the reigning champions picked up a win in their debut as the Courage against the team they knocked off in last season’s final. North Carolina’s explosive offense was on full display as they peppered the Washington goal with shots for most of the match and could have had more than a single goal for their efforts. New signing Debinha was particularly impressive, slicing up the Spirit midfield at will. Now all eyes turn towards their inaugural home match in Cary, a rematch of their thrilling semifinal against Portland.
Next match: 4/22 vs Portland at 7:30 PM EST.
4. Chicago Red Stars (0-1-0; lost to Houston 2-0)
While the result was ultimately not in the Red Stars’ favor, Chicago was on the front foot for the first 70 minutes and could have scored at least once save for an unlucky post hit from Stephanie McCaffrey and some near misses from the rest of the Chicago front line. The Red Stars will need to clean up the defensive errors that led to both Houston goals as they host a Kansas City team looking to shake off a season-ending injury to Rodriguez.
Next match: 4/22 vs Kansas City at 4 PM EST.
5. Sky Blue FC (0-0-1; drew Seattle 1-1)
While not able to match the historic result from a year ago, Sky Blue put on one of their best performances in their history, pummeling a rebuilt Seattle team and forcing Reign keeper Kopmeyer to make several outstanding saves over 90 minutes. The front line of Galton, Kerr, and O’Hara, with support from Rocky Rodriguez, was particularly impressive, and ageless wonder Christie Pearce anchored the young Sky Blue defense to an almost flawless display.
Next match: 4/23 @ Boston at 4 PM EST.
6. Houston Dash (1-0-0; def. Chicago 2-0)
Although the Dash were able to pick up their third straight opening day win, they were largely outplayed by the Red Stars and were fortunate not to have conceded at least once. Captain Kealia Ohai picked up right where she left off last fall, scoring the first goal for the home side and causing problems for the Chicago defense all day. Up next – a Seattle team that the Dash have never managed to beat in 7 previous attempts.
Next match: 4/22 @ Seattle at 10 PM EST.
7. Seattle Reign FC (0-0-1; drew Sky Blue 1-1)
No Kim Little, no Keelin Winters, no Kendall Fletcher. Three standouts of the dominant Reign squad that steamrolled to 2 shields departed in the offseason, and left behind a team struggling to find its identity in a lackluster opening night performance that was reminiscent of the first edition of Seattle. While Haley Kopmeyer earned a POTW award for her work in goal, the Reign seemed a mere shadow of their shield-winning sides.
Next match- 4/22 vs Houston at 10 PM EST.
8. Boston Breakers (0-1-0; lost to Kansas City 2-0)
A familiar result for the Breakers to begin their season, but a much better performance than most of their matches over the last two years. And while #1 draft pick Rose Lavelle had a performance that may be considered underwhelming, she showed signs of the talent that has earned her consideration for NT games over the past 18 months.
Next match: 4/23 vs Sky Blue at 4 PM EST.
9. Orlando Pride (0-1-0; lost to Portland 2-0)
So many chances, so little end product. Orlando huffed and puffed for 90 minutes, but could not blow down the Portland backline despite several opportunities given to them. In the end, the international-level talent of the Thorns’ offense overwhelmed the rebuilt Pride backline, sending Orlando to their third consecutive defeat against Portland.
Next match: 4/22 vs Washington at 4 PM EST.
10. Washington Spirit (0-1-0; lost to North Carolina 0-1)
An overall dreadful performance from last season’s runner-up. The Spirit were outmatched by the Courage in just about every area of the field and only a spectacular performance in goal by Stephanie Labbe prevented Washington from being blown out. And their road does not get easier this weekend, as they travel to Orlando, one of the toughest places to play on the road.
Next match: 4/22 @ Orlando at 4 PM EST.