The Game Changers is a weekly series looking at the most important results each week. Each section will look at one team and how its win, loss, or draw impacts the season.
This weekend, NWSL action resumed after a two-week break. All of the teams were still playing without their Women’s World Cup players, but that only provided more opportunities for the non-national team players to step up to the plate. While every team except for Sky Blue scored, every game also resulted in a draw, except for the Utah Royals 1-0 victory over Sky Blue. Here is a full breakdown of the results:
North Carolina Courage vs. Portland Thorns (1-1)
Houston Dash vs. Orlando Pride (2-2)
Utah Royals vs. Sky Blue (1-0)
Seattle Reign vs. Washington Spirit (1-1)
Orlando Pride get another point (and score!).
The Orlando Pride traveled to Houston on Saturday to face the Houston Dash and earned just their second point of the 2019 campaign. Joanna Boyles opened scoring for the visitors in the 13th minute with her first NWSL goal. The Pride went to the half with a 1-0 lead, after scoring just their second goal of the season. But two minutes into the second half, Sofia Huerta equalized for the Dash, and in the 67th minute, Kristie Mewis gave the home team a 2-1 lead. It was Danica Evans, a Pride player who has gotten limited minutes since she was drafted in 2017, who was able to score the equalizer and earn Orlando their second point of the year.
The result was important for many reasons. It is Orlando’s first multi-goal game of 2019. The two goals scored marked only their second and third goals of the season. They also had to come from behind, something they have not been able to do so far this season. Orlando is missing a lot of their normal starters at the World Cup, but Boyles and Evans were able to do something that Alex Morgan and Marta have not been able to do so far this year: find the back of the net. The game marked a rare moment of hope for a team that has struggled in every possible way this season.
Utah Royals get another win at home.
The Utah Royals were the only team to get a positive result this week, thanks to a screamer goal from Amy Rodriguez. In the 16th minute, Rodriguez launched a rocket from about 30 yards out that slammed into the back of the net. Sky Blue out-possessed and out-shot Utah, but the Royals were still able to walk away with a result.
With three points, the Royals bounce back up to second place, just one point behind No. 1 Washington Spirit. With games coming up against Portland and Seattle, it was important for the Royals to get a result against Sky Blue at home. They will also be getting at least some of their World Cup stars back soon, with group stage exits for Rachel Corsie’s Scotland and Katie Bowen’s New Zealand. Utah showed they were able to get a critical three points without their superstars, which could be very important as the playoff race heats up.
Washington Spirit get a point on the road to stay on top of the standings.
The Washington Spirit traveled to Tacoma this week to face Reign FC. The Reign had 24 shots compared to the Spirit’s ten, nine shots on goal compared to the Spirit’s four, and barely out-possessed the Spirit at 50.9%. Still, after taking the lead in the 62nd minute with a goal from Andi Sullivan, the Spirit’s defense was able to hold onto a point, thanks in part to eight saves from goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe.
If anyone is waiting for this Spirit team to collapse… well, they don’t seem to be doing that. The Spirit are proving to be one of the best teams in the NWSL, a fact complicated by their controversial head coach Richie Burke. They remain in the No. 1 spot after Week 9, four points ahead of last year’s champions, North Carolina Courage. The Spirit have proved that they can get results on the road and at home, against strong teams and weaker sides. They have just one loss this season, to the Utah Royals nearly two months ago. I think it’s time we all agreed: the Washington Spirit are here to stay.