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.
Another week has gone by in the NWSL, and things are getting interesting. The Chicago Red Stars currently sit in the No. 1 spot in the table with six games under their belt and an impressive 3-1-2 start to the season. It’s not surprising that the Red Stars are currently No. 1, but the other teams rounding out the top four are a bit more shocking: the Utah Royals, the Houston Dash, and the Washington Spirit, who all have ten points. Two teams– Orlando Pride and Sky Blue FC– have yet to win a game this season, while Reign FC earned their first win over the weekend against New Jersey. Here are the results from this weekend:
Reign FC vs. Sky Blue (2-1)
Washington Spirit vs. Portland Thorns (3-1)
North Carolina Courage vs. Utah Royals (1-1)
Houston Dash vs. Chicago Red Stars (1-2)
The Washington Spirit defeat the Portland Thorns
One of the more surprising results over the weekend was a 3-1 victory for the Washington Spirit over the Portland Thorns at Maryland SoccerPlex. There are many factors to be considered here, including many international players absent and Portland’s never-ending road trip (they haven’t played at home in 2019 and won’t until their stadium renovations are complete). But the win lifts the Spirit to 10 points in five games and a 3-1-1 record. Under a new (questionable) head coach, that’s impressive.
And the Spirit are finding success without Rose Lavelle and Mallory Pugh, who are both away on international duty. They have plenty of struggles on the field, but they are finding a way to score points and win games not only against teams like Sky Blue, but also against teams like Portland. Things are shaping up under Head Coach Richie Burke, and the Spirit have proven that they could be a dark horse this season.
North Carolina Courage drop more points at home.
After being handed their first loss since June 2018 last week, the Courage dropped more points when they returned home this weekend to face the Utah Royals. North Carolina out shot Utah 18-2, with three shots on goal compared to Utah’s won. But in the end, North Carolina couldn’t finish and they split the points with the Royals at home.
North Carolina fans should not be too worried. The Courage are still one of, if not the best, team in the league. They’re dangerous with or without their internationals, and I absolutely expect them to be a playoff team. But they’re looking much more vulnerable in 2019 than they did in 2018, with a 2-1-3 record through six games. Is it possible that teams are starting to figure them out?
The Houston Dash lose to the Chicago Red Stars.
The Houston Dash have been completely unpredictable this season, and Saturday’s match against the Chicago Red Stars was no exception. There is no shame in losing to the Red Stars, who are playing one of the best games in the league right now. It was the Dash’s first glance at life without Rachel Daly and it was… okay. They got 9 shots to the Red Stars 13 and possession was nearly even. Sam Kerr has proven unstoppable and her brace is what ultimately won the match for her team.
The Dash are 3-2-1 this season. While they sit in the No. 3 spot right now, they still feel like a middle-of-the-pack team. Every time it feels like they’re breaking out– like getting that win last week over the undefeated Utah Royals– they’ll have a game like this and we’ll question again whether they really have what it takes. There is a lot of season left to go, but they’ll be missing these points at the end of the year.