Week 4 of the NWSL Regular season kicked off Wednesday night with two midweek matches. The first match of the night saw the top two teams of the league face off, with the North Carolina Courage hosting Seattle Reign FC. The second match saw the Chicago Red Stars take on the Houston Dash in blustery Bridgeview, Illinois.
North Carolina Courage vs Seattle Reign FC
The North Carolina Courage continued their excellent start to the season on Wednesday night with a 1-0 win over Seattle Reign FC, thanks to a 70th minute goal from Jessica McDonald. Both teams came into the night as the top two teams in the league, having easily disptached their opponents over the weekend, with Seattle defeating Sky Blue FC 1-0 on the road and the Courage beating the Washington Spirit 3-0 at home.
In the end, the quick turnaround proved more difficult for Seattle than it did for North Carolina. The first half was an end-to-end battle for the go-ahead goal, but neither team pulled ahead. The Courage had the better of the looks in the half, having a sure goal cleared off the line by Seattle in the 18th minute. Reign FC had a few decent looks on goal, but couldn't make anything of it.
The second half is where the Courage pulled away with relentless pressure on Seattle's backline. Their go-ahead goal finally came in the 70th minute from a long ball over the top that saw Jessica McDonald slot home a finish into the corner of the net, a near-identical chance to one she had minutes before that Reign FC goalkeeper Michelle Betos saved. The floodgates opened for the Courage after their goal, but they were unlucky to not put more goals in the back of the net after wasting multiple chances.
Seattle came into the night knowing that they'd be without star forward Megan Rapinoe, due to a hamstring injury she suffered against Sky Blue FC. Seattle's injury woes compounded when defender Christen Westphal was forced off in the 18th minute. Carolina's midfielder Samantha Mewis returned as a subsitute after missing the first 3 games of the season due to injury.
Chicago Red Stars vs Houston Dash
The Chicago Red Stars cruised to a 3-0 win over the Houston Dash on Wednesday night in Bridgeview, Illinois. This result moved the Red Stars to a record of 2-1-1 overall on the season and was Houston's first defeat on the year, which brings the Dash to a record of 0-1-2 overall.
Chicago's first two goals came from two defensive mistakes from Houston. In the 7th minute of the first half, Red Stars left back Sarah Gorden crossed in a ball from the edge of the box, only to have it deflect into the net for an own goal by Houston defender Kristie Mewis. Chicago doubled their lead just four minutes later, when the Red Stars took advantage of more mistakes from Houston. After Chicago collected a weak clearence from Dash goalkeeper Jane Campbell, midfielder Sofia Huerta put a shot on goal that Campbell dealt with poorly. Chicago midfielder Lauren Kaskie was able to put a rebounded shot on target that deflected off of Campbell and into the corner of the net.
The second half was much of the same, as Chicago continued to apply pressure on Houston. Chicago put the match away with a 74th minute headed goal from Sofia Huerta. Midfielder Danielle Colaprico served in a perfect cross to the darting Huerta, who was able to beat her defender to the ball to put it past Campbell. Huerta continued to pepper the Dash with chances in the second half, but was unable to put the Red Stars up by 4.
- This weekend's slate of games kicks off on Friday night at 7:30 PM Pacific/10:30 PM Eastern with the defending NWSL Champions Portland Thorns hosting the Washington Spirit.
- The Lifetime Game of the Week sees the North Carolina Courage take on the winless Utah Royals in Cary, North Carolina on Saturday at 3:30 PM Eastern.
- The Chicago Red Stars will look to continue their form from Wednesday night, as they take on Sky Blue FC at home at 5:00 PM Central on Saturday evening.
- Next weekend's action wraps up on Sunday when the Orlando Pride host the Houston Dash at 5:00 PM Eastern.
Look out for...
- Sky Blue FC's defense has been solid, only allowing two goals in two games this season. In those games, they've faced two of the best teams in the league in Seattle and North Carolina. This weekend will not be any easier, though, as they face the high-flying offense of Chicago. Can Carli Lloyd kick start their offense this weekend? It'll be a tough ask.
- The Utah Royals have had a tough start to this season despite the excitement around the team. Despite losing last weekend, their attack was boosted by the return of Amy Rodriguez subbing on in the 77th minute of their 1-0 loss to Chicago. Rodriguez had been out for a year due to injury. Utah will head to North Carolina for a tough matchup, but Rodriguez is just the type of player that Utah needs to remedy their offensive woes.
- After starting the season on the road, the Portland Thorns returned to the comfortable confines of Providence Park last weekend with a win over Orlando. If Portland wants to repeat as NWSL Champions, they need to make their home a fortress. Christine Sinclair has been brilliant this season, scoring a league-leading 3 goals and assisting on another. Washington's young defense will have a tough time containing her.