The National Women's Hockey League continues its offseason with numerous player signings, its first international draft and several front office moves. In case you've missed anything over the last few weeks, let's take a look at what's happened in the league.
This weekend's NWSL matchups did little to standout, with three draws taking place over the four games.
Portland Thorns 1 - 1 Washington Spirit
The weekend's slate of games kicked off Friday night with Portland drawing 1-1 with the Spirit for their second straight home match. The Spirit took the lead in the 37th minute with a goal from Francisca Ordega after Thorns backup keeper Britt Eckerstorm bobbled the ball. (Not every goal needs to be a beautiful work of art.) Portland equalized in stoppage time just before the half on a penalty from Christine Sinclair.
The second half saw both teams waste the few chances they had. Portland had an opportunity to put the game away late with another penalty kick, but after an unsure runup, Lindsay Horan's shot was saved by Washington keeper Aubrey Bledsoe.
Portland will feel like they dropped two points in this one, seeing as they should've finished at least one of their second-half chances to win the game. Portland's second half attack was boosted by the return of Tobin Heath in the 60th minute. Heath had not previously seen the field since the 2017 NWSL Championship game. Ana-Marie Crnogorčević also looked lively in her appearance off the bench, nearly scoring in the 81st minute. When those two are 90-minutes fit, Portland's attack will be one to watch out for.
North Carolina Courage 2 - 2 Utah Royals FC
The Lifetime Game of the Week saw the league-leading NC Courage take on the struggling Utah Royals in Cary, North Carolina. The 2-2 result keeps the Courage undefeated through five games, and is their first draw of the season. Utah has still not won a game this season.
This match started off with a bang in the 6th minute when Meritt Mathias scored an absolute screamer. I, like the commentator, was left without words to describe it.
Oh my goodness!" is right. Merritt Mathias with a STRIKE for @TheNCCourage. #NCvUTA | #NWSLonLifetime | @lifetimetv https://t.co/JTOWPQsAOz
The Courage found themselves wasting multiple chances in the first half, and entered halftime with just a 1-0 lead. It wouldn't be long into the second half when Utah forward Katie Stengel would capitalize on a defensive mistake to tie the match at 1-1 in the 52nd minute. Utah actually took the lead in the 66th minute after Utah forward Brittany Ratcliffe took a chance from outside the box following another defensive error on the Courage's part. It would ultimately be a defensive error by the Royals that would see North Carolina forward Crystal Dunn equalize in the 80th minute.
North Carolina has seemingly been untouchable this season, but this past weekend will give Paul Riley and Co. some things to iron out -- namely not being wasteful with their chances. Utah showed some real promise in the match with their ability to capitalize on mistakes, but they need to be stronger at the back themselves if they want to compete.
Chicago Red Stars 1 - 1 Sky Blue FC
A similar match to the one before it: a strong team wasted their chances against a team that's strugging. Chicago's first goal came just 47 seconds into the match when Sofia Huerta put a looping shot (or was it a cross?) in the upper corner of the net. Sky Blue FC would equalize in the second half with a goal from Savannah McCaskill. That would be McCaskill's first NWSL goal.
Chicago had a very strong first half but was unable to covert thier chances to put the game away, even hitting the post a few times. Sky Blue FC showed more signs of life in this match than any of their previous ones, but that may be due to Chicago missing their chances and being fatigued from having played on Wednesday night.
Orlando Pride 1 - 0 Houston Dash
Week 4 wrapped up on Sunday afternoon with the weekend's lone win, seeing Orlando get their first win of the season with a 1-0 victory over Houston. The match's only goal came in the 65th minute from a towering header from Chioma Ubogagu.
After a quiet first half, the Pride came alive in the second half, especially after they scored their goal. Orlando had a few chances late in the match but failed to convert.
Things are looking bleak for Houston. This is now their third straight match without a goal. One postive did come from this match for them. Forward Kealia Ohai returned to the field after being sidelined since last June with a torn ACL. Hopefully her return can spur on the Dash.
- Lifetime Game of the Week: Houston Dash vs North Carolina Courage, 3:30 PM Eastern
- Washington Spirt vs Chicago Red Stars, 7:00 PM Eastern, go90
- Orlando Pride vs Seattle Reign FC, 7:30 PM Eastern, go90
- Utah Royals FC vs Portland Thorns, 9:30 PM Eastern, go90
Watch out for...
- The Washington Spirit are starting to show signs of improvement after finishing in last place last season. The way forward for the Spirit is obviously on the shoulders of youngster Mallory Pugh, who is finally showing some returns on the massive bank of potential she has. If the Spirit have any chance against Chicago, it's going to be because Pugh has a killer game.
- Reign FC are back in action this weekend, and there's some early season question marks around Megan Rapinoe's health. But, they'll be boosted by the return of Australian Internationals defender Steph Catley and goalkeeper Lydia Williams. Whether they start or not this weekend in Orlando, their presence alone bolsters an already stellar defense.
- Early season standout Sofia Huerta has been a thrill to watch with the Red Stars. Chicago heads on the road to face Washington this weekend. Washington have conceded the most goals so far this season, and I don't think their defensive issues get solved this weekend when they face Huerta.
(Photo: Portland Thorns/Twitter)
Filed under: nwsl; soccer; chicago red stars; houston dash; north carolina courage; seattle reign FC; sky blue FC; utah royals; portland thorns
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