By MIKE McCALL
It took three weeks, but there’s finally some separation in the National Women’s Soccer League.
After four of the league’s first five matches ended in 1-1 draws, the past five have provided winners, including all four games this weekend. It’s still early, but the NWSL picture is starting to take shape, with the Portland Thorns unsurprisingly on top, the Western New York Flash surprisingly at the bottom, and a few others making noise as well.
In terms of points per game, Sky Blue FC is the league’s best team, sitting a point off the lead with a game in hand, while FC Kansas City is looking like the Thorns’ top challenger and the Boston Breakers are in the mix as well.
Here’s a look at this weekend’s results, followed by our NWSL Power Rankings:
FC KANSAS CITY ROLL PAST REIGN
It’s all going according to plan in Kansas City after the team’s 2-0 victory over the Seattle Reign. FCKC showed their standing-room-only draw against Portland was no fluke by taking down Seattle in front of more than 4,000 fans at home.
Sinead Farrelly and Renae Cuellar provided the goals, both scoring off assists from U.S. national teamer Lauren Cheney. Cuellar now has two after scoring the first goal in NWSL history, a good start for a young player who plans to lead the league in scoring.
For Seattle, it’s another disappointing result, and the club sits in last place with a league-worst goal differential of -3.
THORNS POST ROAD WIN IN CHICAGO
Last week brought a Christine Sinclair-to-Alex Morgan goal. This time, Morgan returned the favor. The two combined in the 81st minute, when the Canadian captain struck to give Portland a comfortable 2-0 victory on the road against the Chicago Stars.
Sinclair has notched either a goal or assist in all three games, and as if the Thorns need attacking help, halftime substitute Danielle Foxhoven impressed as well. She opened the scoring in the 70th minute by putting away Morgan’s rebound, then was part of the build-up with her strike partners for the second goal.
Much has been made of the Thorns’ dynamic duo of Morgan and Sinclair. A terrific trio that includes Foxhoven might be too much for the rest of the league to handle.
SKY BLUE STAY UNBEATEN WITH WIN OVER SPIRIT
Sky Blue FC jumped ahead with an early goal and finished off the Spirit in the second half to keep their perfect record and show that it might just be for real.
A season-opening win over the Flash on an own goal was hard to judge, but this road victory was a more cohesive effort. Courtney Goodson headed in a Danesha Adams corner kick in the second minute, and after the Spirit’s Diana Matheson equalized with her second goal of the year, SBFC took the lead back after Lisa De Vanna ran onto a long ball and cut it back for Sophie Schmidt in the 48th.
The Spirit were outshot 17-8 (10-4 on goal) at home — troubling numbers for a club still looking for a consistent threat at forward.
WESTERN NEW YORK FLASH 1-2 BOSTON BREAKERS
It looked like the Flash would make their home debut a happy one after a goal from Samantha Kerr in the seventh minute, but the Breakers had other ideas. A Sydney Leroux cross ended in a Heather O’Reilly goal in the 16th minute, and O’Reilly scored again in the 83rd to give visiting Boston a 2-1 victory.
The Flash were without Abby Wambach, who took a hard shot off the head last week at Washington, and the club is still trying to find its feet after taking just one point from three games — far from the start most expected.
Here’s how they stand after Week Three:
1. Portland Thorns FC (2-0-1, 7 pts) – With two very winnable road games coming up, the Thorns have a chance to distance themselves early. | (Last week: 1)
2. FC Kansas City (1-0-1, 4 pts) – Good results and great crowds make FCKC an exciting franchise to watch. The trick is to keep the momentum rolling. | (2)
3. Sky Blue FC (2-0-0, 6 pts) – Two wins in two games is hard to argue with, but it’s still tough to see SBFC as anything more than the third-best team. | (3)
4. Boston Breakers (1-0-1, 4 pts) – Leroux and O’Reilly give Boston an intriguing offense, and the Breakers will need that to continue as the defense tries to come together. | (5)
5. Washington Spirit (0-1-2, 2 pts) – The Spirit likely won’t be able to score enough to overcome two-goal slip-ups by the defense. The D.C. squad needs to buckle down at the back to give its young attack a chance. | (4)
6. Western NY Flash (0-2-1, 1 pt) – It’s tempting to give the Flash a pass this week after losing Wambach, but this is a team that was supposed to be a title contender. Not looking like it so far. | (6)
7. Chicago Red Stars (0-1-1, 1 pt) – Credit Chicago for hanging with Portland until late, but the Red Stars don’t seem ready to run with the top teams. | (8)
8. Seattle Reign FC (0-2-1, 1 pt) – Folks in Seattle are dreaming of the days when Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe are on the field. The Reign might not matter until then. | (7)
Just watched the highlights from the Chicago v. Portland match. Are they playing at a local high school? It really is a sad commentary on the low level of commitment to women’s soccer that the top professional teams in the country are forced to play on pitches like that. Pointy-ball lines on the pitch and uprights? In APRIL!?!?!? Obviously couldn’t see the near-side stands, but can’t imagine capacity is very high either.
I can’t help but enjoy the Wales international Fishlock’s style of play, and intensity. It’s great to see all these players from the various tournaments around the world come play in this league. Players like De Vanna, and Allie Long really showcase some of the talent, athleticism, and skills of soccer. I just wish that there was a team in Houston.
There’s a definite excitemement around this league. From Southern California I am becoming a fan of KCFC. There’s a little bit of an underdog quality to this team. Not a lot of superstar names but their playing well as a team. When a soccer team plays well & plays for each other it can become a force, especially with good coaching. Thought I would be cheering for Portland but dare I say go KC!?
I don’t think they write/say it that way, but your “KCFC” strikes me as better and safer than FCKC…
You need to talk more about the mexican girls, in México we are interested in our girlssss!!! pleaseeee write moreeee about Cecilia Santiago, Nayeli Rangel, Maribel Domínguez, Dinorah Garza, Mónica Ocampo, etc
Then perhaps the Mexican media should report on them for you.
Excited to see the Spirit play this Saturday night vs Portland!
Sound analysis. I agree with everything said here. Thank you, Mike and Ives, for covering the NWSL.