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NWSL Recap: Thorns roll past Pride, Gotham edge Angel City FC, and more

Reigning NWSL champions Portland Thorns started its title defense with a blowout victory at Providence Park on Sunday. Following the unveiling of the club’s third championship banner, the Thorns put on a show for their home supporters.

Portland dominated the match from the opening whistle, creating an onslaught of chances on goal. Forward Morgan Weaver opened the flood gates in the 16th minute with a tap-in after teammate Christine Sinclair’s shot deflected off the keepers hand. The Thorns doubled their lead six minutes later when Sinclair’s drop pass found reigning NWSL MVP Sophia Smith who buried her third-consecutive NWSL opening weekend goal.

Portland’s domination continued early in the second half when Smith’s shot bounced off the Pride keeper Anna Moorhouse. Hina Sugita slammed home the rebound for a 3-0 advantage.

Michele Vasconcelos scored her first career goal with the Thorns in the 76th minute to cap the final score at 4-0. The Thorns next travel to take on the Kansas City Current in a 2022 NWSL championship rematch.

Here is a closer look at the rest of Week 1 in NWSL:

San Diego Wave 3, Chicago Red Stars 2

The San Diego Wave had a housewarming party to remember in their first-home opener at Snapdragon Stadium.

A late game-winning penalty by Alex Morgan propelled the wave to their first win in a 3-2 result over the Chicago Red Stars.

San Diego started on the front foot, keeping the Red Stars pinned in their own half until an 18th minute corner bobbled around the box and Chicago forward Yuki Nagasato slotted home for a 1-0 lead.

Four minutes later in the 22nd minute, San Diego forward Amirah Ali capitalized off a goalkeeping error to head home Christen Wetphal’s previous shot off the crossbar. The Wave carried their momentum forward as Jaedyn Shaw placed her shot into the bottom right corner for a 2-1 lead.

The Red Stars tied things up at 2-2 during the eight minutes of first-half stoppage time. USWNT rising star Mallory Swanson was awarded a penalty following Daniele Colaprico’s foul in the box.

A 89th minute handball decision gave Alex Morgan an opportunity to play the hero, and the USWNT veteran did not miss as San Diego captured a 3-2 opening weekend victory.

Washington Spirit 1, OL Reign 0

The Washington Spirit opened their season with three points at Audi Field, upsetting 2022 NWSL Shield winners OL Reign with a 1-0 result. Aubrey Kingsbury made three first-half saves for the Spirit to keep OL Reign at bay.

After not registering a single shot on goal in the first half, the Spirit flipped the script in the 54th minute thanks to third year forward and 2021 NWSL Rookie of the Year winner Trinity Rodman. Rodman dribbled from midfield uncontested before sending a 20-yard shot into the bottom-right corner of the goal.

The lone Spirit goal was enough for three points as Washington next travels to take on Racing Louisville in Week 2.

North Carolina Courage 1, Kansas City Current 0

2022 NWSL Finals runners-up Kansas City Current suffered a road loss in Week 1, falling to the North Carolina Courage.

North Carolina forward Mille Gejl scored the lone goal midway through the first half with a low-driven shot from beyond the 18-yard box. The Danish forward joined the Courage after spending two years in Sweden’s top division and became only the third Courage player to score in their NWSL regular season debut.

The Kansas City Current had to rely on three rookie starters in Gabrielle Robinson, Alexa Spaanstra, and No. 2 overall pick Michelle Cooper due to several players unavailable due to injury.

Debinha’s absence certainly hurt the Current’s attack, but Kansas City will need to focus ahead of a Week 2 showdown with Portland at home.

Houston Dash 0, Racing Louisville 0

A goal-less game in Houston left both the Dash and Racing Louisville reaping missed chances in a 0-0 draw.

Houston goalkeeper Jane Campbell made five saves on the night, earning her 23rd-career clean sheet and Sunday night’s Player of the Match honors.

Forward Diana Ordóñez and defender Courtney Petersen made their club debuts for the Dash. Ordóñez, was acquired in a trade with the North Carolina Courage on draft night. The Texas native broke the rookie scoring record last season with 11 goals and hopes to continue her success in 2023.

Angel City FC 1, Gotham FC 2

In California, Angel City FC’s home opener did not go as planned after falling 2-1 to 2022 strugglers NJ/NY Gotham FC.

Angel City opened the scoring in the 11th minute when No. 1 NWSL Draft Pick Alyssa Thompson put a hard right-footed strike on frame. Goalkeeper Abby Smith got her fingertips on the ball, but it bounced off the bottom of the crossbar and into the back of the net for a 1-0 Angel City lead.

The hosts looked to double its lead in the 15th minute after forward Jun Endo scored an eye-popping goal from 40 yards out, catching Smith off her line. However, when the officials paused the game to review the goal, a foul in the build-up play forced the goal to be waived off.

The video assistant refereeing (VAR) decision marked the first time in league history a goal was overturned.

Gotham FC equalized on a penalty kick in the 56th minute as Margaret Purce buried her opportunity from the spot. Purce found teammate Lynn Williams only ten minutes later, as the veteran forward delivered the winning goal on her club debut.

ACFC had a few more quality chances, but could not put one on frame to tie the match. Angel City travel to Orlando for Sunday’s Week 2 matchup, while Gotham FC has its home opener against OL Reign.

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