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NWSL: NWSL returns for historic fifth season

The National Women’s Soccer League is back and better than ever.

No domestic women’s soccer league in the United States has lasted to make it five season. However, on Saturday, the NWSL opened up its fifth season with four matches. On Sunday, Week 1 concluded with only one match.

There are 10 NWSL teams in the United States, with plenty of stars on them. Now, the stars have better accommodations, due to a new collective bargaining agreement and a partnership with A+E Networks. The partnership with A+E Networks has Lifetime TV hosting one match every week, as well as a pregame show.

Also, the NWSL announced a longtime partnership with go90, an app and website which will stream any game that isn’t broadcast on Lifetime TV for free.

Now, fans can sit back, grab some snack and watch their favorite domestic and international players battle it out. If you happened to miss the match on television, or on go90, that’s what these round ups are for. We do them for the MLS, and have now branched out to the women’s league as well.

See what your favorite team did during the opening weekend of the NWSL’s fifth season.

Houston Dash 2-0 Chicago Red Stars: Just a mere weekend after hosting the United States Women’s National Team match against Russia, the Houston Dash kicked off their season in their home stadium. In front of their own fans, the Dash took home all three points, while the Chicago Red Stars wondered what went wrong.

So what did go wrong? The Chicago defense was no match for young forward Kealia Ohai, who also happens to be the captain. Ohai scored the opening goal in the 15′ minute, off an assist from midfielder Amber Brooks. In the 80′ minute, Ohai found Rachel Daly for the game-winning goal.

In the yellow card category, each team had one yellow card shown to a player. For Chicago, it was Alyssa Mautz who was shown the early yellow in the 4′ minute. Meanwhile, Houston’s Bruna Benites was shown a yellow card in the 56′ minute.

Portland Thorns 2-0 Orlando Pride: The match that was aired on Lifetime TV, the Portland Thorns outlast the Orlando Pride in their home stadium. After pre-game festivities, the two teams met on the pitch for a brutal, and physical, 90 minutes.

The Thorns controlled the scoreboard, putting their first goal on the board in the 32′ minute after Nadia Nadim converted a penalty kick past Orlando’s Ashlyn Harris. The penalty kick came after Alanna Kennedy was called for a handball inside the box. The second goal came from captain Christine Sinclair, off an assist from Allie Long. Long had two major chances to double the score, but was called offsides each time the ball hit the back of Harris’ net.

As for Orlando, new faces emerged on the pitch, including Ali Krieger who was traded to the team in the offseason from the Washington Spirit. The Pride were visibly missing Alex Morgan, who is on loan with Lyon in France until the summer, but are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Brazilian Women’s National Team legend Marta.

As for the match, there were no yellow or red cards shown in Providence Park.

“It was a little wild for both teams, and it’s really hard to predict what it’s going to look like,” Thorns head coach Mark Parsons said after the match. “We had a basic plan, and it was trying to be a bit safer than normal. Both teams looked like it was their first game of the season, and when you haven’t had loads of experience with everyone together in a league game sometimes it takes a while.”

Washington Spirit 0-1 North Carolina Courage: The North Carolina Courage, formerly known as the Western New York Flash, are the NWSL reigning champions, and defended their title in Maryland against the Washington Spirit.

The Courage had the lone goal of the entire match scored by McCall Zerboni in the 19′ minute, off an assist from Makenzy Doniak. Zerboni also had the club’s lone yellow card, which was shown to the goal-scorer in the 70′ minute. As for the Spirit, Kristie Mewis (28′) and Sheilna Zadorsky (82′) each received yellow cards.

The win is the first in club history for the Courage, who moved to North Carolina this offseason. The Spirit will take on the Orlando Pride next weekend on Lifetime TV, as they have been selected as the match of the week.

Seattle Reign 1-1 Sky Blue FC: The first- and only- draw of the 2017 NWSL occurred in Seattle, Washington, where the Seattle Reign drew with Sky Blue FC.

The home team hit the scoreboard first in the 56′ minute when longtime midfielder Megan Rapinoe scored on a penalty kick. The penalty kick occurred due to Erica Skroski’s foul on Rapinoe. Sky Blue FC also had a penalty kick of their own, which evened the score when Sarah Killion scored on her penalty kick in the 64′ minute. Merritt Mathias fouled Kelley O’Hara to set up the penalty kick.

“Last year we could’ve lost that game for sure,” said Seattle Reign FC head coach Laura Harvey. “We said before the game we have to have grit and determination and a mentality of proving the critics wrong because everyone’s written us off, and I think tonight we showed we have that.”

 FC Kansas City 2-0 Boston Breakers: Despite the abundance of quality and tactful new players added to their roster, the Boston Breakers could not earn their first road win of the 2017 NWSL season.

Meanwhile, Sydney Leroux and Amy Rodriguez, two forwards who were out for the 2016 season due to pregnancies, made a big comeback for FC Kansas City. It only took Leroux seven minutes to give the home side the lead. Meanwhile, Rodriguez scored in the 48′ minute. Leroux’s goal was assisted by Becky Sauerbrunn while Rodriguez’ goal was assisted by Shea Groom. However, for Rodriguez, she fell to a left knee injury in the 58′ minute, having to be replaced by Brittany Ratcliffe.

For both teams, the match was clean, as no yellow or red cards were shown to any players. After the match, FC Kansas City head coach Vlatko Andonovski told reporters that this kind of play can be expected going forward.

“That’s what we’re going to look like,” Andonovski said. I’m not going to lower the standards by any means. They’ll just keep getting better and better.”

As for Rodriguez’ condition, Andonovski didn’t have much to say.

“She left the game, we don’t know what it is we’re just hoping it’s not as bad as the first impression was,” Andonovski said.


Photo of Christine Sinclair courtesy of Craig Mitchelldyer/ISI Photos.

Follow me on Twitter, @RachaelMcKriger, for all NWSL coverage.

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Rachael McKriger
Sports Journalist

Rachael McKriger writes for RSEN Report (Lead Editor), Pittsburgh Sports Castle (Content Editor), Mon Goals and W2M Network, in addition to being a sports stringer/reporter for the Mon Valley Independent newspaper.

A senior of California Univ. of Pennsylvania, you can follow her on Twitter, @RachaelMcKriger, where you can find all of her articles. Search “McKriger Photography” on Facebook, to see her photos.

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