The NWSL is back for 2023, and so is Blaise Ogutu‘s detailed weekly round-up of all the action (28/3/23).
Above: Alex Morgan celebrates scoring a late penalty against Chicago Red Stars. Photo: @sandiegowavefc
Late goals, new milestones, and comebacks as the NWSL makes its return in 2023
Alex Morgan rescued three points for the San Diego Wave with a late penalty against the Chicago Red Stars in a 3-2 win as North Carolina, Portland, Gotham, and Washington Spirit win their opening games.
San Diego had a negative start at the SnapDragon Stadium as Chicago took the lead in the 18th-minute courtesy of Yuki Ngasato’s goal. A goalmouth scramble ensued from a corner that the home team could not clear and the Japanese international was at the front post to poke it in.
Casey Stoney’s side didn’t have to wait for too long for the equaliser as Amirah Ali bundled in from close range four minutes later. Taking advantage of Alyssa Naeher’s mistake in goal, Ali was on standby to nod in from point-blank range.
Set pieces were proving to be difficult for both sides as Wave took the lead through teenager Jaedyn Shaw. Off a corner, Chicago’s clearance could only find Shaw at the edge of the area who put her laces through the ball and placed it in the far corner past Naeher to the delight of the home crowd.
The feisty half delivered yet another twist in the final minutes following another poor defensive clearance where former Red Star Danielle Colaprico was judged to have fouled Arin Wright in the box. Up stepped Mallory Swanson to level matters heading into the tunnel.
The second half saw plenty of chances fall in Chicago’s favour with Swanson forcing Kailen Sheridan to pull off a fine save from a powerful near-post shot. Ella Stevens also came close but her shot was easily gathered by Sheridan.
In the 88th minute, San Diego got their opportunity to seal victory when Alex Morgan drove into the box and saw her attempted cross handled by Wright forcing the referee to point to the spot. Morgan, who had been feeding on scraps the entire game, tucked the spot kick right under Naeher’s dive to steal the three points in front of a raucous 30,000 crowd.
Earlier in the day, North Carolina Courage kicked off their campaign with a narrow 1-0 win over last season’s finalists Kansas City Current. The only goal came through Danish debutant Mille Gejl whose impressive run was ended by an even more impressive long-range effort to beat a rooted Franch in goal in the 22nd minute.
On Sunday, the Portland Thorns dished out four goals to beat Orlando Pride at Providence Park. Two goals in each half from Morgan Weaver, Sophia Smith, Hina Sugita and substitute Michelle Vasconcelos were enough to kickstart Thorn’s title defence in style, simultaneously becoming the first team to reach 100 NWSL regular season wins.
In other results across the day, Trinity Rodman produced a scintillating run and finish to help the Washington Spirit get a 1-0 over an uncharacteristically toothless OL Reign at Audi Field to get their campaign off to a good start. Meanwhile, Houston Dash and Racing Louisville played out to a 0-0 draw for a second consecutive time at the Shell Energy Stadium.
The last game of the weekend provided more drama as NJ/NY Gotham came from behind to seal a 2-1 win away to Angel City FC at the BMO stadium. The home crowd was on its feet in the 11th minute when first-round draft pick Alyssa Thompson beat Abby Smith in the Gotham goal with a fine top-corner finish. The 18-year-old became the second youngest scorer in the league with that strike and kept the crowd at the edge of their seats with her electric burst of pace throughout the game.
Angel City would add a second when Jun Endo lobbed the keeper from a distance but the goal was chalked off by the Video Assistant Referee following a foul in the build-up.
VAR would intervene again in the early stages of the second half after the home side’s goalkeeper DiDi Haracic was deemed to have made contact with Gotham’s Svava Rós Guðmundsdóttir in the box which resulted in a penalty that was coolly dispatched by Midge Purce to restore parity.
Ten minutes later, the LA party in the stands was quietened when Gotham’s new forward Lynn Williams put her right-footed shot into the side netting off a Purce pass to put them ahead in the tie. Juan Carlos’s side would weather a late surge from Angel City to claim all three points.