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NWSL Preseason Power Rankings - Stumptown Footy Roundtable Discussion

Are the Portland Thorns still the team to beat?

Portland Thorns preseason team photo in Bend, OR.
The Portland Thorns take a team photo after the first day of preseason in Bend, OR.
All credit goes to Portland Thorns FC

The Portland Thorns return almost the exact same roster from last season’s championship roster with a few additions from the NWSL Draft.

However, they have a new head coach in Mike Norris (former assistant coach) and have recently let go of head trainer Pierre Soubrier and assistant coach Sophie Clough.

Did I forget to mention — the team is also up for sale.

The offseason should have been one of triumph and celebration, but has felt like the complete opposite.

General Manager Karina Leblanc returns the roster’s starting XI and looks to repeat as champions. However, while Portland has kept their roster intact for the most part, there are plenty of teams pushing to dethrone them.

NWSL Tier Rankings - Phuoc and Wilder

Tier 1 - Championship Contenders:
Phuoc: Portland Thorns, Kansas City Current, OL Reign, San Diego Wave
Wilder: Portland Thorns, OL Reign, Houston Dash, San Diego Wave

Tier 2 - Dark Horses:
Phuoc: Washington Spirit, Houston Dash
Wilder: Kansas City Current, NC Courage, Racing Louisville

Tier 3 - Playoff Contenders
Phuoc: Chicago Red Stars, Gotham FC, Racing Louisville, Angel City
Wilder: Chicago Red Stars, Angel City, and Washington Spirit

Tier 4 - Rebuild
Phuoc: North Carolina Courage, Orlando Pride
Wilder: Orlando Pride and Gotham FC

NWSL Power Rankings: Phuoc, Melina, and Wilder

Phuoc: Kansas City Current -
Kansas City lost the final of the NWSL Championship because of Portland’s dominance in the midfield. Like Michael Jordan, they took it personally and made it their super priority this offseason. They’ve added Morgan Gautrat, Vanessa Dibernardo, and the treasure of Free Agency, Debinha.

They also still have Lo’eau LaBonta, Desiree Scott, Chloe Logarzo, and the returning Claire Lavogez. Did I mention they have #2 overall pick, Michelle Cooper, along with Kristen Hamilton and Cece Kizer? Matt Potter, who was nominated for coach of the year, will also return.

Melina: Kansas City Current

KC Baby! After an outstanding 2022 and some signings, their midfield looks better than ever. Debinha, Gautrat, DiBernardo plus CeCe Kizer in the attack? Leave something for the rest, Kansas City.

Wilder: Portland Thorns

I may be a little biased here... but the Thorns haven’t changed their roster too much and they did at least win the Championship. I’m hoping next year they’ll take the NWSL Shield too.

Phuoc: Portland Thorns
Portland will go into the 2023 season as one of the favorites, but must answer a few questions:

  • Portland has a new head coach, but almost the same roster from 2022 — will they be able to capture that 2022 magic?
  • Will Lindsey Horan’s return take this team to another level?
  • Can Reyna Reyes become a starter in her rookie season? Can Izzy D’Aquila be a contributor?
  • Who will start at right wing?
  • Is Mike Norris the right head coach?

Portland has a few uncertainties, but their roster is still the most stacked in all of NWSL. It’s extremely difficult to repeat as champions — but this team can do it.

Melina: Washington Spirit

Many will say Mark Parsons’ tactics are very predictable but even if that’s true, he was able to win lots of trophies, especially in his last year with the Thorns. The Spirit has to get up after their shambolic last season and show why they were champions in 2021 and I think there’s no better person than Parsons to help them to get their winner mentality back again.

Wilder: San Diego Wave

I mean they did such a good job in their inaugural season that I could see them fully fleshing that out to their second season with the NWSL.

And need I say more — they still have Alex Morgan:


Phuoc: OL Reign

The 2022 NWSL shield winners have their core returning and will be dangerous in 2023. They won their third ever shield last season, but have never won the championship. In what could be Megan Rapinoe’s final season, the Reign are insanely talented. They are bringing back the best defense (least goals allowed) and just added Emily Sonnett to pair with Alana

Cook. Can this team be more clinical in front of goal? Yes — expect Jordyn Huitema to make a huge leap and lead their team in goals in 2023.

Can they break the curse that has caused the NWSL Championship trophy to elude them for all this time?

Melina: Portland Thorns

Although the champions’ bench is deep as we’ve seen in 2022, many starters will be away for at least a month or two for the World Cup. Plus they have a new coach. So I think Portland will have a good season but I don’t think it will be enough to claim the NWSL Shield.

Wilder: OL Reign

They were super consistent last year and I don’t see that changing too much.

Rapinoe, Rose Lavelle, Jess Fishlock, Bethany Balcer, and Phallon Tullis-Joyce are so talented and good at playing together. There are so many good players on this team, but what makes them truly a great team is their coach Laura Harvey.


Phuoc: San Diego Wave

Alex Morgan, Sofia Jakobson, and Jaedyn Shaw are formidable as any top frontline in the NWSL. Their defense will be elite in 2023 with Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, Abby Dahlkemper, Naomi Girma, Kaleigh Riehl, Christen Westphal, and Madison “Po” Pogarch.

The signings of Megan “Meggie” Dougherty Howard, Danielle Colaprico, and Rachel Hill will help in midfield and in the attack. This team plays quite direct and will need to hold possession better in 2023. Expect a more improved midfield with the return of Kelsey Turnbow, Taylor Kornieck, Emily van Egmond, Belle Briede, and Kristen McNabb.

Melina: San Diego Wave FC

It seems that there’s nothing Casey Stoney can’t do. She has proven how smart she is and what she did in her first year in the league is enough to believe the Wave will have another good season.

Wilder: Houston Dash

This is just pure vibes — but I hope they do well honestly.


Phuoc: Washington Spirit

Mark Parsons will be working with one of the top frontlines in the NWSL and with a team that won the championship in 2021. Trinity Rodman, Ashley Hatch, and Ashley Sanchez will continue to dominate. Can the Spirit rebound under his guidance? Parsons is an elite defensive coach and will get this team on the right track in 2023. Will it be enough?

Melina: OL Reign

You can never rule the Reign out and Laura Harvey has a lot of experience when dealing with World Cup years. Plus, when available, Emily Sonnett will bring the chaos necessary for this team.

Wilder: Kansas City Current

Again vibes here, but they finished 5th last season and I don’t see them shifting too much.


Phuoc: Houston Dash

Diana Ordóñez, Ebony Salmon, and Maria Sanchez is a frontline that is one of the best in NWSL. Expect them to be even better in 2023 with the majority of their roster returning.

Melina: Houston Dash

Their roster looks very interesting and more with the addition of Diana Ordóñez. I hope she and “La Bombi” can wreak havoc this season and help Houston reach their second playoff in history.

Wilder: Racing Louisville

They’ve now got Carson Pickett and Abby Erceg, both solid players and I’m hoping that they had their rebuilding year last season.


Phuoc: Angel City

When you have a frontline of Christen Press, Sydney Leroux, and #1 draft pick, Alyssa Thompson, you are going to be a contender for playoffs. This doesn’t even include Jun Endo, Simone Charley, and Claire Emslie. Their defense lost Vanessa Gilles (loan to OL) and Allyson Swaby (loan to PSG), but have Sarah Gorden returning from SEI.

This team will need their CB pairing to step up as well as the questions in midfield. Signing Katie Johnson was a huge first step. Le Bihan, McCaskill, Johnson, and the rest of their midfield will need to answer those uncertainties.

Melina: Gotham FC

Lynn Williams said to ProSoccerWire: “You look at us on paper and I think we’re one of the best teams on paper. I think if we could just get on the same page, it’s gonna be amazing.”

And I agree with her. The team looks good in paper and coach Amorós looks like the right man to guide them to success as he did with Houston, but the question remains: will they get on the same page on time?

Wilder: North Carolina Courage

Honestly no idea about these next few ones... I think the middle could be pretty murky and NC Courage isn’t great at trading means they could be anywhere.

They do have Emily Fox though.


Phuoc: Chicago Red Stars

After a mass exodus of players, Chicago still has the talent to compete for the playoffs. The Red Stars return Mallory Swanson who finished 3rd in the MVP vote. They will return Yuki Nagasato, Casey Krueger, and Tierna Davidson.

The trade for Cari Rocarro was a good start, but the midfield will be what most likely holds them back.

Melina: Orlando Pride

I think Orlando will improve a little this year (they finished 10th last season) since they’re already used to playing with a roster not that deep, unlike other NWSL clubs.

Wilder: Washington Spirit

Again, up for adjustment and differing opinions but I just needed to put it on the list.


Phuoc: Gotham FC

After 2022 season ended, this team looked like it was going to be in a rebuild... But what an offseason for Gotham FC from General Manager Yael Averbuch. She has crushed it this offseason by trading for Lynn Williams, Yazmeen Ryan, and Jenna Nighswonger (4th overall pick). This team is going to be a threat for playoffs thanks to their talent.

They possess a dangerous frontline of Williams, Ryan, Margaret “Midge” Purce, and Ifeoma Onumonu. The backline has new faces with Kelley O’Hara, Kristen Edmonds, and Nealy Martin. This will need to be improved in order to have any chance of the playoffs. They gave up the most goals in 2022 with 46.

Biggest Question for 2023: Can Juan Amorós put Kristie Mewis in a place to succeed?

Melina: North Carolina Courage

Oh Courage, what have you done? Same as Chicago, when comparing rosters, they look very different from the one in 2022. Nonetheless, some key players remain. Let’s see if that is enough to have a season that can set the basis for what’s to come for this club in 2024.

Wilder: Angel City

I’m hoping Christen Press will be back in form in time for this upcoming season because she really provided a spark for the team. Sydney Leroux too honestly.

Angel city has so much potential with the support they get from the area and the club itself so I hope they do better.


Phuoc: Racing Louisville

In the 2023 season preview for Racing Louisville, Bekki Morgan, a contributing writer for The Equalizer and BGN shares her prediction:

“Racing should score more goals and give up fewer this season. That should help them climb the standings. Are they playoff contenders? It’s hard to say, but they’re certainly more in a position to be contenders than they were going into the off-season.”

Melina: Angel City

After some promising months at the beginning of 2022, the number 1 pick at the 2023 draft, and some signings, their preseason roster looks interesting but still quite inexperienced.

Wilder: Chicago Red Stars

Again they just had to go on the list, sorry.


Phuoc: North Carolina Courage

In a few years, the North Carolina Courage have managed to found a way to lose the following players: Lynn Williams, Debinha, Jessica McDonald, Abby Erceg, Abby Dahlkemper, Carson Pickett and Diana Ordóñez — and even more not listed here,

They had four first-round selections in the 2023 NWSL Draft: Olivia Wingate, Sydney Collins, Clara Robbins, and Haley Hopkins.

This team is not going to compete for a few more years if they continue to do questionable trades and decisions.

Abby Erceg said it best:

Melina: Chicago Red Stars

Rebuilding year for them? They have lost way too many important players to believe they’re gonna reach playoffs this year. I hope they surprise me.

Wilder: Gotham FC

It’s a rebuilding year for sure.

I mean they now have Lynn Williams — but one player can only do so much in the attack.


Phuoc: Orlando Pride

After the suspension of (now banned) Amanda Cromwell, the Orlando Pride united behind interim (now permanent) head coach, Seb Hines.

Hiring Haley Carter as the club’s first ever Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager is a huge first of many steps for the rebuilding club.

The Pride had an excellent 2023 draft by selecting: Emily Madril, Messiah Bright, Tori Hansen, Summer Yates, and Kristen Scott.

They are a few years from competing and will need to continue to hit draft picks, trades, and international transfers.

Melina: Racing Louisville

I really had some struggles when writing this and thinking about where Racing could finish at the end of the season, but their record is not good and also they still need to prove that the club has changed their mentality and translate that to the field.

Wilder: Orlando Pride

As much as I love Marta, one player again can only do so much in soccer. I hope they take this season to rebuild.

Discussion Time!

What is current NWSL Power Rankings? Let us know in the comments.


The Portland Thorns will win...

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    NWSL Shield
    (8 votes)
  • 21%
    NWSL Championship
    (15 votes)
  • 38%
    (27 votes)
  • 29%
    (21 votes)
71 votes total Vote Now