They’re Back! - The Return of the NWSL Champs
The defending NWSL Champions the Portland Thorns won their season opener over the Orlando Pride 4-0 and sent a clear message to the rest of the league that they are coming back for more.
Portland had a club record goal differential of +25 ahead of the next two teams at +13 in 2022, OL Reign and North Carolina Courage.
The season could not of started much better for the Thorns with Mike Norris also picking up his first head coaching win.
“I’m really proud. I asked a group to start well, from the first whistle. I think we did that. Got the goals and settled the nerves a little bit,” Norris said. “We talked about the occasion. I think the anticipation for the season opener, being back in front of the crowd after being champions was a big thing to embrace and enjoy. We really just asked to make sure that we played against the opponent and not versus the occasion. I think we did that from the start. So yeah, just proud.”
One of the stars on the day was Morgan Weaver, who has put in all the hard work and more in the offseason. Weaver worked with trainer for the first time after working on her own in previous years. If one game is any indication, she looks on her way to having her best season yet.
“This offseason I really tried to focus on myself, and so it’s very special. I can’t wait for the rest of the season to see how it goes” said Weaver.
Michele Vasconcelos came on as a 2nd half sub and scored her first goal since 2019 — when she scored for the Chicago Red Stars against the Thorns. Now, she is playing for the other side and scoring too. Her first goal for the Thorns put a stamp on the game.
This was her first full offseason with the club and it was a huge boost to her.
“It helped so much! It’s always tough to come in. The team made it [a] smooth transition last year, but to have that building period with the team, it helped so much. I feel a lot more comfortable this year” said Vasconcelos.
Standout: Natalia Kuikka is one of the best RBs in the NWSL
Queen of recoveries!— Melina Melinae (@melinae07) March 26, 2023
Natu Kuikka made 19 recoveries in the game against the Pride. #BAONPDX
Sam Coffey and Kelli Hubly were second in this department with 8 each. pic.twitter.com/0FAcATApFk
STF’s Wow Moments! - Hina Sugita and Sam Coffey
Janine Beckie on twitter: “Hina Sugita is a cheat code.” We agree! Hina Hive where you at?
FACTS #BAONPDX https://t.co/ZWMgUDLk6Y pic.twitter.com/oS0dL2eSuh— Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) March 26, 2023
Did you know Sam Coffey completed 92% of her passes? She was 46/50 according to Opta.
NWSL Power Rankings: Week 1
- Portland Thorns - There was a lot of media predicting a down year for Portland. Their reasoning was that they did not improve the roster after they just won a NWSL Championship. That logic just doesn’t make much sense. The Portland Thorns have a chance to make another huge statement on the road against the 2022 NWSL championship finalists who are also shorthanded, the Kansas City Current.
- San Diego Wave - This team is as tough as they come. They just continue to wear you out, grind it out, and usually capitalize when it matters. The Wave will need to improve after a gutsy opener where they were definitely not at their best. San Diego can’t continue to win games when they have less possession (48% to 52%) shots (9 to 15), shots on goal (5 to 6), passes (394 to 444), and pass accuracy (69% to 77%). However, they still possess one of the best backlines in the NWSL and have the 2022 coach of the year, Casey Stoney.
- OL Reign - Their xG (expected goals) against the Washington Spirit was 2.01! This has been an ongoing issue for the Reign. Their finishing has let them down in key games and seems like it could continue in 2023. OL Reign are way too talented to not contend this season, there will definitely be some scoring issues from time to time though.
- Kansas City Current - They are missing a bunch of key contributors. Kansas City is going to be in the shield of championship chase. Can the Current find some results until they are fully healthy?
- NJ/NY Gotham FC - In the first half, it was all kinds of nightmares for Gotham supporters. This team had trouble with possession and containing the Angel City FC attack and counters. In the second half, this team looked as dangerous as it should. Their front 6 is going to cause fits all year - Purce, Williams, Ryan, Mewis, Bruninha/Nighswonger, and Allie Long is an elite group. Can their backline hold up? That’s a whole different story.
- Washington Spirit - Mark Parsons is going to get this team to win a lot of tough games. His teams have always been stout defensively, but that will be tested this season, big time. Offensively, he has one of the best frontlines to work with. Their backline and defense will make or break their season.
- Houston Dash - Houston had an xG of 1.60 while Louisville xG was at 1.30. Both teams were both unlucky to score. Diana Ordóñez is going to be a superstar. Sanchez becoming fully healthy will be a huge boost to this squad.
- Racing Louisville - This team is carrying on their late season form into 2023. Abby Erceg and Carson Pickett have completely changed this backline. Their leadership and play paid dividends in game one and it’s only going to get better from here. Is there any better young midfield duo than Sav Demelo and Jae Howell (should be back soon)? Racing Louisville is a playoff contender this year, and they can make even bigger noise if their frontline plays solid.
- Angel City FC - They absolutely deserved at least a draw in the opener. Alyssa Thompson scored her first of many goals and was devastating on the counter. Endo’s goal was taken away after the head official went to VAR. If their midfield can be close to an even level during games, they’ll be making their first playoffs.
- Chicago Red Stars - Chicago should of came away with at least a draw against San Diego. This team still has plenty of firepower and star power. Having Tierna Davidson and Casey Krueger back is so important. Can they compete when Mallory Swanson is off on the World Cup? And who is going to score when she is taken away by double and even triple teamed?
- North Carolina Courage - This squad upset a shorthanded Kansas City Current team at home, but this is going to be a rough year for them. They are too young and are going to struggle as players are learning and adjusting to the NWSL.
- Orlando Pride - VP/GM Haley Carter and Seb Hines are going to make this team a competitor, but supporters have to be patient. It’s going to take years for this rebuild to be done properly. However, they have a lot of exciting young talent who will get better with more games.
NOTE: Power Rankings from 5-10 are going to be close all season.
What is your current NWSL power ranking? Let us know below in the comments!