NWSL Week 2 Preview & Picks

What a kickoff! After a fairly uneventful Go90 streaming debut that saw the Houston Dash take all the points in their home opener vs the Chicago Red Stars, the league turned to Portland for the first ever Lifetime TV broadcast.

It was pretty good. It was certainly better than any women's soccer league broadcast on American television ever before. The fancy new Go90 livestreams, after being mostly OK on Saturday, delivered a stinker on Sunday, repeatedly feeding commercials for GEICO and other Go90 programs every few minutes. The Twitter world cried foul and apparently at least someone in the league office was working on Easter Sunday, as the commercials finally ended about half way into the first half of the Breakers v FC Kansas City clash.

With a Verizon FiOS connection, I was able to watch the Thorns/Pride match on Lifetime match while simultaneously streaming Dash/Red Stars and Courage/Spirit matches on separate iOS devices. The iOS Go90 app has some quirks, including a strange propensity to only sometimes make the Apple AirPlay prompt available during a stream, but I found that quitting the app and restarting the app made most issues resolve quickly. I didn't experience any freezing of the feeds, but the quality did occasionally revert to FURT-worthy blurriness reminiscent of some of the weaker YouTube streams in years past.

Still, some people did have problems. Foreseeable problems. Problems that a viewer guide ought to have been created to solve. With such a last-minute roll-out of the platform, the league and Lifetime was always going to get stuck without all the dots completely connected on day one. Hopefully week two will be much improved on the broadcast front.

What about on the field?

There was some good football on display, notably from Houston, Portland and North Carolina. Washington looked like a team trouble (especially after losing Johanna Lohman to a torn ACL and Cheyna Williams to an adductor strain), and only avoided a massive blowout due to stellar goalkeeping from Stephanie Labbé. Kansas City got revenge on Boston for home and away losses to the Breakers last year, and looked much improved from 2016, but then lost Amy Rodriguez for the year on yet another ACL tear. Boston didn't look as bad as the score suggested, but fielded a rookie forward in Midge Purce at fullback while keeping more experienced defenders on the bench. And, don't hate me, but Portland didn't look as good as I was expecting. 

Overall, I got the results of 4 of 5 of the games right. I would have gladly traded the first four to get the Breakers a first-match win, but I'm sure to be wrong about every game this week. 

Let's look at the matchups for week two!

FC Kansas City at Chicago Red Stars

Saturday at 4PM on Go90

Click in your app for a one-way trip to Chicago.

Click in your app for a one-way trip to Chicago.

FCKC looked pretty good last week, and Chicago did not look especially bright against Houston. Granted, it was 362 degrees in Houston and northern teams don't regularly train in a sauna in preparation for warm games. So, I'd expect Chicago to look better than in week 1. Kansas City will be without Amy Rodriguez, which may result in Red Stars camp cut Brittany Ratcliffe seeing some action as she did last weekend. I'd like to see Erika Tymrak get on the field for FCKC. For Chicago, only Julie Ertz (née Johnson) is on the injury report, listed as probable with a right knee sprain.

Draw.

FCKC 2-2 Chicago Red Stars


Washington Spirit at Orlando Pride

Saturday at 4pm on Lifetime TV

Kristie Mewis vs Marta. Who ya got? 

Kristie Mewis vs Marta. Who ya got? 

Marta, people. Pride hold home court against the Spirit.

Orlando Pride 3-1 Washington Spirit


Portland Thorns at North Carolina Courage

Saturday at 7:30PM on Go90

Featuring 3 of the league's top scorers, including McCall Zerboni.

Featuring 3 of the league's top scorers, including McCall Zerboni.

Anyone who scored a goal last week got their name in the books as a co-leader in scoring for the league. Among them was McCall Zerboni. It's comical that people don't talk about her more, because she's such a reliable stout presence in the midfield. Plus, when you're not looking, she snipes a goal. One of her former clubs is in town for the NC Courage home opener this week, and I think the Courage squeaks out a win against the Tobin-less Thorns. Maybe.

Courage 2-1 Thorns


Houston Dash at Seattle Reign

Saturday at 10PM on Go90

Weather conditions might be a tad different for Houston this week.

Weather conditions might be a tad different for Houston this week.

Seattle's Go90 feed was the 2nd worst of the weekend last week, so I'm hoping to see some improvement when the Dash roll into town looking to build upon their performance from week one. Seattle managed a draw last week, and had some good moments and better goalkeeping. Still, I think Kealia Ohai is too fast and sharp for the Reign defense. Ohai, Daly & O'Sullivan is a potent crew, people.

Dash 2-1 Reign


Sky Blue FC at Boston Breakers

Sunday at 4PM Eastern

Best investigate this one in person.

Best investigate this one in person.

Sky Blue and the Breakers held a double-secret scrimmage in pre-season, so they'll know a bit more about each other than most teams coming into this match. Sky Blue wasn't bad last week, but they weren't especially convincing on attack either, despite having Sam Kerr and Kelley O'Hara leading the charge. Boston's 2-0 defeat at Kansas City sounds worse than it looked, but there is always a psychological burden to getting a first goal and first win. Can the Breakers stop the dark whispers this week? I think so.

Breakers 2-1 Sky Blue