COG 3 is upon us. Four matches this weekend make up our "Collection Of Games." Since three of the four teams playing next Wednesday are also playing this weekend, I think this is about as good as we can do for a sensible division of COGs. Leggo!
What Happened in COG 2?
We started the weekend on a Friday night with a 0-0 draw in Houston, where the visiting Royals weren't able to improve upon their single-point earnings from week 1. You might remember that both the Dash and Royals had to settle for disappointing draws in their openers. Naturally, they had to face off against one another and repeat the feat a week later. Two matches, two points for both of them.
On Saturday, The Courage stayed perfect with a 1-0 home win over Sky Blue. The Washington Spirit continued to look better, and sent the Orlando Pride home empty handed on the losing end of a 2-0 scoreline. To close out the weekend, Chicago couldn't hang with the visiting Thorns, falling 3-2 to the 2017 NWSL Champs.
Then we had a few USWNT friendlies vs. Mexico. Raise your hand if you'd be surprised to learn that more than one US player picked up an injury during these matches. Nobody? Right. The bigger surprise was the very uneven performance of presumptive US #1 GK Alyssa Naeher. Naeher had a rough night against Portland in her last club performance, and didn't look much more confident against Mexico. Her distribution in particular was poor, though wind was certainly a factor. Since she was already scheduled to not play in the 2nd match for the USA (Jane Campbell started and didn't exactly look flawless either), it will be interesting to see if she's able to return to form with the Red Stars this week. Otherwise, the whispers about the uncertainty about the USWNT keeper situation will continue to build from the deep recesses of the interwebs.
Chicago Red Stars at Utah Royals
Saturday at 3:30PM Eastern on Lifetime
Gunnhildur Jónsdóttir remains the only Utah Royal to put a ball in a net when it counts, but she'll need some help from her friends to earn 3 points in Utah's home opener. The Red Stars come to town having performed reasonably well against Portland following their opening weekend miracle draw at Houston. They'll want to spoil the first-ever-home-opener party for the Royals. But, my friends, I can't see that happening.
The Lifetime Game of the Week looks to be sold out, and the atmosphere surrounding this game is going to lift the home team to a certain victory. I see an early Red Stars goal to get everyone focused, followed by a three goal answer to whip the new fanbase into a positive froth.
Utah Royals 3-1 Chicago Red Stars
North Carolina Courage at Washington Spirit
Saturday at 7PM Eastern on Go90
Washington is much improved, but I'm not sure they're quite ready for the North Carolina Courage. A possible wild card is the emerging Mallory Pugh, who has looked more composed for club and country this year. She's quick enough to get around anyone, and has noticeably improved her separation touch, permitting her to avoid play-ending contact. Still, the Courage haven't allowed a goal yet this season, and that includes to the Thorns. I can see a Sprit goal, but not a Spirit win. Sorry, Spirit fans.
Washington Sprit 1-2 North Carolina Courage
Seattle Reign at Sky Blue FC
Sunday at 5PM Eastern on Go90
There is going to be some blue in the stands in New Jersey on Sunday, but it will be a slightly wetter hue than Sky Blue. A contingent of Boston Breakers fans is making the 4+ hour trek south to cheer on their former players and get the dopamine burst that comes from watching top class women's soccer. Alas, I will not be there myself, as I'm still recovering from an automobile accident in March and can't yet do the 9-hour car ride comfortably. Soon! However, you should be able to make out a few of the Armada if you look closely on your Go90 feed.
Seattle's been on a break since opening weekend, but Megan Rapinoe was her dominant self on national duty against Mexico. The team is still missing a few internationals, but the core has been very good from what we've seen so far. Sky Blue comes into their home opener healthy and showing good energy. It's Carli Lloyd's homecoming, and she'll be bringing all the quality required to score 100 international goals with her in an effort to push Sky Blue up the table this season. I'm not sure they're quite on par with Seattle yet, and my instincts point to a Reign win, but I can see Sky Blue doing enough to squeak a draw. Maybe.
Sky Blue FC 2-2 Seattle Reign
Orlando Pride at Portland Thorns
Sunday at 6PM Eastern on Go90
I can't really see how Orlando will stay competitive in this match, especially with all the Brazilian and Australian players still overseas. Portland will open their home campaign with a celebration of their 2017 title, and Providence Park will be rocking. It's a recipe for an inspired performance (or, it could be a trap). Orlando had a rough outing in Washington last time, and though Alex Morgan is looking as dangerous as she ever has, she's without her preferred attacking partners. She's a player who does best when combining with others, and options are slim, especially with Rachel Hill questionable with a quad strain.
For the Thorns, it will be interesting to see if Lindsey Horan shows any lingering effects from the injury that took her out of the 2nd friendly against Mexico. She had a dominating performance, but continued to play after the initial knock and ended up taking herself out (pulling out her shin-guards before trainers even arrived to examine her) not long after (though she did manage to score a monster header in the meantime). Though she's not listed on the injury report, if she's limited at all, the Thorns might move some pieces around and call upon former Breaker Angela Salem to sit ahead of the backline. The Thorns bench is truly an embarrassment of riches.
Portland Thorns 4-1 Orlando Pride