Two games on Wednesday? Plus games on Friday AND Saturday AND Sunday?!? Who hit the jackpot? All of us. All. Of. Us.
It's a busy weekend in the league. Though many of the internationals (especially Australians and Brazilians) are still away, three clubs will play twice and the other six once before we reach Monday.
Seattle will be happy to have drawn the single match weekend, as they'll be without the services of Megan Rapinoe courtesy of her newly strained left hamstring. But even that single game will be tough sledding, as they'll be facing the league leaders in North Carolina on short rest.
Let's look at the matchups.
What Happened in COG 3?
COG 3 featured some crappy weather, and some very nice goals. The Goal of the Week went to Lindsey Horan, but could easily have gone to any of the other nominees. Watch:
Mallory Pugh's entry wasn't enough to push her team to a win over the NC Courage in a game that saw fellow nominee McCall Zerboni net two. Danielle Colaprico's dynamic volley somehow looped over Abby Smith to become the first NWSL goal scored at Rio Tinto Stadium in Utah, and gave her Red Stars enough offense to secure three points in front of an opening day crowd of more than 19,000 Royals fans. Megan Rapinoe and the Reign got the best of Sky Blue to spoil their own home opener on a raw late afternoon in New Jersey, and the Portland Thorns came back and held court 2-1 over the Orlando Pride after allowing an early goal.
There was an interesting side note in Portland, where apparently Sydney Leroux Dwyer's son and mother weren't permitted to be on the pitch following the match with the Thorns. Merritt Paulson and Leroux had an *interesting?* exchange over social media, after which the Thorns official social media account stepped in and outlined the team's policy. Some tweets were deleted, some abuse was tossed in the direction of both original parties by Twitter heroes, etc. Typical internet, right? Maybe. It will be interesting to see if the conversation results in any policy changes league-wide, or if it will just become another bit of rivalry-building for the two outspoken personalities.
Here's a taste:
Seattle Reign at North Carolina Courage
Wednesday at 7PM Eastern on Go90
Losing Megan Rapinoe for this one hurts Seattle. They move the ball very well, but she's such an important part of what they do—especially finishing chances. There is an opportunity here for one of the other attacking players to step up. I wouldn't be surprised if it's Morgan Andrews.
The Courage have won all three of their matches, even without Sam Mewis. She's now listed as questionable on the injury report as she rehabs her right knee, so her return should come in the next few weeks. Allysha Chapman strained her left hamstring and is also questionable.
Gut says it won't matter: it's really hard to know what Seattle will do without Rapinoe, but they have enough juice to stay close. Just not quite close enough. Courage stay perfect in a close one.
NC Courage 2-1 Seattle Reign
Houston Dash at Chicago Red Stars
Wednesday at 7:30PM Eastern on Go90
Absent Colaprico's impressive winner last weekend, Chicago would be winless. They haven't looked fully composed over sustained sections of a match just yet, and how can anyone blame them, having not had the chance to field Sam Kerr, Julie Ertz or Casey Short yet this season? Still, some things are improving, and they'll be at home (in the cold) against similarly uneven Houston.
The Dash need to find a win. They actually have looked decent at times, but haven't been able to seal the deal. After conceding a late winner to Chicago on opening day, they'll be keen to steal points on the road and return the favor. Plus, they're healthy and only missing Kyah Simon overseas. It could be enough to tip the scales.
But—I just don't see it. For either side.
Chicago Red Stars 0-0 Houston Dash
Washington Spirit at Portland Thorns
Saturday at 10:30PM Eastern on Go90
Washington's best chance for a win: Their young players recover faster than the more seasoned Thorns, and they also don't know they're not supposed to win. OK, I'm not convinced either.
Portland is too deep and is talented enough to recover from silly mistakes (ahem, Sonnett's bad giveaway that led to Orlando's only goal last week). Mal Weber is tireless and goals are surely coming for her as a reward for the hard work. Horan—can we say it?—is currently the best American footballer (yes, including men)* owing to all the ways she impacts games. She's also making an impact on social media this week.
Washington might score, but they're not going to steal points from this group.
Portland Thorns 3-1 Washington Spirit
*OK, this is hard, but shouldn't be controversial. Megan Rapinoe is the only other possible candidate (and if not currently injured, who knows?). Search your heart, you know it's true.
Utah Royals at North Carolina Courage
Saturday at 3:30PM Eastern on Lifetime TV
Two games in four days is rough, but it's not unlike a European League / Champions League schedule. Wait, what's that? Those teams have larger rosters? Oh, right.
So we've got the Courage, who will be coming off a home win over the Reign on Wednesday (allegedly), and the Royals, who will be desperate to get their first win playing on full rest. Roster depth and early-season fitness will be tested for the home side, though they won't have to contend with travel. Utah's challenge will be to attack specific positions where depth is a possible issue. Laura Harvey has some experience with this, and I think she pulls all the right strings.
I'm going to pick Utah. I think they find a way to win this COG's upset special.
NC Courage 2-3 Utah Royals
Sky Blue FC at Chicago Red Stars
Saturday at 8PM Eastern on Go90
This match feels a lot like the Lifetime match in that a potentially fatigued home side playing on short rest hosts a fully fit and well-rested visitor that has yet to record a league win. For me, a lot depends on how Chicago performs on Wednesday. Will anyone get injured or be otherwise kept out of Saturday's match? Sky Blue hasn't found the goal yet this year, but surely they won't be kept waiting any longer than this. There have been some good moments, and they're overdue to provide results.
Carli leads Sky Blue to victory and Savannah McCaskill finds her first league goal against the team that stole (but haven't yet benefited from) Sam Kerr.
Chicago Red Stars 0-2 Sky Blue FC
Houston Dash at Orlando Pride
Sunday at 5PM Eastern on Go90
Let's all hope the Dash are able to outsmart the Red Stars on Wednesday, because they're not going to find much joy on Sunday in Orlando. For one thing, they'll have been on the road all week, while the Pride will have been in their normal routine. After losing in Portland, the Pride will also have corrected some of the odd problems that plagued their strategy against the Thorns, and should look the much better side.
It adds up to the first win of the season for the Pride, who amazingly will enter the match with fewer points than the Dash regardless of Wednesday's results. If Houston earns a draw in Chicago, Orlando needs a win just to pull level to their visitors, so look for Alex Morgan to put the team on her shoulders and deliver something special.
Orlando Pride 3-1 Houston Dash