Bella Bixby’s dramatic equalizer for Portland, Debinha’s two-goal masterclass and Orlando’s shock win against San Diego highlighted the results of gameweek 5 in NWSL. 

As we approach the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, NWSL play is becoming more open and aggressive. Many players are vying to impress their respective national team managers to get a call-up. This past weekend, we were treated to several open, end-to-end matches. There is some buzz around that the number of goals this season reflects a lack of defensive effort players may exhibit at the World Cup. To a certain extent, we had a similar discussion about the men’s game and European club matches prior to the Qatar 2022 event. 

Whatever the case, the open play and outstanding attacking skill are creating a situation where the league is enjoyable to watch. This provides an entertainment spectacle that should hook casual viewers especially given it is a World Cup year. 

Highlights of NWSL gameweek 5

Houston Dash 0-1 North Carolina Courage

A weather-shortened match that was called in minute 51 allowed North Carolina to break its three-match NWSL Regular Season losing streak

The lone goal in the match came near the half-hour mark when Emily Fox made a darting run down the left flank. Fox delivered a dangerous cross in front of the goal. Tyler Lussi made the run and put a foot to the ball, redirecting the whipping cross into the back of the net.

North Carolina had several other chances in the first half, including a disallowed goal by VAR for offside and a dangerous chance at the tail end of the half that was saved by the Dash’s Jane Campbell. 

The second half began with weather imminent, the hope being the storms would hold off long enough to get as much of the second half complete as possible. Alas, in the 51st minute, and with lightning in the area, officials halted the match. The weather did not move out. Per NWSL regulations, a match that starts the second half but cannot resume is final. Therefore, North Carolina picked up its second win of the season.

Racing Louisville 2-2 OL Reign 

OL Reign came back from two goals down at halftime to draw Racing Louisville in what was NWSL’s 1,000th match. The equalizer arrived in the dying moments of the game on a looping header from Jordyn Huitema. Louisville finished the match with 10 players due to the sending-off of Savannah DeMelo in the 72nd minute.

The hosts took an early lead with Paige Monaghan scoring in the seventh minute. Louisville’s Ary Borges took a touch just outside the area and then drive toward the goal. Her shot took a deflection and ended at the feet of Monaghan. She took a single touch and scored at the far post.

Megan Rapinoe almost equalized in minute 27. The American hit the crossbar with a left-footed effort that followed a direct run on the left flank into the area. Right before halftime, Louisville doubled its lead. DeMelo connected with a poor clearance off a corner. Then, she belted a powerful shot into the back of the net. 

Reign’s first goal came in minute 67 on a spot kick by Rapinoe. The opportunity came due to Louisville’s Katie Lund taking down Huitema in the area. 

Following DeMelo’s sending-off, OL Reign had multiple chances to equalize before Huitema’s 90th-minute goal, but Louisville’s defensive shape was quite good, especially in the final third. 

Chicago Red Stars 1-1 Washington Spirit 

The Washington Spirit continued their unbeaten start to the 2023 NWSL campaign with a 1-1 draw at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Illinois against Chicago Red Stars. 

Washington’s Ashley Hatch converted from the spot in the 29th minute but minutes later the Red Stars booked an equalizer from Chicago defender Bianca St-Georges after a great team move in open play, which St-Georges began with a headed layoff to teammate Ally Schlegel and then finished when she received the return ball. 

While the Spirit dominated play after the equalizer, they were not able to find a winner and Chicago had its chances as well to snatch a winner. 

San Diego Wave 1-3 Orlando Pride

In the most eye-catching result of the season thus far, Orlando traveled to San Diego and won 3-1 after falling behind very early. The result gave the Pride its first three points of the campaign. 

San Diego’s Jaedyn Shaw opened the scoring in minute 12, and Makenzy Doniak had a wonderful chance to double the Wave’s lead but had her effort in minute 16 cleared off the line. 

But suddenly, Orlando came into the match, In the 26th minute Mikayla Cluff got on the end of a corner kick by Adriana. Cluff got her head to the ball and beat the Wave defense to equalize the match. 

The Pride took the lead just before halftime. Haley McCutcheon perfectly placed a lopping header following a beautiful cross from Viviana Villacorta. 

Given how the season has gone for both sides thus far, one expected a San Diego second-half rally. But, in fact, it was Orlando who scored the second stanza’s only goal, when in minute 69, Adriana deftly created space in the area and placed a strike perfectly to beat the Wave defense. 

Angel City FC 3-3 Portland Thorns 

Whenever goalkeepers score it is news. Bella Bixby’s equalizer at the death to snatch a point for Portland was as dramatic as any goal you will ever see. Bixby found the bottom left corner of the goal after her opposite number Dijana Haračić couldn’t come up with an inswinging ball from a corner after coming off her line. 

It was the last chance for Portland to maintain their unbeaten start, having allowed a lead to slip away earlier in the half. Bixby came up into the attacking area to provide an additional attacker for what was certain to be a last opportunity. It was a calculated risk by Portland Manager Mike Norris that reaped dividends. 

Bixby’s dramatic equalizer came after she was beaten three times in the match by a rampant Angel City attack. Those three goals included two clinical finishes. The goal that put Angel City ahead came with 10 minutes left in the 90 from Julie Ertz, whose return to play has been welcome news not only for her club but potentially for the USA. Alyssa Thompson had opened the scoring in minute 10 with a clean finish where she streaked down the left flank, cut inside and took a shot with her weaker right foot. Angel City also benefited from an own goal. 

The home side was poor defensively all night, needing last-ditch defending and some bad luck from the Thorns to stay in the match until the 74th-minute own goal by Natalie Kuikka brought them back into the match. 

After that, the game was frenzied with Ertz’s header putting the hosts ahead only to be canceled out by Bixby’s heroics. 

Kansas City Current 2-0 NY/NJ Gotham

Debinha shook off what has been a slow start to 2023 by her standards to score twice early in the second half. The win was the second of the season for the Current. 

The first half saw an active Current attack paced by Debinha and Lo’eau LeBonta. The home side looked better for much of the half, but Gotham had opportunities as Kristie Mewis pulled the strings for Gotham in open play and on the counter-attack. 

In minute 57, Bonta played a through ball to an on-running Debinha, who struck the ball at pace with her right foot beating Abby Smith. Minutes later Debinha connected with a loose ball and struck the back of the net from close range. 

Kansas City almost made it three when Cece Kizer just missed wide of the far post on a counter-attacking breakaway initiated by Hailie Mace. 

Lynn Williams has been the talk of women’s soccer circles the last few weeks as a potential first-choice USWNT replacement for the injured Mallory Swanson. Williams had a relatively quiet game after having two golden opportunities to put Gotham ahead early in the match. It was the first match in three weeks in all competitions where Williams did not find herself on the scoresheet. 

PHOTO: IMAGO / Sports Press Photo