NWSL enjoyed a prime placement match on CBS over-the-air this weekend and Sophia Smith of Portland took full advantage in gameweek 2, recording a hat-trick. That, as well as how VAR is impacting the games and everything else, in this weekend’s NWSL gameweek 2 wrap-up.

NWSL gameweek 2 brings goal fest

KC Current 1-4 Portland Thorns 

You know it’s a big occasion when a match is on over-the-air broadcast television and Jaqui Oatley is on commentary. The crowd of 11,301 in Kansas City was in high spirits as the home-standing Current hosted the Thorns in a rematch of last year’s NWSL Championship Final.  

Vlatko Andonovski, the US women’s National Team Coach has a long history in the Kansas City area of coaching and playing. He was in attendance at Children’s Mercy Park. There is no doubt USWNT striker Sophia Smith impressed Andonovski. Following a strong outing in the first NWSL matchday, Smith continued her performances of excellence.

Crystal Dunn opened the scoring with her weaker right foot finding the top corner near post in the third minute. In the 18th minute, Smith drew a foul in the opposition area and then calmly converted a penalty to double the Thorns lead. As the first half drew to the close, Portland continued to generate excellent scoring opportunities. In minute 39, Hina Sugita missed a left-footed shot just wide of the far post. Three minutes later, Dunn played in Morgan Weaver who skied her opportunity. 

Kansas City came out the better side in the second half, generating multiple opportunities in the first 15 minutes culminating with a goal from Cece Kizer, who headed in a nicely placed free kick from Alex Loera. 

The Current spent the next ten minutes feverishly chasing an equalizer, before the match settled back into its familiar pattern from the first half. As Portland reasserted its control over the match, they were able to generate both opportunities from possession and counter-attacking chances. Smith scored twice more. The first was off a mazy run in minute 83. Then, a spectacular strike five minutes later from outside of the area curled into the bottom corner of the net.

Portland’s win marks the second-successive four-goal explosion. Plus, it lays a clear indication that they are the once again the team to beat this season. 

Chicago Red Stars 1-2 Houston Dash

Diana Ordóñez’s 60th-minute penalty was the difference between the two sides as the Dash ran out winners at SeatGeek Stadium. María Sánchez opened the scoring for Houston in the fourth minute. The Mexican converted a shot from about 12 yards out into the top left corner of the opposition net. 

Chicago equalized not long after on an own goal by Houston’s Natalie Jacobs. The Red Stars had earned a corner after sustaining several minutes of pressure in the Dash half of the field. 

The winner from Ordóñez came after VAR confirmed a foul by Chicago’s Tatumn Milazzo in the area. But, the VAR check took approximately three minutes, and the introduction of video replay has created a new element in NWSL matches thus far this season. Long delays result in the breakup of flow in the game. After the penalty, the Red Stars were arguably the better side, creating several good opportunities to equalize, but in the end the Dash held on for a valuable three points away from home. 

Racing Louisville 2-2 Washington Spirit

Racing Louisville came back from two goals down at home against the Washington Spirit to split the points. The match despite the comeback was a back-and-forth contest where both sides created about an equal amount of chances and half chances, with both halves being fairly even in terms of control of the match. 

The Spirit opened the scoring just after the quarter-hour mark behind Ashley Hatch, who drove a right-footed shot into the middle of the goal beating Louisville’s keeper Katie Lund. After half an hour, Hatch recorded her second goal, a neatly placed left-footed strike to the bottom right corner. Hatch finished the chance, being nicely set up by Trinity Rodman.

The home side struck back immediately after halftime when Abby Erceg scored on a header from close-range after Wang Shuang whipped in a great ball. The two sides exchanged more chances until Racing equalized in the 65th minute when Ary Borges beautifully struck a loose ball into the top right corner of the opposition goal. 

Washington’s Page Metayer was sent off for a rough foul in second half stoppage time. She had been previously booked, earlier in the second half. 

San Diego Wave 3-1 North Carolina Courage

The San Diego Wave ran out winners by a 3-1 scoreline in front of an active home crowd.

The Courage began the match well, controlling much of the possession and creating more chances in the first half. But, late in the first half, the Wave pounced on a loose ball in the opposition area that Jaedyn Shaw smashed into the top left corner to give the home side the lead. 

Minutes after halftime, A bad North Carolina giveaway was picked up by San Diego’s Danielle Caliprico, who played a preciseball that put Alex Morgan in behind  and she strike to double the Wave advantage.

In minute 67, VAR struck again to award San Diego a penalty on a handball by the Courage’s Kiara Pickett. However, once again the VAR review took several minutes and it wasn’t until minute 73, Morgan actually struck the resulting penalty to give the Wave a 3-0 lead.  

Kerolin Nicoli drew a penalty for North Carolina  just a few minutes later . She would convert the spot kick, to cut the San Diego lead to 3-1. That’s how the match ended. 

NY/NJ Gotham 0-2 OL Reign 

Gotham lost a disappointing home opener 2-0 to OL Reign as 7,534 fans convened at Red Bull Arena on Saturday night. The match was fairly even. But, OL Reign were better in the key moments. OL Reign had a great spell of play between between the 25th and 31st minutes. That culminated in a through ball from Rose Lavelle that found Jess Fishlock who scored a critical goal. 

Just before halftime, Krisitie Mewis had a great chance to equalize for Gotham, and her left-footed shot from outside the area dipped just a second late to catch the top left corner. It would have been a spectacular equalizer that no doubt would have shot energy into both the crowd and the home-standing side right before the break. 

In minute 62, Reign doubled the lead when Bethany Baicer’s left-footed shot off a corner found the near post. Following the second goal, Gotham had the better of the play. Mewis, in particular, rose to the forefront as she created several chances that could not find the back of the target. In fact, despite all of their good connectivity in the final third, Gotham did not record a shot on target. It lost, 2-0.

Orlando Pride 1-2 Angel City FC

Katie Johnson’s goal in the tenth minute of second-half stoppage gave Angel City FC a dramatic 2-1 win in Orlando’s home opener in front of 7,137. 

The first 35 minutes were close. Angel City earned a penalty after Emily Madril of the Pride committed a foul on Alyssa Thompson in the area. VAR was quick and decisive to declare a foul on the play. This was a stark difference of other VAR incidents at the weekend in NWSL.

First-half stoppage time yielded two great chances, one for each side. First Thompson hit a shot from a tight angle that forced a save out of Anna Moorhouse. A minute later, Orlando nearly equalized as Adriana hit the post with a shot that crossed the face of goal. 

The Pride came out of halftime the better side. Six minutes after the restart, Messiah Bright found the bottom left corner of the net with a nicely placed effort. The match then turned cagey for the next 25 minutes or so. In the fifth minute of second-half stoppage time, Orlando’s Summer Yates hit a ball on her left foot. Yet, the shot drifted just to the right of the post. A minute later, Angel City had a great chance of its own. But, Moorhouse dove to the right to save the effort by MA Vignola. 

Then, Johnson struck in the tenth minute of stoppage time. Her near-post header came off an excellent cross from Claire Emslie. The full time whistle blew less than a minute after the goal, denying Orlando an opportunity to level the match again.