After midweek Challenge Cup action, the NWSL returned this weekend with some fireworks in gameweek 4. Megan Rapinoe reminded us of her quality over dead balls, and Lynn Williams scored her third goal in a week, reminding us how effective she potentially could be for the USWNT. Portland won again and San Diego showed its mettle winning away at Angel City in front of 22,000 fans. Julie Ertz’s return to action was also a notable takeaway from gameweek four. 

Recapping NWSL gameweek 4

OL Reign 5-2 Chicago Red Stars

Bethany Balcer’s two early strikes opened up a match that featured seven goals in a match that was end-to-end and largely even in terms of possession and good chances for each side. 

Balcer opened the scoring with a shot from the center of the area that found the bottom left corner in minute 15. Five minutes later she struck again, this time with a header set up by an outstanding Lauren Barnes cross. 

Chicago got a goal back in minute 32 with a strike from Arin Wright that beat Phallon Tullis-Joyce to the top corner. But OL Reign regained a two-goal cushion to take into the locker room at halftime when in stoppage time Jess Fishlock ripped a left-footed shot off an Emily Sonnett corner into the center of the net.

But almost immediately off the second-half kickoff, Ally Schlegel halved the Reign lead with a right-footed strike to the center of the goal.

Minutes later OL Reign almost restored its two-goal cushion when Megan Rapinoe who came on at halftime took a ball played by Sofia Huerta and shot it just over the crossbar. 

Both sides exchanged good chances, but Rapinoe finally converted in minute 73 belting a free kick from outside the area on the left side into the bottom left corner with her right foot. Minutes later Fishlock recorded her second of the night to close the scoring. Balcer played a cross into the area, where Fishlock gained possession of the ball and whipped a right-footed shot down the center of the goal mouth to secure OL Reign a 5-2 victory. 

Washington Spirit 0-0 Houston Dash

A scoreless draw played out in front of 7,073 fans at Audi Field Saturday night. Despite the scoreline, the match wasn’t as lifeless as might be assumed. Both teams created several good chances in the first 45 minutes, the best coming right before halftime as Houston’s Marisa Viggiano belted a left-footed shot from just outside the area that forced a good save out of Aubrey Bledsoe. 

The second half started quickly with Washington creating multiple chances. In minute 51 Ashley Hatch hit a low shot from just outside the area that forced a diving save from Jane Campbell. 

In minute 70, The Dash’s Sophie Schmidt had a header from just inside the six-yard box saved by Bledsoe. This was the best chance in the later stages of the match for either side. 

NY/NJ Gotham 1-0 North Carolina Courage

The homesteading side won with a late Lynn Williams goal, which was created on a surging counter-attack up the left side. Williams’ goal against her former team was her second successive game-winner and third goal in as many matches in all competitions. With Mallory Swanson’s injury potentially hobbling the US attack, Williams ought to be back under consideration for selection for this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup roster. The goal was Williams’ 60th of her NWSL career. 

The unseasonable weather in the New York Metropolitan area led to about a two-hour-and-fifteen-minute weather delay at halftime of this match. The match had a good pace to it in the first half, but following the weather delay, while both sides exchanged chances, the game felt disjointed. 

Gotham has now won three-straight games in all competitions, having defeated Washington Spirit midweek in the NWSL Challenge Cup. On the flip side, North Carolina has lost three straight league matches and needed a late goal to get a draw versus Orlando midweek in the NWSL Challenge Cup. 

Portland Thorns 2-0 Racing Louisville

Portland’s hot start continued with a 2-0 win at Providence Park against Racing Louisville. The Thorns opened the scoring almost immediately with a well-worked move that saw Sophia Smith, the player of the season thus far in NWSL play a diagonal ball for Crystal Dunn who had cut inside from her customary left-sides position. Dunn wisely played a dummy and allowed Christine Sinclair to pounce, hitting a powerful shot that found the near post. 

The Thorns doubled their lead in first-half stoppage time when Morgan Smith initiated a move from the left side that she finished after a nice passing sequence. Smith’s goal beat Katie Lund, who had been spectacular in defending Louisville’s goal for much of the first half. 

In the second half, Louisville created a flurry of chances between minutes 58 and 64 but could not convert. After that, the match became more static with Portland keeping its shape well and limiting opportunities for the visiting team to create good chances. 

Kansas City Current 2-0 Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride remains rooted to the bottom of the standings following a 2-0 loss to Kansas City in front of a crowd of 9,808 at Children’s Mercy Park. 

The Pride started the match well, and this supremacy culminated in an opportunity from Adriana. Yet, her shot at the bottom left corner met the mitts of Current Goalkeeper Cassie Miller. Over the course of the next twenty minutes, Kansas City had the better of the play and chances. From about 25 minutes onward, the play was even until halftime. 

In the second half, Kansas City broke through in minute 64 thanks to Debinha. The Brazilian International hit a shot from the center of the area that found the bottom left corner of the goal after an outstanding setup by Halie Mace. This had come minutes after Orlando had a golden chance to take the lead from Messiah Bright go just wide. 

Four minutes later, the Current struck again. Once again Mace set up one of her teammates in the center of the area. This time, it was Cece Kizer who dialed a shot right down the middle.

While Orlando controlled possession after the second Kansas City goal, they created nothing more than half chances, and the Current ran out rather comfortable 2-0 winners.  

Angel City FC 0-2 San Diego Wave 

San Diego beat Angel City FC 2-0 in Los Angeles on Sunday night in the California rivalry game that has helped stimulate greater interest in NWSL. 

The Wave used two second-half goals to log the win. On both sides, though, midfielders struggled at times. Defensive work from the Wave was key in picking up the victory. In the first half, the home side created several opportunities. Either San Diego’s defense or missed chances took the sting out of any attack.

The second half began with a number of Angel City chances. Spurred on by the Excellent play of Savannah McCaskill and Julie Ertz, making her return to NWSL, spurred the hosts. The home team had five clear-cut chances in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Each time, the wave’s defense withstood the threats.

In minute 70, Sofia Jakobsson received a ball from Christen Westphal and delivered it right into the top center of the goal frame. The effort beat Dijana Haracic giving the Wave a 1-0 lead. Five minutes later Alex Morgan found Makenz Doniak just outside the box after a free kick. Doniak used her left foot to perfectly place a shot in the top right corner that Haracic had no chance to get to. This doubled the visitors’ lead. 

Despite having the best opportunities before the two Wave goals, Angel City’s efforts petered out once they were chasing the game. The best chance for the home side to get a goal back was at the end of the 90. Katie Johnson’s shot from just inside the area forced a diving save at the near post by Kailen Sheridan.