When five-time FIFA World Player of the Year Marta arrived at the Orlando airport Thursday to prepare for her debut in the NWSL on Saturday, it became clear the second week of the 2017 season of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) was going to be big.
And it was. After an opening weekend that saw two players incur season-ending injuries (Amy Rodriguez’s and Joanna Lohman ACL tears) and streaming issues with the league’s new live game app, this past weekend was highlighted by Marta’s NWSL debut for the Pride in the new stadium and the North Carolina Courage coming through as the only club to grab two wins so far.
The Chicago Red Stars, NC Courage, Seattle Reign FC and the Boston Breakers all picked up three points over the weekend while the Orlando Pride and FC Kansas City each got a point with a draw on Saturday.
[More from Excelle Sports: Orlando City Stadium to host 2017 NWSL Championship]
Here are the three things you need to know about every match this weekend.
Chicago Red Stars 1, FC Kansas City 0
01. ‘Julie Ertz’ has a darn good ring to it.
While we’re still getting used to calling U.S. women’s national team (USWNT) defender Julie Ertz by her married name rather than her maiden moniker of Johnston, the newlywed is looking darn good with Ertz on the back of her jersey. On Saturday, she scored the lone goal for Chicago to put her side up 1-0.
02. We feel Christen Press pressing toward a goal.
The U.S. women’s national team (USWNT) forward has to have a goal coming soon. Christen Press has been so dangerous on the attack for Chicago, as evinced this weekend when she recorded seven shots and three on goal. Press took a penalty kick after Ertz was taken down in the box, but her shot went wide right.
03. Shea Groom and Sydney Leroux are THE duo.
Last year, FCKC’s Shea Groom didn’t have a player like Leroux to work with on the front line. Both Leroux and Amy Rodriguez were on maternity leave, forcing Groom, now 24, to create her own chances for shots. On Saturday, Groom combined well with Leroux, and even though Kansas City lost, the 24-year-old finished with three shots for the night.
Orlando Pride 1, Washington Spirit 1
01. Two days after coming to town, Marta shows she’s ready to rumble.
Following just one full training session with her teammates, Marta joined the Pride for the club’s home opener against the Spirit. Marta came in the game only in the second half, recording 31 total minutes and taking one shot on net during stoppage time.
[More from Excelle Sports: Brazil’s Marta signs with Orlando Pride]
— Orlando Pride (@ORLPride) April 22, 2017
02. Danica Evans makes a bench-to-ball impact.
Anytime a player can come off the bench and make an immediate impact, you likely have a strong contributor for the rest of the season. The Pride’s Danica Evans did just that on Saturday when the forward came in the 75th minute and went on to record her first professional goal for the Pride. It also happened to be Orlando’s first and only goal of the 2017 season.
03. Orlando’s home opener was a win-win.
For the first time ever, the Pride was able to play in the Orlando City Stadium on Saturday, marking a historic time for the premier soccer stadium that was just finished in February, 2017. The home opener attracted 14,452 fans—the second largest crowd in the club’s history—but did fall short of a sold-out crowd by 10,000 people. Next time.
North Carolina Courage 1, Portland Thorns FC 0
01. NC Courage wins their first-ever home game.
For their first-ever game at home in Cary, N.C. on Saturday, the Courage didn’t disappoint fans who made the pilgrimage to see the new club by scoring a win against the Thorns. North Carolina’s triumphant victory comes just months after the Courage acquired the rights of the former Western New York Flash, the NWSL’s 2016 tournament champions. The Courage now sit at No. 1 on the league’s rankings after two weeks of regular-season play.
02. Debinha scores the club’s first home goal.
Credit for the Courage’s first at-home goal goes to Brazilian international Debinha. The 24-year-old’s offensive presence was hard to miss this weekend in her bicycle kick and crafty footwork throughout her 85 minutes of play. In the 81st minute, Debinha scored the header goal off a cross from Jessica McDonald.
— NC Courage (@TheNCCourage) April 23, 2017
03. This trio works: Debinha, Jessica McDonald and Lynn Williams.
North Carolina’s forward line of Debinha, veteran player McDonald and USWNT forward Lynn Williams made magic for the Courage last weekend in their opening game against the Washington Spirit. Week two provided that this trio was just as good, as the three recorded nine shots total with all playing 85 minutes or more.
Seattle Reign 5, Houston Dash 1
01. One goal, two goal, three goal…
By the end of Saturday’s game, five different players had scored for Seattle Reign FC for their 5-1 victory over Houston. Seattle’s Jessica Fishlock, Megan Rapinoe, Kristen McNabb, Beverly Yanez and Katie Johnson each contributed a goal.
🎶 It's reigning goals, hallelujah 🎶
— Seattle Reign FC (@ReignFC) April 23, 2017
02. Welcome to the pros, Katie Johnson.
Former University of Southern California national champion Katie Johnson scored her first goal in the NWSL on Saturday. The Seattle rookie subbed in for Yanez in the 68th minute to make her debut and ended up kicking in her team’s fifth goal in the 74th minute.
03. Megan Rapinoe is off to an impressive start.
Rapinoe has scored in both of Seattle’s games so far this year, and this weekend, the USWNT midfielder was named Player of the Match for her performance that included one goal and two shots on net. “Obviously it’s been a while [since playing the full 90 minutes],” said Rapinoe in a Reign FC press release. “I think I have the lungs for it and the legs for it—it’s just kind of getting everything back together. So far it’s good.”
— Seattle Reign FC (@ReignFC) April 23, 2017
Boston Breakers 1, Sky Blue FC 0
01. Natasha Dowie is a really good lone striker.
Boston Breakers forward Natasha Dowie was the only striker in the frontline for her Boston side but was complemented by a strong midfield—specifically by Rosie White, Rose Lavelle, Adriana Leon and Angela Salem. The Breakers kept looking for a running-on Dowie throughout the game, and in the 37th minute, this year’s No. 1 overall draft pick, Lavelle, fed the ball to Dowie for the 1-0 go-ahead.
02. Julie King was pretty excited by that win.
Long-time Boston defender Julie King, who recorded 17 starts for 18 games last year for a total of 1,523 minutes of play, was ready to see her team finally snatch a win after finishing last season in last place. On Sunday, Boston came through for its veteran defender, making the win ever sweeter by beating the strong Sky Blue FC team.
This first win (and @ home too) felt really good. So proud of the squad & pumped about the season ahead with this group #winningisfun 😜
— Julie King (@Julie_King8) April 24, 2017
03. The Breakers’ defense looked much better.
Despite its win, Boston was definitely tested by Sky Blue FC, which has a lot of talent upfront with Sam Kerr, Kelley O’Hara, Raquel Rodriguez and more. But a cohesive Breakers unit made up of King, Megan Oyster, Christen Westphal and Allysha Chapman worked well together and kept Sky Blue FC off the board. Kerr and O’Hara each saw three shots on goals.