Sophia Smith - Portland Thorns vs Bay FC
By: NWSL Editor
Here's What You've Missed this Week 5/1/24

Three electrifying matches delivered a total of sixteen sensational goals. Could Wednesday night get any more thrilling for fans? Here's a glimpse of the excitement you might have missed, but don't worry, there's still more NWSL action headed your way later this week!

Wednesday, May 1

Orlando Pride vs. North Carolina Courage - 4-1 (attendance: 4.702)

In only her second start of the season, Barbra Banda scored a brace and assisted in a third goal to catapult the Orlando Pride past one of the most tactically efficient squads in the league – the North Carolina Courage.

Ally Watt broke the stalemate in the 29th minute, keeping pace with an advancing Banda to receive a through ball and slot it past Courage goalkeeper Casey Murphy. Watt returned the favor ten minutes later, assisting Banda’s first goal of the match. Julie Doyle sent the Pride into the locker room up 3-0 after capitalizing on a rebounding ball (which Banda was involved in, of course), leaving all the pressure on the Courage to find an answer.

The Courage’s answer came in the form of an own goal in the 52nd minute of the match, and unfortunately for the visitor’s side, was not enough. Banda sealed their fate in the 77th minute, scoring her first NWSL brace and closing out the night with three more points for the Pride. Orlando and North Carolina are both on the road this weekend, with one team looking to make a quick turnaround and the other looking to keep the momentum going.

Watch the full highlights here.

Chicago Red Stars vs. Washington Spirit - 2-4 (attendance: 2,999)

Trinity Rodman fans (of which there are many) can rejoice, Rodman – who has had an uncharacteristically quiet start to the season – scored her first goal of the season in her team’s road match against the hosting Chicago Red Stars. Usually a playmaker, her goal set the tone for her teammates, who clambered in and joined in the 2-4 Spirit goal fest.

Not long after Rodman opened the scoresheet off of a Croix Bethune assist, Spirit forward Ouleymata Sarr picked up a ball from Rodman and shot it past Alyssa Naeher. The rest of the first half remained a defensive clinic as both teams traded counter attacks and defensive maneuvers. In the final ten minutes of the match, the Red Stars woke up, with forward Ally Schlegel finding the back of the net for her team. Bethune once – and twice – again assisted goals when her and teammate Brittney Ratcliffe combined for two back-to-back goals. The match concluded with the Spirit emerging victorious, setting the stage for thrilling weekend clashes as the Spirit and Red Stars journey westward to take on the Portland Thorns and Bay FC respectively.

Watch the full highlights here.

Bay FC vs. Portland Thorns FC - 2-3 (attendance: 10,611)

The Portland Thorns visited San Jose on Wednesday night to face expansion team Bay FC but for their star forward Sophia Smith, it was almost a homecoming. The Stanford grad, who found glory in PayPal Park in 2019 when her team lifted the College Cup, did so once again Wednesday night after scoring a brace and securing three points for her team.

With another game in a few days, Bay FC head coach Albertin Montoya chose to rest most of his main starters so it came as no surprise when they were down 0-2 in the first 15 minutes. In the 2nd minute, rookie Payton Linnehan scored her first professional goal and five minutes later, Sophia Smith scored her first goal of the night. Not one to give up, however, Bay FC forward Racheal Kundananji pulled one back in the 41st minute after receiving a perfectly placed through ball from midfielder Joelle Anderson, sending her team to the locker room only down a goal.

Both teams made tactical changes at the half and in the 60th minute, Kundananji made a solo run down the Thorns’ left flank, sending a last ditch pass over to a sliding Deyna Castellanos, who snuck it past Thorns goalkeeper Shelby Hogan. The level game didn’t last, however, and in the 77th minute, Sophia Smith sent an arcing ball into the far corner of the net. Bay FC were unable to come back from it and the match ended without any points for the home team but potentially, a lot of positives. Debuts and first starts for rookies, a better understanding of one another, rest for key players – they’re home on Sunday facing the Chicago Red Stars while the Thorns have a quick return flight home before they host Washington Spirit on Saturday evening.

Watch the full highlights here.

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