By: NWSL Editor
Here’s What You Missed this Weekend 3/22- 3/24

On the eve of the season opener of the 2024 season, 2023 NWSL Shield Winners the San Diego Wave added to their trophy case by lifting their first UKG NWSL Challenge Cup trophy. The next day, CPKC Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri welcomed fans for the first time and made history as the first bespoke professional women’s soccer stadium in the world. Any viewers expecting that to be the most exciting part of the first weekend of the season, however, were in for a surprise when the match had nine goals from seven different goal scorers. Here’s what else you missed during week 1 of the 2024 season.

It’s only the second week of the season–NWSL teams are still shaking off the rust and it’s too early to tell who might be a title contender. But at the end of the weekend, two clubs sit in first and second in the standings who ended 2023 at the bottom–Kansas City Current and Chicago Red Stars. If we know anything about this league, teams that finished the prior season at the bottom can still become champions if they want it badly enough.This weekend saw more action and chaos, but just in case you missed the fun, we have the recap for you! Friday, March 22 Orlando Pride vs. Angel City FC - 1-1 Angel City FC were on the road this weekend, having lost their home opener to Bay FC the prior weekend. They may be returning home after their match against the Pride feeling like it’s the second loss of the season.  After a quiet first half that saw players from both teams taking their chances on goal, the second half began with a penalty. Claire Emslie converted it effortlessly, her first goal of the season and her first goal since May 27, 2023.

The rest of the game did not disappoint spectators hoping for a competitive match. Both sides saw shots on target, but the tides had slowly changed in favor of Orlando. With most of the action happening in their final third, it seemed inevitable that the Pride would convert one of their shots and it finally happened. 

In the 88th minute of the match, the visiting defenders failed to mark Marta during a corner kick, and her volley found the back of the net. The final whistle blew after 7 minutes of stoppage time, with Orlando yet again feeling like the winners of a draw and Angel City FC wondering what they need to do to score more goals. Watch the full highlights. Utah Royals vs. North Carolina Courage - 2-1 NWSL fans were spoiled this Friday: TWO games in one evening. And we have to take a second to mention North Carolina’s drip!

Where can we get this tracksuit?! Anyway, back to business. Utah was home again and this time, they were looking to give their home fans a different result than last weekend. But the history between these two clubs has always favored North Carolina, who in their six matches against Utah, have only lost once.  But it was Utah that scored first, off of a corner kick from Paige Monaghan that flew like a missile directly to Kate Del Fava’s head. Casey Murphy tried to make the save but the momentum carried it past her gloves.

Ten minutes later, North Carolina would draw it up thanks to the efforts of Haley Hopkins’ low ball into the box, which pinballed around until Ashley Sanchez’s boot found it midair, sending it in for a goal.

The dust had barely settled from that banger, before Utah retook the lead. Exhibiting the dribbling and scoring skills previous Utah Royals forward Christen Press is famous for, Ally Sentnor carried the ball from Utah’s half of the field all the way to the top of the box before firing it in. It was her first professional goal, and what a goal it was!

The Courage carried possession for most of the rest of the half and in the second half, was awarded two back to back penalties, but were unable to convert either. The game ended with Utah grabbing their first win of the new season. And here’s another angle of that Sentnor goal. It was so good, we had to share it twice!

Watch the full highlights. **Saturday, March 23

Chicago Red Stars vs. Seattle Reign FC - 2-1** This weekend, the Reign were on the road in Chicago, home of deep dish pizza and Portillo’s hot dogs. And the Chicago Red Stars. Mal Swanson led the charge for Chicago, making an ambitious solo run towards goal that almost put the Red Stars up early.

In the 41st minute of the match, Julia Bianchi scored her very first NWSL goal off of a poor clearance in the box.

Reign FC’s Ji So-Yun leveled it up in the second half, after settling a ball and booting it into the top bins. She made history as the first Korean player to score in the NWSL.

But Chicago wasn’t going to stand for that and less than ten minutes later, German international Maxi Rall scored the final goal of the match, delivering Chicago their second victory of the season.

As it stands, Chicago is now at the top of the standings, with Kansas City close behind. Watch the full highlights. Washington Spirit vs. Bay FC - 2-1 Absolutely no one defends their home better than Washington Spirit defends their home against California-based clubs, and in their first match ever against expansion team Bay FC, that trend continued.  The Spirit hosted Bay FC for their 2024 season home opener and it seemed like it was going to be another Bay FC show after Dorian Bailey scored off an Asisat Oshaola pass into the box.

The Bay Area-based team were able to hold Angel City FC to a clean sheet last weekend but unfortunately for them, the Spirit rookies came to play. 2024 draftee Hal Hershfelt, with her first goal of her pro career, shot an arcing ball over Bay FC goalkeeper Lysianne Proulx’s head, tying up the game.

The rest of the match was a defensive battle between two teams who will surely be a lot of fun to watch this season. Deyna Castellanos and Dorian Bailey led the Bay’s offensive efforts with Deyna also providing necessary defense in key moments. However, in the final seconds of the match, another Spirit rookie made her mark on the league and scored her first professional goal. 

Croix Bethune collected the ball in the box and slotted it past Proulx, putting the Spirit up in front of their loyal home crowd, handing the Spirit their first victory of the season. And the other winner of the match? JABBAWOCKEEZ superfan Tara McKeown.

Watch the full highlights. Houston Dash vs. Racing Louisville FC - 0-0 Sometimes, we as soccer enjoyers can be so focused on goals that we forget to remember who is holding it down on the backline. And Houston’s goalkeeper, Jane Campbell, has been holding it down. With her start for the Dash’s 2024 season home opener, Campbell made history as the first goalkeeper in NWSL history to make 150 appearances for her club.

And speaking of holding it down on the backline, although this match ended in a draw, it was a clinical display of defending and physics-defying goal clearances. Between Campbell and Racing Louisville FC’s goalkeeper Katie Lund, there were 13 saves. 

Louisivlle’s Taylor Flint and Houston’s Sophie Schmidt each made 5 and 6 clearances respectively. However, in the final minutes of the match, Houston’s Austrian sensation Sarah Puntigam made the defensive play of the game, sprinting to the goal line fortuitously in time to backheel a save to keep Houston level.

Extra time ended with both teams tied, Louisville’s second of the season and the Dash’s first. Watch the full highlights. San Diego Wave FC vs. Kansas City Current - 1-2 Already a rough weekend for the other two California-based clubs, San Diego carried that trend on Saturday night as they lost to Kansas City in their season home opener. Having played in the NWSL Challenge Cup the previous weekend, the Wave have a game (and shiny new trophy) in hand but Kansas City were coming off of the highs of a huge victory at home. They brought that energy to Southern California in an efficient manner, with only 34% of possession and 4 shots on target, but two goals and ultimately, the dub. In the 17th minute of the match, Savannah McCaskill sent in a corner kick into the box that would eventually find the boot of Sofia Jakobsson.

Kansas City tied it up before heading into the locker room, thanks to a quick turn and shot from Izzy Rodriguez that pinged off a few Wave players.

Deep into the second half, Lo’eau Labonta said “thanks for the hospitality, San Diego” after coolly converting her penalty, sending Wave goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan the opposite way and Kansas City home as the victors.

Their second dub of the season in as many games puts Kansas City in second place in the standings, only behind Chicago due to a goal differential. Watch the full highlights. **Sunday, March 24

Portland Thorns FC vs. NJ/NY Gotham FC - 0-1** It was a match to forget for Portland fans and a match to cherish for Gotham FC fans, as the reigning 2023 NWSL Champions returned to Oregon for the first time since they left it as victors in the semifinals last season. They would leave it as victors again, after a tough battle in front of a rambunctious sold out crowd.

“The goals must flow,” read the tifo of the home team fans, but unfortunately for Portland, this match was as dry as the deserts of Arrakis. Sophia Smith found the back of the net twice but the timing on her runs for both were slightly off and they were eventually called offside.

Gotham FC was more fortunate, however, and in the 72nd minute of the game, Spanish international (and reigning World Cup champion) Esther made a run into the box to receive Gotham FC midfielder Yazmeen Ryan’s pass for a one touch goal past Portland goalkeeper Shelby Hogan.

The goal also marked the league’s 3,000th goal in history. Smith and her teammates had a few more looks on goal but it wasn’t meant to be. The match ended with Gotham FC coming away the victors again, and Portland on a two-match losing streak that they’ll be looking to end next weekend as they host Racing Louisville FC. Watch the full highlights.

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