Surprises, impressive rookies, and more: One thought on every NWSL team

Quick
Hits
  • There was no NWSL action over the weekend, so we’re using this short break to take stock of each team before the back half of the year
  • Here’s one thought on all 12 teams in the league, from the bottom of the table to the top
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This is an excerpt from Monday’s Weekend Recap. Subscribe to our free newsletter to get future editions of the Weekend Recap delivered right to your inbox.

There was no NWSL action over the weekend, so we’re using this short break to take stock of each team before the back half of the year. Without any further ado, here’s one thought on every team at the midpoint of this season.

Teams are listed in reverse order of the current standings.

12. North Carolina Courage

The best part of the Courage this season has to be that they won the 2022 Challenge Cup before doing a swan dive to the bottom of the regular season standings. Just kidding…kind of. But really, the Courage have been in last place since Week 3. 

In any case, North Carolina has played the fewest games of any team and could be within reach of a playoff spot if they secure some wins with their games in hand. That’s a positive.

11. Washington Spirit

Not much has been going right for this Spirit team that hasn’t won since their first game of the regular season. Seven Spirit players represented the United States during the Concacaf W Championship that just wrapped up last week, though, and that’s pretty neat. 30% of the U.S. women’s national team roster that recently qualified for the 2023 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics came from the Spirit. 

The ‘W’ in USWNT stands for Washington now.

10. Racing Louisville FC

Racing’s rookies have been fun to watch so far, but one has really put herself in the running for Rookie of the Year. Savannah DeMelo is leading all defensive midfielders in the league with at least 300 minutes played in goals added per 96’ (0.13). She’s also leading the league’s defensive midfielders in shots (23), shots on target (8), goals (3), and expected goals (2.17). The numbers say DeMelo is good at soccer and so do I.

Stats courtesy of American Soccer Analysis.

9. NJ/NY Gotham FC

Gotham’s performances have been largely disappointing so far in 2022, especially after making the playoffs in 2021. One interesting tidbit about Gotham’s season is that they’ve been shut-out in all six of their losses. They’ve only scored seven goals all year, which is the fewest in the league. The attack has to get going for Gotham.

8. Orlando Pride

The Pride have the league’s worst goal differential right now (-14) but are still within reach of a playoff spot. Orlando made the playoffs for the first and only time back in 2017, so it would be great to see this team in the postseason. I’m not saying it’s likely, but hey, never say never.

7. Angel City FC

Angel City are level on points with the OL Reign, one of the league’s powerhouses, right now with a game in hand. That’s great for a team in their very first season. The most intriguing thing about Angel City so far this season, though, is that head coach Freya Coombe has shuffled Tyler Lussi around the pitch.

A natural forward, Lussi’s been called on to play fullback a few times this season. The very first time she ever played in the backline at the professional level was back in May when she was tasked with defending against reigning NWSL Rookie of the Year Trinity Rodman. Lussi did well in that game and helped the Angels secure a 1-0 win over Washington. Since then, she’s found herself in the Angel City backline more than once.

6. OL Reign

The Reign may have been the unofficial favorites to win the NWSL Shield (and maybe even the championship) coming into this season, so sitting on the brink of playoff position at the season’s halfway point is probably not where they wanted to be. Regardless, the Regin’s roster is absolutely stacked on paper. Does it get much better than Alana Cook, Rose Lavelle, Jess Fishlock, Kim Little, Tobin Heath? 

I realize I’m just listing their entire roster, but come on. The results haven’t quite come for Laura Harvey’s team, but if they can figure out a way to mesh after the international stars get back, I’m confident they’ll climb up the table.

5. Kansas City Current

The Current haven’t lost a game since May and they’re on a seven-game unbeaten streak. What’s more is they’ve done all of this without stars Sam Mewis and Lynn Williams.

While Williams suffered a season-ending injury during the Challenge Cup, it’s possible that Mewis will make her return before the end of the season. She’ll only make this Kansas City team better.

4. Houston Dash

I’ll admit it. The Dash have surprised me in 2022. Traditionally a bottom-half-of-the-table team, Houston seem to have figured things out this season. Hopefully this doesn’t jinx them.

We’ve seen the first two hat tricks in Dash history in 2922 with Nichelle Prince’s and Ebony Salmon’s incredible performances against the Orlando Pride and the Chicago Red Stars, respectively. Those six goals have padded Houston’s goal tally: they’ve scored the second-most goals in the league, just behind Portland (29) and tied with Chicago (20).

3. Chicago Red Stars

Mallory Pugh has been on international duty with the USWNT for the last couple of games, but she’s still the highlight of this Chicago team.

Pugh’s in the running for the NWSL Golden Boot with six goals, only behind San Diego’s Alex Morgan (11) and Portland’s Sophia Smith (8). She’s scored her six in fewer games and minutes than either of those players, too. It’ll be great to see Pugh return to Chicago’s lineup and continue the impressive year she’s been having for club and country. 

2. Portland Thorns FC

Currently in second place with one game in hand, the Thorns are leading the league in goals (29) and are just four goals off of their entire 2021 regular season mark. The Thorns have also only allowed 10 goals, which is just one more than league-leading OL Reign, and their +19 goal differential is best in the league by a long shot.

If nothing else, Portland have really showcased their depth through the first half of this season, especially after they were missing several players to international duty in the month of July. They’re making a strong case for a top-two finish in the regular season, so back-to-back NWSL Shields might be on the horizon in Portland.

1. San Diego Wave FC

San Diego have been sitting on top of the NWSL standings since Week 2. Alex Morgan is leading the league in goals and is in the best form of her career. Taylor Kornieck is having a break-out season that landed her a spot on the latest USWNT roster.

Will these two help the Wave become the first true expansion team to make the playoffs in their inaugural season? At this point, all signs are pointing in that direction.