NWSL Week in Review: League Should Not Get Complacent

Ray Curren April 17, 2017 110
Tori Huster (on ground in red) and Jess McDonald battle on opening day 2017. Arielle Shipp looks on. (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

Tori Huster (on ground in red) and Jess McDonald battle on opening day 2017. Arielle Shipp looks on. (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

On this Easter holiday, the women’s soccer community is certainly thankful to have a professional league, one that appears to be stable and in little danger of collapsing rapidly as its two predecessors did, painful memories we’d rather not relive here.

The NWSL not only has the benefit of USSF backing, but now a new collective bargaining agreement that – while not directly involved with the league as a whole – offers more stability and a prophecy (complete with rising salaries for non-USWNT players) that the NWSL need not worry about its very existence for the near future at least. A three-year television contract with the Lifetime Network for a game on national television every week adds to that, what did we call it? Stability? How nice is it to see that word in print as it relates to a women’s pro soccer league, so much so that I’ll throw it in one more time for you: Stability.

However, just because things are improved doesn’t mean we have to let the word complacency set in as NWSL embarks on its fifth season. Like the athletes who have sacrificed so much to play in the league, it must continue to improve, push boundaries, and keep going forward. Most importantly, settling for mediocrity or sloppiness in the name of “being happy to be here” is not how the NWSL came to exist in the first place, is it?

Ten weeks after the deal with Lifetime (which, despite a few expected bobbles, did a solid job in its debut between Orlando and Portland) and 48 hours before the 2017 season was to begin, fans had no idea how to watch the non-Lifetime matches, which happen to comprise 80 percent of its product. We had promises that they would be available and free, but other than that? Nothing, except that they probably weren’t returning to YouTube or going to a platform like WatchESPN or FoxSportsGo.

All of that is perfectly understandable. YouTube was great for a fledgling league, but the quality of the broadcasts varied wildly from professional to Wayne’s World-esque (Google it, kids), not to mention trying to grab revenue. Taking a chance on a vested partner like Lifetime is a bold, but rational decision, rather than fighting for scraps on ESPN or FOX. The downside is, though, that you won’t have the benefit of being on their streaming packages, either, which are widely accessible to virtually all and professionally done. But at what cost?

How does a professional league have zero public plan for how its games are to be broadcast in 2017 as the season is ready to begin? There might yet be a good answer for such a query, but we haven’t heard it. As we know by now (hopefully), the answer was Go90, a Verizon-based service that was reported as “pretty much dead” just two months ago.

Who? What?

Apparently, it had been somewhat popular with young girls, targeting 12-24 year-olds with some low-budget original programming (led by something called AwesomenessTV), and it had broadcast live soccer before, picking up La Liga rights among others for its service.

But the bigger problem was not how they were, but where they were showing the games. Not only are the matches no longer on YouTube, but not on the web, at least not without hooking up a Google Chromecast or Apple TV (which cost money). So most of us were left with downloading Go90 (NWSL finally threw its app out there Friday night, but only for IOS, not for Android) on our phones.

While the quality of picture was slightly better and the broadcasts professional, not having announcers at the game led to misidentifying players throughout, not knowing when substitutions were made (or why, we still don’t know why Arin Gilliland was withdrawn at halftime for Chicago), and missing basic details like Christie Rampone now being Christie Pearce. The Boston-Kansas City match was repeatedly interrupted in the first half by a blank screen, which was reminiscent of issues with YouTube in the past.

Perhaps more importantly, there is currently no way to toggle through the broadcasts as you could on YouTube, even on replay. There is a button that indicates as much, but it doesn’t work yet, unfortunately. This was one of the best features of MLS Live in its early days and what made YouTube somewhat tolerable and now it appears to be gone.

Some of these bugs may be worked out as the season progresses, and it’s understandable to have problems with a brand new undertaking, so I urge patience from NWSL fans like me who were frustrated this weekend. However, it’s also important for the league (who looks like it may be without a commissioner for a little while) to know that the main reason for dismay here is not with the new program, but how it was communicated. Had the league had a press conference a few weeks ago introducing Go90 and explaining thoroughly what it was and why the league felt it was necessary to go this route at this juncture, then it would be easier to swallow.

The way it was introduced last week – haphazardly and without any clarification to accompany it – was poor and just because we’re overjoyed to have a relatively stable pro women’s soccer league in the United States doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to be better.

And with that out of the way, what did we learn from a pretty interesting opening NWSL weekend?

SATURDAY

Houston 2:0 Chicago (recap)

What Went Down: Chicago does plenty through Arin Gilliland and Casey Short getting forward from their defensive positions, but anytime you play like that, it does leave space behind them. And the Dash certainly have the players in Kealia Ohai and Rachel Daly to exploit that and they did to great effect. That being said, if Stephanie McCaffrey (off a terrible giveaway) hits her 13th minute shot three inches to the left, the Red Stars lead and Ohai isn’t blowing past Julie Ertz at the other end 20 seconds late to put Houston ahead to stay. Small margins.

Rory Dames admitted post game that his team wilted in the Houston heat (those mid-summer afternoon games in Houston or Orlando are going to be outrageous), but he had some curious lineup choices, leaving Sofia Huerta out entirely, and then subbing Gilliland off at half (to be fair, Daly and Ohai were getting behind her at will on the counter). Christen Press played behind Jen Hoy and McCaffrey, and the scoreboard tells you about how well that worked.

Player of the Game: Rachel Daly – I don’t know too much about the England team headed to the Euros this summer, but they must be pretty darn good if Daly isn’t on it. In addition to her probable Goal of the Week, she worked tirelessly and ran Chicago’s defense all over the field. Daly and Ohai seem to have a good partnership going (Ohai has apparently taught her baseball goal celebrations, although Daly needs a little work on her pitching and swing).

Under the Radar: Amber Brooks – Brooks could be a key for the Dash this season in a holding midfield role, as she did an admirable job with Andressa and Denise O’Sullivan in keeping Chicago’s powerful midfield in check, and had the assist on the game-winning goal.

Inside the Numbers: 9 – Total number of fouls in the match, with 5 for Houston and 4 for Chicago. So it was a clean game to open the 2017 NWSL season.

Up next: Houston – at Seattle (Sat.); Chicago – vs. Kansas City (Sat.)

Portland 2:0 Orlando (recap)

What Went Down: It was actually a very good start from the Pride until they got somewhat unlucky when Christine Sinclair’s little chip struck Alanna Kennedy’s hand 30 minutes into the match. Before that, a midfield of Kristen Edmonds, Dani Weatherholt, and Monica had held its own with the Thorns in Portland. Unfortunately, minutes after coming on as a sub, Maddie Evans was dispossessed in a terrible area by Allie Long, and then Long set Sinclair up with the second goal to finish things off.

Orlando should have Marta next week, and it will be interesting to see who she replaces. Camila probably won’t be her, she was the Pride’s most dangerous player. Tom Sermanni played Ali Krieger at center back, and – like Julie Ertz – she was beaten for pace a couple of times. There are still some concerns for the Thorns: Even with a clean sheet Adrianna Franch looked a bit shaky, and getting outshot 19-11 is not ideal, although shots can be misleading. Remember they played without Tobin Heath, of course.

Player of the Game: Christine Sinclair – In a week full of injuries, it looks like Sinclair (knock on a wood surface near you), who turns 34 in a couple months, is as healthy as she’s been in a long time, even running past Krieger for Portland’s second goal. If and when the Thorns get to full strength, having Sinclair there to both finish and set up goals will be invaluable to their title hopes.

Under the Radar: Dani Weatherholt – The Pride didn’t get enough from its midfield last season, and are still a bit hamstrung by everything they had to give up to get Alex Morgan. Weatherholt lasted until Round 4 of last season’s NWSL Draft, but put in what you would call a solid shift Saturday, not giving the Thorns time and space to start any assaults and getting involved in the attack as well. They will need performances like that all season long.

Inside the Numbers: 16,145 – Attendance Saturday for a noon kickoff in Portland. Nothing else needs to be said.

Up next: Portland – at North Carolina (Sat.); Orlando – vs. Washington (Sat.)

Washington 0:1 North Carolina (recap  |  Gordon)

What Went Down: Somehow, Paul Riley has put together a somewhat unique system based generally on pure athleticism and tenacity. And you can roll your eyes at that all you want (I did once), but it’s really amazing to pull that off at this level of play. They generally set up in a 4-4-2, but find a way to cover ground that no one else can. Washington has plenty of problems, but they were smothered throughout, unable to string a couple of passes together and under constant pressure, which is just tough to deal with mentally.

One game does not a season make, North Carolina (as Western New York) showed it’s hard to match that intensity every game, and they only scored one goal, although they missed several other chances. The Spirit look like they are going to lose Joanna Lohman for a long period of time, and drew only 2,400 for their opener, both of which are really bad signs going forward.

Player of the Game: Steph Labbe – Labbe apparently wanted out of Washington like several other players, but after Kelsey Wys tore her ACL in Australia, decided to stick it out. She officially made 8 saves, but at least half were of the spectacular variety as she kept the Spirit in the contest. While great for Labbe, for the Spirit to have its goalkeeper as a possible NWSL Player of the Week after a home loss is a sub-optimal way to begin the campaign.

Under the Radar: Debinha – Her signing didn’t get much hype, but it looks like she’ll fit right into the Courage system as a hard-worker with some quality to help Jess McDonald and Lynn Williams. Her finishing was a bit lacking on Saturday, but everything else was great.

Inside the Numbers: 8 – Number of shots from Lynn Williams in the opener, as she picked up where she left off last season. Alas, none of them went in, as McCall Zerboni scored the contest’s only goal.

Up next: Washington – at Orlando (Sat.); North Carolina – vs. Portland (Sat.)

Seattle 1:1 Sky Blue (recap)

What Went Down: Life without Kim Little and Keelin Winters got off to a shaky start in the Reign’s opener, but they did get a point as Megan Rapinoe and Sarah Killion converted penalty kicks a couple minutes apart in the second half. Especially in the first half, Sky Blue (called “New Jersey” on the broadcast) dominated proceedings, led by Sam Kerr and Leah Galton running at the Seattle defense. Alas, they couldn’t find a goal.

The Reign played much better in the final 20 minutes with Megan Rapinoe and Jess Fishlock doing their thing, but they didn’t get a lot of help, and that’s where Seattle may be in some trouble this season. We’re so used to the Reign just knocking the ball around, especially at home, but it’s probably not going to happen anymore and how they adjust will be interesting to watch.

Player of the Game: Sarah Killion – It’s easy to forget that Killion was the second overall pick in the 2015 draft (after Morgan Brian), and she looks like she may be ready to live up to that billing. She improved last season, and was the best player on either team in the midfield on Saturday, controlling play and stopping what attacks Seattle could muster. With Kerr, Galton, and Kelley O’Hara in attacking roles, getting the ball to them often should pay dividends.

Under the Radar: Megan Rapinoe – Rapinoe made more news off the field than on it last season, as you may remember she tore her ACL at the end of 2015 and did not play in NWSL before the Olympics. With Seattle missing the playoffs, Rapinoe’s 2016 season was over before it really started. But she looked healthy Saturday, and Seattle really needs her to be if they have any shot at getting back to the NWSL postseason.

Inside the Numbers: 4 – Number of shots on goal Megan Rapinoe recorded Saturday, which leads NWSL through one round.

Up next: Seattle – vs. Houston (Sat.); Sky Blue – at Boston (Sun.)

SUNDAY

Kansas City 2:0 Boston (recap  |  Scoby)

What Went Down: Everything was just about perfect for FCKC until early in the second half, when – just after scoring her first NWSL goal in two years – Amy Rodriguez went down with a non-contact left knee injury. There won’t be an official diagnosis until Monday and everyone hopes for the best, but her and the team’s reaction indicate that this probably will be something serious. Which is a huge shame, because Sydney Leroux had already scored and FCKC looked like the two-time defending champs they were before they were decimated a year ago. We’ll see what it means long-term, but it sucked all the life out of this game.

Boston was not good, by any means, and getting blanked may give fans flashbacks to last season, but there were some signs of hope as Rose Lavelle showed flashes of brilliance and Tiffany Weimer came off the bench to create a few chances that Nicole Barnhart (who wasn’t NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year last season) was equal to. Matt Beard did not start Morgan Andrews or Ifeoma Onumonu (and put Midge Purce at right back), so a decision will probably have to be made at some point to just play the rookies. But that’s why he’s coaching and I’m not.

Player of the Game: Amy Rodriguez – Before the injury, A-Rod looked like A-Rod, coming back into the midfield to start attacks, including the one she ended up scoring on, playing a beautiful ball to Shea Groom before getting on the end of her cross. She had matured plenty as a player since entering the league and a Groom-Rodriguez-Leroux front line with Vlatko Andonovski coaching might have been unstoppable. Now we just have to wait.

Under the Radar: Becky Sauerbrunn – Yeah, you can probably do this every game, but if you ever get the chance, just watch her for 90 minutes. When Boston threatened, Sauerbrunn – as she always does – seemed to be in the right place.

Inside the Numbers: 7 – Number of minutes it took for Sydney Leroux to score in her season debut, her first NWSL game since 2015 (like Rodriguez) as well.

Up next: Kansas City – at Chicago (Sat.); Boston – vs. Sky Blue (Sun.)

  • john

    Don’t know if it was complacency, but Spirit having to delay letting fans in because the scanners weren’t at the gate on time wasn’t a good thing. Not a club that can afford to irritate its fans at this point. Opening the gates is something the team has been doing for 4 seasons already so why no one took care of it is troubling. I didn’t overhear any comments about the “missing” players, but there was talk of the higher prices. Of course, DC cut the General Admission prices in half this week trying to get a decent crowd. Would be interesting to know how many fans were there on the sale tickets.

    • Steglitz49

      On May 13th book your destiny with Wembley. Morning kick-off for the US.

  • Steglitz49

    City vs City.
    Carli’s Man City will face Birmingham City’s Ladies in the FA women’s Cup final on May 13th.

    • Ethan

      A number of 1-0 wins lately from Manchester City. Impressive that Birmingham City got past Arsenal and Chelsea to get to the final.

      • kernel_thai

        Which doesn’t bode well for Man City. They have had trouble scoring and Birm City has been difficult to score on. Could be PKs again.

      • Steglitz49

        The blessed pso gets it done.

  • Ethan

    Goal of the week is between Daly and Leroux. I’d personally vote for Daly’s. However, Leroux’s finish was lovely, and her popularity and her goal being a comeback goal might give her the win.

    I’m happy about the Weatherholt mention. Outside of goalscoring, I thought she was better than Edmonds last season, and I don’t know why Sermanni chose to sub her out on Saturday. Maybe she was feeling a little fatigued, but she is the beep test champion at Orlando. I thought Ubogagu had some decent moments, and I’m interested in watching more of Camila this season. A little biased, but Catley was probably Orlando’s best outfield performer on Saturday.

    OT: I know the opposition was very weak, but Morgan’s fourth goal was a very nice finish (source:@Zac13_ on Twitter). Chip/lob finishes seem to be the type of shots that Morgan most consistently puts in the back of the net.

    • kernel_thai

      The question is who did Henin-Beaumont beat to reach the semi finals?

      • Reality

        This game was part of the Coupe de France Féminine. Henin-Beaumont is not part of the FEMININE DIVISION 1…rather sort of a minor league team..

        http://us.women.soccerway.com/teams/france/football-club-feminin-henin-beaumont/5283/

        • Steglitz49

          That’s the glory of Cup competitions. Giantkillers get their 15 minutes of fame. Sometimes they get to the final and sometimes they even prevail in those finals.

        • kernel_thai

          Well my question was more geared to how did a team like that get all the way to the semi without coming up against at least another D1 team. Looking at the bracket, sheer luck.

          • Reality

            The Coupe de France Féminine is a unique French invention insofar as…

            “The competition is open to all professional and non-professional women’s teams in France.”

            In other words, there are tomato cans and then there are TOMATO CANS.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coupe_de_France_F%C3%A9minine

      • Ethan

        According to Reality’s link, Soyaux.

        • Reality

          Hénin-Beaumont defeated Soyaux 1-0 in the Coupe de France game and Olympique Lyonnais defeated Soyaux 9-0 earlier in a Feminine Division 1 game…sounds about right.

          • #1Fan

            someone is used to facing Tomato cans. Some education over there 😉

          • Reality

            Olympique Lyonnais has a tremendously talented roster, but has little opportunity within the Feminine Division 1 for meaningful competition. One wonders how they keep their edge and rise to the occasion when facing quality opponents such as in the CL.

            Morgan will at least have the opportunity to observe and participate with these OL players although I’m not sure how much will be learned or transferred over when she returns to muscle and wheels soccer here back in the States.

          • #1Fan

            Muscles and wheels works, but you need the BEST muscles and the FASTEST wheels. She is no longer either.

            The compromise that is the US WNT faces some interesting times.

          • Reality

            It is difficult to play like France when your system does not train like France.

          • Steglitz49

            The reality, Reality, is that European clubs are taking over in the sense that top north-American talent play in Europe while the wannabes hang out in Australia during the winter break.

          • #1Fan

            Did Henry train like the US ? Not sure what system you mean.

          • Reality

            Henry is certainly a good argument for the virtues of the French system even when operating within the NWSL system.

          • #1Fan

            She is an argument for what I call a world class player. Her and Lloyd are not in the same zip code.

          • Reality

            You’ll get no argument from me on that comparison.

          • #1Fan

            Ha. There is none. Proper all around player vs a one dimensional one.

          • DNG

            The one dimensional one scores more goals though:)

          • Calci0

            You joke, but the fact is, she has scored some pretty big goals in pretty big games. I’m not leading her fan club or anything, but to make light of her impact for the USWNT and some of the success they have found seems a little off.

          • DNG

            No one is disputing history. But scoring goals in big game is not how I make my decisions on who is a world class player. Lloyd is not and has never been close in my opinion.

          • guest

            I know, Christen Press is, like, totally the best player in the country!!!!

          • DNG

            Who said anything about Press? Not I.

          • guest

            I always figure these passive aggressive comment strings about Lloyd and Morgan and big games are subtle pro-Press trolling. Especially when spearheaded by Reality.

          • #1Fan

            he is not spearheading anything. Just making some interesting points. This has nothing to do with press and I introduced Lloyd and Morgan. Both of whom I consider to be one dimensional player – good at a very specific thing but not particularly rounded OR adaptable. At no point has he countered with Press.

            It is honestly well beyond time to move on from both players as cornerstone players. They should be fighting for minutes like everyone else. When i see the composition of the allocated players, I doubt that happens

          • guest

            Morgan is not a cornerstone player anymore. Lloyd’s minutes have been reduced as of late, but I agree she shouldn’t be starting. There seems to be a fair bit of rotation in the starting XI with the inexplicable exceptions of Long and Short.

          • #1Fan

            Starting is a concept I dont really understand in off cycle years. To me everyone should start and everyone should come off the bench. We make far too big a deal of who starts when looking and assessing payers and their qualities

            We have the deal we do, and given the numbers it as never going to be much different. But when a player like Williams is allocated, at the margin that seems wrong. Anyone fighting for a spot should be unallocated imo

          • guest

            lol… y’all are the ones making a big deal out of Lloyd starting.

          • #1Fan

            Im making an issue of her playing at all. Its time to move on .

          • guest

            hopefully, uswnt allocation spots are reduced by three every year until the end of this new cba at which point the uswnt becomes a pay to play model equal to the usmnt.

          • wait, what?

            Reality is a “he”? I always figured the verbose, passive writing style was that of a woman.

          • #1Fan

            I said he ..I dont know. My bad for assuming

          • #1Fan

            Never gets old.

          • Calci0

            But she has scored goals in lots of other games too… But to each their own. Again this isn’t coming from a huge fan of Lloyds, but to dismiss her accomplishments as if they aren’t world class, baffles me.

          • DNG

            You are citing team accomplishments as individual accolades. They are important but do not define her overall ability as a player. There are lots of forwards who score lots of goals and aren’t called world class in the mens game. Why do you think Lloyd stat stuffing against tomato cans is note worthy. Lots of forwards for the USWNT score lots of goals

          • Calci0

            But many times she has played a pretty big role in those team accomplishments. And the goals she has scores in WWC’s and Oly games are individual accolades.

          • DNG

            Timely goals not matter how timely do not define a player’s career for me. Maybe they are enough for you but they aren’t for me. I took as much away from the first 4 WC performances as I did from the last 3. She’s a streaky player that has come through at opportune times and credit to her for that. She can score a hundred more goals for the NT against tomato cans and she will never be close to the player I believe Little to be(who will never get a real chance to win a world cup).

          • DNG

            We agree

          • Calci0

            Eh, I give respect where respect is due. They play different positions, and different roles. And while I am not always pleased with how Lloyd is deployed in games, and the minutes she accrues in lieu of others, to deny the fact that she shows up in big games is a slight. Her impact in major tourney’s makes har World Class. Her style of play isn’t my favorite, and if I were coach, I’d look to develop other talent instead of giving Lloyd 90 minutes in friendlies. But again to look at her accolades and claim she doesn’t effect games near to the level of henery seems like a slight. But we tend to have differing views on WOSO in general……

          • #1Fan

            Shows up in big games is a term i hate. Its like we forgive a player 80 minutes of mediocrity for scoring a goal. If you want to tell me that the Lloyd who played in the Olympics or the Lloyd who played in the SBC is World Class, then yes we differ.

            Soccer is a forward looking game. Lloyds goals in the World Cup cannot be ignored, but to me she has not been World Class for a long time if ever.

          • Calci0

            Ok, but like I said in another post, she scores goals in lots of other games too. And has impacted lots of games positively. If you want to say her play currently isn’t world class ok. But to end your comment with “if ever” again is just doesn’t measure?!? Her accomplishments speak for themselves, she has played at an elite level for years. Has she possible slowed down?!? I’d say all those minutes might be catching up to her. But a “good” player does not have the performances Lloyd has had.

          • DNG

            “Her accomplishments speak for themselves, she has played at an elite level for years”

            We have very different perspectives on what an elite level is. She was nowhere close to elite for me in this past cycle.

          • Calci0

            I never broke it down to a “cycle”. Was A. Wambach World Class/Elite her last cycle? If she wasn’t does that negate the times she was…… Unless she too was never considered World Class, since I guess I don’t know what the qualifications are anymore.

          • DNG

            I don’t think you could call Lloyd a top ten player in any cycle. Even at her best she was inconsistent game to game. No Wambach should not have made the WC squad.

          • #1Fan

            The huge flaw in the analysis of most american players as individuals is the MASSIVE team advantage they held on the rest of the world for so long. Stats and records are trotted out to to justify the argument of XYZ is a world class player.

            I dont think Lloyd is a world class player and I never have. If i took Lloyd off the US team and put her on France or Germany or even England, does she make any of them better? Does she even start for any of them? If you have to think about it then she is not world class. To me, you can’t be world class simply because you played for the USA in its golden era.

            The last US player I would call undeniably world class would be Solo.

            Thats my opinion based on watching her play. Obviously you are entitled to yours.

          • #1Fan

            Can I ask you where or how you think Ellis can impact this development? Whatever she says, giving max minutes to a player who display literally none of the technical qualities she says she values is far more powerful than any training session.

          • DNG

            “But again to look at her accolades and claim she doesn’t effect games near to the level of henery seems like a slight.”

            I don’t think she does and I don’t think it is. The crucial goals she scored in the last three WC matches does not negate how awful she was in the first 4 matches. She plays on a very good team, was given lots of second chances and cashed in when it mattered multiple times. That =/= world class player, not to me. Kim Little, Wendie Renard, Henry are world class players to me who drive their teams whenever they step onto the pitch. Lloyd’s not close to them in terms of impact over 90 minutes.

          • Calci0

            In the end impacting your team for 90mins doesn’t mean much if someone doesn’t find a goal. And more often than not, Lloyd has been able to make the all import impact of putting the ball in the back of the net. Again, am I fan of her style of play? Not really. But I won’t deny that more often than not she gets results. My and your opinion aside, out of the players you mention only one has a Ballon d’or. You can dismiss that as much as you like but more often than not they get the award right (Marta has alot to do with that).

          • DNG

            “In the end impacting your team for 90mins doesn’t mean much if someone doesn’t find a goal”

            This is just complete nonsense. There is natural variation in every sport and sometimes the results just don’t go your way. Tell me where all of Lloyd’s results against top teams last year went. I count one goal against France in the group stages of the Olympics and not much else of not. She was frequently the worst player on the pitch in many of those matches too.

            “My and your opinion aside, out of the players you mention only one has a Ballon d’or”

            Ha. I know you’re just stringing me along now. I assume you know the voting process for how the FIFA POTY awarded. Little credibility at all in how they hand that thing out. And they got the award wrong plenty of times, a few with Marta.

          • Calci0

            The standard you seem to have for LLoyd seems different than all the other players you claim to be World Class (and just so it’s understood, I agree with your thoughts on Henry, Renard, and Little). Where have their results been against top teams over the years? So because you deem their play quality, it doesn’t matter the results?

            As wong as the award process may be. She’s won one and been on the shortlist 2 other times. Someone outside of me thinks she’s a little bit better than “good”.

          • DNG

            You seem to be equating goal and wins with results. I don’t. A player can have a great game and score no goals and lose while another can play awful, score a penalty and win. Women’s soccer is not an even playing field at the international level. Little was a crucial piece in helping the Reign win back to back shields which would be a major accomplishment in almost every other league in the world.

          • Reality

            An obvious point which we can agree on. However, putting world class players to the side, my point in reply to your comment..

            “The compromise that is the US WNT faces some interesting times.”

            was that it has been difficult for the USWNT to cultivate a French style of play given that the U.S, system primarily produces and favors muscle and wheels type players. While Henry with her talent and training can do well in almost any system, it is difficult for most players to successfully make the transition between European and American soccer given the different training emphasis.

            I think Horan, Press and Heath all benefited from their stints in Europe. However, they were exposed to this soccer culture at a younger more formative age than the current crop of U.S. players who are there now. I think Dunn probably will benefit the most since she is the youngest and not so set in her ways.

            So while Ellis would like to move the NT more toward a possession game, this particular roster of allocated players, with a few exceptions, are not well-equipped to make that leap.

          • #1Fan

            i think training emphasis reflects what wins in the USA and what we accept as good soccer. I dont think its the other way around. America produces many types of players and the system selects and glorifiers what it considers to be “good”

            I believe Dunn is well set in her ways. Her strengths will not change. Her weaker point should improve.

            The younger players are still coming out of the same environment. The styles have not changed. Look at the young players being elevated. Pugh, Sanchez, Smith. Add on Lynn Williams and Casey Short if you like. Contrary to public opinion, these are not yet well rounded players. They are not really getting feedback that they need to change much.

            I dont really see much evidence that JE wants to move to a possession style.

          • Reality

            While Ellis may be talking one way about developing the team, I did not say she has been successful. Quite the contrary. The perfect example of this is that while she is bringing in young players who have the potential to grow in a non-Wambachian system, Ellis still insists on keeping Lloyd as the focus of the offense. Whatever potential there is among skilled players in their prime or youngsters eager to learn is smothered by the reliance primarily on direct play with little success achieved in a productive possession game that would diversify the offense.

            The heart of the problem is, as you say, that “…the system selects and glorifiers what it considers to be “good”. So while there may be more balanced talent in the pipeline that could be effectively elevated, our system cuts them out in favor of muscles and wheels because that has historically worked. There is a failure of imagination in the USWNT that this might not work all the time. The WC, OG and even the recent SBC have shown ample evidence that our historical experience no longer applies. Unfortunately the current management has no clue as to what to do in order to really transform their promotion and utilization process.

          • #1Fan

            I dont see Lloyd a benefitting much from any particular play style. She is no longer mobile enough to get around much. Direct play would bypass her and playing thru her would expose her technical limitations. I would love to see a reel of the goal Lloyd has scored in the last 3 years from open play.

            She is powerful on the ball and has a ton of experience. She has had an amazing run, but Im not sure she sees the writing on the wall.

            Lloyd as a forward sacrifices mobility. Lloyd as a 10 sacrifices interplay. he is just too easy to mark now.

          • Reality

            “…but Im not sure she sees the writing on the wall.”

            lol…the writing Lloyd sees on the wall is her playing for glory through 2020. 🙂

          • DNG

            I agree with #1Fan on Dunn. She will improve but her style is unlikely to change. She’s good at doing what she does and will probably continue to do what she does until her age catches up with her. Might have been a different story if she had done what Horan had done and gone abroad out of high school but who knows if that was a realistic option.

          • Reality

            I wasn’t implying that Dunn will undergo any miraculous transformation. My point was that in comparison to Morgan and Lloyd who are older and more set in their ways, she is more likely to benefit from her time in Europe. She is rather versatile in the number of positions she can play already and can refine her skills and style.

          • DNG

            The Thorns probably do train more like a possession oriented team than most NWSL teams but I agree with your overall point. By and large players are who they are.

    • Alex

      I was actually very impressed with Camila, never did much at the Dash so I didn’t understand why Orlando went for her, but from that game it looks like she might be a worthwhile signing.

  • Alex

    Caught two games this weekend and enjoyed them both thoroughly, very glad that NWSL is back and I like the new improved quality (although as I watch from outside the US I don’t have to deal with the app). Just hoping they still put the games up somewhere to be watched after, since I’m bound to miss some I want to watch otherwise.

    On Portland vs Orlando – Orlando only looked likely to score through a Portland mistake, they need Marta and Morgan in ASAP and even then they might struggle to create chances. Thought Monica really struggled in centre mid, hopefully if she doesn’t improve there they’ll move her back to defence. Players like Sinc, Long and Henry just looked a class above anything Orlando had to offer. Great to see the attendance, and the atmosphere looked great, Portland are looking a class above on and off the pitch.

    On FCKC vs Boston – Not sure how Rose Lavelle gets a special mention but Christina Gibbons doesn’t, she had the beating of her the whole time they were up against each other! KC had a lot of players put in great performances, I understand Arod and Leroux getting the attention but Barnhart, Gibbons, Bowen, Groom and Taylor all had very good performances too. Boston looked truly awful at the start of the game, luckily they grew into it a little or it could have turned very bad for them. I do think they’ve improved the quality of players they have in attacking positions though, so hopefully when they gel they’ll pick up some goals. Not sure what if anything they can do for there defence which got cut open far too easily at times. Going to be another hard season for them, but hopefully they’ll look a lot better than last year when all is said and done.

    • #1Fan

      cmon. The story must fit the narrative.

      • Alex

        Thanks for the comment, without it my whole post might completely have disappeared. Second time Disqus has done that to me, deleted my post of pre season predictions too.

        • Alex

          Not sure if it’s the length of my posts or if there is a rule against not hyping everything Rose Lavelle.. So just to test..

          EQ’s Rose Lavelle hype is fake news! Christina Gibbons has cuter dogs than Rose Lavelle!

          https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/736376967751208961/d6aX79y9.jpg

          • Ethan

            I’ll join you. Lavelle’s corners and free kicks as a whole in her NT appearances have left a lot to be desired.

          • DNG

            She had some good more bad. My conclusion is that she’s inconsistent and needs to work on them which isn’t much of a surprise.

          • #1Fan

            no way !! Best ever. Does nutmegs= great.

          • Breakers fan

            I do honestly feel that a couple of her shorter ones were intentional — either hit to a player who was “short” (1 of those) or I recall thinking that once she intended to hit the ball on a bounce so it might skip into the mass of players and create enough entropy and chaos that something good may happen our way. The way she struck the ball made me think that — it wasn’t the traditional “get under it enough to lift it high enough for a header”. You’d have to go back and look at it but it seemed meant that way to me. That said I do think she hit one or two that weren’t that good. But of course the one to Allie Long was outstanding. How many free kicks has she had? In the big picture we’re veering into Nitpickland here, but all is fair game for critique on message boards.

          • Ethan

            She’s had plenty of free kicks. I was kind of just playing along with Alex’s comment, but I don’t think I’m being nitpicky at all. Her deliveries have not impressed me at all as a whole, and whether they were intentional or not, I think those deliveries were poor.

          • Breakers fan

            I’d have to see her free kicks again to be able to judge them. Funny how I don’t recall them. When I say “nitpick” what I mean is that in this area she delivered a perfect one off of which a goal scored, some other decent ones, as I recall, and a couple not so great ones; and in the overall picture of her as an NT player, how she’s done on the team to date, the lacking quality of a couple of these kicks (again I’m not committing to saying her free kicks have been bad until I see them again) is a small thing – to me. Evidently not to you and you’re of course just as entitled to that opinion as I am to mine on this topic.

          • Ethan

            Her corner for Long’s goal was good. However, it was also quite close to the goalkeeper’s zone, and a more proactive goalkeeper may have punched it clear ahead of Long. Other than that one, I don’t recall any more than one or two other decent ones, and I remember more than a couple poor ones. I think that’s just a difference of opinion.

            I don’t know about an exact number. When I say “plenty”, I mean like at least around 3 or 4 in each game she’s played. Maybe I’m wrong. I just don’t remember any creating a dangerous chance like Pugh’s for Morgan in the second half of the second match.

          • Breakers fan

            I get your feelings about her free and corners to date. Let’s zoom out. Do you like her so far as a player in these few games? Or is there someone else not getting time you prefer that Rose may be blocking?

          • Ethan

            I love her as a player so far. The ease with which she turns on the ball. The soft lobbed passes that other NT players rarely play. The back heels. The smart passes. The higher work rate than I was expecting against England. She’s shown some questionable decision making (i.e. cutting on to her left instead of shooting with her right in one of the Russia matches), but I’ve been very happy with her play so far. I really was just playing along with Alex’s comment and making a point about the one aspect of Lavelle’s game with which I haven’t been impressed.

          • Breakers fan

            Thanks for that. I can see you’ve been watching her closely — appreciate the lack of bias and honest reaction.

  • #1Fan

    Buried in the article above is a very critical point that underlines my feelings re WoSo in the USA and WoSo in generally. If explains my general negativity to what i continue to see.

    Paul Riley has put together a somewhat unique system based generally on pure athleticism and tenacity. And you can roll your eyes at that all you want (I did once), but it’s really amazing to pull that off at this level of play. They generally set up in a 4-4-2, but find a way to cover ground that no one else can. Washington has plenty of problems, but they were smothered throughout, unable to string a couple of passes together and under constant pressure, which is just tough to deal with mentally.

    The style described above is and will remain a viable option until the overall level improves a lot.

    • DNG

      I really don’t have a huge issue with Riley’s team playing the way they do. I think it’ll force teams like Portland to get better at playing out of the back(or adjust) if that is how they chose to play and other teams that can’t keep up should be looking to stop NC from playing by forcing shots and crosses from deep positions and countering themselves. I think this is an important part of the process of evolving the game. I sort of liked how Portland continued to play out from the back even though high pressing teams had given them trouble all throughout the preseason.

      • #1Fan

        Nor do I. its reality. I just dont want to hear about all these technical players and how it the “right way” to play.

        When money and jobs are at stake, you play the way you can be the most effective for the longest period of time

        • DNG

          Fair enough, although Portland could probably build a very capable possession team if they were allowed to spend in a free market. League competition seems to be more of a priority right now which seems logical for a sports league that has really struggled to establish itself economically in the past.

          • #1Fan

            but thats the point. Within the current construct of the NWSL, the quickest route to respectability is what WNY/NC are doing. Its ironic that it his now happening on the pro level in NC 😉

  • Joel

    “Had the league had a press conference a few weeks ago introducing Go90 and explaining thoroughly what it was and why the league felt it was necessary to go this route at this juncture, then it would be easier to swallow.”

    But it still wouldn’t work for many fans.

    Some fans, myself included, do want the league to be able to monetize their product. We also want players’ salaries to increase. However, some of us are left with 1 game a week, only, as a result of the current decisions.

    Maybe go90 or NWSL can deliver, at some point, on the availability of archived games on a normal website.

    • ITIQ0

      The Opera browser has built-in VPN. With that set to a server in Canada, you can avoid geoblocking and get both live streams and replays on the NWSL site. If you feel guilty about depriving the league of revenue you can buy some of their products.

      • Joel

        Thanks for the tip. I’ll give that a try.

      • I tried a VPN (not Opera browser) and was unable to see any replays on the NWSL site. Were they only up for a limited time or should I try a different VPN?

        • DNG

          I was able to watch the courage spirit game today using a VPN. I just clicked on the score at the top of the NWSL site and the video loaded up after a couple of seconds or so.

          • Thanks, I’ll try it again. The only videos I saw on the site were highlight vids and shot/save of the week vids.

          • Thanks for the heads-up. I would have NEVER thought to click on that box score ticker. That appears to be the only way to get to the games. If you click on VIDEOS in the site navigation you only get highlights. Brilliant site design. *eyeroll*

    • kernel_thai

      It’s about learning curve. I learned a lot on Saturday thru trial & error and input from others. BUT as everyone is saying, I shouldn’t be doing trial & error with the opening matches. By the time the first matches kicked off every fan should have had time to figure out what worked for them and what didn’t. In this regard NWSL dropped the ball, kicked it in the sewer and fell in trying to retrieve it.

  • Gary Diver

    “A Season on the Brink: Wide-Open NWSL Making Strides as Fifth Year Kicks Off”

    The Guardian is one of the few European sites that show any interest in NSWL. Caitlin Murray used to be their main WoSo reporter/journalist. Do people agree with the Guardian’s take about the state of NWSL?

  • Gary Diver

    How many people watched NWSL matches this past weekend?

    With YouTube you immediately knew how many people were watching the matches. Is there any way of finding out how many people were watching on Go90?

    Is it true that Go90 may not be around long term?

    If fans had difficulty watching matches, it is a major problem. NWSL cannot afford to lose fans and it desperately needs to increase its visibility. It will be hard for NWSL to even tread water if fans are lost because Go90 is not as easy to use as YouTube for most people to casually quickly browse. Once the cost/benefit ratio goes south, people will lose interest in NWSL.

  • Gary Diver

    Opening Week’s Attendances

    Can anyone find a silver lining in the opening week’s attendances. From a casual look, there did not seem to be any significant bumps over last year. If growth is important to NWSL, there needs to be real growth not potential growth.

  • DNG

    Amandine Henry was easily my WOTM for the Portland Orlando match. While I thought Sinclair played okay and did well to score a clinical goal on that counter attack, her overall movement up front is clearly in decline which is only natural since she’s almost 34. Maybe it’s something Portland can deal with if she continues to score at a high rate but I fear that the cost will outweigh the benefits sooner rather than later.

    • #1Fan

      Henry bosses almost every NWSL game she is in. She is on another level in the NWSL

      • DNG

        It took her a couple of matches to adjust last year but I agree. She’s a top player that any team would be very lucky to have. On the subject of top players, I really am going to miss watching Little play every week.

        • #1Fan

          yep. another top player.. NWSL does not have many.

          • DNG

            I said I had a feeling. Depending on where she ends up this could be a great move for her.

            https://twitter.com/UCLAWSoccer/status/854154164384841728

          • #1Fan

            LOLOLOL hilarious as is the Bruin for life part.

          • DNG

            Makes me think that the only reason she didn’t go to Portland a year ago was because of the CBA fight. Financially and developmentally it would have made sense for her to make soccer her job. I’m sure that US Soccer will steer her towards an NWSL team they want as well in the future if she goes to Europe. Denver expansion maybe

          • #1Fan

            Im like whatever tbh. The whole process needs addressing. Its at a point now where USSF are the kingmakers in this process. They should just create a team called USA and put it in the league 🙂 They can train all year round like no other NT and just get ti over with. So 23 allocated now I guess. If its limited, like some have speculated, I wonder what that means for Dunn.

            And all those UCLA are the greatest team ever articles look totally stupid.

            Right now I think Fleming is a better player. Its why the system is so messed up.

          • DNG

            They still pay Dunn’s yearly salary. Allocation only refers to the players playing in the NWSL. So if Pugh doesn’t play in the NWSL she won’t be allocated but will likely still get a contract from US soccer to play in the USWNT matches. Which tier is anyone’s guess.

          • DNG

            You do make a good point about it being dangerous for US Soccer to act as kingmakers.

  • Old Soldier

    Unprofessional to say the least. No one with any experience would have introduced a system at the start of the season without testing the system and the response of the viewers. There was ample opportunity to do so using the pre-season games. Failure to do so was simply unacceptable.
    The idea that we should have to download an app ( when I went through the process it was only after signing in with new password, providing yet again personal data) that I finally was was it would not download to my Surface Pro through Google.
    And to make it worse allowing non-US viewers a simpler means of viewing the games simply added insult to injury.
    Recommend the NWSL fire all associated with the decision to use Go90 without testing, revert to YOUTube until they can deliver a system that performs for the benefit of the fans, not Verizon. Lose fans and you will lose the league. And right now you are losing die-hard fans.

    • I agree on losing go90. What reason did they not stay with YouTube or go with watchESPN? Quality of go90 games was poor, not even HD level with few exceptions. Lack of testing this ridiculous decision, as mentioned, was totally disrespectful to fan base. Not to repeat this but now, only able to watch on a 5″ or 10″ mobile screen and not a 55″ or bigger? I always suspected Jeff Plush bailed/if not got pushed out of NWSL for not agreeing to this crap and for more big issues coming at us with this deal.

      Why can the games not be posted to YouTube a few days (or a week) after they’re played? To be there “forever”. Mentioned above was someone using VPN and saying buy NWSL products etc., No chance. NWSL punishes us for being loyal and expect financial support?

      Why can NWSLsoccer site stream and this Not be available for everyone in US and Canada too? Money? Wonder how much value each fan has/had that have said, screw this, too much hassle and poor availability/accessibility of games live, and at ANY time in future like it was on YouTube.

  • A_Dog_Without_A_Clutch

    I guess it’s time for international WoSo Update:

    The WK-league kicked-off on Friday with the defending South Korean champsI, ncheon Hyundai Steel Red Angels, sputtering into a tie against Gumi Sportstoto WFC:
    http://canada2015mykits.tumblr.com/post/159581459525/wk-league-incheon-red-angels-vs-gumi-sportstoto

    A day earlier, in Brazil, EC Iranduba beat SC Corinthians in Arena de Amazonas in a battle of arguably the two best teams in the Brasileiro Feminino:
    http://canada2015mykits.tumblr.com/post/159582477145/brasiliero-feminino-ec-iranduba-vs-sc-corinthians

    In Japan, INAC Kobe is staying in pace with NTV Beleza with a win against Urawa Red Diamonds:
    http://canada2015mykits.tumblr.com/post/159602223840/nadeshiko-league-inac-kobe-leonessa-vs-urawa-red

    Finally, in Spain, a Barcelona and Atletico tie has the Catalans tied in points but ahead on goal difference:
    http://canada2015mykits.tumblr.com/post/159624039350/primera-division-feminina-atl%C3%A9tico-de-madrid-vs
    http://canada2015mykits.tumblr.com/post/159646896510/primera-division-feminina-fc-barcelona-vs-real
    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C9mvLyEXYAE-4M_.jpg

  • sweetjazz3

    I will be patient with the league, but they have to make it possible to stream their non-Lifetime games on laptops/desktops. That has to be a major priority right now, or they are going to lose fans when they can ill afford to.