NWSL Week in Review: Can Returning USWNT Stars Make Big Impact?

Ray Curren May 15, 2017 72

Pugh to SpiritEven if you were in a cave all weekend, you probably still heard that Mallory Pugh officially signed with Washington Saturday, which in all honesty is most likely the best possible outcome for everyone involved. The NWSL did not have to tweak (or bend with heavy equipment) its rules for the second time in two years to help Pugh get to her preferred destination, which would have gotten eyerolls, if not protests, from 90 percent of its organizations. The exception, Portland, didn’t have to reshape its roster a month into the 2017 season to accommodate a 19-year-old who has yet to play a professional game. And Washington gets a possible legitimate superstar to build (or rebuild) its team around.

So everybody wins and lives happily ever after?

That remains to be seen, but Pugh has now joined what could be a somewhat unfortunate group of 2017 potential showstoppers that may be returning to teams that may not be contenders come mid to late summer. It’s likely that Pugh will be in uniform Saturday night when the Spirit host Kansas City (and hopefully a crowd will come see her), meaning she will have missed just five of 24 matches (with one or two more eventually for national team duty likely, and unfortunately). That’s plenty of time for her to make a huge impact, but however talented, Pugh is still going to be a professional rookie, and Washington – picked last by many including me this season – may need much more than one player to be a playoff contender this season.

It still may represent a better situation than is playing out in Orlando, although the Pride finally won a game this weekend, and did it in impressive fashion. But we’re still probably at least a month away from Alex Morgan returning to town to help jumpstart a possible playoff run with Marta. Alas, the season will be half over by then, and Orlando – although they have shown spurts of being a solid team – might have a massive hill to climb by then. And Morgan suffered what appeared to be a significant hamstring injury Saturday while playing for Lyon, so that might set her return to NWSL back as well.

Finally, Carli Lloyd lost to Morgan and Lyon in the Champions League semifinals, but captured the FA Cup for Manchester City at Wembley Stadium in front of 35,000 fans over the weekend. Lloyd’s NWSL squad, Houston, has six points in five games, which is not as poor as Washington or Orlando, but the manner in which they’ve gone about it has not exactly inspired confidence in a playoff run (including a home loss to Sky Blue on Saturday).

It appears, if healthy, that all three will miss some time for the new national team tournament with Australia, Japan, and Brazil from July 27 to August 3 as well, hopefully just one match. But, as I alluded to before, there are only 24 games in the NWSL regular season, making each one extremely important in a playoff race.

Would it be the worst thing in the world if Pugh, Morgan, and Lloyd are on teams that are not contenders in August and September? Defending champion North Carolina has developed an entertaining and successful brand of soccer without national team stars, and while names like Lynn Williams, Jessica McDonald, and Sam Mewis don’t have the Q rating of the ones mentioned earlier, they are players that the NWSL was designed to help improve and flourish, exactly what they’re doing.

Chicago has marketable stars in Christen Press and Julie Ertz, and has won plenty of games over the last three seasons. If the Red Stars make the playoffs and we’re crying that the “stars” aren’t taking part in the postseason, we might be doing it wrong. Which brings us to Portland, who draws 15,000 fans per game, even without any of three players mentioned above.

The bottom line is that, just as with Pugh, the NWSL wants to put its biggest stars in a place where they will be successful, both at the box office and on the field. But if it plays out that it doesn’t happen that way, as it might here in 2017? Well, for the league to survive long-term, it has to be about more than three players anyway, doesn’t it?

What else did we learn this weekend as things became a bit more crowded after the very top of the standings?

SATURDAY

Houston 1:3 Sky Blue (recap)

What Went Down: Randy Waldrum tried to make some adjustments and was helped by Morgan Brian finally being healthy, but the Dash were second-best at home against a team that was beaten by Washington last week, and still don’t look remotely comfortable in the back, a problem that has persisted seemingly for years in Houston. And I’m not sure how it’s going to be solved. They did look more dangerous with a Rachel Daly, Kealia Ohai, Janine Beckie front line, and with Brian and Lloyd behind them, you’d think that would be a contending team, but we’ll see.

Making the effort more impressive for Sky Blue is that they did it without Kelley O’Hara (who was at a wedding), arguably their best player of 2017 so far. But, unlike last week, the youngsters held it together and the return of Raquel Rodriguez should not be overlooked. Kailen Sheridan nearly made a couple of mistakes, but she looks like she has the proper mental makeup to be a goalkeeper that may be on the world stage for a while eventually. Three more points in the return leg of this home-and-home next week could put them in a nice position at the quarter mark of the campaign.

Player of the Game: Sam Kerr – I had Kerr just behind Christen Press as MVP favorite before the season began, but we hadn’t seen much of it before Saturday. Even beyond her goal and wonderful assist, Kerr is just a big pain to deal with when at the top of her game: a fast, extremely strong player who just goes after everything and mentally wears opponents down.

Under the Radar: Christie Pearce – She wasn’t spectacular or anything, but without her last week, Sky Blue’s defense almost came apart at the seams, conceding four times at Washington. But with Pearce’s calming influence, young Sky Blue was organized for the most part, even when they were under a bit of pressure in the second half.

Inside the Numbers: 4 – Number of times Raquel Rodriguez was fouled, but also the number of times she committed fouls as she was in the middle of just about everything Saturday, including picking up a second-half yellow card.

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

Seattle 6:2 Washington (recap)

What Went Down: You can look a the final score and think the Spirit got embarrassed, and you wouldn’t be wrong in the last 30 minutes or so. But before that, Washington trailed just 2-1 and was pressing for an equalizer. In fact, they were pressing enough that Seattle eventually was able to take advantage of the lack of numbers in the back to make this a blowout. The Reign went back to a 3-4-3, and that – if nothing else – is going to make for some entertaining soccer as they create plenty of chances, but could potentially give up a lot at the other end as well.

Meanwhile, Pugh’s arrival should mark the end of Washington’s 3-5-2 as Pugh will probably slide in as a No. 10 (wearing No. 11 apparently, though) behind Francisca Ordega (or possibly two strikers). That is the spot where Pugh first burst onto the scene as a 16-year-old in the U-20 World Cup dominating games by running at defenses. Jim Gabarra may try Pugh wide, but she will likely have a bigger influence in the middle of the field.

Player of the Game: Nahomi Kawasumi – Again, the numbers are a bit inflated because Washington was giving so much up at the end, but any time you can get a goal and four assists in any match at this level, it is a spectacular performance. Once Seattle gets rolling, especially when playing at home, they tend to keep rolling, and that’s what happened here.

Under the Radar: Megan Rapinoe – Rapinoe has been fantastic so far in 2017, at least going forward. The 3-4-3 allows Rapinoe to not have many defensive responsibilities, and she has he vision to make the proper pass on the counter to spring others, as you saw a few times in the second half Saturday.

Inside the Numbers: 8 – Number of points through five games from the Reign, which was good enough to put them in second place at that close of play Saturday, which is pretty good considering the lack of consistency.

Up next: Seattle – vs. Orlando (Sun.); Washington – vs. Kansas City (Sat.)

Kansas City 0:0 Portland (recap  |  Scoby)

What Went Down: When two teams get together who struggle offensively, this unfortunately is a likely result. FCKC, recently two-time champs you may remember, played this way plenty last year and it’s a tough dilemma for Vlatko Andonovski, who surely does not want a somewhat unexciting style with Sydney Leroux by herself in the middle of a 4-2-3-1, but he has a strong defense and if he opens things up, they may be vulnerable. The insertion of Erika Tymrak seemed to help a little, as Leroux ended up with a breakaway soon after, but couldn’t finish, a chance that FCKC will have to put away if they want to be a playoff contender.

Portland again created little despite winning the possession battle, and got another road point, but can’t get Tobin Heath back soon enough, it would appear. The Thorns have scored just five goals in five matches and do not want to get into the habit they did last year of picking up a lot of draws, but of course, they won the NWSL Shield anyway, so it’s not like it was that bad.

Player of the Game: Allie Long – The days of Long being someone who might be a fringe USWNT player appear to be over, and Long deserves plenty of credit for making that happen. As an attacking player, she has improved tremendously, and is the Thorns’ best player week in and week out, even if she didn’t help create any goals on Saturday.

Under the Radar: Becca Moros – Moros took the place of Desiree Scott at defensive midfield Saturday and did a really good job, even coming close to scoring a winning goal late in the game off a botched Portland clearance. It makes sense, Moros’ game lends itself to this spot, and she showed it in this game.

Inside the Numbers: 1,796 – Attendance in Kansas City. Maybe the fans knew that there wouldn’t be a lot of offense, but this is another data point in what is becoming a somewhat troubling trend of declining attendance in NWSL this season.

Up next: Kansas City – at Washington (Sat.); Portland – at Boston (Fri.)

SUNDAY

Orlando 3:1 North Carolina (recap)

What Went Down: We’ve marveled at the consistency of North Carolina’s pressing game, but on a 90-degree day in Orlando, things unraveled a bit and the Pride – playing with a lot of pride as the lone winless NWSL team – took the game to the Courage in the second half and got a deserved result (at least we think so, Go90 never got started, so it was tough to watch most of the first half). Once Abby Erceg got sent off (for two yellows), the game was largely done. The long-term damage remains to be seen, but you did see some vulnerabilities in the champs. The first goal was a defensive mess, and they never looked comfortable.

For Orlando, it was a result they needed, and should give them plenty of confidence going forward. Their backline has looked better on paper than it has played out (which is probably the basis for Ashlyn Harris’ comments a couple of weeks ago), but were able to deal with Jessica McDonald and Lynn Williams much better than most this season and wore them down in the heat.

Player of the Game: Ali Krieger – We’ve wondered whether Krieger is slowing down a little but, but she took advantage of Paul Riley switching to a 3-4-3 to get down the right wing with seeming impunity, eventually leading to an assist on the opening goal. The Pride will need her to continue to do that.

Under the Radar: Toni Pressley – I haven’t been the biggest Pressley fan over the years, but her athleticism was a huge boost for Orlando in this match, and she did well to cut off more than a couple of through balls that might have sent either Williams or McDonald on their way. And she may an answer to Orlando’s issues on defense.

Inside the Numbers: 17 – Seconds after kickoff from Orlando’s second goal that North Carolina got what turned out to be its only goal of the game. In fact, the first three goals of the match were scored in a three-minute span.

Up next: North Carolina – vs. Chicago (Sun.); Orlando – at Seattle (Sun.)

Chicago 1:1 Boston (recap)

What Went Down: In front of another sparse crowd in Chicago, Boston looked like it was headed for three more points until Christen Press equalized off a great ball from Sofia Huerta in the 89th minute. Press actually had a chance to win the game late, but that would have been harsh on the Breakers, who (while it is very early) look like they could be hanging around the playoff race for a while this season, even surviving a crazy indirect kick scenario after an illegal backpass.

The Red Stars still have many questions and I’m not sure where the answers are, other than Press getting back into 2015 NWSL form. That late goal might go a long way toward that happening, but with all those players that can do wonders with the ball, the Red Stars should be creating more scoring opportunities. But right now, it’s just not happening and Chicago keeps dropping points.

Player of the Game: Rose Lavelle – There was a point where Lavelle ran right past Casey Short with the ball and pulled away from her, which just doesn’t happen. Like ever. Then, of course, she added the goal off a scramble with a perfect left-footed finish. So I think she’s going to be fine in this league.

Under the Radar: Sofia Huerta – It was a brilliant ball from Huerta that eventually salvaged a point for the Red Stars, and they will need her to be solid if they want work their way through this mini-funk that they’re in.

Inside the Numbers: 7 – Number of points both teams have currently, which leaves them tied with Sky Blue and within a point of Portland and Seattle. It’s pretty crowded in the NWSL table right now.

Up next: Chicago – at North Carolina (Sun.); Boston – vs. Portland (Sun.)

  • guest

    KO did an AK did her father re-marred?

    • Tapistrano Penaldo

      They are called professional athlete like Rose Lavelle who played a game a day after graduating from college and manage to score a goal.

    • Steglitz49

      They sense that their days on the WNT, where they make their real money, are counted so they do not give a monkey’s.

    • anon

      I think her parents are still married

    • guest

      Her brother got married, i think

      • Steglitz49

        That is an acceptable excuse though it was a bit unsporting of her brother not to consider the team-mates of his sister. Now, if that was CR7’s or Messi’s brother … ?

        • Stegpitz49

          Her brother probably scheduled his wedding a year ago. This joke of a league didn’t publish a schedule until a week before it started.

          • Steglitz49

            As I started — “That is an acceptable excuse”. Whether the NWSL is a joke of a league, time will tell. It seems to be on its skids judging by the present.

    • Guest

      What does this have to do with anything. She went to her father’s wedding. It was probably scheduled before she had the NWSL schedule and it was a playoff game which she probably wasn’t thinking they’d play anyway. You can argue that you don’t miss your team’s playoff game regardless, but you can argue it the other way as well.

  • mskillens

    The WNT are done and over with. I’m dreading the summer tournament even though its in my area since I’m pretty sure if they played the same as they did at She Believes, they’ll be bottom again. All the greats the last 2 years have retired and moved(particularly strong captains like Rampone and Wambach)on while we are stuck with a bunch of inexperienced kids under the direction of a poor coach that seriously needs to be replaced. We have Lloyd and Morgan as probably the last two longest vets that don’t seem to want to take a leadership role. Not to mention NWSL will probably fold this season as the numbers are at their lowest and nobody cares anymore if star players aren’t on those teams. Shame, they should have started the NWSL with at least a team from southern california, we would have been a great fan base. Instead I won’t watch the league and could care less about semi-pro college grad players that have zero personality and suck in the NWSL

    • Steglitz49

      If enough people in Southern Cal had ponied up their monies a team would have started there. Then those investors needed to persuade their friends and enemies to go along and watch –15,000 a match at least.

      The harsh reality is that there are no investors in Southern Cal interested in WoSo and people are not clamouring at the gates or chaining themselves bare-breasted to the doors and railings of the NWSL.

      You can, of course, open your check book and write them one for a few million dollars …

    • Raso’s Hair Bow

      I think they’ll be fine. Ellis seems to have learned her lesson with the 3 back, and especially the absurdity of Allie Long as a CB. IMO the 3 back and maybe Ellis sticking with Williams at FW for every game was why they lost the tournament. Brazil and Australia aren’t the same level of competition as the SBC competitors. Japan is always a wild card, so I’m looking forward to that one.

      • Ashley C

        I’m not sold on Ellis learning her lesson although I hope it’s true. I just think she’s in over her head at times and gets exposed pretty easily. I’m also not sure her in-game management and tactics will get better.

        • guest

          If she was going to attempt the 3 back again she would have used it against Russia, the quintessential tomato can that is perfect to practice a new formation against, but she didn’t (did she? Maybe my memory is failing). At least Allie Long was back in the MF and not a CB. I think that experiment is done.

          • Steglitz49

            Allie Long ought to get on the dog to Jean-Michel Aulas. Hopefully she already has.

          • guest

            What use would they have for her? Granted Abily is getting a bit long in the tooth, but so is Long and she didn’t have half the ability of Abily in her prime.

          • Steglitz49

            Aulas flirted with her so she might as well check to see if his offer was good.

          • guest123

            The only way Long comes to Lyon is if Alex does not come back. D1F has 3-player limit on non-european players. Lyon already has Buchanan & Kumagai taking up 2/3 spots and are recently signed to long-term contracts until 2019.

          • Steglitz49

            I typed “to see if his offer was good”. Maybe Aulas knows that Alex will only give him this spring. Now that Alex is out injured is as good as any time to check out the lay of the land.

            Maybe Allie’s grandma kept a French bulldog as a pet and that qualifies her.

          • AllieThong

            She’ll replace the infinitely more talented Maro, or something. bahahaha.

    • guest

      Jeez. Not sure what your beef is, but I’d suggest giving the league a chance, and at a minimum not slamming players who are working their butts off for little money as “semi pro” “zero personality” players who “suck.” There are a number of incredible, highly professional players with tons of personality, if only you’d get out there are look. If you want LA to get a team, go out and tell your local MLS teams to get their act together, and tell them and SHOW THEM how much of an NWSL fan you and all your friends are, and how you’d go to all the games. NWSL needs an ownership group to put a team in place, don’t blame the league for that.

      • USMNTfan4life

        They already tried that with the LA Sol, and that experiment failed after one year of meh attendance.

    • Rizuh

      Maybe WoSo is a 4 year sport, like figure skating and downhill skiing. Maybe that’s OK. It will be popular again…something tells me around 2019/2020…

      • Steglitz49

        Maybe there is not a natural base for WoSo. As long as it is underpinned by wealthy men’s clubs, by MLS-expansion and simply rich owners willing to defray the bills, it can bump along.

        Maybe there is a concerted effort by the media and the four big sports in cahoots with broadcasters to keep soccer down and not least WoSo in America which is rather good at WoSo.

        Either way, because you sell no equipment with soccer, like you do for golf, tennis, skiing and skating for example, there are not too many of such sponsors and before the few there are leap on the good ship WoSo the attendances have to be there.

        As for the big international championships, WoSo represents nationalism. Judging by viewing figures, American’s are not that interested in the WNT.

        • Rizuh

          I’m sure the WNT does fine for a lower tier sport every 4 years during the Olympics and World Cup.

          Soccer is not a good fit for American sports culture so will probably not be breaking into the top 5 anytime soon. It undervalues what we look for in athletes (bigger, stronger, faster). Our league parity systems don’t work well with it (many boring draws), and it faces significant competition from numerous other big pro leagues.

          • Steglitz49

            About 25 million in the US watched the WC-15 WC final. That is 8% of America. The 2003 WC final was watched by 45% of Swedes and the WC-11 final by 35% of Japanese inspite of that being in the middle of their night.

            Soccer does not fit the paymasters and profiteers of US sport because it is not designed for advertising. The drink-break instituted during WC-14 and used in WC-15 and OG-16 may be the start of soccer of 4 periods instead of 2 halves.

            Nevertheless, the cost of advertising during the men’s FA Cup final and Champions League final now starts to rival the cost in the Superbowl. The FA has seen the light in WoSo and are establishing the FA women’s Cup final as the premier WoSo club event as witness playing the final at Wembley with ever increasing attendances. They have a way to go yet to overtake the 2012 ladies Champions League final in the Olympic stadium in Munich (50,000).

          • Rizuh

            That’s not a fair comparison though. Compare the Womens WC final figures with the World Series of baseball. The Womens World Cup had double the ratings of the last few World Series (not counting the historic Cubs win). That’s a women’s sport outdoing mens top baseball event. Sure baseball is dying yada yada, but it’s still a top 5 sport in the US, which is beyond what soccer could hope for anytime soon.

            America is, from a sporting standpoint, an ancient country. The British invented most of the sports out there, and they colonized America and brought all those sports with them. Soccer and American Football started on equal footing in the 19th century. There was no TV or commercial breaks. Just equal opportunity for growth. American Football grew and grew, and soccer faded away. It’s just not our sport.

          • Steglitz49

            Soccer belongs to the world.

            Cricket and Rugby essentially remained sports of the Empire — the white Empire.

            Barcelona was founded by a Swiss business man. They became great through a Dutchman.

          • Rizuh

            Soccer, or at this point we should call it by its real name – Football – is fanatically popular worldwide yes. Just not here. If the NFL turns too many peoples brains into mush maybe one day high schools across the country will stop valuing the 6’5 250 pound freaks of nature and people will appreciate the finer technicalities of soccer. But for now it’s a side sport.

          • Steglitz49

            The NFL can sell advert spots all the time. There are technical breaks to run adverts, as there are in the other 3 Big 4.

            The water-breaks that came in during WC-14 and were kept for WC-15 and OG-16 are a not so small end of a very big wedge to turn soccer into a sport of 4 quarters instead of 2 halves, just cleverly disguised.

            Americans do not care about women’s sport. Ask the person in the street who Mikaela Shiffrin or Lindsey Vonn are, they might know, but not Kikkan Randall, Jessica Diggins, or Susan Dunklee, or a whole bunch of other ladies.

          • Rizuh

            I don’t think women’s sports being less popular is a particularly American trait…

          • Steglitz49

            It depends. All Swedes and Norwegians know who Charlotte Kalla and Majken Caspersen Falla are but how many Americans know who Kikkan Randall, Jessica Diggins, Caitlin Compton Gregg or Susan Dunklee are? The Swedes and Norwegians for sure know.

          • mockmook

            Association football (as a fan experience) is getting more popular every year in the USA — patience padawan

          • Steglitz49

            Men’s soccer, as in BroSo, is getting more popular.

            Attendance at NWSL matches is down this year so far. TV figures are not that great either.

            Probably more people in the US know that Zlatan is out with a knee injury than that ARod is, or that Alex Morgan tore her hamstring and will miss at least the French Cup final though now it looks as if she might play in the Champions League final.

        • Guest

          Do you honestly believe that the media might be conspiring to keep WoSo down. That’s ridiculous. WoSo (the professional versio vs USWNT) is going to take multiple 4 yr cycles to build the unbreakable fanbase. You’re comparing men’s sports that have 4, 5 generations of fans. grandfathers who went to the games with their grandfathers. When we have 2-3 generations of WoSo fans then we’ll see the kind of attention the big four sports get.

          • Steglitz49

            The US won WC-91 and again in 1999. In 1996 the US got WoSo into the Olympics and they rescued WC-03. 26 years have passed since that first WC victory.

            The USMNT have never won the WC. Their best run was in 2002. Yet, attendance at MLS games are much greater than at NWSL games. This is in spite of the NWSL having had and still have some of the world’s very best players play in it.

            Meanwhile, UEFA and not least the FA have seen a chance to take over WoSo the way they dominate BroSo. Nevertheless, attendances at club WoSo is not as good as in the NWSL except for special matches. It is all artificial, underpinned by the men’s game.

            The media are no different in Europe from the US as regards WoSo. WoSo gets hardly any space. This can’t be accidental. It is a glaring state of affairs. The easiest explanation is a concerted effort to block WoSo.

    • HOFCToDi

      Time for you to follow another sport.

    • guest

      But you would be such a big fan if those same players were on a NWSL team I SoCal. You are an idiot. The league isn’t going out of business this year, do you actually pay attention to anything? They are talking about 2 expansion teams and Barcelona has publically announced that they are going to be one of those. There may still be an independent team or two or three that eventually will either merge with the closest MLS team or move to another market, but the league isn’t going out of business anytime soon.

  • Steglitz49

    Ray Curren writes — “Finally, Carli Lloyd … captured the FA Cup for Manchester City at Wembley Stadium in front of 35,000 fans” — but one could argue that that was the first not last news and also the biggest unless the severity of Alex’s hamstring is bigger.

    The FA women’s Cup final was played infront of a goodly crowd at Wembley and also broadcast live on the BBC. A bit like playing the NWSL Championship in the Rose Bowl or Soldier field and it also being shown live on ABC, NBC or CBS.

    • Steve

      People got in for free and it was BBC2. Calm down.

      • Steglitz49

        A sponsor paid for kids to go in free when acompanied by an adult.

  • Amaechi Sydney Ezemba

    Long is not rightfully cementing a NT spot playing an attacking midfielder (as she is one) when Ellis wants her at an abysmal position like CB or DM.

    • Timber Dave

      “The Thorns… do not want to get into the habit they did last year of picking up a lot of draws.”

      Huh? The Thorns had five draws last year, or 1/4 of the 20 games, which is not a lot: Six of the NWSL’s ten teams had at least that many draws. For a bigger data set, compare to MLS: 17 of the 20 teams had draws in more than 1/4 of their games last year.

      It’s not correct to say the Thorns picked up a lot of draws.

      • Steglitz49

        If Allie Long has not gotten on the dog to Jean-Michel Aulas by now she is long since history.

  • Gary Diver

    Mallory Pugh Saga

    Very strange indeed. January 2016, Pugh scores her first USWNT goal against Ireland as a 17-year old sub for Alex Morgan. Almost immediately the hype began and there are rumors she wanted to immediately play for Portland. Then suddenly on Feb. 3she signs a letter of intent with UCLA. She was still a minor and her father seemed to be her spokesperson with the press. Fast forward, she now has changed her mind about college (maybe she didn’t want to take final exams) and decides to turn pro.

    People focus on the money angle, but to me the much bigger question is what is best for her future development and reaching her potential. She is far from a polished gem. Does anybody believe Pugh is currently a better player than Jessie Fleming? (It would seem to me that Pugh would have learned a lot by playing with Fleming at UCLA.)

    Is Washington the place she needs to be to get the proper coaching and mentoring that she needs to develop her potential? Bluntly, if she doesn’t develop further and improve her game in a number of areas, we will all be disappointed in a couple of years and there will be a lot of head shaking. Time well tell, but it is her responsible to develop her game and prove her decision to immediately turn pro was the correct decision.

    • Rizuh

      Aren’t there people on this forum constantly complaining that the NCAA system is outdated and poorly develops players?

      • Gary Diver

        Good question and I don’t know the answer. But as a casual observer it seems to me that the goal of college soccer should be developmental and the NWSL, as a professional league, is not responsible for developing its players.

        Certainly in baseball, basketball, football, and hockey, once a player makes the “big leagues” they are being paid as professionals who are expected to contribute to winning games. These sports do not sign players with the expectation of developing them from high school, they are signed with the expectation of producing for the team. Obviously rookies are rookies, but most rookies have either been in college for 4 years or they paid their dues in some minor league.

        • Rizuh

          Welp at the end of the day there’s economic and temporal realities in play here. College is 4 years of prime time you never get back and don’t get paid a dime for. WoSo is based around a 4 year cycle of which you only get a couple in your prime decade of athletic life (20s). Mal’s stock is high and just being on the #1-3 team and showing up will keep it profitable.

          It’s difficult to see where 4 years of playing for free would put her ahead financially, even if in a perfect world it improved her play noticeably (questionable).

          • Arcie Tillydee

            While this Thorns supporter is actually pretty glad she’s not coming here (she had her chance…and we’d have had to give up way, way too much for her), I think she’s definitely doing the right thing in going pro. Four years of playing against a lower level of competition that was available to her isn’t going to improve her game as much.

            Moreover, she’s still pretty unproven (goals against tomato cans for the NT don’t count for a lot, imo). But she has massive potential, and that potential is best nursed in a professional environment against tough competition.

          • Steglitz49

            To maximise her potential, Ms Pugh needs to remain free of injury.

            Not everyone is fortunate like ARod and Zlatan in getting their knee injuries at the tail end of their careers. For some, like Kim Kulig, it wrecks their career early. Granted, Alex, Pinoe and Künzer recovered from ACL-repairs to be big names in WoSo.

            Let’s trust that the sun shines on Mallory’s career. It would be sad if she was saddened without even having Paris.

      • gues

        Agree. I can’t imagine that any player will develop better in any college when they can train with a professional team and get the level of competition they will get in 24 NWSL games on top of training and playing with the USWNT. College is OK for some, but not optimum for development for a player like Pugh.

    • guest

      There’s never been a player like Pugh in the sense that she is entering college, with a seemingly guaranteed spot on the team, when the WNT is at an unprecedented level of popularity. These players are making more money than ever on the NT and with sponsors. College is great but she would be leaving a tremendous amount of money on the table. A lot of athletes major in useless subjects anyway.

    • JL

      The Portland rumors began before she made her NT debut.

    • Guest

      The Spirit are loaded with quiet, humble, hard working players. They are coached by the most experienced women’s professional coach in the league, with assistants like Denise Reddy, Nicci Wright and Katie Jo Spisak. The Spirit are a perfect match if you want to take a very talented young player like Pugh and turn her into a superstar.

  • paul riley is trash

    all the garbage written in the last few weeks about who will beat NC and how, and orlando made it painfully obvious: literally anybody can beat NC if they’re simply willing to stoop to NC’s level and play exactly as dirty and direct. NC players dish but can’t take, constantly press but can’t defend against the press, and if NC is unlucky enough to catch a ref who actually calls fouls and hands out cards, odds are you can get at least one of Erceg, Zerboni, Mewis, or Dahlkemper frustrated enough to be sent off on yellows or a straight red. Zerboni was lucky not to put them short two players. NC has no defensive bench left, especially if Hinkle remains out next week

    • paul riley is garbage

      oh and good lord did the woso media overrate d’angelo and the wny defense. orlando is the only team to shoot more than 4 sog/game against NC and they’ve scored 4 goals in something like 8 or 9 sog. at one point in this last match d’angelo had given up 2 goals on 3 sog with 0 saves

  • GT

    I think Pugh makes the Washington Spirit a contender. I think she will play the same role that Dunn did, whether she is scoring (as in 2015 when Dunn led the league in scoring ) or controlling the tempo and passing (like Dunn did in 2016 when she led her team to the finals). It’s a shame that Dunn is not still with the team.

    • mockmook

      They seem to definitely miss Dunn Nairn Lohman Dydasco Oyster and Krieger.

      No team can give lose that much talent and not be effected (regardless if they got some talent in return).

      • Steglitz49

        Crystal Dunn seems to have nailed her colours to the mast of Chelsea Ladies.

        Were I a US player with aspirations, I would be on the dog to Montpellier.

      • GT

        Look what Sky Blue did last year after losing Nadim, Foord, Cameron, Cutshall, Freels and Levin. (and they got no one in return)

      • guest

        Any team is going to be affected in a rebuild like Gabarra started and losing a couple of key players to injuries. As Mewis and Williams get back to 100%, they get Dydasco back out there, now with Pugh they are going to be a contender once they get the chemistry right. That may not happen this year, but I think they are better off going young now than waiting till there are even more teams out there competing for talent and senior players start breaking down. The Spirit twitter also put something out about the #10 already being committed to another player before Pugh signed. If they get a good international in as #10 they might surprise a few people right away.

    • guest

      Is Cheyna back yet? I think they have an ok roster but they are dealing with so many injuries.

      • sara

        Church needs to go yesterday. Not a professional level defender at all.

        • GT

          Especially in a 3 back system.

          • guest

            Oyster was such a dumb trade.

          • guest123

            Jillbarra strikes again!

          • Guest

            Spirit received Kallman, Mewis and moved from 2 in the DRO to the #1 spot and based on that now have maybe the most marketable player in the league who make a solid contribution on the field. How was it a dumb trade?

          • guest

            Kallman and Mewis aren’t exactly great league players. Pugh… well, we’ll see what happens. Their defense is still a liability.

  • #1Fan

    Pretty strange article IF we are asking whether players who are touted here on a daily as among the best in the world will have a big impact.

    If they dont, what then ?

    • Steglitz49

      They were not among the best in the world during the last 9 months or so.

    • guest

      What impact has Carli or Alex had on the league. Houston can barely get Carli to show up for practice what do you think that does for team chemistry there. They each probably draw some fans, but they have produced minimal impact on the field in the last 4 seasons. Who cares, let them stay overseas. Aulas just said Alex is coming back next year. Why would Houston suffer her Ego for a few months just to give her a place to play for a few months.

  • Steglitz49

    The FA has agreed that there will be a rebalancing of the number of teams in FA WSL 1 and FA WSL 2 for the 2017-18 season.

    Following Notts County Ladies folding the FA will continue with 10 FA WSL 1 teams for the forthcoming 2017-18 season, which begins in the Fall. FA WSL 2 clubs can now apply for the remaining place in FA WSL 1.

    The 5 parts of the application will be weighted as follows: finance and business management (30 %), players, staff and youth development (30 %), facilities (20 %), marketing and commercial (15 %) and 2016 and Spring Series on-pitch performance (5 %).

    The FA WSL 2 was going to have 11 teams for the 2017-18, with the winner of The FA Women’s Premier League Play-Off due to receive promotion into the division. Blackburn Rovers will play Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday May 28th.