After a minimum 12 day break for all teams, the NWSL is back with a vengeance. Points are at a premium now that teams are barrelling into the final half of their regular season with the playoffs in sight. This makes for some intriguing matchups that you do not want to miss.
North Carolina Courage vs. Washington Spirit, Friday @ 7:30pm on Paramount+
A rematch of the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup Final, but that’s only about the 16th most intriguing storyline. For, reasons, both teams are in full desperation mode as recent results compounded with external factors (Spirit – injuries and a hellacious early schedule; Courage – COVID-19 outbreaks and postponements) have placed them at the two bottom spots on the table.
While the Courage have a handful of games to make up (they’ve only played nine), the Spirit are in win-now playoff mode for the rest of the season to have a chance at defending last season’s championship. Despite Debinha and Kerolin still being with Brazil in the Copa America Femenina, the Courage have enough talent to frustrate the Spirit, who absolutely must get three points. Game on.
Chicago Red Stars vs. San Diego Wave, Saturday @ 8pm ET on Paramount+
This is a battle between two of the top three teams in the league, both of which suffered uncharacteristic stumbles just before the break. San Diego lost to California rivals Angel City and drew with Racing Louisville while Chicago was on the wrong end of an Ebony Salmon hat trick and 4-1 loss to Houston Dash.
Though both teams have been comfortably at the top of the table for most of the season, it’s a ridiculously tight league and neither are more than six shifted points away from fighting to stay in the postseason. Chicago will welcome star winger Mallory Pugh back, while San Diego will get back leading goalscorer Alex Morgan and midfielder Taylor Kornieck. Two of the best teams in the league who both need three points and a return to winning ways? Sign me up!
Angel City vs. OL Reign, Saturday @ 10:30pm ET on Paramount+
OL Reign are currently in possession of the last playoff spot, just inches ahead of Saturday’s opponent, Angel City. The two teams are tied on points, but the Reign’s goal differential gave them the edge.
Reign have been one of the most pleasing teams to watch this season, but also one of the more frustrating. Of the top six teams — and despite frequently dominating possession and having the second highest shots taken per 90 minutes — they’ve scored the fewest goals. Recently-signed Canadian striker Jordyn Huitema could be the answer, but defensively ferocious Angel City won’t make it easy and would love to leapfrog Reign on points and get back into a playoff position. (Plus, the game will be at the Banc of California Stadium which means Jennifer Garner will be there with orange slices.)