With an airtight table and match days beginning to dwindle, some teams are surging while others are… doing the opposite. Let’s look at three teams with questions to answer in the last month and a half of the season and rate how shook their fans should actually be.
San Diego Wave FC
A couple weeks ago, San Diego Wave were top of the table and looking sure to finish in the top two. Suddenly, after a five game run that included three losses, one draw and just one win, they’ve been bumped to third by the Houston Dash. Perhaps more concerning than the results has been the reaction.
Against eighth place Orlando Pride, San Diego struggled. Nowadays, the Pride pride themselves on making matches difficult for the opposition. They accomplished this goal so well versus San Diego that the story afterward was postgame incidents that led to a red card for starting keeper Kailen Sheridan and fine for GM Molly Downtain — all for a refereeing performance that was, by most unbiased accounts, fine.
We’ve seen what this Wave team can do at full flow, and needing to do a soft reset is something that pops up from time to time during the course of a long season. However, San Diego has to prove they can find the right button combination to restore them to their best. The Wave have six regular season matches left. Replicating the poor run of the last five would see them continue their slide down the table.
SHOOK-O-METER (scale of 1-10, 10 being spongebob_screaming_flailing.gif): 5
Chicago Red Stars
One of the season’s best surprises had been the Chicago Red Stars. The team withstood injuries to key players Tierna Davidson and Morgan Gautrat to implement a system and style that led to instant success. Since, defender Kayla Sharples tore her ACL and in their last match, Arin Wright limped off the pitch and had to be subbed. Also, star forward and MVP candidate Mallory Pugh missed the match due to knee inflammation.
The injuries have turned a feel-good NWSL story into a heartbreaker. Chicago was expected to be in a rebuilding year, but they found sparks in a new coach and system, plus talented young players Ava Cook (2 goals, 3 assists), Ella Stevens (3, 1) and Sarah Griffith (2, 1). Likewise, young defenders Tatumn Milazzo and Zoe Morse have impressed while midfielders Danielle Colaprico and Vanessa DiBernardo produced consistently exceptional performances.
Unfortunately, the fresh round of injuries have contributed to Chicago losing three of their last four and hanging onto the final playoff spot by a desperately curled finger.
SHOOK-O-METER: A very sad and reluctant 6
Sadly, Gotham’s results and on-pitch performances guaranteed a parting of ways with now former head coach Scott Parkinson. General Manager Yael Averbuch West named former Jamaica national team coach Hue Menzies as interim coach for the remainder of the season.
While most teams have played 15 or 16 games, COVID-19 postponements have Gotham at just 13 played. Menzies being hired exclusively as an interim coach suggests there’s immediate improvement to be made and that there’s still a shot at the playoffs if enough points are collected.
But it’s a gargantuan task. Gotham has scored the fewest goals in the league (10), five below the second lowest. Defensively, things are better but only by one place — they’ve conceded the second highest number of goals.
Still, Gotham is a very talented squad, and new addition Taylor Smith has been excellent since joining the club. If Menzies can give them structure and identity in a short period of time, something he’ll be familiar with as a former national team coach, Gotham should improve on their results. While it’s unlikely to be enough to extend their season beyond the regular season, any semblance of a foundation will provide clarity on decisions that loom in the offseason.