Let’s get straight to the point!
Here’s what each team needs:
In 2021, Gotham goalkeepers Kailen Sheridan and DiDi Haracic combined to allow 21 goals all season (from a total of 120 shots on target against). In 2022, Ashlyn Harris and Michelle Betos combined to concede 46 (135 shots on target against). Not great!
Rookie keeper Hensley Hancuff played 0 minutes but is currently on loan in Australia and if she progresses well enough to pull a Katie Lund (minimal starts to leading the league in saves the following year), they’re fine. If not, they have decisions to make.
Potential Targets: Abby Smith, Katelyn Rowland, Debinha
The Spirit’s best form is reliant on Emily Sonnett and Kelley O’Hara being on the pitch. This season, Sonnett made just nine starts while O’Hara only made three. Sonnett’s unavailability could be chalked up as a blip, but O’Hara’s 12 starts in 2021 were the first time she’d cracked double digits since 2017. The Spirit struggled to find consistency at the position when she was out.
A fullback who can mitigate the dropoff when O’Hara isn’t available, or just allow her to remain healthy for the duration of the season, should be a priority.
Potential Targets: Re-sign Kelley O’Hara, Jasmyne Spencer, Debinha
Interim head coach Seb Hines lowered the Pride’s goals against per game from 2.6 to 1.9 after taking over for Amanda Cromwell. While the number is still high, Hines has been hired as the full time coach and will surely look to continue improving the defense.
The Pride failed to score in seven of the 15 games he was in charge, including five of their last six. Adding a savvy chance creator would give Hines the ability to continue solidifying the defense while posing a consistent threat at the other end.
Potential Targets: Re-sign Marta, Debinha
Some matchdays Racing Louisville looked formidable (first team to beat San Diego Wave in the regular season, plus a win over runner-up Kansas City) and others quite dreadful (1-5 loss to North Carolina, 0-4 to Chicago).
Rookie coaches struggling in the NWSL is no surprise, but Kim Björkegren never seemed to find an identity for the team. There’s a talented squad in Louisville, but Björkegren has yet to find consistency in results or identity.
Potential Targets: Soon as the coach figures it out, so will we. Also, Debinha.
Angel City existed as an expansion club for months before making their first signing, Christen Press. They steadily recruited and built a solid squad, but injuries from the forward line to the back (including Press tearing her ACL) saw them miss the playoffs by just four points.
Due to injuries and questionable substitution patterns, Angel City players impacted games with a lot of high intensity running. A midfielder who can keep the ball and help control matches would allow them to dictate tempo, preventing what became a total team dropoff around the hour mark.
Potential Targets: Dani Colaprico, Morgan Gautrat, Debinha
Their defense was run through to an almost comical level at stages of last season. While a loaded attack often meant games turned into shootouts, they missed the playoffs by just one point. That includes two 3-3 draws and two 4-3 losses.
Another layer of protection in front of the backline would allow them to play their trademark open style without affording opponents the space to do the same.
(*Losing Debinha in free agency would change everything you just read lol sorry)
Potential Targets: Re-sign Debinha, Desiree Scott, Julie Ertz
Injuries, particularly to the defense, thinned Chicago's squad, and front office inaction put players in less than ideal positions. If those players will be fit by the start of 2023, Chicago could then look to add a talent to share the offensive load with Mal Pugh.
The USWNT star contributed to half of the Red Stars’ goals, scoring 11 and assisting six. While watching Mal Pugh in full flight is one of the mighty wonders of the NWSL, giving a defense someone else to worry about would make her job a tiny bit easier.
(*Chicago has a host of potential free agents, including most of their midfield – Dani Colaprico, Vanessa DiBernardo, and Morgan Gautrat. If one or more leave, everything changes.)
Potential Targets: Débora Cristiane de Oliveira, Debinha, Makenzy Doniak
Though Kansas City didn’t put a single shot on target in the championship game versus Portland Thorns, they were in the freaking championship game versus the Portland Thorns. They’re a much more talented team than they got credit for at the beginning of the season, but it was still a stretch to consider them a championship contender without a healthy Sam Mewis and Lynn Williams.
While Williams appears to be working her way back, Mewis’ status is still uncertain as she battles persistent knee injuries. If Mewis can’t play or is in and out of the lineup, an additional sturdy defensive presence would help. Victoria Pickett would have come in handy, but they traded her to Gotham.
Potential Targets: Vanessa DiBernardo, Morgan Gautrat, Debinha
The Houston Dash have one of the most varied and dangerous attacks in the league. Forward Ebony Salmon is adept at finding seams and making runs in behind, Nichelle Prince stretches the pitch wide before cutting inside to attack, while Maria Sánchez likes to stay wide, steal souls and get to the byline.
It’s a terrifying collection of talents that a playmaking midfielder would love to have at their disposal.
Potential Targets: Vanessa DiBernardo, Marta, Debinha
San Diego were one win away from nearly doing the whole damn thing. As it was, they were the first expansion team to make the playoffs, the first to reach a semifinal, and were some tired legs and a stoppage time Crystal Dunn banger from reaching the championship game.
While San Diego are clearly on a positive path, a focus will likely be on adding a midfield engine alongside Taylor Kornieck and Emily van Egmond.
Kornieck is best when she has the freedom to impose in and around the box, while van Egmond had a solid season playing largely as a defensive midfielder. Another energetic presence who can cover a lot of ground would help link defense and attack, and allow Kornieck and van Egmond to roam in the spaces they feel most comfortable.
Potential Targets: Morgan Gautrat, Desiree Scott, Debinha
Unfortunately, getting the goal output to their chance creation warranted was a constant struggle for the Reign. Just when they thought they’d solved it, it reared its head at the worst time in the semifinal when they were held scoreless by the Kansas City Current.
Throughout the regular season, Reign were the only playoff team to underperform their expected goals tally, 36.6xG/32 goals scored. Adding a consistent finisher would go a long way in finally adding an NWSL Championship to their three NWSL Shields.
Potential Targets: Debinha, Debinha, Deb Inha
Literally nothing. They’re an absurdly talented squad. Established stars like Christine Sinclair, Becky Sauerbrunn and NWSL MVP Sophia Smith are there, but so are Yazmeen Ryan and Sam Coffey — who had breakout seasons — Rocky Rodriguez, and Hina Sugita, who adapted to the NWSL brilliantly.
The result was them winning the championship in dominant fashion, and in 2023 they should have a full season of Crystal Dunn. If they keep everyone, they already have everything they need to lift another trophy.
Potential Targets: No, you don't get to dream about adding Debinha too. I shan’t allow it.