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1 question for every NWSL team

With a mini break ahead, let’s review.

By André Carlisle – @not_carlisle

1 question for every NWSL team

Now that we have a bit of time to breathe, plus a batch of results in which to identify trends, we have enough information to ask every NWSL one question they’ll need to answer once play resumes.

 

Angel City (4-4-1, 6th)

Erm, so what now?

I’m sad. Angel City had a terrific plan coming into their inaugural season. They had a purpose-built squad prepared to unleash a 3-back formation with a hardworking No. 10 in Savannah McCaskill and superstar Christen Press with the entirety of her favored left flank to work with. Unfortunately, injuries to center backs before the season prevented them from starting as intended, and now Christen Press’s torn ACL will prevent them from finishing as intended. Currently in position for the last playoff spot, they’ll have to quickly find a detour that leads to the playoffs.

 

Chicago Red Stars (4-1-4, 3rd)

Can you get results without Mallory Pugh?

This is a tricky one because removing any team’s best player is going to have negative-to-disastrous results. However, the Red Stars are the best performing team who are heavily reliant on the brilliance of one superstar outfield player (Alyssa Naeher has been a cyborg in goal). Alex Morgan is tearing up the scoring charts, but if the season ended today Mallory Pugh would get my vote for NWSL MVP. With her away, they’ll need to find some answers, which could also have the longer term benefit of lightening Pugh’s workload once she returns.

 

Houston Dash (4-2-3, 4th)

Who are you?

Not to get too existential but the Dash have struggled with team identity since stumbling upon success in the 2020 Challenge Cup. They’re also in the midst of a coaching transition and are reportedly seeking a GM for the first time in club history. It sounds like they’re finally starting to build the infrastructure the players have deserved, and this question will be vital if they are to turn it around quickly enough to thank longtime players for enduring.

 

Kansas City Current

Can you be consistent?

Consistently inconsistent is, ironically, consistency, but the worst kind. Right now that’s what the Current are. Sometimes they’ll go toe-to-toe with teams as solidified as San Diego Wave and Chicago Red Stars, other weeks they’re fighting for their lives against Orlando Pride, Racing Louisville and Gotham FC. If they’re to climb the table they’ll have to set and maintain a standard for their performances.

 

NJ/NY Gotham FC (3-4-0, 8th)

wyd?

I mean this with all sincerity, what y’all doin over there? I understand midfielder Allie Long has been missing due to pregnancy, but I refuse to believe a team this talented should be this bad. An attack with Midge Purce and Ify Onumonu should never have a stretch where only two goals are scored across six games.

 

North Carolina Courage (2-4-1, 12th)

How much smelling salt can be bought before the feds get suspicious?

The Courage appear downright frightening in most matches. They have a solid defensive pairing, fullback play, a mobile midfield, a devastating combination of attacking talents, and Carson Pickett’s left foot as a dangerous weapon out wide. Problem is, sometimes they take a little nap. After halftime in each match, the Spirit evened a 2-0 game in five minutes and over the weekend Houston put three on them within four minutes. Don’t bother with the rah-rah speeches, just back up the cement mixer full of smelling salts and prosper.

 

OL Reign (3-2-4, 5th)

Where the goals at?

OL Reign are one of the most aesthetically pleasing teams to watch. They enjoy having the ball and sweep it in, around and through defenses. There is one quite major problem though: they don’t score a lot. Thankfully, they’ve noticed this as well, and signed highly skilled Canadian striker Jordan Huitema. If she fits in right away, this question will be answered immediately. If not, well…

 

Orlando Pride (2-5-2, 11th)

What are you even doing?

Orlando needs stability. Ever since coming into the league as an expansion club, the Pride, bar one run to a semifinals in 2017, have looked in need of a rebuild. In 2022, that remains. Several coaches have been brought in to do this, but none have got it right, and in fact most have left the club in worse shape than they found it.

 

Portland Thorns (4-1-4, 2nd)

Do it in the playoffs?

Don’t worry, I hate myself for this too, but Portland has been on an ungodly tear. They appear to have perfected a style that capitalizes on their defensive strength and generational talents in attack – particularly Sophia Smith. Results may be harder to come by in her absence, but the Thorns’ ability to control matches has greatly improved. The only hurdle remaining is to avoid winning the Community Shield then failing to make it to the championship game. New coach Rhian Wilkinson seemingly already has them well-positioned to avoid a repeat of that result.

 

Racing Louisville (2-4-3, 9th)

What’s the plan?

Finally, Racing Louisville has begun to press the reset button on their expansion draft. Only two players selected remain, and both Christen Press and Tobin Heath’s ‘player rights’ have been moved. However, they’ve also traded Addisyn Merrick and Cece Kizer to Kansas City. While both wanted to be closer to their hometown, Merrick was part of an already thin defensive unit and Kizer started every regular season game. They also hadn’t played Ebony Salmon, contributor to 33% of last season’s goals, and just traded her to Houston. At some point Louisville has to start building for the future — and beyond Emily Fox and Jaelin Howell. We still don’t know what that looks like.

 

San Diego Wave (5-2-3, 1st)

Do you have the depth to make, and go deep in, the playoffs?

San Diego has undoubtedly been the surprise of the season. They sit atop the table, Alex Morgan is leading the golden boot race and the entire team looks to already be a lock for the playoffs. However, expansion teams by default typically struggle with depth. As the season goes on, and in the playoffs in particular, the Wave will need players to step up.

 

Washington Spirit (1-3-6, 7th)

Can you rebuild a sustainable identity?

The Washington Spirit endured a hellacious season and the players in the locker room fused to one another to face challenges, on and off the pitch, together. In the end their collective cohesion led to a championship, but not only should no team have to endure all that they did, it’s unsustainable. With a new head coach and the ownership battle settled, Washington must find a sustainable identity on which to lean. Dropped points are brutally difficult to make up in a league as competitive as the NWSL, and increasing the difficulty is that it must start with a chunk of their roster away on international duty.

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