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The race for the NWSL’s Shield is chaos!

Buckle up, here’s what you should be watching.

bow_-_the_nwsl_shield_race_is_intense

Sometimes the world as it exists isn’t good enough and the only thing to do in response is manifest something different. It may not change the reality (at least not instantly), but shifting perspective to insist on living in a better world can be both self-care and the will required to force change. In this spirit, we’re going to ignore NWSL teams jockeying for playoff positions and declare this the greatest title race in history.

We wrote last week that the NWSL’s regular season should matter more than the playoffs, and this weekend was rocket fuel for that argument. In this better world, teams would be fighting for the top spot, hoping to be crowned title winners and lift the penultimate trophy of the season. With that as our newly accepted truth, a peek at the table goes from ‘oh wow’ to it causing you to momentarily levitate in excitement.

Just four points separate first from sixth, and just two separate first from fourth. With a table this tight, not just every game, but every match event – big save, big chance, yellow card, red card, penalty earned or conceded, and goal – can threaten to mash shuffle on the table as teams play reverse hot potato with the league trophy.

At some point this weekend every team currently in the top four spent time at the top of the table. 

If this was happening in England’s Premier League, with just two weeks left in the regular season, multiple pundits would’ve exploded on air while talking about it.

Kansas City went into the week sitting at the top, until Ebony Salmon’s 25th-minute goal against the Chicago Red Stars put Houston No. 1. In Saturday night’s game, San Diego opened their new venue, Snapdragon Stadium, in front of a record crowd and leapt to the top thanks to 17-year-old Jaedyn Shaw’s goal versus California rivals Angel City FC.

The following day Portland faced Kansas City, and either grabbing three points from a win would put them at the top. It was a remarkably tense game with Kansas City MVP-candidate AD Franch making brilliant save after brilliant save to keep Portlant out. Then, in the 87th minute, Racquel ‘Rocky’ Rodriguez scored to hoist the Thorns back to the top…..for seven minutes.

Four minutes into second half stoppage time, Hailie Mace hit an absolute banger from outside of the box to tie the game and keep Portland below them on the table.

We must not let the opportunity for our heads to explode in pure joy to pass. 

Here are the scenarios that make tonight’s games must watches:

NJ/NY Gotham FC vs. OL Reign, 7 pm ET on Paramount+
OL Reign have been a strange team all season. They create loads of scoring opportunities but seemingly can’t get the ball in the net. As it stands though, they have enough points to be in the playoffs, and with a win against Gotham, could catapult themselves all the way into second, making it a five-team race to the title in the final two matchdays of the season.

Portland Thorns vs. Racing Louisville, 10 pm ET on Paramount+
Portland giving up an equalizing goal in 90+4 ruined their chance of getting to the top and using this match as an opportunity to pull away. Now, it’s a must win. Portland would get to the top with a win, but by just one point.

Angel City FC vs. Washington Spirit, 10:30 pm ET on CBS Sports Network
Ok fine, the playoffs are real and as much as I want to ignore that fact, we mustn’t — at least not for this game. Angel City are four points away from a playoff position and can draw to one point behind Chicago with an equal number of games played.

Also, the very last match of the regular season is, you guessed it, Chicago vs. Angel City. For the Cali club to have a chance of making that game matter, they need to win. Just one problem, at 2-0-0 with six goals scored, the Washington Spirit may be 10th, but they’re also the hottest team in the league right now, and tend to love big stages.

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