The National Women's Soccer League regular season rolls along with plenty to talk about from Week 2 action over the weekend, including the regular-season debut of the Cascadian rivalry and late game drama in Houston. Let's dive right in with some takeaways from the weekend:
Week 2 scores
Friday, May 21
Racing Louisville FC 2, Washington Spirit 0
Saturday, May 22
North Carolina Courage 1, Orlando Pride 2
Chicago Red Stars 0, NJ/NY Gotham FC 0
Sunday, May 23
Portland Thorns FC 1, OL Reign 2
Houston Dash 2, Kansas City 2
1. Racing Louisville earn first franchise win
The sixth time is the charm for Racing Louisville FC, who earned their first win in franchise history in a 2-0 effort over the Washington Spirit on Friday. Louisville entered the season without a win in the Challenge Cup and was able to notch the historic milestone in the second game of the regular season thanks to Louisville native Emina Ekic. The hometown talent, who signed out of the University of Louisville, subbed into the match just after the hour-mark and made an immediate impact in what was a scoreless match through 75 minutes. She managed to record her first NWSL goal and assist in her professional debut. Ekic broke the deadlock with the opening goal in the 76th minute and assisted on a go-ahead goal from CeCe Kizer.
For the Spirit, it's their first loss of the season, and a result they'll look to build off after outshooting Racing 29-8, while recording 10 attempts on target against Louisville's three shots on goal.
2. Pride veterans step up on the road
The Orlando Pride left Shalen Stadium in Cary, North Carolina, with three big points away from home as they defeated the Courage 2-1 for their first win of the season. It was a night chock-full of goals from several league veterans, including Sydney Leroux and Alex Morgan for the Pride and Jessica McDonald for the Courage.
Although we're in the early stages, for a team that finished dead-last in 2019 and seventh in 2018, the Pride are currently in the top half of the standings thanks to this weekend's big win. Could we be in store for Playoff Marta this season?
3. Chicago welcomes return of fans
After suffering their worst defeat in their NWSL history in a 5-0 loss against the Portland Thorns, the Chicago Red Stars failed to bounce back into their winning ways in a scoreless Week 2 draw to NJ/NY Gotham FC.
The Red Stars welcomed the return of fans to at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Illinois, for the first time since their 2019 NWSL semifinal victory. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Village of Bridgeview gave a limited allotment for attendance and 3,121 fans were in support of NWSL action in Chicagoland.
The two sides played an even back-and-forth affair, as the the clubs nearly split shots and attempts on target. The draw brings Chicago its first point of the season as it seeks its first goal since the Challenge Cup finale on April 27.
4. A perfect rivalry in the Pacific Northwest
Portland Thorns FC and OL Reign probably have one of the best rivalries in the league. It's an organic rivalry that dates back to the league's inaugural season in 2013. How organic, you ask? The bitter blood dates back before 2016 when the league organized "regional rivalries" with clubs geographically near each other and scheduled four of the 20 games during the 2016 season in an effort to aid in travel among teams at the time. The idea fell short with the NWSL fan base.
The 2021 regular season debut of the Cascadia rivalry at Providence Park in Portland, Oregon, ended 2-1, in favor of OL Reign. The real winners, however, were all those watching the two teams battle it out for Pacific Northwest supremacy. Megan Rapinoe scored an equalizer, her first regular-season goal in 1,047 days, and Shirley Cruz connected on the game-winner.
After the match, Rapinoe poked fun at the rivalry and shared her desire for more trash talk among the Portland supporters.
"Obviously the Thorns fans need no introduction -- they're incredible," Rapinoe said after the game. "They have one big problem, though. It's that they love me, so it's really difficult for them to cheer against me. So when I scored, I had to go right over and talk my shit.
"I was trying to talk shit and to [Portland fans] and they just did not know what to do. And then finally somebody gave me a big, double f--- you middle fingers up and I was like 'That's what I'm talking about! That's the kind of rivalry that we want!'
"The Thorns are always assholes. Everyone hates them. That's the general vibe. They're always good, they've got the best stadium, they've got the best fans, you know they always have incredible talent on the field, so everybody's always gunning for [them]."
5. Daly becomes top scorer in Dash history
Houston Dash and Kansas City played to a 2-2 draw to close out NWSL action over the weekend at BBVA Stadium in Houston. Dash captain Rachel Daly made history during the match as the England international became the club's all-time leading scorer in all competitions.
The moment was short-lived, however, as Houston could not hold on to a 2-1 lead despite the fact that Kansas City defender Elizabeth Ball picked up a second yellow card and was sent off. Houston failed to capitalize on the player advantage in the winding minutes, and Kansas City snatched the victory away with a stoppage time equalizer from Taylor Leach
Wednesday, May 26