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  • Isa Almeida

NWSL Matchday 2 Recap

Seven matchups brought life to the second round of the 2024 season of the NWSL. From back-to-back penalties to last-minute game winners (or tiers), this weekend had everything. Oh, and the two bottom-of-the-table teams from the 2023 season are now top of the standings. Here’s a round-up of week two.

Bangers By Marta, Ashley Sanchez, Kate Del Fava

From veterans to rookies and the return of Royalty, Matchday 3 of the NWSL had bangers all over. In the opening game of the round, Angel City led the Orlando Pride 1-0 after a successful penalty conversion from Claire Emslie. Though Marta had found the back of the net earlier in the game, the offside flag ended the Pride’s celebrations. But the 38-year-old didn’t give up, and in the 88th minute she got past Angelina Anderson for the second time, and this time it counted. The teams shared a point thanks to the six-time FIFA World Player of the Year.

“I had the perfect view of Marta’s goal,” Pride goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse said. “I saw it go all the way over the top, and then Marta put it in the back post—it was a really good finish.”

Later in the day, in Sandy, the Utah Royals got a storybook first goal of the season. Kate del Fava, who was drafted by the Royals in 2020 but had to transfer to Kansas City after the team closed down, returned to her original club with its return and scored the first goal of this new era. Only 10 minutes later, recent North Carolina Courage transfer Ashley Sanchez tied the game with another banger. Despite Sanchez’s goal, the Courage fell short and the Royals got the three points with the 2-1 win.

“I thought (Sanchez) played well,” Courage head coach Sean Nahas said. “(She) found good pockets, found good spaces.”

In Washington D.C., Dorian Bailey got her second career goal. Drafted by the Spirit in 2019, Bailey scored for Bay FC against her former club. Bailey was traded to the Bay Area expansion team from the Washington club in December 2023.

Penalty mess, Rookie domination and unexpected leaders

Back in Sandy, the Courage was a goal down, but with a penalty call, had the chance to level the game. Malia Berkley stepped onto the line and hit the post. What looked like a missed opportunity soon earned a second chance. A minute later, another penalty call. It's not a retake–a whole new call. Once again, no goal, the shot went straight into Utah goalkeeper Mandy Haught’s legs. 

Two first-half goals had the Washington Spirit and Bay FC tied until the end of the game. Five minutes into stoppage time, University of Georgia alumna and Spirit rookie Croix Bethune sealed the game with her first career goal. Bethune was the No. 3 overall pick in the draft. Both Spirit goals were scored by rookies, as Clemson graduate Hal Hershfelt was the one to tie the game in the 23rd minute following Dorian Bailey’s 11th-minute goal for Bay FC.

"When Trinity (Rodman) played me that ball, I was like I'm just gonna turn around and smack this," Hershfelt said. "She played me a really nice ball.

For the Royals, 2024 No. 1 pick Ally Sentnor, from North Carolina, was responsible for the game-winner in the 30th minute. Setnor managed to maintain control of the ball without big stress from defenders, and her strike went way over the goalkeepers hands to find the back of the net.

At the end of the 2023 season, the Chicago Red Stars sat in last place, while the Kansas City Current was barely above them with 24 points in 11th place. Two match days into the 2024 season, the Red Stars and the Current are the only teams to win both games and sit in first and second place. 


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