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  • Sophie Lodes

NWSL Matchday 5 Recap

Week five wrapped up in the NWSL and while it might be hard for some teams to come up with points, goals have not been in short supply. Twenty goals were scored across Saturday’s four matches. The goal-scoring festival included Portland securing its first win of the season in a decisive 4-1 win over the struggling Houston Dash. Which brings up the other major event of this weekend: the trade deadline and the deals that made it across the finish line.


Christine Sinclair in red and yellow thorns jersey running while pointing the air after scoiring a goal.
Christine Sinclair celebrating after scoring a goal against the Houston Dash at Providence Park in Portland, OR on April 20, 2024 | Photo by Kallie Hansel-Tennes for WSX

 

Switching it Up

Of course, the biggest news is that after making headlines with her $1.5 million three-year deal, the Dash star requested a trade. After the story broke, Sanchez released a statement that confirmed she requested a trade while admitting that it has “taken a toll and isn’t an easy thing to talk about." The Dash honored her request, sending Sanchez to the San Diego Wave in exchange for $500,000, split between a $300,000 transfer fee and a $200,000 allocation money. Additionally, the Dash received an international roster spot for 2024 and 2025.


The Dash immediately tuned that money around to try and shore up what has been an inconsistent team so far. In an effort to bolster the defense, the Dash traded $50,000 in allocation money and $50,000 in Intra-League Transfer funds to Angel City in exchange for defender Paige Nielsen.

 

Angel City wasn’t done after sending Nielsen to the Dash. The team also sent Amandine Henry to the struggling Utah Royals in exchange for $75,000 in allocation money. General Manager Angela Hucles Mangano stated in ACFC’s press release that both the Nielsen and Henry trades reflected “a key component of our strategy to continue to build for the immediate and future,”. Utah gains an experienced player known for “her tactical acumen,” which will likely help the expansion side find its footing a little stronger in the next few weeks.

 

Two teams also secured goalkeepers at the trade deadline. Portland acquired Emily Alvarado from the Dash, likely to provide a second option with Bella Bixby currently expecting a baby and therefore out for an extended period of time. NJ/NY Gotham FC also signed international goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger from Chelsea FC.

 

The trade deadline reflected NWSL teams looking for stability in a league where the first five weeks have seen unexpected storylines and teams looking undefeatable one week before being shocked the next. This early in the season, it’s still just a ten-point gap from the top of the table to the bottom and only a three-point gap between the last team and a playoff position. Long-term stability, the kind teams traded for, will be the name of the game going forward.


Bangers by…Croix Bethune and Claire Emslie


It’s not easy to make the transition from college soccer to the NWSL look simple, but Croix Bethune has managed it. The rookie has three goals in five games. This time Bethune opened the scoring for the Spirit by tucking a long-distance shot into the far post, having it bounce perfectly so Gotham goalkeeper Cassie Miller couldn’t get a hand on it.



Bethune was quick post-game to point out the work her teammates did to make the goal happen. The play started “with [an] Andi Sullivan pickup on defense” Bethune noted, before shouting out Casey Krueger.


"When we were switching to the other side, it opened up space for us to get to the ball and connect, while finding their weakness," said Bethune on her connection with Krueger.

 

Interim head coach Adrián González had nothing but praise for Bethune. “I think she’s very intelligent and she can identify those spaces [where we want to advance the ball] very well," said González.


Claire Emslie would score a brace on the way to Angel City’s first home win of the year, a 201 victory over a North Carolina Courage team that had been flying. The strike was a free kick from just outside the box, dead center, usually a tough angle to score from. It wasn’t a problem for Emslie, who sent the ball screaming into the right corner, past the diving Casey Murphy.


"We ask a lot of our wingers, and I looked at her and I'm like, ‘yeah, she's given everything in this moment.'," said ACFC Head Coach Becki Tweed post-game. "She's just coming into our own in terms of consistency, and we need consistency from our frontline. She just competes every single day in practice."


At the end of week five the standings are not at all what was expected but what can be expected is lots of goals, defensive moments, and tough matchups.



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