The 2016 NWSL season kicked off this past weekend across the country as 10 teams took the field for the historic fourth year of the league, a first for a women’s professional soccer league in the United States. We highlight the performances of some of the members of the U.S. Women’s National Team players in action.
The first match of the weekend saw the Washington Spirit defeat the Boston Breakers 1-0 after a third-minute goal by former WNT player Joanna Lohman gave the Spirit a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Spirit and WNT forward Crystal Dunn provided the assist.
Over in Texas, the Houston Dash recorded its first ever league win against the Chicago Red Stars with a 3-1-comeback victory at home. Despite an early 13th-minute goal from WNT forward Christen Press, the tide soon turned as Houston began to find its stride in front of the 7,440 fans at BBVA Compass Stadium. After Rachel Daly’s goal in the 33rd minute leveled the game, Dash captain and WNT co-captain Carli Lloyd put the Dash up 2-1 with the game-winning tally via a header in the 51st minute. It was Lloyd’s fifth career goal in 13 NWSL games.
The final game on Saturday’s slate saw the Western New York Flash defeat reigning NWSL champion FC Kansas City 1-0 in dramatic fashion at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City. Flash and WNT midfielder Samantha Mewis scored the lone goal of the match, a penalty kick in the 72nd minute, following an unfortunate handball by FCKC captain and WNT co-captain, Becky Sauerbrunn. Kansas City had a chance to tie the game in the final minutes when a foul inside the box by Flash defender Elizabeth Eddy gave the Blues a penalty. FCKC and WNT midfielder Heather O’Reilly stepped up to take the shot but the attempt hit the post, allowing WNYF to keep the shutout and the win.
Flash and WNT defender Jaelene Hinkle, who played all 90 minutes, retuned to action for her club’s season opener following a mild ankle injury that had sidelined her from WNT play the last couple of weeks.
On Sunday afternoon, Sky Blue FC defeated two-time defending NWSL Shield winner Seattle Reign FC 2-1 at Memorial Stadium. SBFC and WNT defender Kelley O’Hara recorded an assist on her team’s first goal of the day, a header from former WNT player Natasha Kai in the 15th minute. In the 35th minute, it was once again O’Hara who created an opportunity for a goal after she was taken down in the box. Teammate and U.S. U-20 midfielder Sarah Killion stepped up to take it, but Seattle and WNT goalkeeper Hope Solo guessed well and made a crucial save to keep the score 1-0 at the half. The game marked the first loss for Seattle at Memorial Stadium, and the first loss at home since August 2013.
In the final match of the opening weekend, Portland Thorns FC came from behind at home for a 2-1 victory against the Orlando Pride in front of a crowd of 16,073 fans, the largest crowd to attend a home opener in Thorns’ history. Thorns midfielder Tobin Heath wore the captain’s armband and assisted on both goals; the second being an assist on fellow WNT midfielder Lindsey Horan’s 82nd-minute game-winning goal. Horan, who was allocated to Portland in January, and defender Emily Sonnett, the 2016 NWSL first overall pick, both made their league debuts in Sunday’s match. The game was also the inaugural match of the Orlando Pride which joined the league as its 10th franchise last October.
WNT Players in NWSL Action – Week 1
Forward Crystal Dunn – 90 minutes, one assist (Washington Spirit)
Defender Whitney Engen – 90 minutes (Boston Breakers)
Goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris – 90 minutes (Orlando Pride)
Midfielder Tobin Heath (capt.) – 89 minutes, two assists (Portland Thorns FC)
Defender Jaelene Hinkle – 76 minutes (Western New York Flash)
Midfielder Lindsey Horan – 90 minutes, GOAL (Portland Thorns FC)
Defender Julie Johnston – 90 minutes (Chicago Red Stars)
Defender Meghan Klingenberg – 90 minutes (Portland Thorns FC)
Defender Ali Krieger – 90 minutes (Washington Spirit)
Midfielder Carli Lloyd (capt.) – 90 minutes, GOAL (Houston Dash)
Midfielder Allie Long – 90 minutes (Portland Thorns FC)
Midfielder Samantha Mewis – 90 minutes, GOAL (Western New York Flash)
Forward Alex Morgan (capt.) – 90 minutes (Orlando Pride)
Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher – 90 minutes (Chicago Red Stars)
Defender Kelley O’Hara – 90 minutes, one assist (Sky Blue FC)
Midfielder Heather O’Reilly – 90 minutes (FC Kansas City)
Forward Christen Press (capt.) – 90 minutes, GOAL (Chicago Red Stars)
Defender Christie Rampone (capt.) – 90 minutes (Sky Blue FC)
Defender Becky Sauerbrunn (capt.) – 90 minutes (FC Kansas City)
Goalkeeper Hope Solo – 90 minutes (Seattle Reign FC)
Defender Emily Sonnett – 90 minutes (Portland Thorns FC)
*Midfielder Morgan Brian – Did not play due to minor hamstring injury (Houston Dash)