Contributor: NWSL, Seattle Sounders FC, USWNT

By Abigail Gerken @abigailgerken22

Around the League News 

The NWSL unfortunately will be missing multiple big names in the Fall Series. Many stars have packed their bags and signed with teams in the FA WSL.

The most recent to sign have been Christen Press and Tobin Heath with Manchester United, and Alex Morgan with the Tottenham Hotspurs. All of these signings are until the end of the 2020-2021 FA WSL season, which should wrap up in early spring 2021. Their respective NWSL clubs still hold their rights, so theoretically they should be back in the NWSL for the start of the 2021 NWSL season. 

Special Shoutout

One of my favorite NWSL players, Sarah Gorden has launched her new nonprofit “HoodSpace” in Chicago. The mission of this organization is to help girls of color get access to yoga, meditation, and sport to improve their mental health and tackle the trauma that systemic racism creates. 

Washington Spirit vs Chicago Red Stars

Image: Washington Spirit

Chicago and Washington kicked off their first match of the NWSL Fall Series on Saturday, September 12, at 12pm EST. Chicago started off the match with a limited bench as multiple injuries ruled out several key players (Wright, Gorden, Short, Davidson, and Johnson) prior to the match. In addition, captain Julie Ertz has chosen to opt-out of the NWSL Fall Series. 

Despite lacking most of their usual starting XI, Chicago got on the board first. In the 26th minute, Sarah Luebbert scored her first professional goal tapping the ball in to put Chicago ahead. Kealia Watt showed her dominance on her preferred left side, hustling to get a cross off to Luebbert. 

Savannah McCaskill of the Chicago Red Stars had a big responsibility to be the engine of the Red Stars, and put in a great performance in the first half. However, her presence on the field ended shortly after McCaskill accumulated two yellow cards within the first 43 minutes of the match. The second yellow came off of a very reckless tackle on Dorian Bailey. 

Chicago held off Washington for the most part, until the 71st minute. The Spirit’s Bayley Feist volleyed a cross from the center of the box to tie up the match. 

Unsurprisingly, as Chicago played with 10 women for over 50 minutes of the game, Washington was able to keep their momentum and create multiple attacking opportunities. In the 90+3’, the Spirit rookie Jessie Scarpa put her first NWSL goal in the books by tapping in a cross on the goal line. 

Next matches: 

Chicago: Sunday September 20th vs Sky Blue FC. 1PM EST on CBS All Access

Washington: Saturday September 26th vs Chicago Red Stars 1PM EST on CBS

North Carolina Courage vs Houston Dash

Image: NC Courage

The afternoon match featured the two reigning champions. North Carolina dominated the 2019 NWSL season, going on to win the 2019 NWSL Championship and the Shield. Houston had a great performance throughout the Challenge Cup, fighting hard to make it to their first playoff game. They won the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup in July. 

North Carolina came out in a new formation, instead of their classic 4-4-2, they opted for a 3-1-4-2. The Courage were missing Samantha Mewis due to her trade to Manchester City. NWSL stars Debinha and Lynn Williams anchored the surprisingly young North Carolina squad. 

In the 18th minute, NC’s Debinha was dangerously slide tackled, causing a penalty kick in the Courage’s favor. Captain and USWNT star Abby Dahlkemper converted the penalty to put NC on the board. 

It did not take long for Houston to tie the game up. In the 25th minute, Shea Groom penetrated NC’s defense and selflessly passed the ball off to Veronica Latsko in the two-versus-one with goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé. Ten minutes later in the 36’ Houston doubled their lead with Kristie Mewis shooting toward the lower far post past Labbé. 

North Carolina then tied the game up in the 52’ with Debinha firing a shot 25 yards out. Seriously, if you are not paying attention to the Brazilian International you are missing out, she is one of the most fun players to watch in this league. 

Shortly after the second NC goal, Houston’s Alyssa Chapman received her second yellow of the game due to a reckless challenge, the Dash played with 10 women for the remainder of the second half.

In the 70’ Sophie Schmidt regained Houston’s lead with a beautiful upper corner shot from the top of the box. 

However, you cannot count the champions out. In the 83’ Lynn Williams hit in a cross from Rylee Baisden into the net with a one-touch shot. Of course, Debinha was not satisfied with the draw, she hit a long-range shot from the edge of the box into the lower far corner in the 86’. She made it look so easy. This was a very fun match between two very hot teams in the NWSL.

Next matches: 

North Carolina: Saturday September 19 vs Orlando Pride at 1PM EST on CBS

Houston: Saturday September 26 vs Orlando Pride at 9:30PM EST on Twitch

Stay tuned for more NWSL action during this Fall Series. NWSL matches are available to watch between CBS, CBS All Access, and Twitch. 

Featured image: NC Courage 

Follow and chat with me here: @abigailgerken22

Check us out on Twitter: @SwitchThePitch1 and Instagram: @SwitchThePitch1