A change of fortunes for Chicago Red Stars and KC Current: Full Time

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I went to the Washington Spirit game this weekend along with Brandi Chastain, Jabbawockeez and Wonder Woman. There was something for everyone. I’m Emily Olsen here with Meg Linehan, Steph Yang and Jeff Rueter — welcome to Full Time!

NWSL Recap

Debut goals and reversed fortunes

The Chicago Red Stars and Kansas City Current are top of the league — something that was hardly imaginable five months ago when the clubs finished last and second-to-last, respectively.

I know it’s only week two, and Gotham FC and San Diego Wave have only played one regular season game, but it’s clear the Red Stars and the Current are making a statement early. Meg will have more on that later.

For now, here’s one sentence on each of the games:

  • Pride 1, Angel City 1: Marta did a Marta thing to tie Angel City (Jeff will break it down later).
  • Royals 2, Courage 1: Utah goalkeeper Mandy Haught saved a penalty and then did it again.
  • Red Stars 2, Reign 1: Mallory Swanson is so back even if she’s yet to find the scoresheet
  • Spirit 2, Bay FC 1: Hal Hershfelt and Croix Bethune, and Trinity Rodman for that matter, prove the kids are alright.
  • Dash 0, Louisville 0: A game that felt it would never end also proved Reilyn Turner at the No. 9 is a good idea.
  • Wave 1, Current 2: In the best match-up of the weekend, Lo’eau LaBonta scored but didn’t do a signature celebration.
  • Thorns 0, Gotham 1: Where was the Thorns defense? Plus, Esther scored the NWSL’s 3000th goal.

On a negative note, multiple players have already experienced some difficult injuries, including Royals defender Imani Dorsey who had to leave the field on Friday, suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon. Dorsey was poised for a comeback this season after taking last year to prioritize her mental health.

Gotham also watched forward Midge Purce leave the field injured. The forward later shared she had suffered a torn ACL. Purce will miss the rest of the season with Gotham and a chance at the Paris Olympic roster.

Overall, it’s still too early to make sweeping statements about any team but check out The Athletic’s key takeaways from the weekend, including an interesting check of attendance numbers fluctuating around the league.

Only Marta

While it’s tough to watch players go down early in the season, one legend proved that resurgence is possible. The Athletic’s Jeff Rueter explains how A Rainha is still putting in the work:

It’s never a given that a player who suffers an ACL injury will return to their best. It’s equally rare for a player to continue being among their team’s most vital attacking threats as they near their 39th birthday. And yet, Marta continues to be at the heart of most good things that the Orlando Pride do, having started both of the team’s matches this season and providing a late equalizer against Angel City in Orlando’s home opener.

The fact she did so with such a cool first-time finish is impressive in its own right. But combine that savior status with her seemingly never-ending quest to end her storied career on her terms, and it’s downright remarkable to see her still dictating games even after calling time on her international career.

Meg’s Corner: How soon is too soon?

Like Emily said, it’s still a little too early to have any defining narratives around any one team — maybe North Carolina would have had a shout with that massive win in Week 1, but the team ended up with a loss this weekend on the road in Utah. It’s still March, it’s still snowing up here in Vermont, and the season still has the last wisps of preseason clinging on.

However, if you’re a Chicago or Kansas City fan, I’d expect you’re all about these first two weeks, especially considering how last season went. I can’t claim to know the future, and I very much dislike trying to come up with predictions (an impossible task in the NWSL), but I do feel pretty confident neither one of these teams is going to suffer as they did through 2023.

In Chicago, Swanson’s back, Alyssa Naeher is pulling out vintage save after vintage save, and they sneakily added some solid defenders even as everyone worried about their offseason. Do I think the Red Stars will play pretty games? Maybe not, but three points are always three points. What feels most promising is they have a no-nonsense, just-get-the-job-done vibe about them so far.

For the Current, that home opener at CPKC Stadium was absolutely wild, and they followed up the 5-4 win over Portland at home with a 2-1 win on the road in San Diego. Lo’eau LaBonta and AD Franch were all business during their media availability that first week, trying to downplay the new stadium, but it’s interesting to watch KC’s developing culture play out in real-time.



KC Current’s stadium opener was an historic leveling-up

LaBonta, who we know can celebrate with the best of them, scored the game-winning goal against the Wave this weekend, then said postgame: “One thing Vlatko kind of said is he wanted us to come in here humble and like come in quiet, get the win, leave humble. And immediately after I scored that PK, I was like, ‘Oh man, do I do it?’ But yeah, it might be safe for the home games. It depends on what the theme is of the day.”

We’re not in the locker room hearing that speech, so it’s hard to know the context, but for a team that loves its celebrations — but might love winning more — it’s something to keep an eye on.

Around The World

USWNT to honor ‘99ers in Olympic tune-up

The U.S. women’s national team will face Mexico in one of two final friendlies before heading to the Paris Olympics this summer. The match, which will also celebrate the 25th anniversary of the team’s 1999 Women’s World Cup victory, is set for July 13 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ.

What to expect:

  • A chance for the U.S. to earn redemption against Mexico for that 2-0 CONCACAF W Gold Cup loss.
  • The finalized U.S. roster that will travel to France.
  • Emma Hayes to be in charge for her third game after two friendlies against South Korea in June.

On Wednesday, the USWNT learned it will face Germany, Australia and either Zambia or Morocco in the group stage of the tournament and will play those matches in Nice and Marseille starting on July 25.

Speaking of the USWNT, interim head coach Twila Kilgore announced the SheBelieves Cup roster on Tuesday. Those games begin on April 6 in Atlanta, Georgia, and the team will convene next week.



USWNT releases SheBelieves Cup roster with new additions Gaetino, Yohannes

Khadija Shaw’s goalscoring record

Khadija Shaw has long been Jamaica’s top goalscorer with 56 goals across 38 appearances for her country, dating back to 2015. On Saturday, she also became Manchester City women’s goal record holder, breaking Georgia Stanway’s mark. Shaw scored the third goal of Saturday’s Manchester Derby and her 68th with the club thanks to a ball from Jess Park.

I could wax poetic about Shaw’s goalscoring touch, but it’s probably better to hear from the record-breaker herself. The Athletic’s Charlotte Harpur sat down with Shaw for a “My Game In My Words.”

“The more I score, the more confident I become and so does the team,” she says. “They always say, ‘Bunny, you lead from the front’. I just have to keep going.”

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Khadija Shaw reviews footage of herself in action for this article with The Athletic (Charlotte Harpur)

Full Time First Looks

A closer look: What are the differences between managing male and female footballers? “It’s balancing,” clinical psychologist and former player Leif Smerud says. “I adapt going in, but then it’s about reading (the situation).” The Athletic spoke to 11 managers to find out.

Injury diary: After the Women’s World Cup, Swedish international Fridolina Rolfö underwent surgery on the meniscus in her right knee and spent the next six months recovering. She made her return last week during FC Barcelona’s Champions League win over Brann. The Athletic spent time with her during the recovery process, chronicling her return.

Star power: Last week, Meg Linehan reported that Colombian midfielder Leicy Santos will join the Washington Spirit on a three-year deal after the conclusion of the Liga F season in June. Santos adds firepower to an already impressive Spirit attack. The 27-year-old will also bring some additional experience to the relatively young team. If you need a Santos refresher, check out her goal against England from the World Cup.

Policy violation: Steph Yang reported last week that Houston Dash goalkeeping coach Matthew Lampson had been dismissed by the team for violation of NWSL’s anti-fraternization policy and coach code of conduct. The league also suspended Lampson from future employment in the league for the rest of the 2024 season as a result of the violations and also what the league called a “lack of full cooperation” in the investigation.

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(Top photo: Daniel Bartel/USA TODAY Sports)

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