NWSL Fall Series: Five things you need to know ahead of Sky Blue-Spirit, Royals-Thorns and Dash-Courage
National Women’s Soccer League action will continue this weekend with six clubs playing Fall Series matches. Saturday will feature Sky Blue FC vs. Washington Spirit at Montclair State University in New Jersey and Utah Royals FC playing host to Portland Thorns FC at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.
All teams faced a rather unprecedented road to get to this point in the competition as the coronavirus pandemic interrupted the normal course of action and the league has now seen two different competitions due to the uncertainties surrounding the year.
Here is a look at this weekend’s schedule and five things to know about the upcoming matches.
Saturday, Oct. 3
Sky Blue FC vs. Washington Spirit, 12:30 p.m. ET (Twitch)Utah Royals FC vs. Portland Thorns, 10 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network)
Sunday, Oct. 4
Houston Dash vs. North Carolina Courage, 7 p.m. ET (Twitch)1. Sky Blue FC are finally hosting a game
Sky Blue FC are coming off two Fall Series matches on the road. The team had a bye week squeezed in between those matches and are now getting a chance to play host in this competition. Unforeseeable circumstances have pushed back their chance to host games this year at their new home Red Bull Arena, but not all is lost. This team has a bright future ahead thanks to the work of first-year coach Freya Coombe, who has helped her players produce some of their most promising performances to date, integrating offseason acquisitions while working on their quick passing, possession-based style. The squad will get to show it off again in their next homestand.
2. Northeast region up for grabs
All three teams in this region have at least one win and one loss. Sky Blue FC opened their Fall Series with a 2-1 win against Washington Spirit. The Spirit head to New Jersey after a draw against Chicago Red Stars. Washington and Chicago have four points to their names with three games played, while Sky Blue sits at 3 points with only two games played. A win could catapult either Sky Blue or the Spirit into the top three in contention for the Community Shield.
3. Can Portland make it three in a row?
Portland Thorns FC, the only team able to string together back-to-back wins, hit the road to take on Utah Royals FC for a second and final time in the Fall Series. The team is coming off an impressive 4-1 win against rivals OL Reign. Portland was bit by the injury bug in the Challenge Cup this summer, so the Fall Series has given an opportunity for those players to work their way back, namely Lindsey Horan and 2020 No. 1 draft pick Sophia Smith. Their recent win saw longtime Thorns veteran Christine Sinclair record a hat-trick and Costa Rican international Raquel Rodriguez score her first goal as a member of the Thorns.
4. Utah turning a corner?
Utah Royals FC has had to endure a number of obstacles while navigating the pandemic, including a current coaching change with Amy LePeilbet standing in as interim coach after Craig Harrington was placed on administrative leave of absence in light of the ongoing investigation on the culture around organization. RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen is in the process of selling all ownership stakes in the Real Salt Lake brand after reports of racist comments from the owner surfaced and triggered an MLS and NWSL investigation. The team suffered a 3-0 defeat to the Thorns after news broke of the coaching change, but bounced back to notch a point in a thrilling 2-2 draw against OL Reign, complete with a strong showing from veteran midfielder Vero Boquete and with great play from their rookie forward Tziarra King.
5. 2020 champs meet 2019 champs
2020 Challenge Cup champion Houston Dash host 2019 NWSL champion North Carolina Courage on Sunday in a rematch of the wild 4-3 Courage win in the Fall Series opener. The Courage are coming off a scoreless draw against Orlando Pride and a week of rest. The Dash are coming off a 3-1 victory against Orlando. The two teams have an opportunity to pull ahead in the standings with a win on Sunday. Houston currently sits fifth with three points while North Carolina is nestled in third place with four points.