NWSL Week 1 Preview: San Diego Wave face Chicago Red Stars, and more
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NWSL Week 1 Preview: San Diego Wave face Chicago Red Stars, and more

The 2023 NWSL regular season kicks off on Saturday with the headlining contest coming from California.

2022 expansion side San Diego Wave hosts the Chicago Red Stars on Saturday night (10 p.m. ET) seeking an impressive result to hit the ground running.

The Red Stars start 2023 with a road trip to California as both teams landed playoff spots last season and hope to build on rather successful campaigns. San Diego enjoyed an excellent inaugural season under the guidance of former Manchester United manager Casey Stoney finishing in third place and becoming the first expansion club to reach the playoffs in its first season.

U.S. women’s national team superstar Alex Morgan returns for her second season after leading all NWSL Players with 15 goals last season. NWSL Rookie of the Year and Defender of the Year Naomi Girma, and NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year Kailen Sheridan return as well.

In Chicago, breakout USWNT star Mallory Swanson hopes to carry the side to its eighth straight postseason. The reigning SheBelieves Cup MVP needs to continue her goal scoring form as The Red Stars lost multiple key Players this offseason.

Here is a closer look at the rest of this weekend’s schedule:

North Carolina Courage vs. Kansas City Current – Saturday, 2 p.m. ET

Saturday’s pair of NWSL matches opens with the North Carolina Courage hosting Kansas City Current (Saturday, 2 p.m. ET) in the 2023 regular season curtain raiser. 

It was an offseason to forget for Sean Nahas’ side with the loss of their top two goal scorers in Débora Oliveira and Diana Ordóñez. Previous Championship Game MVP Debinha left the Courage just a few months back and joined the Kansas City Current, whom the Courage host in its opener on Saturday.

Despite missing out on the postseason by just one point as Chicago snagged the No. 6 spot in the table, North Carolina managed to finish with the second-best goal differential in the league last season. With four top-ten selections in this year’s NWSL Draft and the departure of multiple veteran Players, the Courage will rely heavily on its young talent this campaign.

After suffering a heartbreaking loss in the NWSL Championship game, 2022 NWSL Coach of the Year finalist Matt Potter and the Current hope to start 2023 with three points in their opening road match. With key additions to an already solid side the Current boast one of the deepest rosters in the league.

Washington Spirit vs. OL Reign – Sunday, 4 p.m. ET

Sunday’s four-match slate begins with NWSL’s 2022 Shield winners OL Reign who visit Washington Spirit. 

Despite being crowned NWSL Champions in 2021, the Spirit finished eleventh last season collecting a total of 19 points. While Washington struggled to collect points, OL Reign topped the League with 40 points last season.

Laura Harvey and the Reign return with one of the most balanced rosters in the league, the midfield of Rose Lavelle, Jess Fishlock and Quinn remains one of the most formidable in the NWSL.

Portland Thorns vs. Orlando Pride – Sunday, 5 p.m. ET

Sunday continues with the defending NWSL Champions, Portland Thorns hosting Orlando Pride.

With top performers at every position and last years NWSL MVP and Finals MVP Sophia Smith, the Reign’s quest to repeat as Champions seems very realistic. Sophia concluded a record-breaking 2022 season with 14 goals scored in 18 appearances, becoming the youngest MVP in league history. 

Houston Dash vs. Racing Louisville – Sunday, 7 p.m. ET

The third match of Sunday’s slate takes us to Texas, where Houston Dash takes on Racing Louisville. 

The Dash qualified for postseason play last year, losing its quarterfinal match to Kansas City. In hopes of improvement, the club brought in record-breaking rookie scorer Diana Ordóñez from North Carolina to pair with rising England forward Ebony Salmon.

Racing Louisville has its eyes set on its first playoff berth in team history. The additions of defenders Carson Pickett and Abby Erceg, as well as former Tigres forward Uchenna Kenu should help Racing Louisville be a contender in the Eastern Conference.

Angel City FC vs. NJ/NY Gotham FC – Sunday, 9 p.m. ET

Matchday No. 1 concludes Sunday night with NJ/NY Gotham FC visiting Angel City FC in California for a cross-country showdown. 

Without star forwards Christen Press and Sydney Leroux, Angel City FC faces a tough early regular season. The 2022 expansion club finished eighth last season, but after an underwhelming campaign, the club engaged in a four-team trade to acquire the No. 1 overall pick in Alyssa Thompson.

After a last placed finish for Gotham FC last season, the club can’t go anywhere but up. New manager Juan Carlos Amorós brought in Yazmeen Ryan and rookie Jenna Nighswonger to control the middle of the park. With glimpses of good play last season Gotham FC need to put it all together for a chance at a successful 2023.

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