NWSL Fall Series Preview: Week 5

The NWSL is set for a weekend with three games, two on Saturday and one on Sunday. With only three weeks left in the NWSL Fall Series, the race to the top of the standings is heating up. 

Here’s a preview of this weekends games and a player to watch for each team:

Washington Spirit at Sky Blue FC

 In the first match of the weekend, the Washington Spirit travels to New Jersey to take on Sky Blue FC at 12:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 3. This will be the second meeting between the two teams during the Fall Series. In the first meeting between these two teams, Sky Blue was able to come away with a 2-1 victory. 

This match marks the final game of the Fall Series and 2020 for Washington. The Spirit currently holds a 1-1-1 record and sit in fourth place in the standings. Washington is coming off of a 1-1 tie with the Chicago Red Stars. Crystal Thomas was able to find the back of the net late against Chicago to salvage a point for the Spirit. 

Sky Blue FC is coming off of a 4-1 loss to the Chicago Red Stars two weeks ago. The lone goal in that one for Sky Blue came from forward Ifeoma Onumonu. Sky Blue will look to sweep the series with a win on Saturday and climb in the standings. 

Players to Watch 

Dorian Bailey (Washington Spirit) – The UNC alum has been really impressive for the Spirit, playing every minute of the Fall Series. Bailey has seen minutes as a defender and as a midfielder. Through three games, she’s got a 100% tackle success rate and an 87.8% passing success rate. 

Ifeoma Onumonu (Sky Blue FC) – Onumonu has been a big part of the Sky Blue attack, scoring in both of their previous games. The attacker has also played all 180 minutes of the Fall Series so far. Look for Onumonu to keep creating a lot of attacking chances for Sky Blue this match. 

Portland Thorns at Utah Royals

The night came on Saturday sees the Portland Thorns travel to Rio Tinto Stadium to take on the Utah Royals at 10 p.m. ET. Portland comes into the match with a 2-0 record while the Royals are 0-1-1. The last time these two teams met, the Thorns came away with a 3-0 victory. 

Portland is coming off of an impressive 4-1 win against their rivals OL Reign. Canadian international, Christine Sinclair netted a hat trick to ease Portland past the Reign. The Thorns have looked dominant scoring seven goals in just two matches. Utah will have a tough task trying to stop the momentum of the Thorns. 

Utah will look to bounce back after a disappointing 2-2 tie to OL Reign. The Royals found themselves up 2-0 before letting the Reign score two unanswered to tie the game. 

Players to Watch

Tziarra King (Utah Royals) – The rookie has been a spark for the Royals up top. The striker has scored two goals for Utah, one at the NWSL Challenge Cup and the other in Royal’s last game against OL Reign. Utah will need to find a way to score if they want to beat the Thorns and King will look to help lead the attack. 

Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns) – Horan is the leader of the Thorns midfield. In 2 matches, the American has scored a goal, registered three assists, and created six chances. Portland is playing really well and Horan is no exception to that. 

North Carolina Courage at Houston Dash

The lone match on Sunday is a rematch between the 2019 NWSL Champions and the 2020 Challenge Cup Champions. The Courage will travel to BBVA Stadium to take on the Houston Dash with kickoff set for 7 p.m. ET. The first match between these two at the Fall Series was an entertaining, high scoring game that ended with the Courage pulling out a 4-3 victory. 

The Dash has created a new identity for themselves, one that proves they are going to compete for championships. The Dash won the Challenge Cup and scored eight goals on the way to the trophy. Houston is yet to beat North Carolina in club history and have only tied once. Houston is coming off a 3-1 win against the Orlando Pride, Nichelle Prince, Sophie Schmidt, and Shea Groom all found the back of the net in that one. 

North Carolina is the back-to-back NWSL Champions and has been consistently good since they joined the league. In their last match, the Courage was held scoreless by the Orlando Pride in a 0-0 tie. It isn’t very often that North Carolina is kept off of the scoreboard, since joining the league in 2017 the Courage has never been held scoreless in back-to-back games. 

Players to Watch

Debinha (North Carolina Courage) – Debinha rules the midfield and her skill on the ball is some of the best in the game. The Brazilian international has played every minute for the Courage so far during the Fall Series and scored two goals. 

Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash) – Mewis is a key piece in the rejuvenated Dash attack, she started all seven of Houston’s game at the Challenge Cup and registered a goal and an assist. During the Fall Series, she’s scored a goal and created six chances. Through 180 minutes, she’s got a passing success rate of 87% and only has nine unsuccessful passes.