Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By CAITLIN MURRAY
The second week back for the National Women’s Soccer League was (mostly) about the underdogs — teams that struggled last year but are out to prove they belong at the top of the table.
To that end, the Washington Spirit looked like a team ready to shed their old image. After another loss to open the season — although a much better loss — the Spirit dominated an FC Kansas City team that looked so dangerous last year, 3-1.
The Houston Dash made up for their season-opening loss too, coming back from a deficit to put away their first franchise victory. And the Chicago Red Stars were led to victory by the rookies that were such a key part of their offseason rebuilding.
Meanwhile, last year’s league-leading Western New York Flash and FC Kansas City struggled. They have all the firepower and couldn’t figure out how to use it.
The league deck shuffles yet again.
Here are the SBI NWSL Power Rankings this week:
SBI NWSL Power Rankings (Week 2)
1. (Last week- 1) SEATTLE REIGN FC (1-0-0)
OUTLOOK- Seattle Reign Seattle had the week off, but no team in Week 2 looked as utterly dominant as the Reign did in Week 1. They get to ride high a little longer and keep their No. 1 position — at least until tonight, when they face Washington Spirit for a midweek matchup at 10 p.m. ET.
2. (Last week- 5) WASHINGTON SPIRIT (1-1-0)
OUTLOOK- The Spirit showed glimmers that they can play great soccer in their season debut, but seemed to have flashbacks of last season once a goal behind and gave up. In Week 2, they came out like winners from the first whistle and never let up. They played aggressive soccer on both sides of the ball and left last year’s darling FC Kansas City looking a bit stunned. If they keep their confidence up, Spirit will be a hard team to beat.
3. (Last week- 4) HOUSTON DASH (1-1-0)
OUTLOOK- After losing a game in Week 1 that probably deserved to be a draw or better, the Dash came fighting back to overcome a 2-1 deficit and win, 3-2, on the road in Boston. For a team that didn’t exist a few months ago, they are playing well together and showing they have a winning mentality that could carry them through the season.
4. (Last week- 8) CHICAGO RED STARS (1-0-0)
OUTLOOK- For Chicago, their impressive 2014 debut wasn’t just about winning — it was about containing and beating a very good Western New York Flash team. It only seems right that their first goal of 2014 came from the collaboration of their two first-round draft picks, Vanessa DiBernardo and Julie Johnston. Chicago looks eager to write a new story after a disappointing 2013 and are well on their way.
5. (Last week- 2) WESTERN NEW YORK FLASH (1-1-0)
OUTLOOK- It’s hard to reconcile a loss like the one the Flash experienced in Chicago this week. An Abby Wambach-less team that looked so dominant visiting Washington a week earlier generated nothing — not Carli Lloyd, not Samantha Kerr, not Vicky Losada, not Adriana Martin. While their team chemistry seemed to vanish, the firepower is still in place. As long as the Flash can get back on the same page, Week 2 should just be chalked up to early season growing pains.
6. (Last week- 6) PORTLAND THORNS FC (1-0-1)
OUTLOOK- The Thorns didn’t look much better than they did last week. They came away with an underwhelming draw that could’ve just as easily been a loss. Their only source of goals is Allie Long, who scored a penalty kick for Portland’s only goal in their draw to Sky Blue this week. Their midfield, including players like Christine Sinclair, still haven’t clicked. The Thorns have time to figure it out, but they are playing well below their potential now.
7. (Last week- 7) SKY BLUE FC (0-0-2)
OUTLOOK- Questions still linger around Sky Blue, unanswered. In their tie to Portland this week, Sky Blue seemed to vacillate from moments of smart soccer to those where they looked overwhelmed. In that sense, Week 2 gives a nod to the uneven season Sky Blue had last year. It seems Sky Blue needs to decide what kind of team they want to be and figure out an attack plan. For now, we’re all just waiting.
8. (Last week- 3) FC KANSAS CITY (0-1-1)
OUTLOOK- FC Kansas City swept all the season-end awards last year and was considered one of the toughest teams to beat. But their only source of goals right now is Amy Rodriguez, who wasn’t on the squad last year but is bringing all the energy this year. The rest of the team has to be more involved and show the same hunger on the field as Rodriguez or they will be in for a tough season. Their 3-1 loss to Washington Spirit should serve as a motivator.
9. (Last week- 9) BOSTON BREAKERS (0-2-0)
OUTLOOK- It was another tough week for the Boston Breakers. After getting the early lead against Houston, they kept letting the Dash back into the game. Their back line very much needs to get sorted or Boston will never be able to hold onto a lead.
What do you think of this week’s power rankings? Is there a team that should be higher? Would you rank a team lower?
Share your thoughts below.