Jane G. Photography/Seattle Reign FC
By CAITLIN MURRAY
In the opening week of the National Women’s Soccer League 2014 season, the power rankings look quite a bit different than any week last year.
The Seattle Reign have come out of the gate leading the pack and grabbing the top spot of Week 1 rankings. It’s not too surprising — they looked just as good on the field as they did on paper after coach Laura Harvey masterminded trades and acquisitions galore in the offseason.
Meanwhile, the Houston Dash were probably a bit disappointed to lose at home in their inaugural match, but there’s a lot to feel good about. They held the reigning champions of the league to a one goal and controlled far more of the possession. Simply put, the Dash outplayed Portland Thorns FC but still got saddled with a loss.
Washington Spirit looked better than they did last season, when they had the humiliating distinction of being ruled out of playoffs long before the rest of the league.
The teams that made up the middle pack of last year’s standings looked just as close starting off 2014, offering glimmers that the league may again be tight jostle all the way to the playoffs.
Here are the SBI NWSL Power Rankings this week:
SBI NWSL Power Rankings (Week 1)
1. SEATTLE REIGN FC (1-0-0)
OUTLOOK- Seattle is riding high in Week 1 — and they should be. The Reign have possibly the most bench depth in the league and, even ahead of the Boston Breakers 3-0, chased for more goals to the final seconds. This is not the team that managed to go 11 consecutive games winless last year. They will have next week off, but that should only give this squad of many new faces time to gel and become even stronger.
2. WESTERN NEW YORK FLASH (1-0-0)
OUTLOOK- The Flash were the best regular season club in the league last year — both in results and their ability as a team. But it has to be a boost to see them play as well as they did in their 3-1 defeat of the Washington Spirit this week without Abby Wambach (day-to-day) or goalkeeper Adrianna Franch (out for the season). With players like Carli Lloyd and Samantha Kerr kept at bay, newcomer Vicky Losada stepped up and showed the Flash will be a very difficult team to contain.
3. FC KANSAS CITY (0-0-1)
OUTLOOK- Despite ending their first match of the season in a draw, Kansas City looked to be on the hunt with Amy Rodriguez acting as a menace in front of goal. For a team that saw the bulk of its 2013 goals and assists come from Lauren Holiday and Erika Tymrak — both returning this year — it is a positive sign to see another potential source of goals. With Rodriguez fighting to get back on the national team after taking the year off, it’s clear she means business and will be a force within the squad.
4. HOUSTON DASH (0-1-0)
OUTLOOK- To see the Houston Dash outplay last year’s title winner probably raised a few eyebrows. After all, Dash lack the pieces of a team like Portland. But the new expansion team held their own, keeping Portland to one goal and finding plenty of opportunities on goal that they couldn’t finish. The loss shouldn’t rattle the Dash too much. (Far more concerning is that Brittany Bock, a key piece of their midfield, tore her ACL in the inaugural match and is out for the season.)
5. WASHINGTON SPIRIT (0-1-0)
OUTLOOK- Losing is certainly nothing new for Washington Spirit, who won only three games all last season. But it was a much more palatable loss, having scored a goal — something they only managed to do 16 times in 22 games last year — against a strong Flash team, which should build some confidence. It’s early and the Spirit can go either way from here.
6. PORTLAND THORNS FC (1-0-0)
OUTLOOK- Coach Paul Riley’s reaction to his midfield’s opening match of the season? “It looked like we just met at a 7-Eleven.” Ouch. The Thorns struggled to connect their way up the field, a problem they struggled with last season. One has to wonder if the team chemistry woes of last year could come back. But the Thorns have all the right pieces and still came away with a win, so it’s hard to be too down on the reigning league champs.
7. SKY BLUE FC (0-0-1)
OUTLOOK- Sky Blue roared ahead early last season and then faded out with a whimper after a rash of injuries left the squad a shadow of its former self. They held their own in their 2014 debut, drawing to Kansas City, but they didn’t show much new growth to get excited about. It’s early and coach Jim Gabarra may surprise everyone again, but for now Sky Blue is a wait-and-see team.
8. CHICAGO RED STARS (0-0-0)
OUTLOOK- Chicago sitting in a legitimate spot in this week’s rankings says more about how much Boston struggled than anything else. The Red Stars had Week 1 off and next week is full of possibilities when they face the Flash to start their season.
9. BOSTON BREAKERS (0-1-0)
OUTLOOK- Their offseason wasn’t great and it looks like it could be a long 2014 for the Breakers. If not for the crossbar, Reign probably would’ve scored 5 or 6 goals against Boston, who appeared somewhat hapless in the attack and not much better defensively. They didn’t have a full strength Lisa De Vanna, however, as she had just traveled from Australia that week, so Boston’s stint at the rear of the rankings shouldn’t be permanent.
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.