NWSL Snap: Season opens with immaculate chaos, Bay history

A Monday morning whip-around of the NWSL's weekend action, talking points & nonsense. PLUS: Feel XI of the week & stats.

NWSL Snap: Season opens with immaculate chaos, Bay history
Rookie Ellie Wheeler celebrates scoring on her debut at the grand opening of the CPKC Stadium | Courtesy of the KC Current

Note: Welcome to 'NWSL Snap' – A weekly Monday morning whip-around of the weekend's action, talking points & nonsense from the U.S. league. Expect quick updates, curious notes, and some standout statistics. It is included in the FREE Squad Depth subscription.

NWSL Matchday One Results:
KC Current 5-4 Portland Thorns || Racing Lou 2-2 Orlando Pride
NC Courage 5-1 Houston Dash || Utah Royals 0-2 Chi. Red Stars
Seattle Reign 1-0 Wash. Spirit || ACFC 0-1 Bay FC

The Snapshot

"We are so back" – Ancient NWSL proverb.

The overwhelming theme of the opening weekend of the 2024 NWSL season was questionable defending, drama, and high-scoring matches, well at least on Saturday.

This was no better exemplified than at the 5-4 in Kansas City, which was the first-ever match played in CPKC Stadium. A rare landmark arena built solely for a women's football club. The roar from the home fans was something special.

The nine goals scored, which included braces for Thorns players Sophia Smith and Janine Beckie, who made her first appearance since an ACL tear a year ago, equaled a league record set in 2017.

KC may have got the three points but sweated toward the end after being pegged back from a 5-1 lead with 19 minutes to go.

Even on Sunday, in two narrow 1-0 matches, there was plenty of chaos to keep up the histrionics despite a lack of goals.

Namely, a penalty awarded to Seattle Reign 10 seconds into their match against the Washington Spirit. The foul in question featured Canadian-on-Canadian crime, with Quebec's Gabby Carle taking out British Columbia's Jordyn Huitema.

The Spirit were nullified to the result of 0.04 xG (from two total shots) in what was mathematically one of the feeblest attacking showings we've seen in the NWSL. Casey Kreuger's disallowed goal from a corner not withstanding.

"The soccer gods were with us"

In the weekend's closing fixture in Los Angeles, expansion team Bay FC traveled South down Highway One for its first-ever NWSL football match. It was an incredible way to enter history books by beating intra-state rival Angel City on their own patch.

The Bay FC players swarm match-winner Asisat Oshoala | Courtesy of Bay FC

Asisat Oshoala looked as sharp as ever, smashing in the winning goal with tremendous confidence. While it may have been the only shot she took on the night, it will be remembered for a long long time in club lore.

Angel City saw chance after chance saved, clattered off the post, and cleared off the line. Their 19 shots taken were the most of any team this weekend.

"The soccer gods were with us," admitted Bay head coach Albertin Montoya afterward.

"They saved me, I saved them"

Oshoala may have made history, but the memorable California clash was truly defined by another NWSL debutant: Lysianne Proulx.

The Québécoise, who was signed from Melbourne City during the Winter, was utterly in her element squaring up to severe pressure. Stunningly, she completed eight saves and prevented 2.39 xG-on target to seal the win.

The quirky Proulx looks like she could quickly become a bit of an icon in the league. The 24-year-old oozes swagger, has one face tattoo, another on her neck, and unevenly rolled up her sleeves. Her shorts were lower than most, with what appeared to be her goalie shirt tucked into another inner lycra number underneath. We stan esoteric fashion choices in the nets.

Broadcast discourse

Off the pitch – in homes across the world – the major storyline was: What would it be like watching the actual matches?

The NWSL's new $60m a year broadcast deal was put to the test and for the most part, I think it passed. This was a step in the right direction. Even in imperfection.

On Amazon, ABC/ESPN, and ION the quality was vastly improved both in terms of the resolution on the cameras and the amount of angles made available during the games.

For the major invested networks to all have produced extra studio analysis on either side of the match was a massive breath of fresh air too. For too long this has not been normal in NWSL television. Finally, we are getting there.

ION did have technical difficulties with audio at one point. Plenty of people struggled to locate the free-to-air network too. Typos on team and player names occurred frequently. The drop-off from the top-tier delivery by Amazon and ESPN was notable.

It's not as easy as it used to be on the singular Paramount+, but hopefully, these were just teasing issues and the result of underutilized user experience marketing.

Random stat to know: Sav DeFoulo

If you can dish it out, you've got to be able to take it. Once again, Racing Louisville midfielder Savannah DeMelo has started the year top of the table for both fouls committed (four) and fouls drawn (six).

Since entering the NWSL two seasons ago, she has ended every season as the most fouled player in the league (75 and 67 fouls drawn). In 2022, she also committed more fouls (41) than any other player, and last season she was fourth in the same stat with 37.

It is funny that this phenomenon continues to occur. How many will she get this year?

Savannah DeMelo | Courtesy of Racing Louisville FC

A good weekend for: Headbands

Old-fashioned headbands appear to making a comeback. KC Current rookie right-back Ellie Wheeler dusted off a real Bjorn Borg white sweatband on her forehead. A timeless look. Made all the more timeless by getting a goal on your professional debut.

Alongside Wheeler, Chicago's Ally Schlegel also found the back of the net while wearing a quite over-the-top piece of fabric around her crown. The Red Stars' forward pulled off a spectacular looping header that showcased the power of neck muscles

Despite not getting on the scoresheet, Los Angeles' new signing Messiah Bright picked up where she left off in past seasons by coming in hot off the bench with a 'Karate Kid' style headband drawn tightly over her long orange-tinted braids.

Messiah Bright | Courtesy of Angel City FC

NWSL Feels XI – Matchday One

Sort of like a team of the week – mostly gut feels, and who brought the vibes