NWSL Snap: 2013 vibes for Seattle, NC hits fortress status

Laura Harvey is having her worst run of form for 11 years, but this weekend actually saw an improved performance. Hop in for a look around the NWSL.

NWSL Snap: 2013 vibes for Seattle, NC hits fortress status
Tyler Lussi throws up a heart sign to celebrate the winner against Seattle Reign || Courtesy of NC Courage

Note: Welcome to 'NWSL Snap' – A weekly Monday morning brief 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 Six Results:
Washington 2-3 Orlando || ACFC 1-3 KCC
Utah 0-0 Houston || Chicago 0-2 Portland || NCC 1-0 Seattle
San Diego 2-1 Bay FC || Gotham 1-1 Louisville

Watch NWSL highlights here

The Snapshot

Spend some time with Seattle Reign fans and quickly you will learn a phrase: "We don't talk about that season."

That season in question is 2013, the inaugural NWSL season. A rare off-year for the usually supreme Reign. 11 years later, 2024 is quickly becoming reminiscent of those early growing pains in the Pacific Northwest.

The Reign's debut season finished with the club seventh (second bottom) in the table, with five wins, four draws, and 14 losses from 22 matches.

Alas, it wasn't even the overall season performance that was the lowlight. It was the beginning of the embarkment that was particularly tortuous. Seattle began life in the NWSL with an 11-match winless run, that included nine straight defeats between Matchweek Two and Matchweek 10.

After their latest defeat, away to NC Courage, Seattle is now on a five-match losing streak. Laura Harvey's team's only points of the season came on opening day, an admirable, if narrow, 1-0 win over the Washington Spirit.

The ghosts of 2013 could be lurking if not for the fact that this weekend's loss was arguably Seattle's best performance of the year. The Reign matched the NC Courage for xG (1.5) and managed more shots on goal (7-4) and more overall chances (10-18).

Seattle's shape has been overly narrow this year, with the team lacking speed and athleticism. Amidst a poor run of results, Harvey has put the handbrake on ambitious passing patterns.

The emergence of Tziarra King, on the left wing, the past two weeks, combined with a rejuvenated Veronica Latsko has helped this a touch. Seattle is getting more wide avenues to pull the opponent's shape and create chances. That has to take the pressure of Ji being the sole creative epicentre.

At the back, Alana Cook had one of her better games at the weekend, which helped free up Sofia Huerta to get forward from the right back position later on in the match.

Unfortunately, a nasty-looking knee injury to midfield enforcer Quinn won't help the struggling Reign. Often we learn the most about teams at their lowest ebbs, and the test Harvey and company are under could be season-defining.

Fortress Courage

On the other hand, losing in North Carolina appears to be for everyone. It's now four wins on the trot for the Courage at home this year. That's a 100% win ratio, with the hit-list of clubs now: Houston, Portland, Gotham, and Seattle.

Crowds have been an issue for NC in past seasons, but that might be behind them now. With a population of 180,000, Cary is by far the smallest NWSL city. But a crowd of 8,100 this weekend shows that attendance is growing and sustaining.

Sean Nahas' team plays great possession-based football which helps get the fans on-side, and wears down opponents. Even more crucially, he pairs control of the ball with continuity, the desired clear process, and style.

The Courage have started the same back four and goalkeeper in every single NWSL match and the control they have in matches is a vital part of this. NC boasts the best xG against in the league (4.8), and has conceded the fewest shots on goal (18). So far, no team has played more passes (584 p90) or a higher completion rate (80.8%).

Saturday was certainly more about withstanding a late physical surge in the box than a death by a thousand cuts for the opponent. False-nine Brianna Pinto could certainly used some help up front in central areas, but for now, the Courage are making due by getting wingers open in the box to finish. And they can absolutely defend a lead at all costs.

The biggest test for North Carolina is now how they perform away from home. The Courage are about to play three consecutive matches on the road against three formidable opponents: Orlando Pride, Gotham FC, and KC Current.

Having lost both previous trips away so far this year, we're about to discover whether Nahas can get his team to secure points away from 'Fortress Courage'.

Good weekend for: Post-match broadcast interviews

NWSL fans are living well this week with so many iconic moments on the tele. My personal highlight was Portland savior Sophia Smith – who had just scored a match-winning brace – generating many a meme after being annoyed at her teammates for taking a victorious team photo without her.

But we also had Rose Lavelle, in the same post-match broadcast interview spot, deliver the wonderfully to the point line: "yeah, that's the NWSL...it's wild but it's fun!". Put that on a lunchbox, or share if you get a tattoo.

One more thing, while we're here.

Lavelle's funny choice of words was apt. The match, which saw both Gotham and Louisville labour to draw, had a wildly chaotic ending. Lavelle scored the equalizer for Gotham in the 97th minute which was just two minutes after Reilyn Turner had given Louisville a startling lead with a backheeled flick from point-blank range.

But neither Lavelle stealing a point back for Gotham, nor the audacious finish from the lavender-clad rookie was the most mesmerizing skill of the match. That goes to another Louisville rookie: Emma Sears.

Racing by name, racing by nature. Sears delivered the on-pitch highlight of the weekend by driving past Gotham players like they Argonauts staring at Medusa. Revved up, the winger didn't get the official assist for Turner's goal but definitely should get the credit for creating it. Watch and enjoy a dribble for the ages.

NWSL Feels XI – Matchday Six

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