NWSL Snap: Mentally, I'm still in the Bay

We're still processing what happened in Bay FC's first-ever home match. And, there's all the other good stuff (like XI of the week) from around the NWSL.

NWSL Snap: Mentally, I'm still in the Bay
Racheal Kundananji holds the Zambian flag aloft after scoring on her NWSL debut | Courtesy of Bay FC

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.

Apologies: This 'NWSL Snap' is a late delivery due to life stuff. That'll happen.

NWSL Matchday Three Results:
Orlando 1-1 Chicago || San Diego 1-0 Seattle || NCC 1-0 Gotham
KCC 4-2 ACFC || Portland 2-2 Louisville
Bay 2-3 Houston || Wash. Spirit 2-1 Utah

Watch NWSL highlights here

The Snapshot

Hour by hour, day by day, my body moves on but my mind resides is in the same place.

It is still fixated on the piping-hot NWSL nonsense that was Bay FC 2-3 Houston Dash, the first-ever home fixture in the history of the California club. The Texas club playing an emphatic spoiler on a historic night.

The match was bonkers. Not only the result itself but the ebbs and flows. We saw iconic celebrations, a terrific atmosphere, and entirely unpredictable drama unfold. It felt like three or four matches crammed into one. Never change NWSL, never change.

It's crazy to say, but Havana Solaun's cool-as-you-like match-winning finish in the 10th (TENTH!) minute of second-half stoppage time wasn't even the most memorable moment of the match.

Scenes on the Houston Dash bench after winning a late late winner

Although Houston got the three points – an important first NWSL win under new boss Fran Alonso – one of the biggest storylines was perhaps the sold-out Bay Area crowd itself.

The 18,000 voices of bluster and atmosphere, shrieks and bellows, crackled throughout like a beautifully crafted wood fire. Never quiet, with fits and roars rising at times.

And even more engrossing than the noise and tension created in San Jose, was Dash forward Diana Ordonez hushing that very cacophony. Twice the 22-year-old from Propser, TX, found the back of the net. And twice she reeled off to the corner in front of the home fans, cupped her ears, and shrugged in stylish indifference.

"Shut the crowd up and hold it down, that's what was going through my head when I scored the second goal," Ordonez remarked after the match when asked about her celebrations. "I think Dustyn [Richardson] put it pretty well, I was in my villain era, I was feeling it."

The NWSL needs games to matter. For there to feel like there is as much on the line as there truly is, we need celebrations to show the players expressing the context.

A sold-out stadium, a brand new team, let's win and shut them up. A brilliant narrative executed by Ordonez, who, along with her coach, couldn't have been more complimentary of Bay FC for the environment we created.

We need more villains in the NWSL, and to have fun with players going back and forth in a genuinely fun way.

Asisat Oshola walks out through the smoke in San Jose | Courtesy of Bay FC

Of course, there's a good chance that Ordonez's brace and theatrics in front of the expectant fans won't even be the most long-lasting memory of this game.

That feat goes to Racheal Kundananji's stunning NWSL debut, which saw her arrive off the bench and score a glorious curling strike over and around '2023 Goalkeeper of the Year' Jane Campbell.

After netting the would-be 'equalizer', to make it 2-2 in the 93rd minute, Kundananji, with teammates trailing like seagulls, raced to her team's dugout to retrieve a Zambian flag to drape herself in.

Hearts pumping, the most expensive signing in the history of the women's game (for now) gave us a strike that we will never forget. Incisive and smooth, off the right flank and all magical left foot.

A proper NWSL moment. Where were you when Kundananji stunningly announced herself to the U.S. league? A goal heard around the world. Especially in Africa, and Zambia.

The rest of the NWSL was also magnificent this past weekend. Alas, there's not truly time in this 1,000-word briefing to tell the oral history of the fact that referee Danielle Chesky decided to put her VAR monitor in a YETI cooler in Kansas City to help block out the midday sunlight.

Bizarre yet vital NWSL heritage. One normal day...

In terms of on-the-pitch action, it was summarized by late theatrics.

A 98th-minute winner by Emily Van Egmond on Friday night for San Diego's first regular season win of the season, another goal-fest (and three home points) in Kansas City, with defenses taking an afternoon off, more injury-time comebacks, and a scorching screamer by Sam Coffey to secure a two-goal comeback in Portland.

But there was nothing quite like the Dash suddenly sparking into life after looking troubled for 45 minutes, as they struggled to play out from the back against Bay FC's high press.

The fact Houston had been so poor, and so maligned on social media timelines, made the turnaround that much more cinematic. Juicy and ridiculous. Footy, my goodness, what have you done?

That second half had it all. Yet, another encapsulation of this beautiful game. Unpredictable, illogical, mad fun.

Quote of the week:

"We don't know how to win" – Abby Erceg

The Racing Louisville centreback was pretty candid when talking about her and her teammates' inertia at once again letting a lead slip, and subsequently settling for one point instead of three. Quite clearly, it is weighing on the club.

"I think it’s becoming quite obvious at the moment. It’s frustrating for the girls, we’re not losing, but drawing all these games won’t win you anything," the New Zealander expanded.

An expert brace from Uchenna Kanu, in under 350 seconds of play, had given Louisville the cushy early two-goal advantage. But late on the Kentucky club unraveled.

Racing has now dropped four points from winning positions this season, with opposition equalizers coming in the 86th minute (against Orlando MD1) and the 99th minute (against Portland MD3).

Random stat to know: The house doesn't always win

Bay FC is not alone when it comes to expansion teams losing their first-ever home match in the NWSL. In fact, the navy-wearing newbies are in the majority when it comes to pulling up short in a club curtain raiser on home turf.

In the NWSL, brand-new teams. playing in front of their own fans for the first time, have a win percentage of just 37.5%. A W-D-L record of 3-1-4.

True expansion team regular season home openers since 2014:
2014: Houston Dash 0-1 Portland Thorns
2016: Orlando Pride 3-1 Houston Dash
2018: Utah Royals 0-1 Chicago Red Stars
2021: Racing Louisville 0-0 KC Current
2022: San Diego Wave 4-0 Gotham FC
2022: Angel City 2-1 NC Courage
2024: Utah Royals 0-2 Chicago Red Stars
2024 Bay FC 2-3 Houston Dash

NWSL Feels XI – Matchday Three

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