NWSL West Week 9 Preview

The international break continues with players missing from all teams due to World Cup qualifiers, but that won’t stop the fun in this week’s NWSL action.

By Taylor Vincent

The NWSL’s 2022 regular season continues this week with a number of absences for every team due to international play. (See below for all the western players and their opponents who will be absent this week.) Get your multiple screens ready for a soccer-filled evening Friday night, as action starts with the Reign hosting the North Carolina Courage, and 30 minutes later Angel City will kickoff against Portland at home. Sunday action will wrap up with the Washington Spirit traveling to San Diego to face off for their first matchup against the expansion team. All-in-all, it will be a good opportunity for players who maybe haven’t had as many minutes to shine in the coming weeks. 

Notable Absences, an overview

OL Reign – Sofia Huerta (Defender, USA), Alana Cook (Defender, USA), Rose Lavelle (Midfielder, USA), Quinn (Midfielder, Canada), Megan Rapinoe (Forward, USA)

Angelina (Midfielder, Brazil), Jimena López (Defender, Mexico)

Portland Thorns – Christine Sinclair (Forward, Canada), Janine Beckie (Forward/Midfielder, Canada), Sophia Smith (Forward, USA), Rocky Rodriguez (Midfielder, Costa Rica), Natalia Kuikka (Midfielder, Finland), Becky Sauerbrunn (Defender, USA), Samantha Coffey* (Midfielder, USA), Hina Sugita* (Midfielder, Japan)

Angel City – Vanessa Gilles (Defender, Canada), Jun Endo* (Forward, Japan), Ali Riley* (Defender, New Zealand), Christen Press (SEI- ACL), Allyson Swaby (Defender, Jamaica)

San Diego Wave – Kailen Sheridan (Goalkeeper, Canada), Alex Morgan (Forward, USA), Taylor Kornieck (Midfielder, USA), Naomi Girma (Defender, USA), Sofia Jakobsson (Forward, Sweden), Emily van Egmond (Midfielder, Australia)

North Carolina Courage – Casey Murphy (Goalkeeper, USA), Carson Pickett* (Defender, USA), Debinha (Midfielder, Brazil), Kerolin (Forward, Brazil), Diana Ordoñez (Forward, Mexico), Brianna Pinto (Midfielder, USA-U23s)

Washington Spirit – Aubrey Kingsbury (Goalkeeper, USA), Kelley O’Hara (Defender, USA), Emily Sonnett (Defender, USA), Ashley Hatch (Forward, USA), Trinity Rodman (Forward, USA), Ashley Sanchez (Midfielder, USA), Andi Sullivan (Midfielder, USA), Anna Heilferty (Midfielder, USA-U23s)

*Players who were called up in the window that ends 6/28, unknown if they will be available for week 9 matches

OL takes on North Carolina at Lumen

OL Reign vs. North Carolina Courage  – Friday, July 1 at 10 P.M. ET (Paramount +)

Currently sitting in fifth place in the NWSL table and trending upwards, the Reign have only lost one game in the last five. Although they will be missing a number of important starters in these coming weeks, the Reign have some of the best depth in the NWSL heading into this stretch. Additionally, Tobin Heath joined the team for her first practice on Monday and she’ll be adding a veteran presence to the Reign attack. Kim Little was also supposed to join OL for a short summer transfer but her visa is still waiting to clear. Although the Courage won this year’s Challenge Cup, they are currently sitting at the bottom of the NWSL table and are missing very important parts of their attack. 

Bethany Balcer tracks down a ball heading for the endline. Taylor Vincent

Keep an eye on Bethany Balcer for the Reign this week. Balcer is currently tied for the most goals on the team as well as second in shots and shots on target. She’ll continue to be a favorite target in the box as she is equally dangerous with her head and her feet. 

Portland heads to LA

Portland Thorns vs. Angel City FC – Friday, July 1 at 10:30 P.M. ET (Paramount +)

Heading into week 9, Portland is sitting in second place, just two points behind San Diego with one less game. Angel City is hanging onto sixth place with only one win in the last five matches. Over the next three matches, Portland will be missing a number of key starters across the pitch, whereas Angel City is missing significantly fewer players. These teams faced each other just a month ago in Providence Park and the match ended in a 3–0 Portland win, but including the Challenge Cup, this will be the fourth face-off between the two teams this year. 

Morgan Weaver drives toward goal / Craig Mitchelldyer: Thorns FC

The player to watch for Portland this week is Morgan Weaver. Weaver is often paired with Sophia Smith up top, but with the international duty absences, the Thorns will look to her to step up. 

The player to watch for Angel City this week is Cari Roccaro. Roccaro has started all 9 games this year and is an important piece of the Angel City midfield during the transition to attack. Being able to control the Thorns’ counterattack will be important in Friday’s matchup. 

Cari Roccaro dribbles / Taylor Vincent

San Diego hosts the Spirit

San Diego FC vs. Washington Spirit  – Sunday, July 3 at 5 P.M. ET (Paramount +)

San Diego will defend its position atop the table again this week as the Washington Spirit come to town looking to work their way into a playoff position. As seen in the above section, both teams are missing a number of integral parts this week. For the Wave, Taylor Kornieck and Alex Morgan currently have 13 out of the team’s 16 goals, and the team will have to figure out how to score without them. Additionally, the loss of Naomi Girma to qualifiers as well as Abby Dahlkemper to continued injury leaves a big gap in the center of the defense which is further exacerbated by starting goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan also away. The Spirit themselves are missing eight of their starters, so it’ll be an interesting matchup all around. 

Jodie Taylor on the attack / Taylor Vincent

The player to watch for San Diego this week is Jodie Taylor. With the number of missing forwards and the chances/goals they create for the Wave it will be important for her to lead the Wave’s attack in the coming weeks. Look for her to be a favorite target up top. 

This week’s matches begin Friday, July 1st. Check out the full schedule here.

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