The Week in Women's Football: NWSL review; Sanchez expectations at San Diego; watching Minnesota Aurora pitch

Tribal Football
The Week in Women's Football: NWSL review; Sanchez expectations at San Diego; watching Minnesota Aurora pitch
The Week in Women's Football: NWSL review; Sanchez expectations at San Diego; watching Minnesota Aurora pitch
The Week in Women's Football: NWSL review; Sanchez expectations at San Diego; watching Minnesota Aurora pitchTribal Football
This week, we present part two of the 2024 NWSL Regular Season after approximately one-third of the campaign, reviewing the seven teams in the bottom half of the table: San Diego Wave, Angel City FC, Houston Dash, Racing Louisville, Seattle Reign and expansion sides Bay FC and Utah Royals. Last week in part one, we examined the top seven teams in the league: Kansas City Current, Orlando Pride, Washington Spirit, Portland Thorns, Chicago Red Stars, North Carolina Courage and NJ/NY Gotham FC (see: The Week in Women's Football: Brazil win '27 World Cup bid; NWSL check as Seb Hines has Orlando Pride flying - Tribal Football).

NWSL Review First Third of the Season Part 2


San Diego Wave (3-2-3, 11 points; Eighth)

The NWSL Shield winners in 2023 for the best regular season record have struggled this season with an inability to string consecutive wins together. They are tied for tenth in the league in scoring with only eight goals (the same as Houston Dash, who have played one game more). Third year teenage forward and budding U.S. national team star Jaedyn Shaw (19) is tied for the team lead with two goals along with third-year Wave American forward Mackenzy Doniak (30).

We expect the offense to become uncorked as new signing Maria Sanchez (28) of Mexico (see more below), two-time WWC winner Alex Morgan (34) and midfielder Savannah McCaskill (27)who had four goals last season with Angel Citystart hitting the net, as all remain scoreless thus far this season, though Morgan has missed some games with a lower leg injury. Their defense has been stellar however, with only seven goals allowed in eight games and tied with Orlando for the second lowest total in the NWSL, besides Gotham FC (6).

Jaedyn Shaw scored from the penalty spot and added an assist (to Makenzy Doniak) in the Wave's 2-0 win over Utah on May 8 at home, the first time they have ever won three straight wins at home at Snapdragon Stadium. With her goal, she became the second-youngest player (at 19 years and 170 days) to take and score a penalty during a regular season game, but well behind Kansas City's Alex Pfeiffer record (16 years, three months and nine days) set in the Current's season opener on March 16, 2024.

In a flurry of trades on April 19 ahead of the transfer window which closed at midnight, the Wave acquired Mexican international winger Maria Sanchez (28) for $500,000 in total$200,000 in allocation money and $300,000 in inter-league transfer funds, plus an international roster spot in 2024 and the 2025 season. Combined with her $1.5 million contract for three seasons which she signed with Houston in Decemberat the time the largest salary in the league, the Wave made a serious financial commitment to bring her on. Given her status with the Mexican national team in the border city of Tijuana and Baja California, she should be a very popular player with fans from south of the border. Sanchez signed a long-term contract in Dec. 2023 following the start of the free agency window, re-signing with the Dash.

In total she appeared in 62 games for Houston in all competitions and scored eight goals and 14 assists. She played in all four of Houston's games this season. Something seems to have gone wrong though as she requested a trade a few weeks before the trade deadline, as Houston has a new coach in Spainard Fran Alonso (via Scotland and England) and is doingonce againa roster rebuild. She posted on social media when announcing her desire to be traded that this situation had: "taken a toll" on her and she wanted to be traded in a: "timely manner." She reportedly met with Houston general manager Alex Singer and head coach Fran Alonso on March 27 to air her frustrations with the club. In a little over three seasons (including half of 2021 on loan from Tigres of Mexico) she played for five coaches (including interims) and the Dash is always seemingly in a rebuild mode. She will find a much more stable coaching (Casey Stoney's contract was extended at the end of last season through the 2027 campaign) and front office (led by two-time U.S. WWC winning head coach Jill Ellis, who is now the Team President) environment and a vibrant fan base and culture.

Tribal talked to Maria Sanchez the next week after the trade as well as her new coach in San Diego, former English international Casey Stoney, on a media call. Sanchez was born and raised in Idaho and played at Idaho State University and Santa Clara University in college. Snchez began her professional career with the Chicago Red Stars after being selected in the second round of the 2019 NWSL College Draft. The forward spent the next two years in Mexico, playing for Chivas de Guadalajara and UANL Tigres Femenil before rejoining the NWSL to play in Houston.

Sanchez described the process of her move from Houston as: "A tough month for me mentally. I've very happy to be here and finally be able to focus just on soccer and very happy to be in this environment. Some things changed (in Houston). I'm happy that everything worked out for me to be here in San Diego I think I'm on good terms with the players and coaching staff in Houston."

Casey Stoney said that the club had been interested in her for a few years and she is a great on-the-ball technical player with a very good delivery (of the ball). When Sanchez was a free agent in December of 2023, she did talk to Stoney and the Wave. Stoney emphasized that she did not talk to Sanchez over the past few weeks however, explaining that: "It was not my job; my job is to coach players."

Sanchez described playing in Liga MX Femenil as: "The best years of my career. I improved so much." When asked about key differences between Liga MX Femenil and the NWSL, she said that: "Only a few teams really invest (in Mexico) The NWSL, a lot of teams have invested a lot more. Mexico is a lot more possession-based but the NWSL is changing a lot with a lot of the new players that we've had now but I think that it is a little more physical and more direct."

Casey Stoney also addressed the upcoming CONCACAF W Champions League tournament later this year that the Wave will participate in as 2024 NWSL Shield winners. She said: "It's a great opportunity to test ourselves against teams in different countries and with different styles of play. It will put us under quite a bit of stress (due to the additional games on the schedule) at that point, which is a good thing, (to ask) are we ready, are we ready to compete at those levels? It is another competition that we want to do well in so it is an exciting time and something we are looking forward to be a part of."


Angel City FC (3-1-4, 10 points; Ninth)

Scottish international Claire Emslie (30) leads the side with five goals, including a double in their 2-1 win over North Carolina at home in front of another 21,000 sellout gathering in Round 5 on April 21; Emslie is tied for second in the Golden Boot race with Temwa Chawinga of Kansas City, but both are a distance from leader Sophia Smith of Portland, who has eight goals. 2015 WWC winner and 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist for the U.S. Sydney Leroux has two goals while the only other player to score is rookie defender Madison Curry (23) with one tally in a 4-2 loss away to Kansas City. All eyes are on U.S. international Christen Press (35) who is trying to comeback from a long term injury.

Captain Ali Riley, American-born and raised but a long-time New Zealand international and current captain, is still a rock in defense and has played in five games this season. Goalkeepers Angelina Anderson (23), in her second season with the club, and Bosnia and Herzegovina international DiDi Haracic (32) have fairly evenly split the duties in the net thus far this year, playing in three and five games, respectively.

Costa Rican international Raquel "Rocky" Rodriguez (30) has played in six matches with five starts after moving from Portland in the off-season; she is vital to the team's success this season as they attempt to qualify for the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

In mid-May, the club signed English native Mark Wilson as the club's first ever Technical Director. ACFC General Manager (and former U.S. international Angela Hucles Mangano) explained: "We're nicely positioned to be more proactive in sporting strategies and more efficient in their execution with Mark in this role. The structure we're building with a Technical Director is unique to our league, yet I won't be surprised to see more (teams) trending in this direction."

Wilson played in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League with Manchester United and moved to Major League Soccer's FC Dallas in 2005. He also played for England at youth international levels. Wilson holds a Master's of Science degree in Sports Directorship and has held coaching positions for the New York Red Bull USL 2 team and the Colorado Rapids Women's WPSL team, leading the Rapids Women to a WPSL national final in 2022. With the Colorado Rapids, he was the Head of Education, creating a robust talent ID and development methodology and strategy for both coaches.

Angel City plans to continue to train in Conejo Valley at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, extending their contract for two more seasons with an option for a third year. They have trained at Cal Lutheran since their expansion season in 2022. The university has a long history of hosting training facilities for pro sports teams. It was the summer home to the Dallas Cowboys for 26 years, and the Los Angeles Rams for eight years, both of the National Football League.


Houston Dash (2-3-4, 9 points; Tenth)

On April 3, the Dash acquired iconic Swiss international forward Ramona Bachmann (33) for a transfer fee from Paris St. Germain. She has won 18 domestic league and cup titles since her debut in 2007 with Umea of Sweden at the age of 16, playing with Brazil's Marta (now with the Orlando Pride). The forward led Switzerland to the Round of 16 in the 2015 and 2023 FIFA Women's World Cups and the team made the UEFA Women's EURO Finals in 2017 and 2022. Bachmann has scored more than 50 goals in 140 appearances for Switzerland. She has yet to score after four games in her new home (it's a Houston thing) with Mexican international Diana Ordonez leading the side with three goals.

Bachmann joins the Dash after spending the last three seasons with Paris Saint-Germain. She won the D1 Arkema league title during the 2020-2021 season and the Coupe de France Fminine the following year. She led the club to the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League in the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 campaigns. PSG reached the quarterfinals of the tournament last year and recently advanced to the semifinals for 2023-24 after defeating BK Hcken 5-1 on aggregate.

Bachmann spent a brief spell with the Atlanta Beat of the WPS in 2010, scoring once in ten games for a terrible side in an unstable league. She came onto the WPS radar in 2009 when the league hosted Umea in an All-Star game in Fenton, Missouri in front of 4,115 fans (near capacity). Interestingly, long-time Swedish international Sofia Jacobsson scored one of Umea's goals in their 4-2 defeat and she is in her third season with the San Diego Wave in the NWSL, after time with Rossiyanka of Russia, Chelsea in England, BV Cloppenberg and Bayern Munich in German, Montpellier of France and CD Tacon/Real Madrid in Spain; she is approaching 150 caps for Sweden.

Bachmann then returned to Sweden to play for Ume (2010-2011) where she scored 27 goals and FC Rosengrd (2011-2015) and won five league titles. She moved to Germany for the 2015-2016 season with VfL Wolfsburg, where she won the DFB-Pokal Frauen (cup tournament) prior to signing with Chelsea FC in England in 2016. The forward added five domestic titles and cups during her tenure in west London, scoring the game-winning goal over Arsenal in the 2018 Women's FA Cup Final.

The Dash hired head coach Fran Alonso in December after former head coach Sam Laity was fired last season. Former goalkeeper coach Matt Lampson was also fired earlier this year for violating the league's NWSL Coach Code of Conduct and Anti-Fraternization Policy. The coaching carousel is never ending in Houston. It's not been an easy first season for Fran Alonso to start his NWSL coaching career as the team amassed only two points from 15 available over five games, before defeating Angel City 1-0 on the road on May 12, with a goal by defender Paige Nielsen, her first goal of the season after joining the Dash from their Los Angeles-based opposition early in the season in exchange for $50,000 in Allocation Money and $50,000 in Intra-League Transfer Funds.

Nielsen won the 2021 NWSL Championship with the Washington Spirit, where she played three seasons, and reached the quarterfinals of the 2023 NWSL playoffs with Angel City FC, who selected her in the 2022 NWSL Expansion draft. Nielsen brings nearly a decade of professional experience to the Dash after competing in the NWSL, Australia's W-League, Cyprus and Korea. The defender began her professional career with Seattle Reign FC after being selected with the No. 25 overall pick in the 2016 NWSL College Draft. She spent time with Apollon Ladies FC in Cyprus and three years in Australia with the Western Sydney Wanderers (2016-2017) and Canberra United (2018). She won a NCAA Division I College Cup title in 2012 with the University of North Carolina.

In major news this season, we are still trying to figure out the Maria Sanchez demand to leave Houston as she was moved to San Diego just prior to the end of the WNSL transfer window on April 19 after requesting a trade from Houston in March (see above). Snchez was a restricted free agent this past offseason but then re-upped with the Dash in a massive three-year deal that is worth up to $1.5 million, including bonuses and a fourth-year option, the largest deal in NWSL history at the time.

Rookie defender Kiki Van Zanten (22), who played for Notre Dame and the U.S. at multiple youth levels but then played at the senior level for Jamaica in 2023, was ruled out for the season after an injury to her left foot in week four's match against the D.C. Spirit. Van Zanten was drafted with the No. 21 overall pick in the 2024 NWSL Draft and signed with the team on March 15.

On April 23, Houston signed Brazilian international defender Tarciane (20) for a transfer fee from Corinthians of Sao Paulo, where she was in her fourth season. She won two Serie A championships and the 2023 CONMEBOL Copa Libertadores Femenina. The defender recently represented Brazil at the 2024 SheBelieves Cup (where the team finished third) and reached the final of the 2024 CONCACAF W Gold Cup. She has represented Brazil at the U-17 and U-20 levels, winning the South American U-20 championship in 2022. At the 2022 U-20 FIFA World Cup in Costa Rica, Tarciane was awarded with the Bronze Ball, scoring three goals during the tournament, leading Brazil to a third-place finish, which was their best finish ever in the competition.

Tarciane signed a three year contact with a mutual option for a fourth year in 2027. Dash GM Alex Singer said: "Tarciane is a special young talent with potential to be one of the best in the world. At just 20 years old, she is a physically imposing, dominant defender, who has proven to be able to compete against the top attackers across the globe and impose her quality. From the U-20 World Cup to today, her play, poise and mentality has impressed us. Investing in players like Tarciane is a key component to how we build our roster. We are confident that she will have a significant impact on our club over the next years and develop as a player under our infrastructure. We are thrilled she chose to continue her journey in Houston, and we are excited to see her growth and impact both to our club and the league."

Tarciane said about her move to the Dash and the NWSL: "I'm very happy to play in Houston, I am motivated and prepared for this new challenge in my career. Playing in the NWSL is a dream come true. This is one of the best leagues in the world plus a country with so much tradition in women's soccer. It's such a fantastic opportunity and I'll do my best to represent this club on-and-off the field."

With Corinthians in Serie A matches this season, she had one goal in five matches this season. She stated her career with Fluminense's youth academy. Her signing does show that the NWSL is competitive in its quest to sign top international talent and her youth is a good sign, with some teams convinced that they can develop top young internationals, while still trying to bring in more senior internationals such as Bachmann.

Alex Singer (who played in UWS and two seasons with the Spirit in the NWSL as well as in Germany, Norway, Sweden and Australia) is a very sharp, young General Manager but this club has just been a train wreck since day one with a few notable exceptions, winning the 2020 Challenge Cup during COVID and keeping English international Rachel Daly in the city for eight seasons (from 2016 through 2022).

I think that Maria Sanchez just got fed up with the constant turmoil. Singer is trying to build a different culture in Houston and I think she has a plan and is sincere. She needs more time to do that but will ownership allow her to do that. One gets the feeling that the Dash might need to make the playoffs this season or there could be more departures on the players side, as well as possibly on the coaching and front office side, which would almost by default dictate yet another Dash rebuild. I do think Fran Alonso is the coach to turn this franchise around.

On May 16, asked Alonso about the motivation from their last victory away over Angel City on May 12, facing Portland Thorns as home on May 17 (a 2-0 loss to the Thorns in a game delayed for two and one-half hours due to thunderstorms in the area after parts of downtown Houstonwhere their stadium isremain flooded after recent heavy rains) as part of a run of four home games out of their next five and currently sitting in tenth, but only three points out of the playoffs.

He replied that: "We don't look at the position on the table. We know in this league it changes very, very quickly. You win three games and you can claim several positions and you lose three games and you can drop several positions. It's crazy how it works because it (the NWSL) is very, very competitive So, we don't look at the table so much but we look at our performances and set our goals as well as (look at) stats; we look at the achievement that we want from the game and then analyze it the day after with the players. For us, this is a long term project. We want to be the best football team in the league and we are very far from it so we need to keep working on it."

Management of this franchise co-owned with the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer needs to view the Dash under Alex and Fran as a multi-year project. The Dash is certainly not out of the playoff race this early in the season but an end of season playoff, which would be only their second in the team's eleven year history (qualifying in 2022), must be viewed as a bonus, but it would be proof of concept of Alex and Fran's vision.


Racing Louisville FC (1-5-2, 8 points; Eleventh)

Nigerian international Uchenna Kanu has four goals and is tied for fourth in the league's Golden Boot race, with four other players. She is in her second season at Racing, moving from Tigres of Mexico and previously played at Linkoping in Sweden. Last season in Louisville, she only played just under 500 minutes in 16 games under now jettisoned Swedish coach Kim Bjorkegren, who has not yet taken a new position.

Savannah De Melo (26) has three goals while American rookie forward Reilyn Turner (21), out of UCLA, has two tallies. First year import Elexa Bahr (25) of Colombia has one tally. Rookie Emma Sears (23) from Ohio State University also has one goal. The team has improved under first year head coach Bev Yanez but more deadlocks than any other team (five) has kept them out of the playoffs so far. This franchise has always underperformed but Yanez is certainly trending the team upward. The back line is still solid with American Katie Lund (27) in goal and New Zealand international Abby Erceg (34) and U.S. international Carson Pickett (30) in defense, aided by American Lauren Milliet (27) as a defensive-midfielder, who is in her fourth season with Racing after two seasons with the North Carolina Courage (2019 and 2020)

Racing Louisville attracted 11,365 home fans to Lynn Family Stadium for their 5-1 win over the Utah Royals on April 20. This was a record crowd to see the franchise in its fourth year in the league. The win was part of a club record six game undefeated streak (one win and five ties), which ended with a 1-0 loss to Orlando Pride on May 5, with a 17th minute goal by Zambian international forward Barbra Banda of the Pride.

After the match, Bev Yanez was still positive about her side, particularly on their defensive effort against the undefeated Pride: "There were moments of absolute brilliance today from the group. We continue to show that we are a top-level team, and we believe that. We massively believe that we're a playoff team, and we'll continue to show that we are a playoff team. The effort's always controllable for me, and I think the group is constantly looking eager, constantly wanting to grow in the right direction. They showcase that every single game. It's only a matter of time before it continues to click and clicks in a massive direction for us."

Unfortunately, Racing fell again five days later to Washington (2-1) at home.

A big loss for 2024 is defender Elli Pikkujamsa of Finland, who was operated on early in the season to repair a torn patellar tendon in her left knee, suffered early in the season away against Portland in a 2-2 tie on March 30.

Pikkujms made 21 appearances last season after her move from Orebro of Sweden, starting 18 games and scoring once. Her injury will also see her miss time with her national side in 2025 EURO Qualifying.

Midfielder Ary Borges (24) of Brazil recently underwent a successful knee scope procedure to clean damage from a meniscus tear in her left knee suffered during practice in early May. Her recovery is expected to be rapid and she remains on the active roster. She has played in three games this and 21 last year in all competitions, with two goals and one assist. She started all three games for Brazil at last summer's Women's World Cup Finals in Australia/New Zealand. She has six goals and one assist in 25 appearances for her national team.

Racing Louisville will again host the Women's Cup four team international tournament for the third time. It will be a knockout tournament over two days, with the semifinals set for August 9 and final set for August 13. CONMEBOL Libertadores Femenine champion Palmeiras and Italian Serie A side Juventus (who finished second this season in the regular season and are firmly in the same position in the five team championship round behind Roma in both cases; and who have won five league titles and three Coppa Italia titles) will participate with Racing and one other team to be determined.

Juventus includes 2020 (in 2021) Canadian Women's World Cup winner Julia Grosso and Dutch 2017 Women's EURO champions Lineth Beerensteyn from the Netherlands. The tournament will also see Racing Louisville's midfielder and Brazilian star midfielder Ary Borges (see above) meet her former club, Palmeiras. The Brazilian club won the 2022 Copa Libertadores Feminine, the premier club competition in South America, and reached the final in 2023. Racing will play Palmeiras in one semifinal with Juventus playing the other invited team. The tournament will have a $100,000 prize pool. The Kansas City Current will host a The Women's Cup second edition in their new CPKC Stadium, with the same prize money at stake.

Louisville finished second to Gotham FC in February at a The Women's Cup four team tournament in Cali, Colombia. Racing won the TWC title at home by defeating Bayern Munich in 2021 in Louisville before falling to Seattle's OL Reign in the 2022 final at Lynn Family Stadium.


Seattle Reign (2-1-6, 7 points; Twelfth)

The Reign won their season opener at home over the Washington Spirit (1-0) on March 17, with Bethany Balcer scoring the only goal from the penalty spot three minutes into the game. Their second win came in their seventh match on May 3 as Balcer scored again, while Veronica Latsko added a late winner in the 89th minute at home for a 2-1 win over San Diego. Balcer leads the side with three goals with the entire team only scoring seven from nine games (behind all the competition except for Utah and Gotham FC, who both have scored six goals). This is simply not good enough for a side that lost in the 2023 NWSL Final to Gotham FC in an exciting match (2-1).

Laura Harvey is one of the best coaches in the professional game and her defense is strong with Seattle veterans Lauren Barnes (34), U.S and former Mexican international Sofia Huerta (31) and Ava Cook (27). In midfield, Wales veteran Jess Fishlock now has fellow Wales international Angradad James alongside her as well as another Welsh international in Lily Woodham in defense (see: The Week in Women's Football: NWSL preview as clubs go on mega spending spree - Tribal Football).

Also, in midfielder is Canadian international and 2020 Olympic Gold Medalist Quinn (26), who has been with the Reign since 2019 and also played for short periods in France (Paris FC) and Sweden (Vittsjo); this team is expected to make the playoffs for the eighth year in 11 regular season campaigns (the regular season was cancelled because of COVID in 2020), with three Championship Final appearances, in head coach Larua Harvey's ninth season in charge across two stints. They may need an infusion of new blood, particularly on the front line, if the attack stays muted.


Bay FC (2-0-7, 6 points; Thirteenth Expansion Side)

Expansion side Bay FC's trio of top international attacking talent each have two goals: Nigerian international Asisat Oshoala, Zambian international Racheal Kundananji and Venezuelan international midfielder Deyna Castellanos, along with American forward Tess Boade and American defender Kayla Sharples (26), who also have two goals each. Oshoala has played with Barcelona, Liverpool and Arsenal in the WSL and Dalian Quanjian in China.

She won league titles at home in Nigeria with Rivers Angels (2014), two in China with Dalian Quanjian (2017 and 2018) and four in Spain with Barcelona (2019-20 through 2022-23), two UEFA Women's Champions League titles with Barcelona (2020-21 and 2022-23) as well as three African Women's Cup of Nations with Nigeria (2014, 2016 and 2018). The 29-year-old is also the ninth-most followed women's soccer player in the world on Instagram with 1.3 million followers and now the fourth-most in the NWSL, behind Alex Morgan (10 million), Marta (3 million) and Jordyn Huitema (1.5 million). Oshoala scored the first goal ever for Bay FC in their historic inaugural game victory over Angel City FC (1-0) on March 17 in Los Angeles.

Another young attacker to watch is Princess Marfo (20) of Ghana, who the club acquired in late January in a transfer with her Danish club FC Nordsjaelland. She played in Ghana with the Right to Dream Academy before joining Nordsjaelland during the 2021-22 season when she was 18, playing in six games. During the 2022-23 season she had two goals in 22 appearances and one goal in 14 appearances thus far this year in Denmark (2023-24). She can play internationally for Ghana or Denmark. She has played in six games thus far for Bay FC, starting in two.

Note: Ghana's WNT is now coached by former Swiss international player Nora Hauptle, who played for multiple clubs at home and in the Netherlands with Twente. As a coach she led the Swiss U-19 WNT for five years. She coached the Israeli WNT for a few months in 2021-22 but resigned, reportedly due to differences with the Football Association. She went to Ghana in mid-2022 as the technical director to the U-20 WNT for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Costa Rica, in which the side was eliminate in the first round (group stage). She took over the full national side for Ghana in January of 2023.

The problem with Bay FC is not on the offensive side, as they have scored 13 times, the sixth-best total in the league. Their 1-0 loss to Orlando highlighted the difference between the two teams who both have a Zambian international superstar on the front line. Orlando has allowed only seven goals but Bay FC has surrendered 20, for the highest total in the league and two more than last place Utah, who have allowed 18.

Orlando head coach Seb Hines has a powerful offense but the former defender has also built up a tight backline while Bay FC focused building from the front in the expansion draft, college draft and through free agent signings. NWSL former First XI and league Defender of the Year (2021) Caprice Dydasco (30) is a rock and hugely experienced while Emily Menges (31) won two league titles and an NWLS regular season Shield title in ten years with the Portland Thorns. In goal, veteran American Katelyn Rowland (30), who was a part of two NWSL title sides in Kansas City and then two more with the North Carolina Courage, has taken over from initial starter Canadian Lysianne Proulx, who helped Melbourne City to the Premiership title in 2023-24 in Australia's A-League Women.

American defender Alex Loera tore her ACL in the team's 5-2 loss to the Current in Round 5 and will be out for the season. She had one goal in four games this season, her third in the league after playing two seasons with the Current following her collegiate career at Santa Clara University.


Utah Royals (1-1-7, 4 points, FourteenthExpansion Side)

Utah has not had a good start to the season, with their only win coming at home in front of 8,161 fans against North Carolina on March 22 (a 2-1 win). Rookie head coach Amy Rodriguez, a former Women's World Cup winner with the U.S. who also played for the first incarnation of the Utah Royals, is a good choice to run this team and is quite sharp. The team has some good veteran NWSL talent (including some from Utah) with forward Paige Monaghan (27), midfielder Michele Vasconcelos (29) and defenders Kaleigh Riehl (27), Kate Del Fava (25) and Imani Dorsey (28), who won the NWSL title with Gotham FC last season.

Rookie American forward Ally Sentnor (24), who was the number 1 pick in the 2024 draft from the University of North Carolina, has been a huge positive for the side and has two goals. Sentnor has played with multiple international youth teams. Another positive is that the team acquired French international midfielder Amadine Henry (34), who played four games with Angel City FC in her second season with the Los Angeles area club before her trade to Utah in exchange for $75,000 in allocation money. The concern is that Rodriguez will not be allowed the time to implement her plan and bring in more top level imports (see our column from last month: The Week in Women's Football: Angel City sale over board fracture; exciitng NWSL/Liga MX Cup; Euro qualifiers - Tribal Football).

There is a real concern for the Royals performance now that NHL hockey is coming to Salt Lake City for the 2024-25 seasonplundered from Arizona after 28 yearswith a solid young team that could make the playoffs in the next year or two. That, along with a competitive Utah Jazz NBA side and MLS's Real Salt Lake, could place pressure on ownership to not stick with Rodriguez after the seasonif they wait that long. Also keep in mind that the original Royals franchise did not make the playoffs in 2018 and 2019, while the 2020 season was cancelled due to COVID. That would be sad to see her replaced so soon, but coaching changes are part of the culture now in the league, with little patience seen from club management.


NWSL Expansion News Update

National Women's Soccer League commissioner Jessica Berman told ESPN that the league is "comfortably on track" to choose the location and ownership group for its 16th team at "the beginning of Q4" this year. Berman added: "We know enough to advance the process. It's self-selecting people who understand what the expectations are for investment. We wouldn't want anyone to waste their time; we don't want to waste anyone else's time. For where we are, the discussions feel more sophisticated and advanced because I think we're more of a proven entity."

The league initially had interest from over 60 cities/groups in 2022, but now non-disclosure agreements have been signed with around 10-12 groups. Those groups are vying to join Boston FC to start play in 2026, when the league expands to 16 franchises. The expansion fee is $53 million.

Groups who have publicly announced their interest include Denver, Cleveland and the Minnesota (Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul) Aurora, a community-owned semi-pro team with 3,080 owners, which has led the W-League in attendance in the league's previous two seasons, averaging over 6,000 a game. They also have $500,000 in sponsorship sales for the summer season, which lasts only about two monthsan incredible and previously an unimaginable sum for a semi-pro club with primarily high school and college players.

The Aurora showed interest in the NWSL in 2022 and would be a shoe-in to move up within the USL from the summer W League to the new professional Super League, but recent reports state that the club has attracted important new investors to boost their chances and are again targeting the NWSL.

Aurora co-founder and the club's chair of investor relations, Andrea Yoch said that it is important to bid now rather than wait for future league expansion because: "We know it's (expansion fee) going to double and triple within a few years; it's going to be cheaper to get in now in 2024 for a 2026 season, than it will be in 2028 and 2030 because everything is skyrocketing for women's sports."

Tampa Bay, which has a team in the USL Super League to start later this summer, was involved in bidding in 2022 and could be in the mix again. Atlanta, Georgia, where U.S. Soccer is in the process of moving its operations from Chicago, is another candidate city mentioned; their Major League Soccer franchise, Atlanta United FC, has been a huge success on and off the field since its founding and first season in 2018.



Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribal Football. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham is on the global game of women's football. Get your copy today.Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey