NWSL Power Rankings: Portland Thorns earn first win as Gotham FC disappoint

Published on: 23 April 2024

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It's Monday, another week of NWSL action is in the books, which means it's time for ESPN's Power Rankings.

Our rankings are derived from a combination of key season statistics (points per game, goal differential, expected goal differential), recent performance, the Opta computer ratings and the observations of our writers.

Who's climbing the table? Who's in free fall? Our writers and statistical models have ranked all 14 clubs in the league after matchday five. Let's dive in.

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1. Kansas City Current

Previous ranking: 1

Next match: Friday at Angel City FC, 10 p.m. ET

Kansas City's 17 goals have come from 10 different players this season, as Vlatko Andonovski's squad proves to be among the most dynamic attacking forces in the league. That offensive firepower was on full display when the home side powered five goals past the league newcomers Bay FC at CPKC Stadium. Temwa Chawinga and Beatriz "Bia" Zaneratto both scored a brace and are tied with one another (and Louisville's Uchenna Kanu) for NWSL's top scorer.

2. North Carolina Courage

Previous ranking: 2

Next match: Saturday vs. Seattle Reign, 7 p.m. ET

Only Kansas City Current has outproduced North Carolina Courage in attack this season. Sean Nahas' squad ended matchday five with 10 goals from five games. And nobody has a more favorable expected goal differential (+1.22 per 90) though they've conceded five goals. They picked up a second loss of the year against Angel City on Saturday, though, with Claire Emslie scoring a brace to capitalize on ACFC's only two shots on target. North Carolina has allowed the fewest shots on target in NWSL (11), but Casey Murphy's save percentage (54.5) is also among the lowest.

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2 Related3. Washington Spirit

Previous ranking: 3

Next match: Friday vs. Orlando Pride, 7:30 p.m. ET

Amid myriad changes to both their staff and roster, the Spirit have started strong in '24 as they await Jonatan Giraldez to finish up the season in Spain. With players like Trinity Rodman, Andi Sullivan, and Aubrey Kingsbury providing continuity, the impact of their rookie class has been monumental. Five of their nine goals have come from the rookies. Croix Bethune, whom Washington drafted third overall out of Georgia, is a formidable force and scored her third goal in five games to open things up against Gotham in a 2-0 victory.

4. Portland Thorns

Previous ranking: 7

Next match: Saturday at Chicago Red Stars, 7:30 p.m. ET

Portland has struggled to get results early this season, but their deeply talented team has produced more (especially offensively) than their spot in the table would tell you. Nobody has fired off more shots on target (35) and few teams have scored more than their 11 goals. Unfortunately, they've conceded 10 goals at the other end too, registering the lowest goalkeeper save percentage in the league. A midweek coaching shake-up has already breathed new life into the team, which collected its first win of the year against a struggling Houston team.

The Portland Thorns were able to get their first win of the season after defeating Houston Dash 4-1. (Photo by Amanda Loman/Getty Images) 5. Orlando Pride

Previous ranking: 8

Next match: Friday at Washington Spirit, 7:30 p.m. ET

Orlando opened its season with three straight draws. After beating last season's Supporters Shield winners (San Diego Wave) 1-0 in Florida last Friday, the Pride have now got two straight wins to end Week 5 in fifth place as one of three unbeaten teams in the league. Manager Seb Hines was vocal about wanting a stronger start to this season and should be pleased, especially as Barbra Banda has now officially debuted.

6. Racing Louisville FC

Previous ranking: 9

Next match: Sunday at NJ/NY Gotham FC, 5 p.m. ET

One of NWSL's three unbeaten teams this season, Louisville had four draws from four games before collecting a resounding 5-1 victory over Utah this weekend to mark their first win. Standout Uchenna Kanu collected her fourth goal of the year in the showing, putting her in a three-way tie for the league's top scorer.

7. San Diego Wave FC

Previous ranking: 4

Next match: Saturday vs. Bay FC, 10 p.m. ET

After starting the year with a Challenge Cup victory against Gotham, the Wave have struggled to fully find their footing in the league, though the underlying evidence points toward them turning that around. Friday in Orlando, they lost 1-0 to the hosts while getting outshot 20 (eight on target) to four (one on target). Were it not for Kailen Sheridan's seven saves, the scoreline might have been more unforgiving. Sheridan's 88.9 save percentage is the highest in the league, with the Canadian keeper stopping 15 of 18 shots on target against the Wave. No team has conceded fewer goals.

8. Chicago Red Stars

Previous ranking: 12

Next match: Saturday vs. Portland Thorns, 7:30 p.m. ET

Mal Swanson is back. Her second goal of the year, which made the difference against Seattle this Sunday, was elite, and yet another reminder of the difference she makes on any team when she's fit and healthy.

9. Angel City FC

Previous ranking: 11

Next match: Friday vs. Kansas City Current, 10 p.m. ET

Claire Emslie's brace fired Angel City to a 2-1 victory over North Carolina in L.A., with standout center back Sarah Gorden celebrating her 100th NWSL appearance. That's two straight wins now for Becki Tweed's side, which started the year with a few frustrations as the team collected two losses and a draw.

10. Seattle Reign FC

Previous ranking: 6

Next match: Saturday at North Carolina Courage, 7 p.m. ET

After a strong start in their first match, it's been a string of setbacks for Seattle, which now sits second from last in the table after its fourth straight loss. Still, the talent and performances suggest more is in store than the Reign's current run of results and standing. One thing they'll need to focus on is their prowess in the attacking third, though, as the Reign have tallied just 14 shots on target in five games. Averaging 2.8 per game, that's the lowest in the league.

11. Bay FC

Previous ranking: 10

Next match: Saturday at San Diego Wave, 10 p.m. ET

So much talent on this squad but expansion teams may need time to click. As expected, this squad knows how to score goals and have registered nine from eight different players. They've conceded the second most in the league, though, allowing 12 to flow past them.

12. NJ/NY Gotham FC

Previous ranking: 5

Next match: Sunday vs. Racing Louisville, 5 p.m. ET

With injuries and international duties posing an early-season challenge, the reigning champions have struggled in their first four games of the regular season. On the bright side, Lynn Williams made her first start since returning from injury on Saturday, though they picked up a 2-0 loss in Washington.

13. Houston Dash

Previous ranking: 14

Next match: Saturday at Utah Royals FC, 7:30 p.m. ET

Houston has a few struggles this year, including that no team has allowed more shots on target against them (38). Jane Campbell's 24 saves are no match for that pace of fire. With María Sánchez now officially traded to San Diego Wave, big questions lurk beneath the surface for the Dash, who fell 4-1 to Portland in the Thorns' first win of the year.

14. Utah Royals

Previous ranking: 13

Next match: Saturday vs. Houston Dash, 7:30 p.m. ET

There's a lot to be excited about in this expansion team, including some stellar individual talent. Saturday's 5-1 drubbing put the Royals' vulnerabilities on display against Louisville, though. Their expected goal differential remains the worst in the league, but there's still plenty of time to turn that around.

Source: espn.co.uk

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