NWSL: Standout Performers from Week 1

581 days. That’s how long it had been in between NWSL regular-season games. It was a long wait but the 2021 regular season finally kicked off on Saturday. It was quite the opening weekend, just as we expect from this league. 

We take a look at some of the top players of the week for opening weekend. 

Sophia Smith

Sophia Smith is good at soccer and she started her first regular season off with a bang. 

She has quickly made a name for herself in the NWSL in only eight games with the Portland Thorns. Smith was a big part of Portland’s complete dominance over the Chicago Red Stars in a 5-0 win. 

If it wasn’t for the first goal going down as an own goal, the youngster would’ve had a hattrick in just 30 minutes of play. Her chemistry with Morgan Weaver has been phenomenal since the two entered the league together. 

Karen Bardsley

Bardsley was met with a real test in her first NWSL regular season match from the offense of the North Carolina Courage. She made five saves en route to a clean sheet. She faced nine corners and 34 crosses from the Courage attack. It was a back and forth match, where both teams leaned on their goalkeepers to make big saves and Bardsley did that. 

Midge Purce

Midge Purce has been a leader in the NJ/NY Gotham FC turnaround. Gotham looks like an extremely dangerous team after making it to the final of the 2021 Challenge Cup Final. They kept that momentum up in their regular-season opener, getting their first win in Red Bull Arena. 

Purce found the lone goal and game-winner in the 30th minute with a nice touch to trick the defender and then a shot slotted into the bottom left corner. The attacker also had an 81% passing success rate in the win.