NWSL preseason round up: week three

With the Thorns invitational tournament coming up, five different NWSL team faced off in preseason scrimmages during the week. North Carolina, Orlando, Sky Blue FC, Seattle and Washington each played matches against nearby collegiate squads.

NWSL preseason round up: week three
The North Carolina Courage and Clemson University players come together for a photo at their Saturday scrimmage. | Photo: @TheNCCourage

The third week of National Women's Soccer League training camp saw the return of most international and United States women's national team players to their respective teams. 

North Carolina Courage vs Clemson University

The North Carolina Courage continued their dominance of the nearby college teams with a 3-0 win over the Clemson Tigers ladies on Saturday. The game was originally planned for Sunday, but the impending winter storm forced the teams to face off a day earlier.

The Courage welcomed back their international players after spending the first two weeks of training camp without them, and USWNT forward Lynn Williams notched her first goal of the 2018 season in her first match back with the team. Forward Jess McDonald got the other two goals and now has three goals in four preseason matches.

The Courage defense has yet to concede a goal in their four preseason games. The play one more game at home against Wake Forest on Tuesday before traveling to Richmond, Virginia where they will be hosted by the Washington Spirit.

Orlando Pride vs University of South Florida

The Orlando Pride played their last scrimmage of the preseason on Thursday with a dominant 5-1 win over the University of South Florida. The Pride will play their next match on March 24, the opening weekend of the 2018 NWSL season, when they host Utah Royals FC.

Forward Sydney Leroux, recently acquired from the Royals for a first-round selection in the 2019 NWSL College Draft, scored the first goal of the match. It was her fourth goal of the preseason with her new team. Subsequent goals were scored by forward Kristen Edmonds, midfielder Dani Weatherholt, forward Chioma Ubogagu, and finally midfielder Christine Nairn, respectively. 

The victory was important to the Pride after they lost their opening match 3-2 against Florida State University last week. Forwards Alex Morgan and Marta did not play in the match. 

Sydney Leroux has scored four goals in three preseason games with the Orlando Pride. | Photo: Don Juan Moore - Getty Images
Sydney Leroux has scored four goals in three preseason games with the Orlando Pride. | Photo: Don Juan Moore - Getty Images

Seattle Reign FC vs University of Washington

The Seattle Reign FC opened their preseason with a 3-1 victory over the University of Washington. It was the first of just two preseason matches scheduled by new head coach Vlatko Andonovski

The Reign played without help from star goal-scorers Jess Fishlock and Megan Rapinoe who were still absent with their respective national teams.Seattle's first preseason goal came from Kiersten Dallstream in the first half. In the second half, Morgan Andrews scored the second goal for the Reign while Stephanie Verdoia scored the third. Michelle Betos started in goal for the Reign after missing all of the 2017 season. Haley Kopmeyer, 2017's starter, was traded to the Orlando Pride in the offseason

Seattle will play their final match of the preseason on Tuesday when they travel to face UCLA. They will play their first regular season game at home against the Washington Spirit on March 24.

Sky Blue FC vs West Virginia University

Sky Blue FC's penalty was the difference in a 1-0 victory over West Virginia University on Saturday. It was the third of four preseason scrimmages that Sky Blue FC will play at Sportika Sports

The lone goal of the match was scored in the 29th minute when Costa Rican international Raquel Rodriguez put away her penalty attempt. Rodriguez drew the foul that led to the attempt.It was her first preseason appearance for the team after being away for international duty. 

Sky Blue will finish their preseason slate next Sunday against St. John's University. With the NWSL dropping down to nine teams, Sky Blue FC will not play their first match on opening weekend of the 2018 NWSL regular season. They will be on bye and will open regular season play the following weekend.

Washington Spirit vs University of North Carolina

The Washington Spirit played to a 1-1 draw against the University of North Carolina their first scrimmage of the 2018 NWSL preseason. The match was played at Evergreen Sportsplex in Loudoun, Virginia. It is one of two preseason matches for the Spirit that will be played in Virginia. The team plays home matches in Boyds, Maryland during the regular season. 

The first half came and went without a goal, but UNC forward Bridgette Andrzejewski put the Tar Heels ahead in the 66th minute. The Spirit were in danger of becoming the third NWSL team to lose to a college side until forward Mallory Eubanks scored for Washington in the 87th minute.

Washington is searching for a new starting goalkeeper after they parted ways with Canadian international Stephanie Labbe. Their three goalkeepers, Aubrey Bledsoe, DiDi Haracic, and Kelsey Wys all saw game action against UNC. Haracic and Wys both played for the Spirit in 2018, but Bledsoe was traded to the Spirit during the offseason from the Orlando Pride.

Washington will play their second and final preseason match at City Stadium in Richmond, VA next Saturday. They will play host to the North Carolina Courage.