NWSL: Angel City FC’s Alyssa Thompson, Houston Dash’s Diana Ordonez and every team’s player to watch

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The NWSL is back in action this week as all 12 clubs prepare for the upcoming opening weekend. The long offseason of 147 days will be over once players step onto the pitch for match week one. The regular season kicks off on March 25 and fans can watch opening weekend matches on Paramount+ and CBS Sports Network.

Each club is in the process of finalizing rosters for the upcoming season. Team roster sizes must include a minimum of 22 players, with a maximum of 26 and can be a combination of senior players with up to four supplemental roster players.

With the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup on the horizon, fans can anticipate roster rotation throughout the season as some players will navigate playing time for both club and country. Teams may utilize supplemental players without exceeding the max 26-player threshold and national team roster replacement players may be added toward the 22-player roster minimum. 

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This year, nearly every club has a comeback storyline with players returning from major injuries or maternity leave while other teams are still adding to their rosters.

As the regular season rapidly approaches, let’s take a look at the schedule and a player from each club who may play key roles this season.

Opening week schedule

All times Eastern

Saturday, March 25
North Carolina Courage vs. Kansas City Current, 2 p.m. on Paramount+ 
San Diego Wave vs. Chicago Red Stars, 11 p.m. on CBS Sports Network

Sunday, March 26
Washington Spirit vs. OL Reign, 5 p.m. on Paramount+ 
Portland Thorns vs. Orlando Pride, 6 p.m. on Paramount+ 
Houston Dash vs. Racing Louisville, 7 p.m. on Paramount+ 
Angel City vs. NJ/NY Gotham FC, 9 p.m. on Paramount+ 

Alyssa Thompson, Angel City FC

The 18-year-old high schooler was drafted No. 1 overall after the club engaged in a four-team trade to land the top pick in the draft. Thompson already scored her first goal for the club in a preseason scrimmage against Liga MX Femenil side Club America. While she navigates the remainder of her senior year with events such as prom and graduation, look for the young forward to get time in Angel City’s attack during the regular season during a World Cup year. 

Casey Krueger, Chicago Red Stars

Among the several comeback storylines in the league, there is Casey Krueger with the Red Stars. The defender is primarily the starting left back but has slotted in at center back when needed. She missed last season while on maternity leave but was with the club in training during their playoff run. She’s also rated by U.S. women’s national team coach Vlatko Andonovski, who has brought her name up in recent press conferences as a USWNT player in return to play protocols.

Diana Ordonez, Houston Dash 

The forward set a new rookie record last year with 12 goals scored and is now on a new club for her sophomore season. Ordonez will now play her club soccer in her hometown of Houston. Alongside Mexico women’s national teammate Maria Sanchez, she could be a contender for golden boot if she can build off her rookie season.

Morgan Gautrat, Kansas City Current

The two-time World Cup champion had a career year with Chicago Red Stars in 2021 before being sidelined with a left calf injury the majority of the 2022 season. She was one of three star midfielders Kansas City targeted in free agency. If healthy, she can provide a calm presence on the ball in possession for and be a link for the Current’s attack.

Abby Smith, NJ/NY Gotham FC

Gotham FC made an early splash in free agency and addressed a key need in goalkeeper for the upcoming season when they signed Smith. She may finally be at a club where she can be the starting goalkeeper after different stints with the now-folded Boston Breakers, former Utah Royals FC, Kansas City, and Portland Thorns FC.

Brianna Pinto, North Carolina Courage

The University of North Carolina standout was drafted by Gotham FC in 2021 then traded to the Courage ahead of the 2022 season. She featured in 22 games for the team with 17 starts and contributed one goal with two assists while in the midfield. The club is in a rebuild after two consecutive offseasons where nearly every star player from their championship-winning squads have now departed to other teams. Pinto could be the hometown hero the franchise can build around.

Sam Hiatt, OL Reign 

After a season impacted by COVID, hip surgery and a back injury, Hiatt has taken steps the last two seasons to be starting center back for the Reign. A 2020 fourth-round draft pick, she started in 20 games in 2022 and will be a key piece for the defense if Emily Sonnett and Alana Cook are off on World Cup duty with the USWNT.

Ally Watt, Orlando Pride

The forward arrived to Orlando in a late midseason trade and made six appearances. She scored in her debut with the Pride but had her season cut short with a wrist injury. Watt can cause a bit a chaos in the attack whether she starts or comes off the bench. 

Morgan Weaver, Portland Thorns FC

Another member of the 2020 draft class, Weaver has been a staple on Portland’s top line since her rookie season. Selected No. 2 overall behind Thorns teammate and 2022 NWSL MVP Sophia Smith, she made 15 starts in 22 appearances and contributed 7 goals with three assists. The spotlight will be brighter on her to produce while several players are off on international duty.

Uchenna Kanu, Racing Louisville FC

Kanu will bring the goalscoring to Racing Louisville this season. The team signed her from Liga MX Femenil side Tigres Femenil where she scored 20 goals in 30 appearances. The Nigerian international previously spent time in Sweden’s Damallsvenskan racking up 22 goals in 42 matches over two years with Linköpings FC.

Amirah Ali, San Diego Wave FC

Ali made 20 appearances for the Wave during their inaugural season in 2022. The former Rutgers standout provided 44 goals over 103 appearances in college. She will likely feature in more matches for the team this season with Alex Morgan and Sofia Jakkobson stepping away during the World Cup. 

Tara McKeown, Washington Spirit

McKeown is one of a handful of players from the 2021 NWSL Championship-winning team that remains with the club. She recently signed a new contract after missing the first half of 2022 with an injury. In her return, she made 12 appearances and scored three goals as a forward but is listed as a defender ahead of the upcoming season.