NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Nationwide Girls’s Soccer League (NWSL) roars into motion on Saturday, as back-to-back champions North Carolina Braveness kick off the month-long Problem Cup towards the Portland Thorns on Saturday.
The NWSL turns into the primary main North American league to return after the coronavirus outbreak, with eight of the league’s 9 groups touring to suburban Salt Lake Metropolis, Utah, for the competitors to be performed with out spectators.
“It’s kind of like a beam of sunshine,” Portland Thorns midfielder Rocky Rodriguez mentioned in a crew video. “It’s not solely going to be a pleasant atmosphere for the gamers within the sense that we’re going to have the ability to play and do what we love but in addition for the followers.”
The Thorns misplaced within the 2019 semi-finals to the Chicago Crimson Stars, who have been defeated by the Braveness within the Cary, North Carolina last in October.
The Braveness boast a stacked midfield together with championship MVP Debhina and U.S. ladies’s nationwide crew veterans Crystal Dunn and Sam Mewis.
“We’ve received depth, we’ve received velocity, we’ve received skill, we’ve received expertise,” coach Paul Riley mentioned. “They’re very mission-driven and I feel that is clearly one other problem for them.”
The Braveness play the Thorns earlier than going through the Washington Spirit, who fell simply in need of final yr’s playoffs however boast a robust ahead line with Rose Lavelle of the U.S. nationwide crew and Ashley Hatch, the squad’s main scorer final season.
“It’s totally different, it’s one thing I’ve by no means finished earlier than, however we will get video games in – any approach we will do this, I’m excited to,” Hatch, a graduate of Utah’s Brigham Younger College, mentioned in a crew video.
“Any time I get an opportunity to play in Utah, it’s like a house away from house.”
The Chicago Crimson Stars, who misplaced final season’s championship recreation 4-0, have a robust defence that features 2019 U.S. Soccer Participant of the Yr Julie Ertz and keeper Alyssa Naeher, who helped the U.S. win their document fourth World Cup title in France final yr.
The Orlando Pleasure have been compelled to again out of the event after gamers and workers members examined optimistic for COVID-19 earlier than departing for Utah.
Utah Royals ahead Christen Press and Thorns midfielder Tobin Heath, each U.S. nationwide crew veterans, mentioned they might not compete within the event over well being and security issues. Ballon d’Or winner Megan Rapinoe of OL Reign additionally skips the occasion, although no cause was given.
Reporting by Amy Tennery, modifying by Ed Osmond