NJ/NY Gotham FC, Orlando Pride and Washington Spirit showcase NWSL’s wide range of goalscorers

The NWSL has always been a place that allowed goalscorers to flourish but 10 games into the 2024 season, it’s clear that this is a top-heavy league in which most teams’ attacking units have enough firepower to overpower even the most talented backlines.

This weekend was no exception with 26 goals scored across seven games and just two teams — the Houston Dash and the Utah Royals — failing to score. The wide range of teams that found the back of the net in big numbers is matched by the different varieties of players that were on the scoresheet over the last few days, demonstrating the multitude of ways teams are producing goals in the process.

Here’s a closer look at a few goalscorers after an NWSL weekend that once again saw them take center stage.

Banda’s star shines bright

The NWSL onboarded a sizable number of talented forwards this offseason and while several have had their moment in the spotlight, few have seized the opportunity like the Orlando Pride’s Barbra Banda. She scored a brace in the Pride’s 3-2 win over the Seattle Reign and now has six goals in her first six games in the league, just two behind golden boot leader Sophia Smith in four fewer games.

Her sheer efficiency is her strongest selling point so far in the NWSL — Smith has played 880 minutes to Banda’s 470 and taken 460 touches to Banda’s 210, yet has just more goals than the Pride star. Smith also has 47 shots to Banda’s 28 and most notably, just two more shots on target than Banda’s 19. The Zambia international’s 67.9% shot-on-goal percentage is a remarkable feat, second only to Angel City’s Claire Emslie (80%) amongst those with five-plus goals this season.

Banda’s quick start, coupled with the strong early season returns from other forwards like Kansas City Current duo Temwa Chawinga and Bia Zaneratto, highlights the impressive amount of untapped potential that still exists in the women’s game. This trio spent much of their club careers in leagues with limited visibility but have been able to translate their skills to the NWSL with relative ease. It’s as much a vote of confidence in the league’s new rules around transfer fees as it is in several clubs’ scouting efforts, making the NWSL an increasingly exciting league in the process.

Super sub alert at Gotham

While Lynn Williams rightfully captured attention after breaking the NWSL’s all-time goalscoring record with her 79th strike in Gotham’s 2-1 win over the Chicago Red Stars, it was far from the only attack-minded storyline at Red Bull Arena on Sunday. The reigning champions enjoyed their first multigoal game of the season thanks in large part to Ella Stevens’ 90th-minute winner, marking her second goal in as many games for her new club.

Like Banda, Stevens is also making her opportunities count. She has two goals off of just nine shots so far in 2024 but clearly has an eye for goal with four shots on target and an assist on Rose Lavelle’s first goal for Gotham last month. It’s no small contribution for a player with just 254 minutes under her belt this season, but especially so considering Gotham’s offensive struggles all season — she’s had a hand in three of their eight goals in 2024, something only Williams and Esther Gonzalez can claim so far.

Stevens’ success highlights themes that carry over from Juan Carlos Amoros’ first season in charge at Gotham. They were tied for second-fewest goals scored last year and are not much better in 2024, but their run to the championship was fueled by their depth as they dealt with a series of injuries. She now becomes the latest to demonstrate Gotham’s strong squad building and might be a surprise — not to be confused with undeserving — solution to the team’s continuing goalscoring woes.

Spirit’s goalscoring range

The Washington Spirit’s attacking operation continues to fire on all cylinders, as Saturday’s 4-2 win over Angel City demonstrated. While star Trinity Rodman led the way with two goals at home, the Spirit seem to do a good job of rotating through their goalscoring threats as Ouleymata Sarr and Casey Krueger also got on the scoresheet.

Sarr is one of this season’s breakout stars so far with five goals and two assists in 10 games, leading the NWSL for expected goals with 5.48, slightly ahead of Smith.  The forward’s strong output only adds to the excitement around the Spirit’s attack, which just feels like a long list of the league’s top attacking talent. Croix Bethune now leads the league with seven assists and also has three goals to start her rookie season, while Rodman has three goals and four assists so far and Ashley Hatch has also made her mark in 2024 with two goals and one assist.

The team is already designed to succeed offensively with those players on the books, but Krueger’s goal highlights the full-throttle attacking objectives in the nation’s capital. Krueger has already equaled her assist tally last season with two and has more goals than she did in 2023, which marks a strong showing for a player in a new role. The 33-year-old outside back has been lauded for her defensive strengths but has added attacking flair to her game, demonstrating impressive range as the Olympics approach. Outside of her prospects with the U.S. women’s national team, though, Kruger’s early success reflects well on the Spirit’s recruitment efforts at the start of a new chapter with the imminent arrival of Barcelona coach Jonatan Girladez. It arguably makes them the most exciting project in the NWSL in a season full of them.

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