Fuel Soccer Talk: All-Female Friday Edition – NWSL kicks off (O’Reilly’s swan song): Oh, Canada’s Sinclair; Dash vs. Reign FC

NWSL opens this weekend; Heather O’Reilly announces this will be her last season

Saturday marks the beginning of a season and the end of a career in women’s professional soccer.

The North Carolina Courage completed the best season in American women’s professional soccer history last year with a 3-0 win in the NWSL Championship. On Saturday, they get to start a new season in their own backyard as the reigning NWSL champions host the Chicago Red Stars for a rematch of the 2018 NWSL semifinal. This time the Courage get to play in their stadium, after the semifinal match was moved from North Carolina to Portland because of Hurricane Florence.

On Friday, Courage midfielder Heather O’Reilly announced that 2019 will be her final professional season. She tweeted her decision to her many fans: “On the day before the opening of the 2019 NWSL season, I would like to share that this will be my last season as professional player! It’s been a long and beautiful ride. More goodbyes can come after the season. Until then, we have work to do! See you at the stadium!”

O’Reilly played for the United States Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT), with whom she won three Olympic gold medals and a FIFA Women’s World Cup. She signed with the Arsenal Ladies Football Club on Jan. 18, 2017. O’Reilly previously played for FC Kansas City of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), Boston Breakers (NWSL), Sky Blue FC of Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

What are the more intriguing games on the opening-weekend schedule?

Sinclair’s 180th international goal leads Canada over England

While the U.S. Women’s National team was running up the score on Belgium last week, Canada crossed the pond and defeated England 1-0 at Academy Stadium in Manchester, England. Christine Sinclair (NWSL / Thorns) scored the 180th goal of her international career. Sinclair is now just four goals away from tying Abby Wambach’s record of 184 international goals, the most for either a woman or man in international soccer. Sinclair’s goal came in the 80th minute. Nichelle Prince (NWSL / Houston Dash) ricocheted a shot off the crossbar as Sinclair made a run into the box. Sinclair pounced on the rebound and hammered a right-rooted shot into the back of the net.

What has been the keys to Sinclair’s incredible success on the world stage?

Breaking down this weekend’s games: Dash vs. Reign FC does an excellent job of breaking down opening weekend’s full slate of games.  One of the more interesting match-ups features the Houston Dash vs. Reign FC (Sunday, April 14, at 6 p.m. ET). The Dash beat Reign FC for the first time in their history last May thanks to Veronica Latsko’s stoppage time game-winner. Before this, the Dash had never earned a point vs. the Reign. Reign FC are looking to start strong this year after making the playoffs, but falling to the Thorns in the semifinals. The Dash missed the playoffs in 2018, but had their best ever season, and will be looking to continue the momentum in 2019.

The game features plenty of star power. Rachel Daly returns for her fourth year with the Dash, as well as captain Kealia Ohai, goalkeeper Jane Campbell and midfielder Sofia Huerta. Daly led the Dash in goals with 10, while Ohai chipped in five goals and four assists. The Dash are led by new head coach James Clarkson after the departure of Vera Pauw. Reign FC have a new stadium this year and will be playing at Cheney Stadium. The team is still plenty stacked in talent this year with forwards Megan Rapinoe and Jodie Taylor.

Which team will get off to the fast start?

LET’S TALK: OK, now you’ve read what’s on my mind…what are your thoughts on the above or any other “football” happenings?

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