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Alex Morgan, Alex Pfeiffer, Asisat Oshoala make opening weekend count as NWSL showcases talent, new and old

If there was a theme for the opening weekend of the 2024 NWSL season, it was a simple but incredibly effective one: scoring goals.

Not a single one of the league’s seven games, including the NWSL Challenge Cup, ended goalless, delivering a whopping 24 goals in the process. It meant that several of the league’s attacking players took center stage over the course of the weekend, though with different points to prove. That was the case as early as Friday, when Alex Morgan scored the game’s lone goal as the San Diego Wave beat NJ/NY Gotham FC in the newly-envisioned Challenge Cup, and remained the storyline by the time Bay FC collected their first-ever win in the final game of the weekend.

Here are the big takeaways from the first week of what feels detained to be an entertaining 2024 NWSL season.

Morgan’s hot streak continues

It’s still early days, but if anyone’s building a strong run of form in the American women’s soccer landscape, it’s Morgan. The veteran forward is rebounding from an unspectacular 2023 for club and country in fine form so far, scoring twice and picking up one assist during the Concacaf W Gold Cup and now already has a goal to her name for the Wave in 2024.

It comes after what the player said was perhaps the longest offseason in her career, which allowed her plenty of time for individual work.

“I really wanted to dig in, in the gym and just lift a lot more, focus on the things that created injuries for me last year,” Morgan told media members after the match. “Once i got onto the field, it was a lot of back-to-goal stuff, quick release in and around the box, working on things like a fake shot or getting a couple inches in the box and taking advantage of that and then a lot of crosses. I trained a lot with Kristen McNabb and some other teammates in the offseason so they were whipping in a lot of crosses.”

She was able to show off that work almost immediately. Morgan’s 88th minute game-winner was a header off a corner taken by Savannah McCaskill.

If Morgan keeps this up, the Wave are poised to be even more of an attacking presence than one might have anticipated, but they were already a team few would look forward to playing against. Teen sensation Jaedyn Shaw is expected to have a big year, while McCaskill was a key offseason acquisition to ensure an already talented offensive group reaches a new level.

Pfeiffer makes history

There was a lot of history made on Saturday in Kansas City, when the Kansas City Current opened the first stadium built specifically for an NWSL team and hosted a sold-out crowd for the occasion. As if that wasn’t enough, the Current added another item to the list courtesy of Alex Pfeiffer, the 16-year-old who became the youngest player to score in the league.

The hosts had a 3-1 lead at halftime and so it afforded head coach Vlatko Andonovski a chance to play Pfeiffer, a promising forward in the U.S.’ youth setup and Missouri native that the Current signed in the offseason. She marked her debut with a goal in the 68th minute, which was ultimately the game-winner as the Current’s 5-1 lead dwindled into a 5-4 advantage by the final whistle.

Pfeiffer joins a small, but growing, list of teenage talents in the NWSL that also includes 18-year-old defender Gisele Thompson, who made her debut for Angel City over the weekend. The league has stepped up its efforts to recruit young players, chiefly through the U18 entry mechanism, and a growing number of players are electing to skip college and go pro. The NWSL is reaping the rewards so far, as the likes of Shaw and Olivia Moultire can attest to, making the league not just an exciting destination for the sport’s current top talents but for the stars of tomorrow, too.

Oshoala leads Bay to victory

Bay FC won their first-ever game, beating fellow California team Angel City 1-0 courtesy of a goal from Asisat Oshoala. Her strike allowed the expansion side to absorb pressure as Angel City took 19 shots, nine of which were on goal, leaning on a strong defense that Bay carefully constructed during the offseason.

Oshoala’s goal, though, is a first sign that the offensive strategy is trending in the right direction. The Nigeria forward is a known goalscorer for club and country, which includes 117 goals in 162 games at Barcelona, making her the team’s fourth-highest goalscorer. It’s a record that’s good enough to make her the focal point for a high-profile club’s offense and at long last, Oshoala might finally be in a situation that allows her to be just that.

She’s also the first of a few notable new strikers in the NWSL to score. We’re still awaiting the first goals from Bay’s Racheal Kundananji and the Orlando Pride’s Barbra Banda, for whom their new clubs paid the top two transfer fees in the women’s game to acquire, but there’s still plenty of time on the schedule. The introduction of this trio, though, showcases the increasing internationalization of the NWSL’s player pool, which does not just indicate the league’s strength in signing talented players around the world but could diversify the NWSL’s tactical profile amidst the rapid development of women’s soccer.

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