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NWSL Week 4 winners and losers: NJ/NY Gotham FC and OL Reign stay hot

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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 19: OL Reign celebrates a goal by Jordyn Huitema #9 against Angel City FC in the second half of the 2023 NWSL Challenge Cup at BMO Stadium on April 19, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

In what was a week that marked one month into the NWSL regular season, there were teams that stayed hot while others continued to disappoint.

Week 4 of the 2023 NWSL season marked one month since its return in March, and it delivered on so many levels. Only three unbeaten teams remain across the league as Portland Thorns bounce back from a week 1 Challenge Cup loss to west coast rivals San Diego Wave. Orlando Pride remains the only club without a point with Kansas City Current taking all three points in the clash of the winless in the mid-west on Sunday evening.

Similar to the weeks prior, the competitiveness of this league continues to shine through. NJ/NY Gotham FC battled North Carolina Courage through a lengthy lightning delay to capture its second consecutive regular-season victory. It is the third week out of the four in which five out of the six matches were not draws. Among these six contests, there were a number of winners and losers. Here are two winners and two losers that stand out among the crowd from a week that tied opening weekend for the fewest amount of goals in 540 minutes of soccer.

Winners and losers from the slate of week 4 action in the NWSL:

1. OL Reign — Winner

Ever since the beginning of OL Reign’s east coast road trip to begin the season, Laura Harvey’s side has been arguably the most in-form team in the NWSL. Captained by the Welsh international Jess Fishlock in the middle of the pitch, the Reign continue to take steps toward putting their struggles in front of the net behind them. Despite going up against a side in week 4 that had allowed two or more goals in each of their first three contests of the regular season, Harvey’s squad pieced together a sensational offensive display.

The Reign netted three goals in the first half at home against the Red Stars, responding each time Chicago found a way to break down their own backline. The Seattle side finished with just a 1.1 xG, but due to some world-class finishing by Fishlock and Bethany Balcer, the Reign found the back of the net all five times that the ball was on target. There was not much fluidity and creativity in the final third for the Red Stars and Alyssa Naeher to keep up with. From Lauren Barnes’ ball into the box for Balcer to Jordyn Huitema’s stunning dummy to set up the first goal, this Reign side is locked in and there is nothing the opposition can do about it.

Being the club to score the most goals in a single game so far this season is a massive step in the right direction. Everyone knows how much quality this team possesses on all three levels of the pitch. It has always been that final touch toward goal that prevented the Reign from separating themselves even more with the rest of the teams at the top. Harvey’s side has not scored in four straight matches in all competitions, collecting a win in each of them. It is like night and day from the first match against Washington to now. These finishing issues could be behind them for good, and if they are, the rest of the league should be terrified.

2. NJ/NY Gotham FC — Winner

Lynn Williams is the truth. Arguably nobody has caused the goalkeeper more headaches this season than Williams. In the week 4 win, Williams totaled a team-high eight shots with four of them requiring Casey Murphy’s introduction. When NJ/NY Gotham FC dealt for the USWNT winger during the 2023 NWSL Draft, they knew what they were getting. With her goal in the 80′ on Saturday to seal the victory over the North Carolina Courage, Williams became just the third player in the history of the league to reach the 60-goal mark.

This is a team that finished dead last in the NWSL in 2023 with the worst goal differential, seeking to reinvent themselves in a sports market that is defined by consistent success. Gotham already has one less win than they were able to collect in 2022 during the regular season. The best part about the New York side so far is that none of these wins have been easy. Each one has reviled some sort of character. This past week’s triumph over the Courage was the perfect example of that.

After what ended up being an over two-hour weather delay, Juan Carlos Amoros’ side rallied to pull out a gutsy victory in less-than-ideal conditions to move into fourth in the table. The 1-0 victory over Sean Nahas’ team is the club’s fourth win in five matches in all competitions to begin 2023. Williams is flying out of the gate, netting three out of Gotham’s last four goals. The New York side heads on the road for three consecutive games, and they could not be in better position to do so than right now.