NWSL teams are bracing themselves to navigate through this tough stretch of the regular-season schedule without some of their key contributors who are off to Tokyo for the Summer Olympics. We're heading into Week 9 as clubs continue to battle for points on the league table and are forced to rely on the depth of their roster. Only three points separate the top seven teams in the table, and there's plenty still at stake outside of the fight for points during this pivotal stretch of the season.
Let's take a look at where some teams have landed in our rankings after eight weeks of action, as NWSL continues this weekend on July 17. You can catch the majority of the games on Paramount+.
An impressive win against North Carolina has Washington sitting in first in our rankings. They're without Emily Sonnet and Kelley O'Hara, but rookie Anna Heilferty put together a solid outing at outside back who helped fill the void next to along with midfielder Andi Sullivan and forward Ashley Hatch.
Portland Thorns FC
The Thorns had to settle for a scoreless draw last week against Gotham FC, though the it wasn't from lack of effort. Portland's attack is still looking strong without several key players. Second-year forward Morgan Weaver had five shots, with two on target, and one chance created.
NJ/NY Gotham FC
The team picked up a scoreless draw against Portland and is living up to its reputation as NWSL's stingiest defense. They're getting it done while rotating their center backs and outside backs. More consistent games from McCall Zerboni in the midfield could help the team generate more in front of goal.
They're winless in their last three matches after their impressive seven-game unbeaten streak to start the season. Forward Sydney Leroux put in a massive defensive effort against Racing Louisville FC and still came up with a stoppage-time equalizer for her fifth goal in nine starts.
North Carolina Courage
The team takes fell short against the Washington Spirit as we got a glimpse at what their squad looks like without Sam Mewis, Lynn Williams and Debinha. Losing out on the duals and being limited in the attack with only two shots on target did not help the cause.
Chicago Red Stars
The team has picked up two consecutive wins for the first time this season thanks to a 2-1 win over Houston Dash. An impressive stat during this two-game stretch involves a recent win where Chicago failed to record a single shot on goal.
Houston takes a dip after conceding two (!) own goals against Chicago. A tough scenario for the team after scoring the opening goal from a good link-up involving the recently acquired Jasmyne Spencer.
OL Reign moves up one spot after a win over Kansas City as they navigating through a tough season under interim coach Sam Laity. His decision to start Tziarra King could prove a difference-maker for the club as King recorded four shots, with three on target and once chance created in 73 minutes.
Racing Louisville FC
They dropped a heartbreaker in Orlando after conceding a late goal. They'll need better defensive performances to close out narrow games in the league if they're to pose a threat to top tier teams.
Kansas City NWSL
The team is still the only club without a win in 2021, but have slowly started to generate some excitement in the final third, but are still disconnected in front of goal, and struggling in defense. The team has conceded 15 goals in ten games this season.