NWSL Power Rankings: Portland Thorns shine as Royals struggle

It’s Monday, and another week of NWSL action is in the books, which means it’s time for ESPN’s Power Rankings.

Our rankings are derived from a combination of key season statistics (points per game, goal differential, expected goal differential), recent performance, the Opta computer ratings and the observations of our writers.

Who’s climbing the table? Who’s in free fall? Our writers and statistical models have ranked all 14 clubs in the league after matchday 10. Let’s dive in.

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Previous ranking: 2

Next match: Friday at Orlando Pride, 7 p.m. ET

Remember the Thorns’ rocky start to the season? Neither do they. They beat Houston for their sixth straight win and are averaging nearly three goals per game in that stretch. They are a machine right now. Thoughts and prayers to the poor souls in their way.

Previous ranking: 1

Next match: Saturday at Utah Royals, 10 p.m. ET

The spectacular Current attack returned to form even with Bia Zaneratto sidelined against Louisville and ensured they’d remain undefeated on the year. Unfortunately, their defense isn’t quite as good and it cost them full points in a 3-3 draw. KC is definitely a championship contender, but whether it is the favorite depends on whether it figures out the defense in the next five months.

Previous ranking: 3

Next match: Friday vs. Orlando Pride, 7 p.m. ET

The Pride have obviously been sensational this season, sitting top of the table and undefeated, but maybe most impressive is how good they’ve been away from Orlando. They picked up another away win over the weekend, beating the Reign, and they’ve now put up 10 points in four away matches on the year.

Previous ranking: 4

Next match: Friday vs. Seattle Reign, 7:30 p.m. ET

Trinity Rodman and Croix Bethune have rightly been praised for their play early this season, but don’t forget Ouleymata Sarr. She had a goal and an assist, just like Bethune, and Rodman scored twice, as the Spirit blew past Angel City 4-2. With the three of them leading the way, not to mention Ashley Hatch rounding out the attack, this Washington team is a walking, talking nightmare for opposing defenders.

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Spirit and Angel City exchange 6 goals in wild first half

Washington Spirit leads Angel City FC 4-2 at the break following a breathless first half.

Previous ranking: 5

Next match: Friday at Houston Dash, 8 p.m. ET

The Courage entered the weekend coming off of three straight losses so when their early dominance didn’t result in a goal, it would have been easy for them to get down on themselves. Instead, they continued to pour on the pressure until Kaleigh Kurtz finally scored a much-deserved 76th-minute winner.

Previous ranking: 6

Next match: Saturday at Bay FC, 10 p.m. ET

Gotham beat Chicago for some much-needed points, but the real story of the weekend was Lynn Williams becoming NWSL’s all-time leading goal scorer. She’s a four-time NWSL champion, three-time Shield winner and has both an MVP and Golden Boot to her name, so she’s hardly short of plaudits or trophies, but a career scoring record hits a little different. It’s about not just excellence, but also longevity and consistency. Put it all together and you get Lynn Williams, a goal scorer who stands above all others in NWSL history.

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Lynn Williams becomes NWSL’s all-time leading goal scorer

Lynn Williams becomes the leading goal scorer in NWSL history after putting Gotham FC up 1-0 vs. the Chicago Red Stars.

Previous ranking: 9

Next match: Saturday at Chicago Red Stars, 7:30 p.m. ET

Who would have guessed that Racing would be the first team to take points off the Current in KC? They left it very late, but Savannah DeMelo‘s 103rd-minute goal let them sneak an impressive point back to Louisville.

Previous ranking: 7

Next match: Thursday at Angel City, 10 p.m. ET

Casey Stoney pulled no punches after the Wave lost to Bay 2-1. She said the attack isn’t doing enough to finish chances and the defense keeps making basic mistakes. Besides that, things are going great. Stoney did take responsibility for San Diego’s problems, so let’s see what she can do to iron things out because we know this team can be great.

Previous ranking: 8

Next match: Saturday vs. Racing Louisville, 7:30 p.m. ET

Ella Stevens was a restricted free agent this winter, so when she agreed to a contract with Gotham, the Red Stars could have matched it and kept her in the fold. Instead, they allowed her to leave, which must have made it sting Chicago that much more when she scored a stoppage time winner to beat them. Watching Stevens celebrate by repeatedly kissing the badge couldn’t have helped either.

Previous ranking: 10

Next match: Friday at Washington Spirit, 7:30 p.m. ET

It’s no secret that the Reign have had some problems, but their defense had been mostly OK. That is, until Sunday, when they did things like “forget to mark Barbra Banda.” Unsurprisingly, that led to a loss against Orlando.

Previous ranking: 13

Next match: Friday vs. NY/NJ Gotham FC, 10 p.m. ET

Kiki Pickett came off the bench and completely changed Bay FC. She was an immediate boost and made two terrific plays to set up both the equalizer and winner to beat San Diego 2-1. Between her and Savvy King, Bay has a pair of tantalizing fullbacks.

Previous ranking: 11

Next match: Thursday vs. San Diego Wave, 10 p.m. ET

ACFC found themselves in a wild one with the Spirit, but an early injury to Sarah Gorden doomed them to a 4-2 loss. It’s no secret that Gorden is fabulous, but it was still shocking to see how rough the Angel City defense looked without her. Fingers crossed her injury isn’t too serious.

Previous ranking: 12

Next match: Friday vs. North Carolina Courage, 8 p.m. ET

Houston was toothless with the ball yet again and not much better in defense as they fell to Portland 2-0. Mother Nature did more to trouble the Thorns than the Dash did with a two-hour-plus weather delay.

Previous ranking: 14

Next match: Saturday vs. Kansas City Current, 10 p.m. ET

Utah was beaten much worse than the 1-0 scoreline in North Carolina indicated. The Royals had little of the ball, were not tidy when they got it and, unsurprisingly, generated next to nothing in front of goal. If not for some good luck, they’d have lost by three or four. It’s not a shock that the Royals are not very good, but the lack of progress is concerning.