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NWSL to resume season Wednesday following misconduct allegations; here’s what to know, how to watch the games

Written by on October 5, 2021

It’s been a turbulent time for the National Women’s Soccer League, which will resume its season on Wednesday after last weekend’s games were not played in wake of a bombshell sexual misconduct report detailing the decades-long power imbalance between former Portland Thorns and North Carolina head coach Paul Riley and his players, including former players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim. 

As a result, Riley was fired by the Courage and Lisa Baird resigned as commisioner of the league. A committee featuring Orlando Pride executive vice president Amanda Duffy, Kansas City NWSL owner Angie Long and OL Reign/OL Groupe’s NWSL board representative Sophie Sauvage to help conduct a search for a new commissioner.

On Tuesday, all 27 Washington Spirit players spearheaded the resignation of Steve Baldwin as CEO and managing partner of the NWSL club in a signed letter. This comes nearly a month after ex-Spirit player Kaiya McCullough talked about the toxic workplace environment surrounding the team in a podcast episode and video blog following a Washington Post investigative report in August. Baldwin’s resignation also comes just a week after head coach Richie Burke was fired following an investigation into alleged violations of the league’s anti-harassment policy. The Spirit were also banned from league governance matters. You can find a full timeline of the multiple controversies surrounding the Spirit here.

Want more coverage of the shakeup in women’s soccer? Listen below and make sure to follow Attacking Third, A CBS Soccer Podcast devoted to bringing you everything you need to know from the NWSL and around the globe.

Although the NWSL Players Association on Tuesday announced that games will resume as scheduled, the union called for an investigation against Riley and expressed support for Farrelly, Shim and McCullough. Here’s the full statement:

We have taken the weekend’s pause to evaluate. We acknowledge that we will not process the pain of the last several days in one weekend or one week. In the midst of statements that leagues and clubs are quick to release, we have been listening to ourselves, and to one another.

Today, we stand with Mana, Sinead, and Kaiya as they continue to tell their stories. We have made the decision to proceed with Wednesday night’s scheduled competition, but our demands will be forthcoming.  

A triple-header is on the docket for Wednesday on Paramount+ and CBS Sports Network, as NJ/NY Gotham FC and Washington Spirit play at Subaru Park in Chester, Pennsylvania. The North Carolina Courage will host Racing Louisville FC, and Portland Thorns FC will square off against the Houston Dash to close out the midweek fixtures. 

We already have you covered on what’s happening off the field, so below you’ll find how to watch and what to know about the games on the field this week:

How to watch Wednesday’s NWSL games

  • NJ/NY Gotham FC vs. Washington Spirit, 7 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network)
  • North Carolina Courage vs. Racing Louisville FC, 7:30 p.m. ET (Paramount+)
  • Portland Thorns FC vs. Houston Dash, 10 p.m. ET (Paramount+)

Carli Lloyd’s hometown farewell

Gotham FC announced last month that their match against the Spirit on Wednesday would take place at Subaru Park, in Chester, Pennsylvania, which is the home of Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union. It is the first-ever NWSL match to take place in the facility, as it was relocated as a part of the celebration of Carli Lloyd’s final professional season, who is a native of Delran, New Jersey, which is just about 33 miles from Subaru Park. 

Gotham currently sit in eighth with 25 points and new head coach Scott Parkinson is vying for his second consecutive win after picking up his first career win and the club’s first win in over two months on Sept. 25 against North Carolina. 

Meanwhile, the Spirit are hanging on to the final playoff spot at sixth place with 26 points and are also trying to better their playoff position with another win despite the off-field crisis following their club down the final stretch of the season.

A new era for the Courage

Interim head coach Sean Nahas is now in charge and currently tasked with navigating the remainder of the regular season for the Courage, who are on a four-game winless skid and have not picked up a win since Aug. 21. The Courage recently went from their signature box midfield to a three-back setup under their final weeks with Riley at the helm, so it’ll be interesting to see how they line up against Louisville to kick off Nahas’ reign.

Louisville is also searching for its first win under interim head coach Mario Sanchez. Sanchez has had the interim job since Aug. 31 when the club terminated Christy Holly’s contract “for cause.” The ninth-place side has five games remaining and another loss could squash its playoff hopes.

Thorns deal with fallout from Riley allegations

After an active regular season that has seen the Thorns sit in first place for the majority of the season, the club was rocked with the sexual coercion allegations stemming from Paul Riley back in 2015. The fallout and reaction to the reports has spawn demonstrations in Portland in support of the players outside of the stadium and fans calling for the firing of general manager Gavin Wilkinson. Events off the pitch could come to head on the pitch for a Thorns side coming off a loss and still trying to clinch a playoff spot. 

Houston Dash are in desperate need of a win in order to keep pace with the other playoff contenders. The 2020 Challenge Cup champions have just one win in their last four and are running out of time to cement a place in the upper half of the table.


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