It's another international break Monday. But don't worry, there's plenty to talk about here on the Golazo Starting XI newsletter. I'm Mike Goodman and I'm here to walk you through a surprisingly busy weekend of soccer. NWSL opening weekend saw some surprises, some bangers, and a whole lot of NWSL is back vibes. Meanwhile the USMNT took care of business in Grenada, Euro qualifying got underway, and Antonio Conte finally got fired by Tottenham.
So let's get to it:
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📺 Concacaf Nations League on Paramount+
All times U.S./Eastern
Monday, March 27
🌎 Trindad and Tobago vs. Nicaragua, 8 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🌎 Guatemala vs. French Guiana, 10 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
Tuesday, March 28
🌎 Canada vs. Honduras, 8 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🌎 Costa Rica vs. Panama, 10 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
All times U.S./Eastern
🌎 Concacaf: USMNT vs. El Salvador, 8 p.m. ➡️ TNT
🌎 Euro qualifying: Ireland vs. France, 2:45 p.m. ➡️ FS1
🌎 Euro qualifying: Scotland vs. Spain, 2:45 p.m. ➡️ ViX
⚽ The Forward Line
NWSL returns with a bang as Portland Thorns dominate
NWSL was not messing around in its return to action this weekend. Defending champions Portland Thorns, in particular, began their title defense with a no-doubt-about-it 4-0 win at home against the Orlando Pride. It took all of 16 minutes for the team to take the lead through Morgan Weaver and then just six more for them to double it as Sophia Smith scored off an assist from Christine Sinclair. This was a drubbing of epic proportions with the Thorns outshooting Orlando 27-9 and putting 16 shots on target to Orlando's 1. There's a reason they were the top of our preseason Power Rankings from Sandra Herrera and that they're going to stay there, possibly for a good long while.
For some other sides the road was bumpier. The Kansas City Current made the finals last year and then were one of the most aggressive sides in adding pieces this offseason, but an injury to Debinha ruined the superstars potential debut against her old club, the North Carolina Courage. The Courage took advantage and upset the Current 1-0. It's a long season though, and the hope for the Current is that the experience that the experience that the team gets now, especially young players like rookie Michelle Cooper will pay dividends down the road. But on Saturday Cooper had the fewest touches of any player who went 90 minutes for either team, so there's work to be done.
And last, but not least we've got the Sand Diego Wave who put in an impressive 3-2 performance in their opening day win against the Chicago Red Stars. The Wave started this season the same way they spent most of last season, getting a crucial Alex Morgan penalty to take all three points as she slotted home the winner in the 89th minute. Morgan put this team on her shoulders last year, and if she does it again this year, the Wave could be serious contenders in only their second NWSL season.
Make sure you check out Herrera's full Power Rankings after a chaotic first week.
And remember, all of your soccer needs -- from NWSL to Champions League to Serie A and so much more -- are available on Paramount+. 📺 You can try one month free by using the code: NWSL2023
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🔗 Midfield Link Play
Christian Pulisic is becoming the USMNT's veteran leader
The United States men's national team took care of business on Friday night in Grenada, cruising to a 7-1 victory. The result wasn't all that surprising, but what has been notable in this international break is how Christian Pulisic, now 24 years of age, is stepping up and becoming a more vocal leader for this team both on and off the field. Here's Chuck Booth on his development, and what it might mean for his future.
- Booth: "A grizzled veteran at only 24, Pulisic is beginning to enter what should be the prime of his career, which only means good things for the USMNT. No matter how much playing time he gets while with his club, he's ready to go when he wears the United States badge and that's something that will only help with figuring out what his next destination is as well. Clubs will recognize the professionalism that he has shown while dealing with an adverse situation at Chelsea as well as his USMNT performances."
And now let's get to some links:
🔗 Check out more from Herrera on the Current's loss to the Courage.
🔗 Tottenham finally finished firing Antonio Conte over a week after the manager went off on his club.
🔗 Conte might have needed to go, but that won't fix Spurs problems, writes Booth.
🔗 Debut goals galore this weekend in NWSL, with rookie Alyssa Thompson scoring for Angel City and veteran Lynn Williams scoring for Gotham.
🔗 Another NWSL debut happened over the weekend when VAR appeared for the first time, disallowing this Jun Endo rocket, and awarding this penalty for Midge Purce.
🔗 Keep up with the latest Concacaf Nations League scores and standings.
You're not gonna see a better goal than this laser from Bobby Decordova-Reid for Jamaica in a 2-2 draw in Mexico.
🔗 Make sure to check out Fabrizio Romano's Here We Go transfer notes for the latest on why Bayern changed managers.
🔗 Attacking Third: Make sure you get all your NWSL weekend reaction from Herrera and Lisa Roman.
🔗 In Soccer We Trust: The crew break down the USMNT's 7-1 drubbing of Grenada
🔗 And remember, all of your soccer needs -- from Champions League to Serie A to NWSL and so much more -- are available on Paramount+. 📺 You can try one month free by using the code: ADVANCE.
💰 The Back Line
💵 Best bets
All odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook and all times U.S./Eastern. SportsLine has you covered with this weekend's best bets.
- Concacaf Nations League: USMNT vs. El Salvador
💰 THE PICK: Over 3.5 goals (+135) -- The Americans are firing on all cylinders at the moment, coming off a seven goal performance away from home against Grenada. And, while El Salvador are certainly much less of a pushover than the small Caribbean side the USMNT just beat up on, it's a good sign for the U.S. that they were totally unphased by the trickiness of a Concacaf road match. So, look for the good times to continue here.