NWSL opening weekend: 6 standout players across the league's first six fixtures

The NWSL's first 540 minutes of football in 2024 produced numerous special individual displays of quality. Here are our six standouts from Week 1 in the NWSL.

Portland Thorns FC v Kansas City Current
Portland Thorns FC v Kansas City Current / Jamie Squire/GettyImages
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Janine Beckie
2023 SheBelieves Cup - Canada v Japan / James Williamson - AMA/GettyImages

4. Janine Beckie, Portland Thorns FC

You couldn’t script a better comeback game for Portland Thorns forward Janine Beckie. The Canadian missed all of last season after an ACL tear, making her comeback for the Thorns by subbing into the second half of their season opener against the Kansas City Current. The Thorns managed to claw one back at the end of the half, but Beckie was still coming into the match with a minus-two goal differential to make up for.

And just when the Thorns needed her most, she showed up. 366 days after her return to play, she scored a brace in superstar fashion for the away team. Her first shot was at what felt like an impossible angle, but the striker made it work to swing her team into a positive momentum in the 71st minute, with Sophia Smith scoring another just three minutes later. Her second goal was nothing short of a spectacular shot from outside the box, flying past AD Franch to secure a Beckie brace in stoppage time.

Although the Thorns didn’t come out of this one victorious, this was the best possible return for Beckie who was on the front foot from the minute she stepped on the field. She pushed the team forward and will be one to watch for the rest of the season.

5. Shae Holmes, Seattle Reign FC

Stepping into the backline of the Seattle Reign is no small task, especially against a Washington Spirit side that had a lot to prove in this matchup. This task was made even more difficult by the relatively young backline that started for the Reign, with usual veterans Alana Cook and Lu Barnes not in the starting lineup. But Shae Holmes showed confidence and poise on the ball during the Reign’s home opener, making several important clearances to fend off the Spirit’s attack.

She made the most of her positioning on set pieces and was calm and composed when winning the ball in the Reign’s attacking third to keep the Spirit from getting into a rhythm. Holmes played mostly during the Challenge Cup last season and only appeared in five matches during the regular season, mostly as a sub. Seeing her in the starting lineup was a bit surprising, but it’s clear from her gameplay that she earned that spot and is going to be an important piece of Laura Harvey’s rebuilding campaign. While Holmes wasn’t the best defender overall on opening weekend, she showed a lot of confidence and promise and will be well worth keeping an eye on throughout the season as she’s only going to improve from here.

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6. Lysianne Proulx, Bay FC

There were only three keepers that maintained a clean sheet amidst the chaotic opening weekend matches, and one of those clean sheets now belongs to Bay FC thanks to the heroic efforts of Lysianne Proulx. The young Canadian keeper was up to the challenge of keeping Angel City out of the back of the net with some spectacular saves and quick decision-making. Proulx, who is just 24 years old, wasn’t expected to be the starting keeper for Bay FC this season.

But Melissa Lowder tore her ACL in preseason, and Proulx has risen to the occasion in outstanding fashion. She made a total of eight saves in her opening match, equaling the record for the most saves made in an NWSL debut. She was a key part of the club’s first-ever victory, helping them pick up valuable points on the road and already throwing her hat in the ring for goalkeeper of the year. It’s worth mentioning that she had a great defense backing her up as well, but no one can deny that without Proulx’s standout performance, the Bay might’ve walked away with a very different result.

— Oliver Hunt, @OliverHunt13

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