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Canadians in action: St-Georges, Beckie star as NWSL season opens

Bianca St-Georges North Carolina Courage Bianca St-Georges, North Carolina Courage celebrate - North Carolina Courage

Bianca St-Georges helped lead a five-star North Carolina Courage attack, while Janine Beckie produced an early contender for goal of the season in the NWSL's opening weekend. Plus, Jonathan David kept scoring and Liam Millar helped Preston North End keep pushing for a Championship playoff berth.

Here's a look at Canadians in action over the weekend.

Bianca St-Georges and Victoria Pickett, North Carolina Courage and Sophie Schmidt, Houston Dash - It was a long day at the office for new Houston Dash manager Fran Alonso as the National Women's Soccer League 2024 season got underway on Saturday. Sophie Schmidt and the Dash found themselves at the wrong end of a very lopsided scoreline as they visited the North Carolina Courage. The hosts grabbed the lead just inside the opening 20 minutes. A VAR check adjudged that Andressa handled Brianna Pinto's attempt on goal and awarded a penalty. Malia Berkely stepped up to take and after a quick stutter-step, she wrong wayed Jane Campbell to make it 1-0 in the 19th. That scoreline would hold until halftime. The Courage made it 2-0 in the 54th. Isabella Briede was dispossessed near midfield and the hosts broke forward through Haley Hopkins. Jylissa Harris met her at the edge of the area, but mistimed her challenge, allowing Hopkins to beat Campbell from a sharp angle. The Dash were handed a lifeline in the 65th. Maria Sanchez swung in a dangerous bouncing free kick into the area that bundled around the box before being put into her own net by Kaleigh Kurtz. That was as close as the visitors would come with Saint-Charles-Boromée, Que.'s Bianca St-Georges asserting herself into the match in a big way after coming on as a sub in the 74th. Making her first appearance in a Courage shirt after signing as a free agent in January from the Chicago Red Stars, St-Georges broke forward and found Manaka Matsukobo wide on the right. The 19-year-old Japan midfielder then returned the favour for St-Georges to poke home at the near post to make it 3-1 in the 77th and restore the two-goal advantage. But St-Georges wasn't done yet. In the 86th, Ashley Sanchez found Manaka with a perfectly weighted ball to break out. Manaka went to her left for Hopkins, who teed up St-Georges at the edge of the area to beat Campbell with a low drive to make it 4-1. The Courage would put a bow on the win with a fifth goal in stoppage due in large part to the work of newly introduced substitute Victoria Pickett. The 27-year-old Newmarket, Ont. native quickly made her presence known, streaking down the left and getting Campbell to commit, only to set up Dani Weatherholt for a tap-in to end the match at 5-1. On the other side of the pitch, stalwart midfielder Schmidt of Winnipeg played the entire 90 for the Dash, completing 17 of 25 passes and recording three tackles and two interceptions.


Liam Millar, Preston North End - As the Championship season enters the stretch drive, Preston North End finds themselves outside of the playoff places, but their hopes for a spot in the top-six are still very much alive. That could have changed this past Saturday with a tricky fixture against relegation-threatened Plymouth Argyle. PNE was able to escape with three points on the road thanks to another strong performance from Toronto's Liam Millar. The match was always going to be a meaningful one for PNE boss Ryan Lowe, who had spent 18 months at the Pilgrims and guided them to promotion from League Two up to League One. He resigned in December of 2021 to take over at PNE. Lowe was dealt a tough hand to start the game on Saturday, having to quickly use a pair of substitutions. Millar had started the match on the bench, but came on in the seventh when Milutin Osmajic was unable to continue. At the 19-minute mark, Brad Potts indicated he needed to come off and was replaced by Layton Stewart. Millar almost opened the scoring shortly thereafter the second substitution. Mads Frokjær-Jensen did well to send a ball through the Plymouth backline for the oncoming Millar in the 20th. In alone on the keeper, Millar tried to dink the ball inside the far post and missed wide. He would make up for his mistake, though, just before halftime. After Argyle dealt with a free kick, the visitors broke back forward. Liam Lindsay whipped a ball into the area that was met by Will Keane, whose header fell to Millar. Although he had room to work, Millar right-footed the ball with his first touch and beat a diving Michael Cooper to make it 1-0 in the 43rd. It would end up being the only goal of the game. It was Millar's fifth goal of the season to go along with five assists. The three points took PNE to ninth place on 56 points. They currently sit five behind Norwich City for the final playoff spot with a game in hand.


Jonathan David, Lille - Jonathan David can't stop scoring, but Lille missed out on an opportunity to further ensconce their position in next season's Champions League in a 1-1 draw at second-place Brest on Sunday. While the first half saw good fluidity to it, true chances were few and far between with both teams intend on holding the other at bay even if that came at the expense of their own attack. In the 56th, Marco Bizot was forced into a fine save in order to repel a Lille attack. Hakon Arnar Haraldsson went wide to find David, who teed up Edin Zhergova on the end of the area, but his hard strike was denied by Bizot. The visitors opened the scoring in the 67th, but not without some controversy. Les Dogues broke forward at midfield when Bafodé Diakité won possession from Mahdi Camara. Brest wanted a foul with Camara staying on the ground, but the Lille attack continued. Manchester United academy product Angel Gomes went diagonally for David, who put Brendan Chardonnet on skates before dragging a low drive inside the post to make it 1-0. It was David's 15th Ligue 1 goal on the season and his 13th total goal since Jan. 1, the most of any player in Europe's Big 5 leagues. David almost had a second in the 71st, but Bizot did well to keep him from sneaking one inside the near post. The hosts would pull even in the 79th when the LOSC backline fell asleep at the wheel. Kamory Doumbia spotted the run of Kenny Lala, who broke in through a pair of defenders. While his attack was snuffed out, the ball fell to a completely unmarked Martin Satriano to hammer home and make it 1-1. The draw meant that Les Dogues remained four behind Brest in second, but still maintained a top-four spot on 43 points, ahead of Lens on goal difference.


Janine Beckie, Jessie Fleming and Christine Sinclair, Portland Thorns - After her major transfer from Chelsea in the offseason, Jessie Fleming's Portland Thorns debut didn't turn out as she hoped, but the fans were treated to a wild, high-scoring affair against the Kansas City Current. Fleming started in the Thorns XI alongside fellow Canadian in CanWNT icon Christine Sinclair, back for another season following her international retirement. It was the home side who gave the fans much to cheer for in the early going as the Current came out gangbusters. In the 22nd, the Current grabbed a goal from nowhere thanks to some indecision from the Thorns. Under pressure from Debinha, Isabella Obaze played a ball to her keeper Shelby Hogan at the touchline. Hogan attempted to return the pass, but Debinha pounced. Her shot from a sharp angle was stopped by Hogan, but the rebound fell to Vanessa DiBernardo who poked home into the empty net. A minute later, Debinha almost had her goal, but Hogan did well to cut the angle and deflect the ball over the bar. The pressure continued from the hosts as a ball for Debinha that was turned away fell to Ellie Wheeler to hammer home with a low drive on her debut to make it 2-0 in the 25th. Beatriz got into the act in the 34th. DiBernardo's fine through ball was met by the Brazil forward who did well to hold off Obaze and fire home to make it 3-0 and leave the visitors shell-shocked. Sinclair attempted to get the Thorns on the board in the 41st, but her well-struck shot was turned aside by a diving Adrianna Franch. The Thorns would get their goal before the half, though. A poor ball from Elizabeth Ball to Lo'eau LaBonta was pounced on by Fleming, who set up Sophia Smith for a beautiful curling effort to make it 3-1 in the 43rd. To start the second half, the Thorns shook things up by introducing Janine Beckie for Sinclair, but it was the hosts who struck first after the break in the 64th thanks in large part to more miscommunication between Hogan and her backline. A deep ball in towards Temwa Chawinga crossed up Hogan and Kelli Hubly. The confusion saw Hubly come well off her line to deal with Chawinga and allow Kristen Hamilton to score on an open net in the 64th. The hosts found a fifth in the 68th. On the left, Hamilton sent a ball into the area for Chawinga who chested down for Alex Pffeifer near the penalty stop to beat Hogan with a low drive to make it 5-1. With nothing going their way, the Thorns went for broke. From a Sam Coffey corner, Beckie went unmarked at the far post and scored from a sharp angle in the 71st. She immediately retrieved the ball and ran back to midfield with the Thorns looking for more. Only three minutes later, they got another from Smith after a sensational effort from the USWNT forward. Getting the ball from Beckie at the edge of the area, Smith shook off three markers to turn, fire and beat Franch with a low drive to pull Portland back within two at 5-3 in the 74th. They couldn't actually come back, could they? In the first minute of stoppage, Obaze stole a Current clearance and found Beckie who unleashed a right-footed golazo from distance to complete her brace and make it 5-4. As pretty as her goal was, it was as close as the Thorns would come to a comeback as the hosts held on for a wild win.