Getty Images

The start of any season almost always forces one question on any team --- Is this form going to last? The good news is that the wait for the answer is never terribly long. About 11 games into the NWSL season, the league table on its own feels like a foundational resource to assess a team's body of work, allowing each squad to feel like a known quantity at this point.

While last weekend's matches had one or two surprises (which warrants a quick name drop for the Houston Dash's 3-0 win over the North Carolina Courage), the pre-Memorial Day action was all about the holding patterns different teams find themselves in -- pleasant or otherwise. The Orlando Pride continue to land in the first category after a statement win over the Portland Thorns, while the Utah Royals demonstrated similar but contrasting consistency with a loss to the Kansas City Current, which extended their winless streak to five. Both teams, as well as those immediately around them, seem to be stuck in the habits that defined them at the start of the season. It's good news for some and bad news for others, but at least some can take positives from the fact that there's a lot of time on the schedule and that more teams will land in the playoffs than not by the fall.

As the midway point approaches, though, that first question gives way for another -- Are the plans that each settled on early in the offseason working, or do they need to go back to the drawing board?

Here is the latest batch of talking points from another weekend of NWSL action.

Pride's rebuild hits another high

If you're looking for a successful rebuild, look no further than the Pride, who demonstrated that they just might be the real deal in their 2-1 win over a resurgent Thorns team on Friday. It marked their eighth straight victory, becoming the first NWSL team to do so.

They stuck true to their identity, allowing the Thorns to win the possession battle but demonstrating an impressive sharpness in attack with 22 shots to the Thorns' 13 and reaping the rewards of Barbra Banda's first-half brace. They were particularly excellent in the first half, limiting the Thorns to just one shot on target and 0.22 expected goals, which was enough to carry them through the second half after Banda was substituted and the Thorns began a comeback.

The encounter evolved into a tale of two halves, which made for an entertaining, top-tier clash for neutrals but raised questions about the Pride's ability to hang onto the lead against another attack-minded side -- and without Banda on the field. The Pride put just one of their eight shots on target while the Thorns took 10 shots and posted 2.29 expected goals, with Izzy D'Aquila scoring in the 71st minute to keep the margin of victory tight.

It's a departure from the defensive resolve the Pride tend to show -- they have conceded the third-fewest goals and have the second-fewest shots against in the NWSL, which is impressive considering the influx of attacking talent this season. The lingering question from this match will be whether the Pride can be outmaneuvered on the regular, or if it will only happen if an opponent is at their best. In one of the first tests of their form, though, the Pride came out with a passing grade, which is a vote of confidence in the plans laid out by head coach Seb Hines and general manager Haley Carter.

Royals' losing streak continues

The Royals notched yet another loss on Saturday, this time a 1-0 defeat to the Current that raises serious concerns about the tactical project for their expansion season. They took just four shots against a Current team that is not afraid of conceding goals -- 15, to be exact -- which is sadly a trend for Amy Rodriguez's side.

After 11 games, the Royals have scored just six goals and rank in the league's bottom two for shots, shots on target and expected goals. One might argue it's par for the course for expansion teams considering the monumental challenge of assembling a squad from scratch, but they rank well behind newcomers Bay FC in this category. The California side has 15 goals this season despite sitting in 12th place, allowing them to pick up two more wins than the last-place Royals, who have just one.

There's no redeeming quality for the Royals' low-scoring performances, even if they were by design. The best comparison in this case might be NJ/NY Gotham FC, a team whose defensive strengths serve as the foundation for their success. The reigning champions have a modest goal differential of +3 and struggled to score early this season, but a recent scoring streak from Ella Stevens allows their defense-first plan to work. The Royals can claim no similar triumphs, considering they have conceded 20 goals and rank only ahead of Bay in that category. It's hard to see them climbing out of this hole anytime soon, which is a disappointing way to mark their return after the team's relocation in 2020.

Wave's ambiguity costs them

While some teams are set in impressive streaks and others seem destined to trend the opposite way, the San Diego Wave are confusingly in the middle. Their latest unspectacular result came in a 0-0 draw at Angel City on Thursday, in which they had about 50% of the ball but fell behind the opposition in most possession-related categories. The Wave were also unable to redeem themselves in attack, outshooting Angel City 15-10 but putting just five of those shots on frame.

It reflects a malaise that's plagued Casey Stoney's team all season long despite two straight seasons of dominance. While they have the second-best defensive record with just nine goals conceded, they rank midtable in several attacking categories and have a goal difference to accompany their current ninth-place spot on the table. There's a clear area for improvement in attack since their shot-on-goal percentage stands at a paltry 35.7% and an ability to become more efficient in front of goal might not only have served them well in Los Angeles but in general.

Stoney might be able to blame injuries for some of it -- the likes of Jaedyn Shaw and Alex Morgan have been unavailable at different points this season though could be back after the international break. The Wave's transition from the NWSL Shield winners in 2023 to a midtable side to start 2024, though, is puzzling. The solution is easy to identify -- midfielder Savannah McCaskill said the team just needs to score more goals -- but it's also the hardest thing to actually solve. 

"The hardest part of the game is getting that final third right," she said, per The San Diego Union Tribune. "It's creating those chances, and getting that creative interchange and free-flowing movement."