The NWLS is so back and so is the Vibe check! This is the place for you to get an insider's view and my unfiltered takes on all things women's soccer. The NWSL kicked off its 12th campaign with the Challenge Cup, the regular season is fully underway, and the league announced a new summer tournament. The SheBelieves Cup roster was announced with some familiar faces returning to the USWNT. So here's to everyone and everything being back! Lets get to it!

Did you know the NWSL is back?

We're just two weeks into the league's 12th year, but don't worry there is still time for you to catch up. We already have a new Challenge Cup champion in San Diego, some Midwest Supremacy from Chicago and Kansas City, and even a new summer tournament announcement (welcome Liga MX Femenil!). I love it here. Fans can watch select NWSL regular season matches beginning April 20 across CBSCBS Sports NetworkParamount+ and CBS Sports Golazo Network

Chicago Red Stars and Kansas City ended the 2023 season in 12th (last place) and 11th (second-to-last place) in the league respectively. Now, the two clubs lead the league table after just two weeks of play, but both head coaches are trying to keep the long season ahead in perspective. 

Kansas City head coach Vlatko Andonovski told media that he wants his team to be "humble and calm and quiet" when it comes to wins and losses on the pitch. Meanwhile, Lorne Donaldson has been open with local media, telling us that the season is a long one and will have hard moments, and wins are nice, but changing culture and mentality is the priority at the moment. 

"We're in this thing together. I mentioned to [the team], when you go to war, and if we get in a foxhole, then then we have to defend each other. One person slips up in the foxhole, we're in trouble. So, it's like a foxhole mentality. We all have to work for each other," said Donaldson.

Alex Loera is back with the Bay

As quickly as Bay FC got introduced to the league, they immediately captured headlines with their handling of Alex Loera's availability. The Northern California side made history in week one with their first franchise win on the road thanks to a brilliant goal by Nigerian international Asisat Oshoala and a stellar shutout performance by Lysianne Proulx. 

The squad was captained by the third-year defender during the victory, but the following week against Washington Spirit did not dress with the team. Ahead of the match, the ION broadcast mentioned she was absent from the lineup due to an "internal team issue." Later, local D.C. reporter Jason Anderson provided more insight and confirmed that Loera traveled with the team but wasn't dressed. 

That definitely didn't stop the internet from analyzing three words and offering up plenty of speculation about what exactly an internal team issue is. As Bay FC heads into week three, head coach Albertin Montoya offered minimal insight, simply saying Loera is back with the team.

"She is an integral part of our team and she'll be playing and practicing this week. So we're excited to have her back," he told media. 

Still, there will be questions on what team the issue was and why the consequence was to not dress for a match. 

For those of us who are or have been employed, have you ever called in late? Did you fall short on a project? Did you need an extension on deadline? Make a mistake or error in judgment? Have poor time management skills? Turns out, sources say, an "internal team issue," was just in line with that and both club and player are moving on from what some consider a strong overreaction and will comment no further. 

SheBelieves in being back

Speaking of things being back, the SheBelieves Cup will be here soon! Set to kick off on April 6 in Atlanta, the national team will host Brazil, Canada, and Japan, in a reformatted SheBelieves Cup tournament that will feature a semifinal round, and conclude with third place and Cup final matches. 

Lots of attention on new player additions with PSG defender Eva Gaetino and 16-year-old Ajax midfielder Lily Yohannes, and the return of Mallory Swanson and Catarina Macario from lengthy injuries. Interim head coach Twila Kilgore named the 23-player roster, her last games in the role, and spoke about the return of the players after significant rehab timelines. 

"We're really excited to get [Macario] reintegrated into our team. I've also met with her in person over the last couple of months, I know this is something that is near and dear to her, and she's just really excited to get back in our environment. We welcome them both with open arms and are very excited" Kilgore told media. 

Kilgore recently spent time in Europe for the Olympic Draw and the USWNT will face Germany, Australia, and either Zambia or Morocco (the winner of African qualifiers) in Group B. 

Both Macario and Swanson are likely to have some kind of minute restriction during the international window as each player works their way back into fitness. Their return brings back memories of their prominence on the national team just some short years ago. Macario at one point with meaningful minutes alongside Sophia Smith and Swanson with Lavelle in attacking support. 

Leaving some of us to question if the 2024 SheBelieves Cup could serve as a reintroduction to such player-line evaluations. Injuries are an unfortunate part of the sport, and major injuries to Macario and Swanson in back-to-back years clearly changed the trajectory of team tactics heading into the FIFA 2023 Women's World Cup. Could this be the start of something special ahead of the Olympics? Stay tuned!