Notes From North America

Impetus’ North American Women’s Football expert Catherine Paquette brings us up to date with all the action from the latest two rounds of the NWSL.

It has been a busy two weeks in the National Women’s Soccer League, especially with regards to management.  

Gotham FC manager Alyse LaHue was let go on July 9th by the organization.  LaHue’s management was widely considered as a major reason for the team’s increase in standards and performance since her arrival in 2018.  The team stated she was no longer employed after an investigation “into a complaint of violation of league policy.”  LaHue’s attorney released a statement that she denied the allegations and had no further comment.

After the resignation of OL Reign head coach Farid Benstiti in early July, the OL Reign have appointed Laura Harvey as their new head coach.  Harvey has extensive coaching experience in both England and the US, at both the domestic and national team level.  This will be her second stint in charge of the Washington based club, having previously been head coach from 2013-2017.  At present she is with the USWNT, as an assistant to Vlatko Antonovski, and will remain with the side until the end of their Olympic campaign.  Sam Laity, who has been with the franchise since its inception, will continue to serve as interim manager until she returns.

Above: Marc Skinner who has departed Orlando Pride. Photo: Mane Land.

The Orlando Pride have also lost their head coach, after the abrupt resignation of Marc Skinner last week.  Skinner is currently rumoured to be a contender for Manchester United’s vacant head coaching position.  His assistant Carl Green managed the July 24 match against the Reign, with the Pride appointing Becky Burleigh as interim head coach on Sunday.  Burleigh will remain in place until the search for a new head coach is completed.

Manchester United’s former head coach Casey Stoney has been named the head coach of new NWSL franchise San Diego.  She, alongside newly appointed general manager Molly Downtain, will take the next few months to prepare San Diego’s team for their inaugural 2022 season.

Several players were traded and sent on loan.  The OL Reign have announced the loans of Nicole Momiki to Linköpings FC until the end of the calendar year and Cosette Morché to GPSO 92 Issy FC until July 2022.

KC and the North Carolina Courage announced a huge trade involving four players last week.  KC captain Amy Rodrigues was traded alongside $60,000 of allocation money to the Courage in exchange for Kristen Hamilton, Katelyn Rowland and Hailie Mace.

July 17-18

Four matches occurred over two weekends ago.  Racing Louisville and KC were both given a bye week.

The first match of the weekend was between the North Carolina Courage and the Houston Dash.  It ended 2-1 in the Dash’s favour, a huge win for them as they had never won at Carolina and had only one other recorded win against the Courage in their franchise history.

The opening goal was scored by Shea Groom, off a pass from a Veronica Latsko interception. It was also Groom’s hundredth NWSL regular season appearance.  Carolina’s Kriston Hamilton equalized.  However, the winning goal came from a Gabbie Seiler free kick, and it was one for the highlight reel.

The first game on July 18th was between the Washington Spirit and Gotham FC.  A controversial red card, which was later overturned on appeal, was given to Washington’s Sam Staab in the seventh minute. However, the 10-woman Spirit did not give up.  Their rookie Trinity Rodman opened the scoring after receiving a great deep ball wide from captain Andi Sullivan.  Gotham’s Naho Kawasumi and McCall Zerboni both then scored in the first half for Gotham to give NJNY the lead.

For the second week in a row Ashley Sanchez kept showing her skill, this time producing her own amazing free kick goal to give the Spirit the equalizer.  However, Midge Purce would then score the winner for Gotham in the 76th minute.  They won the match 3-2.

The Chicago Red Stars then faced the OL Reign.  The match became one for the record books due to the most bizarre of situations.  While Cecila Delgado Jimene opened the scoring for the OL Reign and Mal Pugh won the match for the Red Stars by supplying their third goal, the other two goals were own goals by the Reign for the Red Stars.

These two OG were the fourth and fifth consecutive OGs that the Red Stars have had this season, a record for any NWSL team ever.  In fact, prior to Pugh’s winning goal the Red Stars had 10 goals for scored in the 2021 regular season, half of which were supplied by the opposition.  The final score was 3-1 for the Red Stars.

The final match of the weekend was between the Portland Thorns and the Orlando Pride.  This match was all Portland.  While both teams are missing players to the Olympics, the gaps were much more heavily felt by the Pride.  The Thorns outshot their opposition 20 to six.  Were it not for the heroics of Pride keeper Ashlyn Harris, including another penalty save this match, the final score could have been worse.

The opening goal came courtesy of Sophia Smith, who is really getting a chance to shine during this Olympic period.  After a fantastic run where she fended off four defenders, she took a cracker of a shot on goal from just outside the box to score.    

The second Portland goal was just as brilliant.  Thorns taliswoman Meghan Klingenberg served the ball into the Orlando box in the 58th minute where it found the head of Marissa Everett.  The Pride did get a conciliation goal in the fifth minute of added time, when a cross found Marisa Viggiano who smashed it in.  The final score was 2-1 for the Thorns.

July 23-25 

The first match of the weekend was between KC NWSL and the North Carolina Courage.  It was an emotional match marred by a number of injuries as well as players missing due to the Olympics or COVID-19 protocols. Additionally, several recently traded players were making their debuts.

For KC it was a positive game, after having struggled this maiden year.  They dominated possession and shots, this despite converting players in some positions and the addition of three players who had joined the squad the day prior.  The Courage did not make the game easy for them, supplying a few shots on goal that nearly won the match.  The game finished 0-0.

The first match on July 24th was between the Orlando Pride and the OL Reign.  After a fantastic start to the season, the Pride lost their fourth match in their last five games.  Both teams were being managed by interim coaches.  While possession was nearly equal the more threatening team was the Reign with the Pride failing to produce a single shot on goal all night.

The Reign struck early in both halves.  A steal in the final third by Tziarra King in the 10th minute of the match was cleanly passed to Jess Fishlock.  She then turned and smoothly shot it home.  King proved deadly again in the second half, being the one to cleanly finish a pass from Eugenie Le Sommer.  The Reign won the match 2-0.

Above: Jess Fishlock – in fine form for OL Reign. Photo: Sounder At Heart.

The second match of the 24th was between the Houston Dash and the Portland Thorns.  Smith proved deadly for the second week in a row, providing a goal in the first minute of the match to put the Thorns up 1-0.  It turned out to be the only goal of the game and continued the Thorns’ unbeaten franchise run against the Houston Dash. 

The first match of July 25th was between Gotham FC and the Chicago Red Stars.  Gotham were the more dominant team, controlling possession.  The first half saw opportunities on both sides.  However, Gotham was able to capitalize on a short handed Red Stars, one player being off due to injury, with Allie Long getting their first goal in the added time of the opening half.  

The second half saw an increase in pace and chances.  A tackle by Bianca St George on Purce resulted in a penalty kick.  Purce would convert it to put the NJNY team up by two.  The Red Stars would score in the 95th minute, but it was too little too late.   Sadly for the Red Stars it appears that Own Goal has departed them and joined the USWNT in Japan, having supplied two of the American’s goals in their match against the Football Ferns. 

The last match of the weekend was between Racing Louisville FC and the Washington Spirit.       Both teams had a relatively solid game, each producing a large number of shots on goal.  However, costly mistakes lead to Louisville’s downfall.  

Above: Racing Louisville’s Ebony Salmon – the Lioness and former Bristol City star continues to play well in the NWSL. Photo: Racing Louisville FC

A passing error by Racing led to Ashley Hatch, who scored a brace two weekends ago, opening the account with a goal in the fifth minute of play.  Her teammate Sam Staab doubled Washington’s score in the 58th minute again off a Louisville mistake.  The hosts had a number of chances themselves but were not able to convert.  Washington won the match 2-0.

After two weeks, the table has changed significantly, however two things remain the same.  KC NWSL remains at the bottom of the table and is still searching for their first franchise win.  Meanwhile at the top of the table, with the Portland Thorns at the lead, only six points separate the first and the seventh position. 

The National Women’s Soccer League is still wide open.

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