Impetus’ Blaise Ogutu brings us his detailed weekly round-up of all the action from the NSWL (5/7/22).
Above: KC Current’s Adrianna Franch in spectacular goalkeeping action against Houston Dash. Photo: @thekccurrent.
From Goalkeeping MasterClasses to the Daytona Speedway: NWSL Round Nine:
The NWSL made a return this weekend following the conclusion of the international break. Teams however had to make do without a few international players who are on duty for the CONCACAF, Euros, and AFCON tournaments.
On Friday night, the Houston Dash succumbed to a 2-1 loss to KC Current at the PNC Stadium in Houston. It was the second meeting between the two clubs in the regular season with Dash winning in Kansas courtesy of goals from Rachel Daly and Bri Visalli.
Debutant Ebony Salmon, formerly of Bristol City who was acquired from Racing Louisville, had a couple of early chances for Houston but Adriana Franch in goal proved to be a brick wall. Shae Groom also had a chance to put the hosts ahead in the 33rd minute only to be denied by Franch. The opening goal did involve Groom on the opposite end as she was judged to have handled the ball in the box in the 41st minute. Up stepped Lo’eau LaBonta who rifled her attempt past Jane Campbell to make it 1-0 Kansas City. They could have doubled the lead through Cece Kizer in added time but her shot just went wide.
The Current did double their tally thirty-five seconds into the second half through Hailie Mace. Again Kizer was involved in the build-up taking on a couple of defenders before pulling it back for Mace on the edge of the area. It was proving to be Franch’s good day between the sticks as she pulled off a double save in the 59th minute to deny Salmon and Visalli. However, deep into stoppage time, she could keep Houston out after Elizabeth Ball diverted a low cross into her own net to make it 2-1. It was too little too late for Houston to get an equaliser as Kansas City Current stretched their unbeaten record to five games.
Later on Friday night, goals from Jess Fishlock and Bethany Balcer secured a comfortable 2-0 win for OL Reign against North Carolina Courage.
A slow start for the home side saw Carolina’s Kerolin missing the target after a brilliant run into the box before her shot was saved by an outstretched Tullis-Joyce in the 17th minute. Reign grew into the match and had chances of their own. The best came off a Kim Little pass to find Jess Fishlock on the edge of the area but her superb attempt was equally met by Katelyn Rowland in goal to keep the scores level.
Laura Harvey’s side looked re-energized in the second half and seven minutes in found their opener through Fishlock. The Welsh international ran onto a great pass by Balcer and with a great first touch evaded the keeper to coolly slot it in. They wrapped the game up with 16 minutes to go when Fishlock and Balcer linked up yet again when Fishlock found Balcer with another great pass to make it 2-0. Another brilliant display by the Cascadia giants despite having eight players out on international duty.
The last game of the night saw the Portland Thorns pull out an equaliser deep into added time to deny Angel City FC all three points at the Banc of California Stadium.
Angel City opened the scoring a minute into the game when Savannah McCaskill put away her penalty after Miri Taylor was bundled over by Kelli Hubly in the box. It was a relatively slow start from the away side and they could not cope with the Angel City pressure. Fifteen minutes in and DiDi Haracic had to react quickly to save Yazmeen Ryan’s attempt at the near post.
The second half proved to be a Shelby Hogan show as the debuting Thorns goalkeeper pulled off fine saves to keep them in the game. Freya Coomb’s side seemed to be cruising to a 1-0 win but in the sixth minute of added time, Yazmeen Ryan rose highest at the back post to meet Madison Pogarch’s left-foot cross to snatch a point on the road. A point that felt like a win for Rhian Wilkinson’s charges.
Saturday saw only one game on the cards in Harrison, New Jersey as Chicago Red Stars ran out 3-0 winners against home side Gotham FC. The game happened to be defender Gina Lewandoski’s final professional match after 53 games in the NWSL. Chicago went ahead in the 16th minute through Sarah Luebbert. Her first NWSL goal of the season came after a great run by Tatumn Milazzo who beat her marker down the left flank and a quick cross followed by the slightest touch by Ella Stevens steering the ball into Luebbert’s path to open the scoring.
Consistent pressure and a long spell of possession from the visitors saw them double the advantage through Vanessa Dibernado. A brilliant first touch from the captain took her past Zerboni before firing a right-foot shot past Ashlyn Harris in goal. In the second half, equal chances fell for both sides with Stevens and Taylor Smith missing for their respective side. Ella Steven did get her goal with six minutes to go with an easy tap-in off a header by Nagasato which sent the Red Stars to the top of the table temporarily.
Sunday featured expansion side San Diego retaking the top spot with a 2-1 win over Washington Spirit.
Goals from Makenzy Doniak and Isabela Briede in the first half put the hosts ahead. Washington managed to pull one back in stoppage time but it wasn’t enough as they stretched their winless run to nine games this season.
The last match of the weekend saw Orlando Pride come back from two goals down to earn a draw against Racing Louisville at the Daytona International Speedway.
The Pride had a decent start to the game but Racing Louisville had better chances as Emina Ekic had her 23rd-minute chance saved by McLeod before getting a second bite of the cherry which hit the crossbar. She did get her goal eleven minutes later finding the back of the net off a cross by Nealy Martin.
Louisville made it 2-0 in the 51st minute with a superbly taken free-kick by Savannah DeMelo and had their hands firmly on the wheel. Nine minutes later, Orlando pulled one back through Kylie Strom after Katie Lund failed to clear a shot. In the 69th minute, a provider turned into a goalscorer as Darian Jenkins levelled matters by latching on to an easy pass from Erika Tymrak. A goal that Louisville head coach Kim Bjorkegren strongly believes shouldn’t have stood.