NWSL Weekly Wrap Round 12

Impetus’ Blaise Ogutu brings us his detailed weekly round-up of all the action from the NWSL (18/7/22).

Above: San Diego Wave faithful at the Torero stadium against Racing Louisville. Photo: @sandiegowavefc

Thrilling Draw in San Diego, Hat-Trick in Houston, and a Five-Star Performance in Portland: NWSL Week 12

We are halfway through the NWSL season and teams now find themselves playing the return fixtures. Five games were on the card this weekend however with the Courage and Angel City game postponed due to Covid-19 protocols. Here’s how things turned out for the ten teams involved.

The San Diego Wave and Racing Louisville played out to an enthralling 0-0 draw at the Torero Stadium on Friday night. San Diego took control of the game from the opening minutes but it was Racing Louisville with the better opportunity to open scores in the 20th minute. Carly Telford had to get big to save Kirsten Davis’s shot from a tight angle on the right. Four minutes later the English shot-stopper was again on hand to deny Davis’s attempt while through on goal. Kelsey Turnbow provided Wave’s first real chance midway through the first half after robbing Gemma Bonner but her low strike was kept out by Katie Lund.

Lund was called into action in the opening minutes of the second half with a double save to deny San Diego’s Tegan McGrady before Bonner cleared off the line to maintain scores. Louisville had the ball in the back of the net after Jaelin Howell flicked on Savannah DeMelo’s corner kick but was recalled for a foul on Telford. The chance to take the lead was biggest in the 72nd minute for Kim Björkegren’s side as Alex Chidiac was brought down in the penalty area by fellow Matildas international Emily van Egmond. But DeMelo’s attempt from the spot was equally met by Telford who guessed correctly to deny the youngster a fourth goal of the season.

A brilliant end-to-end game for both sides as 39 shots were taken with both keepers combining for 15 saves. But for all the entertainment, neither team benefitted as San Diego failed to pull further ahead at the top of the table and Louisville still sit six points from the play-off positions.

Above: Hat-trick hero in Houston, Ebony Salmon. Photo: @HoustonDash.

The Houston Dash cruised to a brilliant 4-1 victory against a lacklustre Chicago Red Stars side courtesy of a hat-trick by new signing, former Bristol City WSL star Ebony Salmon. In Juan Carlos Amaros’ first game as head coach, there was a significant change in the team’s energy as constant pressure within the first ten minutes allowed Salmon to get her first goal in the orange uniform.

Shea Groom intercepted Emily Boyd’s clearance to set up Salmon for the opener. Ella Stevens could have equalised for the visitors in the 35th minute but her attempt was easily thwarted by Lindsey Harris in Dash goal. Ebony Salmon was on the scoreboard again right before halftime with her second of the night. Salmon outpaced Tatumn Milazzo on the right-hand side before calmly slotting the ball past Boyd.

Ten minutes into the second half, the PNC Stadium was bouncing again when Salmon completed her hat-trick by finishing off a brilliant counter-attack led by Ryan Gareis from the left flank. Chicago had an improved second half but could not create any clear-cut chances as substitute Jill Aguilera skied her attempt from the left. They did get a consolation goal a minute before stoppage time with Notre Dame alumus Samantha Fisher bundling in from close range.

The little sense of joy was quickly dashed away when Dash found their fourth of the night through substitute Joelle Anderson. She saw her shot nearly saved by Boyd but slipped through her fingers to end a frustrating night for the Red Stars.  Chicago’s chance to go on top of the table evaded them on the night failing to capitalise on San Diego Wave’s slip up while Houston got back to winning ways and maintain fourth position.

Above: Portland Thorns players celebrating Marissa Everett’s goal against Gotham FC. Photo: @ThornsFC.

In the other game on Saturday night, the Portland Thorns once again run riot at home to Gotham FC with an impressive 5-0 win. A six-minute spell of chaos saw the home side go 3-0 up within eleven minutes with Taylor Porter, Olivia Moultrie, and Marissa Everett all finding the back of the net.

The pick of the bunch was Moultrie’s attempt from outside the box. Finding space in a short space of time and with little thinking room, the 16-year-old expertly placed her shot into the top right corner evading Ashlyn Harris in goal. The game simmered down as Gotham finally found their bearings but could not create decent chances to get back in the game.

The second half was an easy breeze for the Thorns and they added a fourth when Hannah Betfort headed in Madison Pogarch’s cross in the 65th minute. Morgan Weaver rounded off the scoring by pouncing on a loose pass from Harris to bend it into the net and extend Portland’s unbeaten run to eight games. A world of difference between the previous weekend’s expedition for Gotham as they see chances to make the play-off places continue to slip from their grasp.

Sunday featured a drab 0-0 draw at the Audi Field as the Washington Spirit hosted the Orlando Pride. For the latter, a point away from home with the performances they have been putting in recently is still good enough to see them move further away from the bottom of the table. A couple of chances in the first half from forward Darian Jenkins could have broken the deadlock but her first shot in the 16th minute went agonisingly wide and the second was saved by Devon Kerr in the Washington net.

The home side had a chance immediately after the breather through Jordan Baggett but her attempt on the half turn was smartly saved by Erin McLeod in the Pride goal. In the end, a result that pushed Washington’s winless run to 12 games even after outshooting their opponents 17 to four.

Above: Kansas City Current’s Lo’eau LaBonta charges away after scoring against OL Reign. Photo: @thekccurrent.

In the final game of the weekend, a resurgent Kansas City Current narrowly put away OL Reign at the Lynn Family Stadium courtesy of Lo’eau LaBonta’s 17th-minute spot-kick.

Both teams came into the match unbeaten but it was Kansas City who broke the deadlock following a sweeping move from back to front. Victoria Pickett was found in space on the left flank and while cutting inside, was taken down in the area by a clumsy Phoebe McClernon challenge. LaBonta stepped up and went for the top right corner beating Tullis-Joyce in goal. Reign had their chances as Kim Little saw her chance saved by Adrianna Franch after a late run into the box. Bethany Balcer also came close on the half-hour mark but her sharp strike could only strike the upright.

Laura Harvey’s charges dominated the ball for most of the second half but Current again came close to a second goal when Cece Kizer skied her attempt inside the six-yard box which in all fairness was an easier chance to score than miss. Harvey introduced fan-favourite Tobin Heath for her first minutes in the navy blue of Reign in the 77th minute but it was Ally Watt also off the bench with a good chance to equalise two minutes from added time. Cutting in to her left foot from the right side, her shot was saved by the outstretched Franch. This result saw the Current leapfrog OL Reign into fifth place and condemn them to their first defeat in five games.

The NWSL takes a break this coming weekend but teams expect a large cohort of international players to return from national team duty and it will be interesting to see just how they manage the return of regular starts.

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