Impetus’ Blaise Ogutu brings us his detailed weekly round-up of all the action from the NWSL (4/8/22).
Above: Washington Spirit’s Trinity Rodman (left) battles Ryan Williams of the NC Courage. Photo: @TheAthleticSCCR/Twitter.
Braces, Nail biters. Comebacks. The NWSL returned after a weekend off and without any more scheduled breaks from here on out, teams look to push on full throttle till the end of the season. Here is how the games turned out.
On Friday, North Carolina Courage came from behind three times to earn a point against visitors Washington Spirit in an entertaining 3-3 draw. In a game that had a rain and lightning delay midway through the first half, the return an hour later produced the goods. It was in the 42nd minute that Trinity Rodman opened the scoring. Ashley Sanchez found her out wide with a no-look pass and Rodman had to keep her cool head to get one past an on-rushing Casey Murphy.
Two minutes later, Courage levelled matters through Brittany Ratcliffe who managed to muscle her way past Kelley Ohara and Sam Staab before clinically beating Kingsbury at the far post. Washington found themselves ahead again through Tara McKeown a minute later. Ohara this time with a lovely cross to find McKeown whose deft header flew over Murphy. The second half kicked off with the same energy as North Carolina equalised again via Diana Ordonez who tapped in a square ball from Meredith Speck in the 53rd minute.
The action didn’t stop there as Rodman finished off her brace linking up again with Sanchez and getting the better of Kaleigh Kurtz before beating Murphy at the near post. Washington would have the game wrapped up but Sean Nahas’ charges had different ideas. In the 62nd minute, a penalty came their way after Ratcliffe was tripped in the area and Ordonez stepped up to coolly dispatch her attempt to make it 3-3. Courage could have had a winner in added time but the crossbar was at hand to deny substitute Jorian Baucom’s header. In the end, it was a draw that suited neither side as they look for ways to climb out of the basement.
While the thunder and rain was rolling in Carolina, Portland Thorns squeezed past Racing Louisville with a 2-1 victory at the Lynn Family Stadium in Kentucky. Sophia Smith marked her return to the side with a brilliant goal following a neat touch to get away from Gemma Bonner at the halfway line. Her driving run drifted to the left before she released a shot far post beating Katie Lund.
Portland dominated proceedings for most of the half but couldn’t double their advantage over a tired-looking Louisville. They were made to pay by young Aussie Alex Chidiac with a ridiculous finish from a tight angle. Coming off the left side, Chidiac dribbled past her first defender on the by-line before squeezing her shot past a crowded goalmouth to record her first goal of the campaign.
The second half began in an even fashion though Portland’s Bella Bixby had to pull off a fingertip save to deny Jessica McDonald’s header from close-range. It was substitute Raquel Rodriguez who made the difference for Portland in the second half as her shot in the 74th minute was initially parried by Lund but it fell right on Hina Sugita’s toes to simply finish the rebound condemning Racing to yet another late goal this season.
Saturday evening saw the Chicago Red Stars take on the San Diego Wave at Soldier Field and it was the visitors who came out victorious with a slender 1-0 victory. The only goal of the game came from 17-year-old Jaedin Shaw, who was making her debut for the Wave. It was a well-worked move with Katie Johnson who was through on goal unselfishly laying it off to Shaw who took a touch to get past her marker before slotting the ball across the line in the 28th minute.
In the second half, the Red Stars began crafting chances but were being denied by a resolute Wave defence remarkably marshalled by rookie Naomi Girma. The defence was however broken up on the hour mark when Abby Dahlkemper received her marching orders for a second bookable offence. Chicago had thirty minutes to find an equaliser and had a chance to do so when Girma brought down substitute Ella Stevens with ten minutes to go. Kailen Sheridan proved to be the hero saving Mallory Pugh’s weak attempt to maintain the lead and get the win that took San Diego back to the top of the standings.
The final game on Saturday featured a battle for the last play-off spot as OL Reign came from behind to beat Angel City FC 3-2 at the Banc Of California Stadium. Angel City’s early goalscoring streak continued when Cari Roccaro found the back of the net in the 9th minute of the game. They doubled their lead at the half-hour mark when Savannah McCaskill put away a penalty after Alana Cook was adjudged to have fouled Sydney Leroux. A penalty was handed on the other end in stoppage time of the first period when Jess Fishlock was fouled by Jun Endo but Kim Little’s attempt from the spot was expertly saved by DiDi Haracic.
In the second half, Reign turned the tide when Fishlock’s persistence paid off with a lovely goal bending her attempt past Haracic. Ten minutes later, Sofia Huerta found the equaliser with a flying long-range effort from the edge of the area. The comeback was completed when substitute Tobin Heath slotted in a lofted ball from Huerta to make it 3-2 with one minute of normal time remaining.
Over at the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey, visitors, Houston Dash came back from a goal behind to win 4-2 in another multiple-goal thriller. Gotham took the lead courtesy of Paige Monahan in the 4th minute who tucked in Taylor Smith’s squared ball into the box. Houston pushed on for an equaliser which came through an own goal by Gotham defender Mandy Freeman. From a corner by Maria Sanchez, Katie Naughton flicked it on at the near post before a mix-up in Gotham’s goal line.
Gotham looked more expressive in the second period and could have gotten their way back on a counterattack led by Midge Purce but after beating Nichelle Prince on the wing, her final pass couldn’t find Monahan.
Sophie Schmidt went on to produce a world-class finish for the Dash in the 70th minute with a clean left-footed strike into the top corner to make it 3-1. A minute later, they again found themselves in Gotham’s defensive area and McCall Zerboni’s clumsy tackle on Sanchez was punished with the award of a penalty. Up stepped Ebony Salmon to put it away down the middle for her fourth goal of the season.
Scott Parkinson’s side pulled one back with ten minutes to go when Purce was off to the races from her own half, driving and drifting to her left before letting one fly past Jane Campbell. That was however all they could do as Houston climbed up to third on the log ahead of Chicago Red Stars while Gotham’s season continues to look grim and the chances for a play-off spot quickly fading away.
The final game of the weekend saw Kansas City Current play out a 2-2 draw with the Orlando Pride at the Lynn Family stadium in Kansas. Orlando found themselves a goal up midway through the first half when Celia Jimenez beat Current’s Hailie Mace to a header past a static AD Franch. A goal totally against the run of play caught Kansas by surprise. They again caught Kansas napping at the beginning of the second half when Julie Doyle capitalised on a collision between Elizabeth Ball and Franch in the Current penalty area.
Ten minutes later, substitute Elyse Bennett pulled a goal back when she found herself one against one on the right wing and from a narrow angle, snuck her shot past McLeod. Pressure piled on for Orlando from that point with Bennett working their backline time and time before finally, Cece Kizer found the equaliser with 8 minutes on the board remaining. Lo’eau Labonta with a lofted ball into Kizer’s running route whose first touch took the ball over McLeod and easily finishing the move. The draw saw Kansas remain occupants of the final play-off spot and the Pride in eighth, five points adrift.