Impetus’ Blaise Ogutu brings us his detailed weekly round-up of all the action from the NWSL (18/8/22).
Above: Christine Sinclair and Hina Sugita celebrate the equalizer against Washington Spirit. Photo: USA Today Sports.
Nervy Wins, Great Strikes, And A Seven Goal Thriller: NWSL Round 14
The action started last Wednesday night as Morgan Weaver scored a stoppage-time winner as the Portland Thorns rallied from a goal down to beat Washington Spirit 2-1 at Segra Field.
An own goal by Bella Bixby was canceled out by Christine Sinclair in the second half. There were a couple of chances in the opening half for Thorns’ forward Marissa Everett which were snuffed out by Sam Staab and Aubrey Kingsbury at the near post. They could have gone ahead through Yazmeen Ryan from the left-hand side but her shot was easily blocked by Kingsbury. On the other end, Ashley Hatch led a counterattack and cut back to an on-rushing Ashley Sanchez but Bixby was alert to make a point-blank save.
Chances were few for both sides in the second half with questionable finishing. In the 75th minute, Bailey Feist had a chance and while going down, released a shot that was palmed by Bixby. The resultant corner led to a comical own goal with Bixby failing to claim the first ball. While she grappled with the second one, she stumbled over the line before throwing it back into play straight at Hatch who poked it home to make sure. With seven minutes remaining, Christine Sinclair equalized after she tapped in a rebound from Kelli Hubly’s shot that clipped the crossbar.
The comeback was completed in the 91st minute when Weaver found space between two defenders and cut to her left before neatly tucking in her shot beyond Kingsbury. Trinity Rodman had a chance to equalize deep in stoppage time but Bixby stood her ground to stop the 20-year-old.
At the PNC Stadium on Friday night, Houston Dash hosted Racing Louisville and played out a drab scoreless draw. It was the sixth time this season that a game ended in a barren draw. The finishing for both teams was suspect for large chunks of the game despite Houston starting strongly and testing Katie Lund through Ebony Salmon. Racing were reduced to 10 two minutes before the end of the first half when Satara Murray tagged Salmon on the edge of the area and received her marching orders for a second bookable offence.
The second half was billed to be a Houston affair but they couldn’t apply the finishing touches to beat Lund in goal and instead pampered her saves record. In the end, a draw would suit both teams on the night that Houston Dash was bidding farewell to long-time star Rachel Daly who is returning to England to play for Aston Villa in the WSL.
On Saturday, Kansas City Current came from behind three times to beat North Carolina Courage 4-3 at the WakeMed Soccer Park in North Carolina. Courage broke the deadlock in the 17th minute when Diana Ordonez scored her eighth goal of the season. A well-crafted sequence involving Carolina’s frontline with Ordonez being closest to tap in the rebound.
The scores were level three minutes later however through Kristen Hamilton who put away her fifth goal of the season following a scramble in the Courage goalmouth. Brazilian Kerolin had the chance to put the home side ahead midway through the half but her driven shot was kept out by AD Franch in goal. Courage did go ahead in the 36th minute with a turn-over in midfield for Kansas and in transition, Kerolin found space behind Current defenders before unselfishly laying it off to fellow Brazilian Debinha for a comfortable finish at the back post. Parity was restored courtesy of Lo’eau LaBonta’s rifled shot into the top corner right before the break.
Ten minutes into the second half, Ordonez could have gotten her third brace in a row after being picked out by Carson Pickett but Franch’s frame denied the Mexican rookie. There wasn’t much Franch could do two minutes later as Kaleigh Kurtz’s dominant header flew in off the inside of the crossbar to make it 3-2 on the night.
On the hour mark, Cece Kizer brought Kansas City level again. LaBonta found space to run into before delivering a square pass across the face of the goal with Kizer on the end of it to get her fifth goal in six matches.
Matt Porter’s charges would have the last laugh as substitute Claire Lavogez scored her first of the campaign. Courage defenders failed to close her down and she managed to get her shot off from distance to take Current’s unbeaten streak to ten games.
Again, North Carolina were involved in a high-scoring fixture with nothing to show as time and games run out for them to try and make the postseason play.
The other game on Saturday night saw Orlando Pride grind out a 1-0 win over hosts San Diego Wave at the Torero Stadium. San Diego came out of the blocks flying with Alex Morgan hitting the upright with a fierce strike.
The away side was handed a penalty against the run of play as Julie Doyle’s low cross hit Kaleigh Riehl on the arm in the 22nd minute. Meggie Dougherty-Howard stepped up to the plate for Orlando to put away the spot kick beyond Kailen Sheridan denying her three penalty saves in as many games.
Orlando found themselves again under severe pressure from Casey Stoney’s side when Morgan yet again rattled the woodwork in the 60th minute. Two chances fell for Taylor Kornieck but she couldn’t turn them into goals.
The first, going with her foot instead of a header, sailed over while the second was a tame header saved comfortably by Erin McLeod in goal. The Canadian shot-stopper was called into action in stoppage time denying substitute Marleen Schimmer’s powerful shot to maintain a clean sheet for Seb Hines’ side.
On Sunday, OL Reign put on a superb attacking display as they comfortably put four past Gotham FC at a sunny Lumen Field. Rose Lavelle opened proceedings with a timed run behind a defender off a throw-in to confidently finish off the move with a left-foot strike in the 15th minute.
Megan Rapinoe doubled the scoring from the penalty spot five minutes from the half. Winning the ball off Ellie Jean, the Gotham defender got clumsy in the box with the Reign veteran prompting the referee to point towards the spot.
The home side picked up in the second half where they left off and Tobin heath nearly made it three on the hour mark but her close-range effort was saved by Michelle Betos. Rapinoe got her brace nine minutes later with a first-time shot. Taking advantage of another well-executed throw-in, Rapinoe found space on the left and put enough power behind her shot to get it past Betos.
Gotham pulled one back through Taylor Smith. Forcing Reign into sloppy defending, Smith created space for herself, drifting wide before getting off her shot to beat Tullis-Joyce. The consolation wouldn’t last forever as Rapinoe was again on hand to create the OL Reign’s fourth of the game floating in a ball that Mandy Freeman headed into her own net.
This win ensured OL Reign kept their playoff spot as well as making Laura Harvey the record holder for the most NWSL wins with 82.
Finally, Savannah McCaskill’s second-half goal for Angel City was enough to see off the Chicago Red Stars at the Banc of California Stadium. Chicago registered the first real attempt in the sixth minute when Danielle Colaprico combined well with Samantha Fisher but the latter saw her strike go just wide off the mark.
The home side grew into the game gradually and had their own chance when Ali Riley floated in a perfect ball for Simon Charley in the middle of the penalty area but her header was saved by Alyssa Naeher in goal.
The deadlock was broken three minutes into the second half after McCaskill bodied the ball into the back of the net for Angel City. A dangerous cross evaded the entire Chicago backline to find the Angel City midfielder for her fifth of the season.
Chicago’s response in the second half was great with substitutes Sarah Griffith and Rachel Hill creating chances for Chris Petrucelli’s side. The only issue was getting the ball to cross over the line. The best chance in the second half came with five minutes of normal time remaining.
Found through on goal by fellow substitute Jillienne Aguillera, Griffith’s left foot shot was expertly smothered by DiDi Haracic who came off her line in time. The hosts weathered late pressure from Chicago to get a very important win in their race for the playoffs.
After another round of full NWSL Fixtures, here is how things stand: