NWSL Weekly Wrap Round 15

Impetus’ Blaise Ogutu brings us his detailed weekly round-up of all the action from the NWSL (25/8/22).

Above: Houston Dash’s Ebony Salmon takes on Mandy Freeman and McCall Zerboni of the NJ/NY Gotham FC. Photo: @HoustonDash/Twitter.

Scordonez Brace And An All-Timer Celebration: NWSL Round 15

This week, nine teams were in action in the NWSL with the Portland Thorns, OL Reign, and Racing Louisville all engaged in other club tournaments. Both Houston Dash and Gotham FC played twice with the first game coming up on Wednesday.

Houston Dash compounded more pressure on Gotham with a slender 2-1 win at the PNC Stadium in Houston.  Chances were few and far between in the first half with both Nichelle Prince and Ifeoma Onumonu both having chances to open the scores for their respective teams.

Things opened up in the second half as Gotham’s Midge Purce was handed a second yellow card and sent for an early shower after encroaching on a free kick in Houston’s half. All three goals would come in the final 20 minutes of the game as Ebony Salmon got her seventh goal in as many games. It is form like this that saw Salmon given a recall to the England national team this week. Teammate Maria Sanchez put her cross into space and Salmon’s well-timed half volley was met by Michelle Betos who pushed it onto the crossbar but not enough to keep it away from crossing the line.

In the 76th minute, Dash’s lead was doubled courtesy of Marisa Viggiano. Gotham’s defence failed to get tight allowing the midfielder to set herself up for the perfect strike veering away from Betos. Gotham pulled one back three minutes later through McCall Zerboni. Jane Campbell had fouled Paige Monaghan through on goal and the resultant free-kick was taken by Kristie Mewis who planted the ball on Zerboni’s head.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough as the Houston Dash broke down Gotham’s improved defensive structure to stretch their unbeaten run to five games.

Above: Lo’eau LaBonta celebrates after her equaliser against Angel City. Photo: @thekccurrent/Twitter

On Friday, Lo’eau LaBonta’s penalty kick in the 82nd minute cancelled out Cari Rocarro’s opener minutes earlier as the Kansas City Current and Angel City played out to a 1-1 draw in front of a record crowd at the Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas.

With Angel City chasing the play-off spots, they were up against it early on when Claire Lavogez missed a chance to put Kansas City ahead in the 16th minute. Jun Endo nearly scored a glorious goal on the other end in the 27th minute. She attempted a cross that became a shot and Adrianna Franch had to be alert to deny the Japanese international.

The home side dominated proceedings in the second half but DiDi Haracic and the Angel City defense remained resolute to deny Kansas. Their first attempt on goal produced the opener. Defender Ali Riley from the left flank floated in a well-weighted ball for Rocarro to nod home over Franch who was off her line.

The hosts looked to respond quickly and did exactly that as Paige Nielsen fouled LaBonta in the box as the forward pinched the ball from behind. LaBonta stepped up to slot her fifth of the season and possibly the best celebration of the season. Neither team could find the winner and had to share points that suited Kansas City more than Angel City.

Gotham was again in action on Saturday night hoping to snap their winless streak against a resurgent Orlando Pride at the Subaru Park in Philadelphia.  This wasn’t to be as again they fell 2-1 to Seb Hines’ side who on the other hand, extended their unbeaten streak to seven games.

Both teams had opportunities to score in the opening 20 minutes with Kerry Abello striking the post for Orlando in the fifth minute. Nicole Baxter on the other end nearly punished Erin McLeod’s mistake but the shot-stopper made amends and denied Gotham to keep things level. Gotham had another chance in the 32nd minute but Taylor Smith skied her right-footed attempt.

The visitors found the opener through Celia Jimenez immediately after the break. Abello again was involved with brilliant dribbling down the left before getting her cross towards Celia at the back post. Her initial header was blocked but a second bite of the cherry is what the Spanish defender needed to put the ball away.

Above: Ally Watt celebrating her debut goal in Orlando vs NJ/NY Gotham FC. Photo: @ORLPride/Twitter.

Pride doubled their lead with 17 minutes remaining when substitute Ally Watt got her first goal in Orlando colours. Dribbling one-v-one against Mandy Freeman, Watt managed to quickly shift her feet and shoot towards the far post way beyond Betos for her debut goal.

Two minutes later, Kristie Mewis pulled one back for Gotham with a header from Nahomi Kawasumi’s cross setting up a nervy finish for both sides. In the end, Seb Hines and his charges would hold on to continue their surge for the play-off.

Meanwhile, at the WakeMed Soccer Complex in Carolina, Diana Ordonez continued her brilliant form with a brace as the North Carolina Courage hit Chicago Red Stars for four. The Mexican rookie opened proceedings ten minutes in with a header. Carson Pickett’s out-swinging corner found Ordonez completely unmarked in the middle to head into the bottom corner.

Brianna Pinto could have doubled the lead with a strike from outside the area but it was kept out by Naeher and the post. Mallory Pugh had a chance to equalise for the visitors with four minutes of the half remaining with a mazy run dribbling past defenders. Her effort however did not match the run as she saw her shot rise high.

In the second half, Chicago had another attempt on goal. This time, Vanessa Dibernardo’s shot struck the crossbar and a scramble in the area failed to materialise into a goal. After the hour mark, it was the home side who doubled their advantage through Fuka Ngano. Her first NWSL goal came about after the Red Stars again failed to clear a set piece and Nagano poked it home within the confusion inside the area.

Sarah Luebbert could have pulled one back after working the ball well in the 70th minute but Casey Murphy stood strong to deny her. Ordonez got her brace with a fantastic finish five minutes later. A well-worked sequence by the Courage, Ordonez was found on the left. With a deft touch, she sat her defender before rifling her shot at the far post beating Alyssa Naeher.

Above: Diana Ordonez and Fuka Nagano celebrating a goal vs Chicago Red Stars. Photo: @TheNCCourage/Twitter.

The final nail on the proverbial coffin came through via substitute Rylee Baisden who started off the move to find Kerolin who cut back bringing Baisden into play to score her first NWSL goal of the season and Carolina’s fourth of the night.

The final game saw San Diego Wave arrest a two-game slide with a 3-1 win over Houston Dash in their final game at the Torero Stadium. Ebony Salmon continued her impressive form in front of goal with a seventh-minute opener. Off a corner, San Diego failed to properly clear and Salmon taking a touch to set herself up, fired one to beat Carly Telford.

The lead would not last for long as Alex Morgan replied in the 13th minute. Capitalising on poor defensive play, Morgan ripped her shot from a difficult angle beating Jane Campbell in between the sticks. Her 50th NWSL goal.

Parity would remain throughout the rest of the half and in the second half, Amirah Ali put the hosts ahead in the 67th minute. Alex Morgan was again involved as she nodded the ball into Ali’s path who bundled in following chaotic defending for Houston.

The away side threatened as they searched fervently for the equaliser. Their best chance in the second half came through Sophie Schmidt in the 88th minute. Her attempt however agonisingly struck the post.

Substitute Sofia Jakobsson put the game to bed in the 90th minute. Latching onto a pass from Makenzy Doniak, the Swedish midfielder found space between her markers before calmly slotting from a tight angle through Jane Campbell’s legs. The win took San Diego level on 28 points with Portland Thorns at the top while the Dash had their unbeaten streak snapped.

Here is how things stand going into the next game week.

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