Impetus’ Blaise Ogutu brings us his detailed weekly round-up of all the action from the NWSL (13/9/22).
Above: Crystal Dunn in action for the Portland Thorns three months after the birth of her baby. Photo: @ThornsFC/Twitter.
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The end of the regular season looms ever closer and the race for the shield continues to grip the fan bases of the teams involved. Further down the table, the play-off spots are still up for grabs as well as no one seems to put enough distance between themselves and the others. We take a look at how things panned out this weekend.
Portland Thorns went back to winning ways after a peculiar August period as they cruised to a 2-0 win over Orlando Pride at the Exploria Stadium in Orlando on Friday night. Goals by Yazmeen Ryan and Hina Sugita proved to be enough to take the Thorns back into first place for the night.
The visitors were up and running in the opening twenty minutes of the game as substitute goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse and Celia produced crucial saves to deny Sophia Smith. Moorhouse was in action to deny Morgan Weaver’s fizzing attempt from the edge of the box with a diving save in the 26th minute.
Portland were not kept off the scoreboard for long as Ryan netted her second of the season. Weaver’s underlapping run down the left allowed her to get a lifted pass to her fellow attacker who adjusted well to get to the ball before Pride defender Jordyn Listro and put it away.
Orlando had a chance of their own in the latter stages of the opening half through Mikayla Cluff but the midfielder’s header sailed just wide over the crossbar.
Rhian Wilkinson’s charges dominated the second half with Ryan and Natalia Kuikka both seeing their chances go high and saved by Moorhouse respectively.
The game was put beyond Orlando’s reach when Meghan Klingenberg, Weaver and Olivia Moultrie all combined to tee up Sugita. The Japanese international saw her shot tuck neatly past Moorhouse and seal the win. The game also saw the return of Crystal Dunn from maternity after almost a year off the pitch as she came on late in the second half.
Friday night also saw OL Reign entertain the Chicago Red Stars at Lumen Field in Seattle. The hosts took the lead through summer recruit Jordyn Huitema in the 18th minute. Her initial shot deflected off defender Zoe Morse and the Canadian got a second bite of the cherry to score past Alyssa Naeher.
Reign looked the better of the two sides as they continued piling pressure in the first half. Naeher had to pull off a double save to deny an in-form Megan Rapinoe in the 25th minute. Huitema could have had a first-half brace but her 39th-minute chance at the back post only hit the upright.
Chicago got the next goal of the game against the run of play right before halftime through Ella Stevens. Rachel Hill pounced on a long ball upfield and her shot was not properly saved by Phallon Tullis-Joyce. Stevens was at the right spot to scoop up the seconds and notch her fourth of the season.
The visitors looked like a different team in the second half and they got their work’s worth in the 68th minute. Yuki Nagasato’s shot inside the box hit Sam Hiatt’s hand and the referee called for a penalty which Danielle Colaprico stepped up to put the Red Stars ahead in the game.
Reign’s resilience however thwarted Chicago’s hopes of an away win as Rose Lavelle got restored parity with ten minutes to go. Dribbling into space down the left side, the midfielder’s rifling shot nestled inside the side netting. She could have gotten the three points in the 93rd minute had her header not hit the crossbar and the follow-up shot by Rapinoe saved by Naeher. A 2-2 draw at the end of a pulsating game.
Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off served up an NWSL classic as Washington Spirit narrowly edged San Diego Wave 4-3 at Audi Field in the capital. Teenage sensation Jaedyn Shaw opened proceedings with a well-timed run to give San Diego the lead in the seventh minute. Spirit defender failed to close down Australian Emily Van Egmond as she floated in a deadly ball to Shaw who evaded Camryn Biegalski at the far post.
Washington responded with the equaliser four minutes later through Tara McKeown. Ashley Hatch and Sanchez both combined on the move and the latter pushed the ball out wide to McKeown who clipped the ball over Kailen Sheridan.
The hosts then went ahead on the half-hour mark through defender Amber Brooks. San Diego failed to clear their lines and the ball fell perfectly for the 31-year-old to poke it home.
She was at it again a minute before the break as she crept up at the back post to nod in her second of the afternoon and put Washington two goals to the good.
In the second half, the hero turned villain as Brooks clattered into Alex Morgan in the box leading to a penalty. The striker took it upon herself to pull a goal back for the visitors from the spot.
San Diego continued their second-half resurgence and with seven minutes to go, they won a controversial corner which was dispatched by Alex Morgan’s header to make it 3-3. Washington contested the decision to award a corner as they felt the ball went out for a throw-in instead.
There would be drama in the dying minutes though as McKeown smartly drew a foul from Van Egmond earning a penalty. Ashley Hatch was good from the spot to get the win Washington desperately needed.
Later on Saturday, the North Carolina Courage pumped five goals past Racing Louisville as their charge for the play-off spot continued. Brazilians Kerolin and Debinha both got a brace and Tess Boade notched her first of the season for the Courage. Nadia Nadim got the solitary goal for Louisville as they continued their woeful run of winless games.
On Sunday, Gotham FC welcomed Kansas City Current to the Red Bull Arena in Harrison New Jersey and the visitors went home with all three points courtesy of a penalty from Hailie Mace in the second half. Claire Lavogez had arguably the most chances in the game as she saw her 1st minute attempt deflected wide.
She was again causing trouble in the second half against a resolute Gotham defence. Found out wide by Mace, her shot was deflected by Taylor Smith and almost crept in but it was cleared off the line by Paige Monaghan.
Gotham couldn’t hold their fort for long enough as substitute Ellie Jean clumsily took down Lavogez in the box in the 78th minute. Hailie Mace put away her strike to take the lead. Two minutes later, the hosts went hunting but Kristie Mewis’ shot drew a fingertip save from Adrianna Franch onto the crossbar. The win and the shutout ensured Franch’s 40th clean sheet in her NWSL career.
The final game of the weekend provided Houston Dash a chance to go top of the table as they faced Angel City at the PNC stadium in the Bayou City.
Maria Sanchez gave the home side the lead in the 42nd minute. Following a short corner, the Mexican attacker found space on the edge of the box and with no one closing her down, she fired a rocket past a diving DiDi Haracic.
In the second half, it was Simone Charley who got the equaliser four minutes after the break. Beating Katie Naughton to a moving ball, the striker continued her run and it proved beneficial as Jane Campbell failed to gather the loose ball and Charley had the easiest finish to make it 1-1.
Houston had a host of chances in the second half but couldn’t make them count. In the final ten minutes, Valerie Gauvin’s first chance in Houston’s orange went narrowly wide while Bri Visalli’s attempted curler deflected and hit the crossbar going over. The draw meant Juan Carlos Amaros’s side ended the weekend fourth instead of first.
Here is how things stand as the Current hold first place for the first time this season.