Impetus’ Blaise Ogutu brings us his detailed weekly round-up of all the action from the NWSL (20/9/22).
Above: Nadia Nadim and Jessica McDonald during Racing Louisville’s win over Orlando Pride. Photo: @RacingLOUFC/Twitter.
Racing Win, Snapdragon Stadium Opens To Record Crowd And More:
Four points separate first from sixth. Five points are the difference between the sixth and eighth. A wild finish to the season is upon us and every NWSL fan is revelling in it. Six teams all with a mathematical chance to win the regular season shield and play-off spots up for grabs. Let’s see how the weekend turned out.
Racing Louisville finally got their long-awaited win as they beat Orlando Pride 2-0 at the Lynn Family Stadium in Louisville on Friday night. Goals from Nadia Nadim and Savannah DeMelo ensured Kim Bjorkegren’s third win of the season but it came three months too late to salvage anything this season.
It was Orlando with the first real chance of the game when Erika Tymrak missed a chance to convert a well-taken set piece as she saw her attempt hit the crossbar in the 3rd minute. Louisville would take the lead through Nadim ten minutes into the game. A skilful move by Jessica McDonald saw her beat her marker and driving to the by-line, fizzed a square ball to find Nadim from close range for an easy tap-in.
Orlando held their own and piled on pressure with Darian Jenkins seeing her right foot shot parried away by Katie Lund in the Lousiville midway through the half.
Five minutes into the second half, DeMelo finished off a brilliant move started by herself. Linking up with midfielder Wang Shuang, DeMelo’s nifty feet beat defenders before curling one from outside the box past Erin McLeod.
The Pride pushed on, but Lund denied Tymrak twice in the 55th minute and after the hour mark.
Michelle Betos was put to the test early on having to deny Ashley Sanchez’s shot using her outstretched leg in the 16th minute. Trinity Rodman, Paige Monaghan, and Ifeoma Onumonu all had chances to score for their sides but failed to convert.
In the second half, Gotham eventually crumbled six minutes into the half when Tara McKeown scored her second goal in as many games. Ashley Sanchez was the provider as she found McKeown down the right-hand channel. Her first attempt was saved by Ali Krieger but the rebound fell for her to easily put it away.
The winger was again in action in the 81st minute when her shot from the middle of the 18-yard box was expertly tipped over by Betos for a corner. The hosts put the game to bed courtesy of Ashley Sanchez. Committing to a press, Sanchez picked off Betos who was trying to execute a pass before rounding the shot-stopper to slide it into the net and keep Washington’s playoff hopes alive at the time.
North Carolina Courage welcomed OL Reign to Wakemed Soccer Complex with hopes to continue their scintillating late-season charge for the playoffs. This was however not to be as the visitors would make a first-half comeback to successfully end Courage’s three-game unbeaten streak.
North Carolina were off the blocks quicker and three minutes in, Kerolin had a chance at the backpost but her attempt was saved by Phallon Tullis-Joyce. The keeper would however be wrong-footed three minutes later when the Courage took the lead. Kerolin again at the heart of the attack, found Ryan Williams down the right. The right back’s low cross into the box managed to ricochet off Reign defender Alanna Cook for and beat Tullis-Joyce at the near post.
Rose Lavelle’s goalscoring form continues as she levelled for the visitors eleven minutes in. Sofia Huerta’s cross from the right was snatched by Megan Rapinoe who saw her shot saved by Casey Murphy but straight at Lavelle who pulled the trigger for the equaliser.
Midway through the half, OL Reign won a free-kick in what looked like quite a distance. Rapinoe stepped up to take it and saw her smart shot wickedly bounce to beat Murphy between the sticks and pull them ahead.
The best chance in the second half came from North Carolina. Kerolin and Debinha again linked up causing chaos at the back. The former’s first attempt was saved from point blank range by Tullis-Joyce and Debinha could only manage to send her shot high and wide. 2-1 was the score in favour of the visitors who will be keen to cement the playoff spot with two more games to go.
Up north in Chicago, coming off a heavy win against then-league leaders Kansas, Chicago Red Stars slumped to a 1-0 defeat to the Houston Dash at the SeatGeek Stadium. A goal from English international Ebony Salmon in the 25th minute was enough to see off Chicago in a cagey match as both teams fight for a chance of glory come the end of regular season.
It was a record-breaking night in the final game of Saturday as the San Diego Wave played their inaugural game at the Snapdragon Stadium against California rivals Angel City FC. A raucous crowd witnessed San Diego going back on top of the table with a narrow 1-0 win over Freya Coombe’s side.
Teenager Jaedyn Shaw scored her third goal in her third match in the NWSL on the half-hour mark. Following brilliant work down the right flank, Sofia Jakobsson’s floated ball found a back-peddling Shaw to glance her header past DiDi Haracic for the first goal at the new stadium.
The party could have been stopped by Jun Endo three minutes later. From outside the box, she set herself up for a left-foot strike but it drew a sharp save from Kailen Sheridan in goal.
Sheridan was again called to action as Angel City were awarded a penalty in the second half after Claire Emslie was brought down. Sheridan guessed the right way and stopped Savannah McCaskill from getting the leveller for the away side as 32,000 fans willed their team to another shutout win.
In the final match of the weekend, Kansas City Current and Portland Thorns played out to a 1-1 draw at the Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City. A late Hailie Mace stunner cancelled out Raquel Rodriguez’s equally late opener as neither team could find a way to end the weekend on top of the table.
Portland had plenty of chances to break the deadlock but Yazmeen Ryan could only rattle the crossbar in the 18th minute and Morgan Weaver’s low shot after dancing past defenders was gathered by former Thorns goalkeeper Adrianna Franch.
In the 49th minute, Sophia Smith had another glorious chance for the away side after being found by a defense-splitting pass by Sam Coffey. Again Franch had to come up big to deny the 22-year-old.
Kansas had chances of their own with both Claire Lavogez and Lo’eau LaBonta having opportunities to alter the scoreline. It was Rodriguez who opened the scores in the 87th minute after winning a ground duel and driving into the box before s=firing low towards the back post to beat Franch.
In the third minute of added time, Mace won a free-kick in Portland’s half and just 20-yards out, fired a well-driven shot which took a deflection into the back of the net to salvage a point for the home side.
With two or three more games to go in the regular season, it is still unclear who will lift the regular season Shield. It is equally impossible to tell how the final top six will look like with three teams below the cut-off point still within mathematical distance to catch Chicago in sixth.
Here is how the table looks like after another entertaining round of fixtures.