North & Central American Soccer

NWSL Weekly Wrap Round 18

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.

Above: Washington Spirit players celebrate a goal against Gotham FC. Photo: @WashSpirit/Twitter.

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.

Above: Jordyn Huitema, Rose Lavelle and Megan Rapinoe celebrate a goal against NC Courage. Photo: @OLReign/Twitter.

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.

Above: A full Snapdragon Stadium before kick-off. Photo: @sandiegowavefc/Twitter.

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.

Above: KC Current’s Kristen Hamilton and Portland’s Kelli Hubly contest an aerial ball. Above: @thekccurrent/Twitter.

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.

Table From: NWSL.

NWSL Weekly Wrap Round 17

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.  

New Table-Topper, Brazilian Connect, And More

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.

Above: Danielle Colaprico (white) faces off against Sofia Huerta (blue). Photo: @tayvincent6/Twitter.

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.

Above: Washington Spirit fans celebrating their win over San Diego Wave at Audi Field. Photo: @WashSpirit/Twitter.

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.

Above: Courage forward Keerolin celebrates with teammates after netting a brace against Racing Louisville. Photo: @TheNCCourage/Twitter.

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.

Above: PNC Stadium as Houston Dash takes on Angel City. Photo: @HoustonDash/Twitter.

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.

Orlando Pride Rise To Play-Off Contention

by Blaise Ogutu (6/9/22).

Above: Orlando Pride players huddle after a game. Photo: ORLPride/Twitter.

Teams in the NWSL this season have been riddled with their own storylines. Whether good, bad or ugly, there is no denying the fact that the league has gotten a lot of attention in recent months.

One team that caught people’s attention is the Orlando Pride. The team currently sits in eighth place, with five points being the only barrier to a play-off berth. The fans and players have been through a lot this season, especially with off-pitch issues plaguing the franchise from earlier this year. 

Let us take it back to December 2021. As part of the expansion draft, Orlando lost arguably the face of the franchise in the form of Alex Morgan to the newly formed San Diego Wave. She was followed by Jodie Taylor who also ended up on the west coast.

Within a similar period, they also traded goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris and defender Ali Krieger to Gotham FC in New Jersey. Two other important cogs in the Pride machinery. Furthermore, in the same two weeks, they traded another goalkeeper, Brittany Isenhour and defender Phoebe McClernon. They weren’t done yet as they waived Konya Plummer and Crystal Thomas. All this before 2022.

The new year came rolling in and more players rolled out of Orlando. In January, Pride lost Taylor Kornieck, Emily Van Egmond, Ali Riley, and Marisa Viggiano in trades to San Diego, Angel City and Houston Dash. Adding salt to injury, these players have turned out to be massive coups for their respective teams. Adding to the list of players shipping out was Mia Fishel, a talented 20-year-old forward who chose to play across the border in a relatively new Liga MX Femenil for Tigres.

Above: Orlando Pride’s Exploria Stadium. Photo: ORLPride/Twitter.

Clearly, something was not being done right down in Florida. The mass exodus left the team with almost no senior players. Compounding the heap of problems, during a Challenge Cup group stage game against the North Carolina Courage, Brazilian superstar Marta pulled up with an injury. Days later, the club confirmed the veteran striker would be out for the season with an ACL injury.

The club was in disarray barely a month before the start of the NWSL regular season. At the start of the season, Orlando only managed two wins in seven games getting eight points out of a possible 21. Another disappointing season was on the cards for the team.

On 7th June, the club announced that head coach Amanda Cromwell and assistant Sam Greene would be placed on administrative leave, effective immediately, pending the conclusion of a joint investigation between the NWSL and NWSL Players Association that explores allegations of workplace misconduct toward NWSL players.

Orlando looked inwards for a replacement and another assistant, Seb Hines was placed on the hot seat on an interim basis. So swift was the move that Hines learned of his new position the same time he heard the news of Cromwell and Greene’s suspensions.

Above: Orlando’s interim head coach, Seb Hines. Photo: ORLPride/Twitter.

Coming off the back of a heavy 5-0 defeat at the hands of the Houston Dash, Hines had to find a way to steer the Orlando ship into safer waters. A tough ask for a coach who only came in two years before. The 34-year-old former defender had to rally his new troop ahead of the game against Chicago Red Stars. Needless to say, Hines lost the game courtesy of a Mallory Pugh tenth-minute strike.

A tough away fixture at the NWSL Shield-chasing Portland Thorns awaited them next and they lost resoundingly 6-0. It was looking bleak. Lucky enough for the struggling team, a two-week international break gave them a chance to regroup.

The regroup however had to be done without another star forward: Sydney Leroux. The striker was traded to Angel City during the break leaving yet another gaping hole that needed to be filled in. Return to action saw Pride host struggling Racing Louisville at the Daytona International Speedway. Seb Hines would register his first point at the helm of the club after his team battled from two goals down to earn a 2-2 draw.

The team would go on a seven-game unbeaten run starting with a win slender 1-0 win over the Houston Dash. After the win against Houston, Orlando won two more games and drew three before finally losing the streak to a Megan Rapinoe-inspired comeback to the OL Reign.

In that seven-game run, Seb Hines improved one aspect the team had been struggling with, defending. The partnership forged between Megan Montefusco and Toni Pressley has proved fruitful in games in which they have had their backs against the wall.

Their attack hasn’t been the best but it has done the job as Hines would have wanted. Julie Doyle and Darian Jenkins all found the back of the net in that run supplied by Meggie Dougherty-Howard and Erika Tymrak from midfield. Hines further strengthened his forward line with the acquisition of Ally Watt from OL Reign who scored on her debut. The winner against Gotham FC.

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

Few people gave the team a chance to be a play-off prospect. With the off-field issues still raging on, Hines seems to have found the right formula to make the team competitive again. With five games remaining in the regular season, Orlando still remain a wild shot at the playoff positions. They still have Angel City and OL Reign to dislodge in order to get the coveted position.

Whether they do get to the post-season, (something they haven’t achieved since 2017) it is no doubt that Seb Hines has built a solid foundation for a team that was crumbling day by day. Huge credit to needs to go to the players who have also had to endure the rough moments the club has gone through.

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.

NWSL Weekly Wrap Round 14

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.

Above: Racing Louisville’s Savanah Demelo takes on Ryan Gareis of the Houston Dash. Photo: @RacingLouFC/Twitter.

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.

Above: Lo’eau LaBonta celebrates Kansas City Current goal with Cece Kizer against the North Carolina Courage. Photo: @thekccurrent/Twitter.

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.

Above:  Angel City’s Savannah McCaskill jumps over Chicago Red Stars’ Alyssah Naeher after scoring. Photo: AP Photo/Ashley Landis.

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:

NWSL Weekly Wrap Round 13

Impetus’ Blaise Ogutu brings us his detailed weekly round-up of all the action from the NWSL (11/8/22).

Above: Racing Louisville’s Nadia Nadim shoots past Washington’s Kelley OharaPhoto: @ericcrawford/Twitter.

Round 13 of the NWSL brought us another installment of comebacks, high-scoring games, and stunning quality goals. Here is how things panned out across the States.

Friday night had two games on the cards. First, Racing Louisville hosted the Washington Spirit at the Lynn Family stadium. Ashley Hatch’s goal midway through the second half cancelled out Nadia Nadim’s opener as both teams failed to secure a win again. Racing Louisville, playing their second game in three days after a draw against OL Reign had the first real attempt of the game with Nadia Nadim’s right foot shot parried away by Aubrey Kingsbury in the 22nd minute. Trinity Rodman had a chance for the Spirit on the opposite end but her header while peeling off on the back post could only be tipped over by Katie Lund.

Nadia Nadim did open the scoring seven minutes into the second half with a left-foot shot past the outstretched Kingsbury. The lead only lasted ten minutes as Jordan Baggett took advantage of Louisville switching off at the back. She found Hatch whose first touch was a side-foot shot into the bottom corner beating Lund. Racing could have had the winner in the 70th minute through Gemma Bonner’s header but it was flagged for offside meaning both teams dropped a further 2 points.

The other game later on Friday had high-flying Portland Thorns held by a resilient North Carolina Courage in a thrilling 3-3 draw at Providence Park. Portland opened the scoring eight minutes in through Sophia Smith. Courage forward Debinha lost the ball under pressure from the Thorns midfield leading to Smith on the attack, dribbling past two defenders before slotting her attempt past Casey Murphy. The home side then doubled the lead through Morgan Weaver. Capitalising on another Courage mistake, Portland’s Hina Sugita’s first attempt was saved by Murphy but Weaver was closest poking the ball home.

Above: Thorns and Courage players before a corner kick. Photo: @tayvincent6/Twitter.

North Carolina came back in the second half a much better side with Diana Ordonez nearly pulling one back but Bella Bixby was on hand with a top drawer save to deny the Mexican. She wouldn’t be denied much longer as on the hour mark, Ordonez did slice the lead to half with a header from a Carson Pickett corner.

Parity was restored ten minutes later, Ordonez yet again with another towering header on the end of Ryan William’s cross. Sophia Smith responded in the 77th minute notching her brace for the night. Running on to a well-weighted pass by Olivia Moultrie, Smith timed her run to beat the defenders and round the goalkeeper to get her 11th goal of the season. Bella Bixby was again called to action with a double save to deny Jaelene Daniels a minute afterwards. The fullback did however get the better of Bixby with five minutes of normal time remaining. Finding space in the box, Daniels finished a well-coordinated sequence led by Meredith Speck to make it 3-3 on the night.

There was no game on Saturday and action resumed on Sunday with four other games. The Kansas City Current rolled into San Diego and came out with a 2-1 win over Wave FC at the Torero Stadium. Cece Kizer added to her tally in the campaign finding the opener in the 28th minute. On the end of a good ball by Kristen Hamilton, Kizer beat Naomi Girma on the right before finding the far post past Kailen Sheridan in the Wave goal. Current extended their lead six minutes from halftime courtesy of Hailie Mace. Wave defenders didn’t close her down on the edge of the area and Mace found herself with enough space and time to bend her shot into the back of the net.

In the second half, Wave plugged away to get back into the game but it was Kansas City with the chance to further extend their lead with a penalty. Newest recruit Maddison Pogarch fouled substitute Elyse Bennett in the box and Lo’eau LaBonta stepped up for the spot-kick but was denied by Sheridan who expertly saved her second penalty in successive games. Wave did get one back through Amirah Ali’s delayed run and clinical finish but it was too little too late as the Current took all three points.

Above: Red Stars players celebrate Tatumn Milazzo’s goal. Photo: @MattJWood/Twitter.

In Chicago, the Red Stars hosted NY/NJ Gotham FC and ran out easy 2-0 victors at the SeatGeek Stadium. A first half goal from Tatumn Milazzo deep into stoppage time put the home side ahead. Millazzo managed to beat Caprice Dydasco at the far post on a header after Gotham failed to clear their lines from a corner kick. Ava Cook put the game beyond Gotham’s reach in the 66th minute scoring an uncontested header into the bottom left corner piling onto the visitors’ set-piece woes.

At the same time across the nation in Seattle, Houston Dash came from a goal behind to beat OL Reign 2-1 and claim their first away victory ever against Laura Harvey’s side in the NWSL. Megan Rapinoe opened the scoring with her first of the season in the 17th minute. Kim Little’s pass found the winger open on the left side and with a slight bounce, Rapinoe’s left foot shot flew past Campbell’s diving body.

Juan Amoros’ charges came back into the second half with renewed vigour and a high press led to a penalty as Reign midfielder Quinn handled the ball in the box. Ebony Salmon calmly dispatched the spot kick for her fifth of the season and two minutes later, silenced the home crowd with her second of the evening. The English youngster was found on the run by a brilliant Shae Groom outside-boot pass and her first-time volley beat Phallon Tullis-Joyce in Reign goal to complete the comeback. With the win, Dash coach Amoros became the first coach to win three of their first games and subsequently denying Laura Harvey a chance to be the coach with the most wins in NWSL history.

Above: Orlando’s Keri Abello and Angel City’s Clarisse le Bihan contest. Photo: @ORLPride/Twitter.

The final game of the evening and weekend was down south in Florida as Orlando Pride came from behind twice to earn a point against Angel City FC. In a tame first half, Angel City opened proceedings on a rain-soaked Exploria Stadium through Ali Riley. Having a free run on the left wing, she rifled her shot into the roof of the net in the 40th minute.

The second half kicked off with Orlando forward Darian Jenkins missing from very close as she saw her header agonisingly bounce on the ground and over the bar in the 48th minute. She was substituted for Julie Doyle whose first involvement of the game was the equaliser in the 64th minute. She pounced on a loose ball from Savannah McCaskill in the box before her snap shot beat DiDi Haracic at the near post.

Angel City went ahead in the 72nd minute through Cari Roccaro’s second goal of the season. Off a corner by Jun Endo, Roccaro found herself in space to sort out her feet quickly and let her attempt fly. Orlando battled hard and got their reward in the 90th minute when winger Keri Abello’s fierce cross cannoned off Paige Nielsen into the back of the net for an own goal and grab a point for Seb Hines’s side.

A few changes in the table following this round of results as Portland take the top spot and Gotham slip to 11th behind Washington.

Table From: NWSL.

NWSL Weekly Wrap Round 12

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.

Above:  San Diego Wave players celebrate teenage debutant Jaedin Shaw, who scored the winner, after the game. Photo: @sandiegowavefc/Twitter.

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.

 Above: Ecstatic Sofia Huerta and Quinn after Huerta’s screamer Photo: @OLReign/Twitter.

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.

Above: Orlando’s Erika Tymrak squares off against Current’s Victoria Pickett Photo: @ORLPride/Twitter.

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.

Graphic: NWSL.

NWSL Review

With no matches last weekend, Impetus’ Blaise Ogutu brings us a team-by-team account of how each of the sides has been progressing over the last month without their international players (27/7/22).

Halfway through the season, the 2022 NWSL is already shaping up for a grandstand finish during the regular season with teams still battling it out for the Shield and play-off positions. But this past weekend there was no league action as teams took a breather before properly kicking off the second half of the season.

While the season has been going on, there has been a number of international tournaments all around us. This means that for the most part of July, teams have had to make do without international players and so we take a look at how they have performed and what to expect for the next phase of the season.

SAN DIEGO WAVE

Within the three games, the top team managed to get a win, a loss, and a draw to maintain top spot. Heading into July without Alex Morgan, the goals have been hard to come by for Casey Stoney’s side. They have also missed the imposing presence of Taylor Kornieck in midfield and Naomi Girma in defence all on duty with the USWNT at the CONCACAF Championship. The loss of Kailen Sheridan to Canada wasn’t felt that much in SoCal as Carly Telford stepped up to fill the gloves and went on to produce one of the best performances last weekend against Racing Louisville. Up front, it was Makenzy Doniak and Kelsey Turnbow who stepped up when the goals were needed and might be worth a shout for Stoney in the remaining games.

PORTLAND THORNS

Sitting pretty in second is Portland Thorns who can easily say the squad depth was more than sufficient during this period. Two draws and one win have them one point behind Wave FC with a game in hand and contrary to the log-leaders, Thorns still had firepower in front of goal. Despite losing forwards Sophia Smith, Christine Sinclair, and Janine Beckie to their international teams, Portland still managed to score eight goals in the three matches in June. An impressive 5-0 win over Gotham last weekend was the highlight of the month with players like Taylor Porter, Olivia Moultrie, and Morgan Weaver putting in amazing displays in front of a home crowd. They also managed to dig deep against a resilient Angel City side and net a 96th-minute equaliser through Yazmeen Ryan. With their regulars seemingly returning next week, Portland will be hoping to close the gap on San Diego and claim their second successive NWSL Shield.

CHICAGO RED STARS

Another one of the most consistent teams in the league, the Red Stars had a mixed bag of results in the three games with a win, loss and draw. Playing without Alyssa Naeher, Mallory Pugh (USA), Bianca St. Georges (Canada), and Chelsie Dawber (Australia U23s), they had no problems dispatching Gotham FC and coming back from two goals down to earn a point against North Carolina Courage. They did however lose 4-1 to Houston Dash at the PNC Stadium in Bayou City. Sarah Griffith and Ella Stevens earned their stripes during the three games with notable performances. Griffith came off the bench in electric fashion against Courage in the second half and got a goal. They also have captain Vanessa DiBernardo’s continued contribution to thank for her performances in midfield. Chris Petrucelli’s side still has a fighting chance for the Shield as they currently sit two points off the top but will need to be more solid defensively and hope the football gods have their back and the top two drop points.

HOUSTON DASH

Above: Houston Dash players celebrate beating the Chicago Red Stars Photo: @HoustonDash/Twitter.

The team from the Lone Star State are in fourth place and luckily snapped a two-game losing streak with an impressive win over Chicago before the break. They were missing Rachel Daly (England), Michelle Alozie (Nigeria), Michaela Abam (Cameroon), and Maria Sanchez (Mexico) who were with their respective national squads. Their absence alongside Canadian trio of Nichelle Prince, Sophie Schmidt, and Allysha Chapman saw the team drop six points in two games before bouncing back in the third game courtesy of an Ebony Salmon hat-trick. Their performance in that game seemingly improved with the inclusion of Sanchez on the flanks. Salmon rightfully took the plaudits from that night but an inspired performance on the left wing by Ryan Gareis especially in the second half was worth noting and she managed to get an assist for the third goal. Houston now need to keep the ship steady and avoid dropping unnecessary points if they are to maintain a play-off spot ahead of the chasing park.

KANSAS CITY CURRENT 

Unbeaten in seven games, Kansas City was the only team to register three out of three wins during this period. This was made possible due to stunning displays from goalkeeper Adrianna Franch and not being too affected by the loss of international players. They had Desiree Scott (Canada), and Sydney Schneider (Jamaica) out. Apart from Franch, there have been other notable individuals in the form of Del Fava on the right wing having an incredible breakout, Hailie Mace and Cece Kizer also chipping in with goals of their own to propel the team firmly into play-off territory. The Current are hitting peak form at the right moment and picking up points from teams around them on the table and this will be crucial in the final stretch of the season.

OL REIGN

OL Reign find themselves occupying the last play-off spot having dropped five points from a possible nine. For a defensively sound team, Laura Harvey’s side have struggled to find the back of the net. Missing the likes of Megan Rapinoe, Alanna Cook, and Sofia Huerta, the team still looked good enough to perform on paper. Bethany Balcer still found herself on the end of crosses and new recruit Kim Little returned to the NWSL with the same vigour she left with. In their last game against Kansas City, despite being down early on, they piled the pressure and created chances but couldn’t get past Franch effectively losing their four-game win streak. They do have a stacked squad going into the second half of the season. Tobin Heath made her debut against Kansas City and with that kind of quality, it is hard not to see them sit higher on the table at the end of the season.

 ANGEL CITY FC

In a season that has been marred by a minor injury crisis, Angel City still have some fight in them to contend for the play-off spot. They had Vanessa Gilles (Canada) and Allyson Swaby (Jamaica) out on international duty but still managed to grind out a dramatic 2-1 win over fellow Californians San Diego. Their newest recruits, Sydney Leroux and Claire Emslie look to have settled in quickly with the latter providing the winning goal at the Banc of California Stadium. With Christen Press out, Leroux will be tasked with finding the back of the net as much as possible to see them get a play-off spot come the end of the season.

ORLANDO PRIDE

Above: Orlando Pride players after a win. Photo: @ORLPride/Twitter)

Following the departure of Sydney Leroux to the west coast and a 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Portland Thorns, the Orlando Pride’s problems seemed to be mounting. This couldn’t have been any more wrong as the team has managed to get two draws and a win to send them further away from the foot of the table. One element to this improved form has been forward Darian Jenkins whose performances have given head coach Seb Hines a reason to smile. They had only one player out on international duty (Gunny Jonsdottir with Iceland) Kylie Strom has also been putting a shift in defence and attack getting two goals in three games. With Leroux gone for the second half of the season, Jenkins has to carry the load of producing the goods in front of goal but she won’t be alone with the way Erika Tymrak is playing right behind her in midfield.

NY/NJ GOTHAM FC

With one win sandwiched between two losses, Gotham are a mixed bag of fortunes. They have been missing Estelle Johnson, Kristie Mewis, Ifeoma Onumonu, and Midge Purce on international duty and it has reflected on their performances. They have been shaky defensively and goals have dried up compared to last season. They looked toothless in the two losses but a shining moment for them came from newly-acquired Taylor Smith who scored the winner against Racing Louisville. A real challenge awaits Scott Parkinson’s charges and the return of the internationals could breathe some life into the side but the clock is ticking.

RACING LOUISVILLE

They haven’t really gotten going this season and with the individuals like Emily Fox (USA) and Nadia Nadim (Denmark) away for international duty, the team finds themselves in tenth. Winless in the three games played, the team has struggled to keep leads and turn draws into wins. They have Savannah DeMelo to thank for some good performances. Australian Alex Chidiac has also been a positive for the side in the middle of the park and Katie Lund in goal too. They did have an improved game against San Diego last time out and had to credit Lund for her saves during the game. They will be hoping to build on this for the remainder of the season to see what they can salvage.

WASHINGTON SPIRIT

They look a world of difference from last season’s title-winning team. Injuries and a packed schedule haven’t been kind to the squad and with their internationals gone, Spirit had two losses and one draw within the month of July. Even with individuals like Kingsbury, Trinity Rodman, and Ashley Sanchez in the squad, they haven’t looked decent at any point in the season. They drew against Orlando Pride last time out and that wasn’t a good sign as they didn’t have the cutting edge to sneak past Orlando.

NORTH CAROLINA COURAGE

Above: Courage goal celebrations. Photo: TheNCCourage/Twitter

The team with the least amount of games played, the sit at the bottom of the pile with only eight points from nine games. Their last match against Angel City had to be postponed due to COVID-19 protocols but the two previous games were not anything to write home about. They have been missing Diana Ordonez (Mexico), Kerolin, and Debinha (Brazil) on international duty. For the second half of the season where most likely they will have a bunch of games to play more than the rest, coach Sean Nahas will have to pull a worldie to move the team further up the table. They will have to avoid conceding too many goals, particularly in the last minute like they did against Chicago Red Stars two weeks ago.

NWSL Weekly Wrap Round 12

Impetus’ Blaise Ogutu brings us his detailed weekly round-up of all the action from the NWSL (18/7/22).

Above: San Diego Wave faithful at the Torero stadium against Racing LouisvillePhoto: @sandiegowavefc

Thrilling Draw in San Diego, Hat-Trick in Houston, and a Five-Star Performance in Portland: NWSL Week 12

We are halfway through the NWSL season and teams now find themselves playing the return fixtures. Five games were on the card this weekend however with the Courage and Angel City game postponed due to Covid-19 protocols. Here’s how things turned out for the ten teams involved.

The San Diego Wave and Racing Louisville played out to an enthralling 0-0 draw at the Torero Stadium on Friday night. San Diego took control of the game from the opening minutes but it was Racing Louisville with the better opportunity to open scores in the 20th minute. Carly Telford had to get big to save Kirsten Davis’s shot from a tight angle on the right. Four minutes later the English shot-stopper was again on hand to deny Davis’s attempt while through on goal. Kelsey Turnbow provided Wave’s first real chance midway through the first half after robbing Gemma Bonner but her low strike was kept out by Katie Lund.

Lund was called into action in the opening minutes of the second half with a double save to deny San Diego’s Tegan McGrady before Bonner cleared off the line to maintain scores. Louisville had the ball in the back of the net after Jaelin Howell flicked on Savannah DeMelo’s corner kick but was recalled for a foul on Telford. The chance to take the lead was biggest in the 72nd minute for Kim Björkegren’s side as Alex Chidiac was brought down in the penalty area by fellow Matildas international Emily van Egmond. But DeMelo’s attempt from the spot was equally met by Telford who guessed correctly to deny the youngster a fourth goal of the season.

A brilliant end-to-end game for both sides as 39 shots were taken with both keepers combining for 15 saves. But for all the entertainment, neither team benefitted as San Diego failed to pull further ahead at the top of the table and Louisville still sit six points from the play-off positions.

Above: Hat-trick hero in Houston, Ebony Salmon. Photo: @HoustonDash.

The Houston Dash cruised to a brilliant 4-1 victory against a lacklustre Chicago Red Stars side courtesy of a hat-trick by new signing, former Bristol City WSL star Ebony Salmon. In Juan Carlos Amaros’ first game as head coach, there was a significant change in the team’s energy as constant pressure within the first ten minutes allowed Salmon to get her first goal in the orange uniform.

Shea Groom intercepted Emily Boyd’s clearance to set up Salmon for the opener. Ella Stevens could have equalised for the visitors in the 35th minute but her attempt was easily thwarted by Lindsey Harris in Dash goal. Ebony Salmon was on the scoreboard again right before halftime with her second of the night. Salmon outpaced Tatumn Milazzo on the right-hand side before calmly slotting the ball past Boyd.

Ten minutes into the second half, the PNC Stadium was bouncing again when Salmon completed her hat-trick by finishing off a brilliant counter-attack led by Ryan Gareis from the left flank. Chicago had an improved second half but could not create any clear-cut chances as substitute Jill Aguilera skied her attempt from the left. They did get a consolation goal a minute before stoppage time with Notre Dame alumus Samantha Fisher bundling in from close range.

The little sense of joy was quickly dashed away when Dash found their fourth of the night through substitute Joelle Anderson. She saw her shot nearly saved by Boyd but slipped through her fingers to end a frustrating night for the Red Stars.  Chicago’s chance to go on top of the table evaded them on the night failing to capitalise on San Diego Wave’s slip up while Houston got back to winning ways and maintain fourth position.

Above: Portland Thorns players celebrating Marissa Everett’s goal against Gotham FC. Photo: @ThornsFC.

In the other game on Saturday night, the Portland Thorns once again run riot at home to Gotham FC with an impressive 5-0 win. A six-minute spell of chaos saw the home side go 3-0 up within eleven minutes with Taylor Porter, Olivia Moultrie, and Marissa Everett all finding the back of the net.

The pick of the bunch was Moultrie’s attempt from outside the box. Finding space in a short space of time and with little thinking room, the 16-year-old expertly placed her shot into the top right corner evading Ashlyn Harris in goal. The game simmered down as Gotham finally found their bearings but could not create decent chances to get back in the game.

The second half was an easy breeze for the Thorns and they added a fourth when Hannah Betfort headed in Madison Pogarch’s cross in the 65th minute. Morgan Weaver rounded off the scoring by pouncing on a loose pass from Harris to bend it into the net and extend Portland’s unbeaten run to eight games. A world of difference between the previous weekend’s expedition for Gotham as they see chances to make the play-off places continue to slip from their grasp.

Sunday featured a drab 0-0 draw at the Audi Field as the Washington Spirit hosted the Orlando Pride. For the latter, a point away from home with the performances they have been putting in recently is still good enough to see them move further away from the bottom of the table. A couple of chances in the first half from forward Darian Jenkins could have broken the deadlock but her first shot in the 16th minute went agonisingly wide and the second was saved by Devon Kerr in the Washington net.

The home side had a chance immediately after the breather through Jordan Baggett but her attempt on the half turn was smartly saved by Erin McLeod in the Pride goal. In the end, a result that pushed Washington’s winless run to 12 games even after outshooting their opponents 17 to four.

Above: Kansas City Current’s Lo’eau LaBonta charges away after scoring against OL Reign. Photo: @thekccurrent.

In the final game of the weekend, a resurgent Kansas City Current narrowly put away OL Reign at the Lynn Family Stadium courtesy of Lo’eau LaBonta’s 17th-minute spot-kick.

Both teams came into the match unbeaten but it was Kansas City who broke the deadlock following a sweeping move from back to front. Victoria Pickett was found in space on the left flank and while cutting inside, was taken down in the area by a clumsy Phoebe McClernon challenge. LaBonta stepped up and went for the top right corner beating Tullis-Joyce in goal. Reign had their chances as Kim Little saw her chance saved by Adrianna Franch after a late run into the box. Bethany Balcer also came close on the half-hour mark but her sharp strike could only strike the upright.

Laura Harvey’s charges dominated the ball for most of the second half but Current again came close to a second goal when Cece Kizer skied her attempt inside the six-yard box which in all fairness was an easier chance to score than miss. Harvey introduced fan-favourite Tobin Heath for her first minutes in the navy blue of Reign in the 77th minute but it was Ally Watt also off the bench with a good chance to equalise two minutes from added time. Cutting in to her left foot from the right side, her shot was saved by the outstretched Franch. This result saw the Current leapfrog OL Reign into fifth place and condemn them to their first defeat in five games.

The NWSL takes a break this coming weekend but teams expect a large cohort of international players to return from national team duty and it will be interesting to see just how they manage the return of regular starts.

NWSL Weekly Wrap: Round 11

Impetus’ Blaise Ogutu brings us his detailed weekly round-up of all the action from the NWSL (12/7/22).

Above: Kylie Strom wheels away in celebration against Houston Dash. Photo: @ORLPride.

Derby Weekend And Late Goals: Round 11

It was yet another action-packed weekend of soccer in the NWSL with key match-ups in the battle for the play-off spots and the title. With some players still on international duty, the league is full of teams digging deep into their squad depth to come up with the right winning formula. Let’s take a look at how things unfolded this past weekend.

On Friday, Orlando Pride recorded their first home victory in 2022 beating a backsliding Houston Dash 1-0 on their return to the Exploria Stadium.

The lone goal came in the 79th minute via a Prissock own goal. Houston’s clearance from a corner found Carrie Lawrence who chipped it back into the crowded box and found Kylie Strom. The right back’s header towards goal ricocheted off Ally Prissock and rolled slowly beyond Jane Campbell in goal. Pride’s interim coach Seb Hines would have been happy with the improved performance from his side after getting the better of Dash for the first time in four years. Orlando had a number of chances to score in the first half through Darian Jenkins but her shot in the 16th minute went wide off the mark.

In Louisville, hosts Racing Louisville fell victim to Gotham FC losing 2-1 courtesy of Taylor Smith’s goal ten minutes from time.

Louisville had a chance to break the deadlock early in the first half with Emina Ekic forcing Ashlyn Harris into a save from a deadly free-kick. Halfway through the half and the New Jersey-based club found the opener through Paige Monahan. Racing through on goal on the right flank, the winger never yielded to pressure from the defenders and beat Lund in goal with a fierce strike. The first goal in three matches for Scott Parkinson’s side.

In the second half, Gotham were yet again at Louisville’s throats when Taylor Smith had a free run at their defence, but saw her weak shot parried by Lund. On the other end, Savannah DeMelo continued her impressive run in front of goal with a superb finish. Charging forwards, she found enough space to bend her shot past Harris to level matters. The final blow for Racing came in the 80th minute when Nahomi Kawasumi threaded a pass onto Smith’s path to put away the chance and give the visitors a much-needed win in the race for the play-offs.

 Above: The sold-out crowd at the Banc of California Stadium. Photo: @weareangelcity.

It was the SoCal Derby on Saturday when the two expansion teams met at the Banc Of California Stadium. Angel City FC ran out 2-1 winners over San Diego Wave to condemn league leaders to their third loss of the season.

Goals from Ali Riley and debutant Claire Emslie on either side of a Kristen McNabb equaliser in front of a home crowd. Angel City for the second weekend in a row found themselves in front less than ten minutes into the game when Ali Riley found the back of the net. Overlapping on the left flank, the New Zealand native latched on to a pass from Jun Endo before rifling her shot through Carly Telford’s legs.

The second half brought out the fireworks as the home side pushed for a second and briefly thought they had it but Sydney Leroux was deemed to be offside before scoring. Instead on the other end, San Diego found the equaliser through McNabb’s low shot from out wide.

Momentum shifted and San Diego almost went ahead when Kelsey Turnbow’s lofted shot hit the upright before being deflected outside by teammate Katie Johnson. Angel City’s Tyler Lussi received her marching orders in the 79th minute after a second yellow card but that did not deter the ten players left to snatch a lead two minutes later.

Claire Emslie found on the right by Cari Roccaro’s cross to put her chance past Telford. Casey Stoney’s charges could have levelled scores for the second time but DiDi Haracic was on hand to tip over Abby Dahlkemper’s header and preserve the win in the 86th minute. A win that keeps the LA side firmly in a play-off spot and an outside chance to top the table.

Above: Del Fava clears off the line spectacularly against Washington Spirit. Photo: @thekccurrent.

Washington Spirit’s woeful run in the league stretched to 11 games without being on the winning end after suffering yet another 1-0 defeat at the hands of Kansas City Current.

The sole goal in the game came through Cece Kizer in the 68th minute to stretch their Current’s unbeaten run to six games at Segra Field. In a game with few chances for both sides, the second half offered the best action of the evening with Elyse Bennett missing a point-blank header in the 54th minute from a Hailie Mace cross.

Washington’s best chances at the time came within a minute of each other when Tara McKeown won the ball off Addisyn Merrick before her shot was saved by Franch between the sticks. The resultant corner found Amber Brooks whose looping header was cleared off the line by Current wingback Del Fava. The 23-year-old was involved on the other end with the game-changing delivery to find Kizer who bundled in a bobbling ball.

The home side had a chance to equalise in added time when they were awarded a penalty. Tiyana Alexander, who had been fouled failed to convert the spot-kick with Franch guessing right to maintain another clean sheet in the tank.

Late Sunday evening saw a double header with the second derby of the weekend at Lumen Field where OL Reign and Portland Thorns played out a 2-2 draw. This was the same result in Chicago after the Red Stars came back from two goals down to earn a point against North Carolina.

In Seattle, Portland had an early lead against the run of play. A gift from Reign who had a miscommunication in defence leading to an own goal by Phoebe McClernon. Less than a minute later, the home side made amends through Olivia Athens. The game eventually settled and Portland dominated possession for a majority of the first half.

On the hour mark, Yazmeen Ryan and Meghan Klingenberg linked up before the latter floated in a cross that found a rushing Hina Sugita to put the visitors ahead. Portland eased off the gas and Reign to over dominating possession which eventually led to the equaliser through Bethany Balcer. The 25-year-old found space in between defenders and ahead of Bixby in Thorns goal to head in her fourth goal of the season.

Above: Wild Scenes at the death as the Red Stars equalise against the Courage. Photo: @MattJWood.

North Carolina Courage found themselves in the lead against second-placed Chicago Red Stars in the 22nd minute through Carson Pickett. Chicago had a chance to equalise through captain Dibernado but her searing shot could only rattle the crossbar. Courage doubled their lead four minutes after the break when Brittany Ratcliffe tapped in from close range.

Chicago upped the game after going down and a couple of close attempts by Sarah Griffith either went wide or saved by Rowland in the Courage goal. Ava Cook also had a chance after getting past defenders but her shot went over. Griffith finally got her goal in the first minute of added time lobbing Rowland and setting up the game for a grandstand finish. And that is exactly what happened as defender Amanda Kowalski grabbed the equaliser right at the death with a towering header to preserve Chicago’s charge for the Shield.

Here is how things stand following this round of fixtures.

Table From: NWSL.

NWSL Weekly Wrap: Round Nine

Impetus’ Blaise Ogutu brings us his detailed weekly round-up of all the action from the NSWL (5/7/22).

Above: KC Current’s Adrianna Franch in spectacular goalkeeping action against Houston Dash. Photo: @thekccurrent.

From Goalkeeping MasterClasses to the Daytona Speedway: NWSL Round Nine:

The NWSL made a return this weekend following the conclusion of the international break. Teams however had to make do without a few international players who are on duty for the CONCACAF, Euros, and AFCON tournaments.

On Friday night, the Houston Dash succumbed to a 2-1 loss to KC Current at the PNC Stadium in Houston. It was the second meeting between the two clubs in the regular season with Dash winning in Kansas courtesy of goals from Rachel Daly and Bri Visalli.

Debutant Ebony Salmon, formerly of Bristol City who was acquired from Racing Louisville, had a couple of early chances for Houston but Adriana Franch in goal proved to be a brick wall. Shae Groom also had a chance to put the hosts ahead in the 33rd minute only to be denied by Franch. The opening goal did involve Groom on the opposite end as she was judged to have handled the ball in the box in the 41st minute. Up stepped Lo’eau LaBonta who rifled her attempt past Jane Campbell to make it 1-0 Kansas City. They could have doubled the lead through Cece Kizer in added time but her shot just went wide.

The Current did double their tally thirty-five seconds into the second half through Hailie Mace. Again Kizer was involved in the build-up taking on a couple of defenders before pulling it back for Mace on the edge of the area. It was proving to be Franch’s good day between the sticks as she pulled off a double save in the 59th minute to deny Salmon and Visalli. However, deep into stoppage time, she could keep Houston out after Elizabeth Ball diverted a low cross into her own net to make it 2-1. It was too little too late for Houston to get an equaliser as Kansas City Current stretched their unbeaten record to five games.

Later on Friday night, goals from Jess Fishlock and Bethany Balcer secured a comfortable 2-0 win for OL Reign against North Carolina Courage.

A slow start for the home side saw Carolina’s Kerolin missing the target after a brilliant run into the box before her shot was saved by an outstretched Tullis-Joyce in the 17th minute. Reign grew into the match and had chances of their own. The best came off a Kim Little pass to find Jess Fishlock on the edge of the area but her superb attempt was equally met by Katelyn Rowland in goal to keep the scores level.

Laura Harvey’s side looked re-energized in the second half and seven minutes in found their opener through Fishlock. The Welsh international ran onto a great pass by Balcer and with a great first touch evaded the keeper to coolly slot it in. They wrapped the game up with 16 minutes to go when Fishlock and Balcer linked up yet again when Fishlock found Balcer with another great pass to make it 2-0. Another brilliant display by the Cascadia giants despite having eight players out on international duty.

Above: Bethany Balcer and Jess Fishlock in celebration for OL Reign against North Carolina Courage. Photo: @OLReign.

The last game of the night saw the Portland Thorns pull out an equaliser deep into added time to deny Angel City FC all three points at the Banc of California Stadium.

Angel City opened the scoring a minute into the game when Savannah McCaskill put away her penalty after Miri Taylor was bundled over by Kelli Hubly in the box. It was a relatively slow start from the away side and they could not cope with the Angel City pressure. Fifteen minutes in and DiDi Haracic had to react quickly to save Yazmeen Ryan’s attempt at the near post.

The second half proved to be a Shelby Hogan show as the debuting Thorns goalkeeper pulled off fine saves to keep them in the game. Freya Coomb’s side seemed to be cruising to a 1-0 win but in the sixth minute of added time, Yazmeen Ryan rose highest at the back post to meet Madison Pogarch’s left-foot cross to snatch a point on the road. A point that felt like a win for Rhian Wilkinson’s charges.

Saturday saw only one game on the cards in Harrison, New Jersey as Chicago Red Stars ran out 3-0 winners against home side Gotham FC. The game happened to be defender Gina Lewandoski’s final professional match after 53 games in the NWSL. Chicago went ahead in the 16th minute through Sarah Luebbert. Her first NWSL goal of the season came after a great run by Tatumn Milazzo who beat her marker down the left flank and a quick cross followed by the slightest touch by Ella Stevens steering the ball into Luebbert’s path to open the scoring.

Consistent pressure and a long spell of possession from the visitors saw them double the advantage through Vanessa Dibernado. A brilliant first touch from the captain took her past Zerboni before firing a right-foot shot past Ashlyn Harris in goal.  In the second half, equal chances fell for both sides with Stevens and Taylor Smith missing for their respective side. Ella Steven did get her goal with six minutes to go with an easy tap-in off a header by Nagasato which sent the Red Stars to the top of the table temporarily.

Sunday featured expansion side San Diego retaking the top spot with a 2-1 win over Washington Spirit.

Goals from Makenzy Doniak and Isabela Briede in the first half put the hosts ahead. Washington managed to pull one back in stoppage time but it wasn’t enough as they stretched their winless run to nine games this season.

Above:  Orlando Pride take Racing Louisville at the Daytona International Speedway. Photo: ORLPride.

The last match of the weekend saw Orlando Pride come back from two goals down to earn a draw against Racing Louisville at the Daytona International Speedway.

The Pride had a decent start to the game but Racing Louisville had better chances as Emina Ekic had her 23rd-minute chance saved by McLeod before getting a second bite of the cherry which hit the crossbar. She did get her goal eleven minutes later finding the back of the net off a cross by Nealy Martin.

Louisville made it 2-0 in the 51st minute with a superbly taken free-kick by Savannah DeMelo and had their hands firmly on the wheel. Nine minutes later, Orlando pulled one back through Kylie Strom after Katie Lund failed to clear a shot. In the 69th minute, a provider turned into a goalscorer as Darian Jenkins levelled matters by latching on to an easy pass from Erika Tymrak. A goal that Louisville head coach Kim Bjorkegren strongly believes shouldn’t have stood.

Graphic From: NWSL.

NWSL Weekly Wrap: Round Eight

Impetus welcomes Blaise Ogutu who will be providing us with regular round-ups from all of the best action in the NWSL (21/6/22).

Above: Nadia Nadim celebrates her second goal for Racing Louisville at Washington Spirit. Photo: Equalizer Soccer.

From Nadia Nadim’s Brace To A Thriller In Carolina: NWSL Round Eight

The Juneteenth weekend in the NWSL was a goal-fest. Right from the Friday kick-off game in Washington right down to the last game on Sunday night in North Carolina.

On Friday, the Washington Spirit hosted Racing Louisville at Segra Field with both teams looking to snap their winless runs. Washington was up to the races in the first moments of the game completely dominating the visitors but the missing piece of the puzzle was the opening goal. Spirit thought they had opened the scoring when Emily Sonnett found the back of the net only for the offside flag to be raised. Trinity Rodman however did open the scores in the 33rd minute with a right-footed shot past Katie Lund in goal.

Washington doubled the lead with three minutes to go in the first half through Madie Elwell. Her first professional career goal in the NWSL. There seemed to be no way back for the visitors up until Nadia Nadim entered the fray in the second half. In the 65th minute the Dane and Jessica McDonald linked up well and Nadim raced off to coolly slot one past Lund to pull one back. Washington’s suspect defending reared its head again as the potent Racing Louisville duo combined once again. This time McDonald managed to latch onto a loose ball to float it onto Nadia Nadim with a timely header to tie the game in the 88th minute. A draw neither side benefitted from as both teams continued with their winless runs in the league.

Saturday saw two games on the main card. First off, Kansas City Current hosted the Chicago Red Stars. The Current had a dream start in the eighth minute when Kristen Hamilton nodded in the opener. Hamilton benefitted from a Hailie Mace cross and put the ball past Alyssa Naeher scoring her second goal in as many games. It was a brilliant defensive display by Kansas not to concede in the first half but Chicago had other ideas.

Red Stars found the equaliser nine minutes after the restart through Amanda Kowalski. A corner floated in and found Kowalski at the back post with a bullet header past Adrianna Franch in goal. Five minutes later, Chicago found themselves with a chance to go ahead after Mallory Pugh was fouled inside the box and she proceeded to make the penalty count. Kansas City weren’t done yet and held their own defensively throughout the second half. They got their reward in the 68th minute when Cece Kizer’s left-footed shot found the top corner past an outstretched Naeher raising the roof at the Children’s Mercy Park. This result dented the team from the Windy City a chance to go top of the table ahead of Portland and San Diego’s games.

Above: Bethany Belcer battling against Megan Reid as OL Reign face Angel City. Photo: Equalizer Soccer.

The other game at Lumen Field later on Saturday saw the OL Reign narrowly beat Angel City FC one to nothing. Bethany Balcer was at hand to give the hosts the lead in the 30th minute. She was alert to pounce on a poor clearance by Angel City’s defence to give Laura Harvey’s charges the lead they deserved. It was a cagey affair for the rest of the game which featured a number of hard fouls that brought out the cards. Megan Rapinoe on her return to first-team action was sent off from the bench late in the second half for dissent but luckily for the hosts, it had no effect as they held on to their slender lead. Angel City have to contend with a piling number of players on the injury list as Simone Charley was forced off the field in the first half and joins Christen Press who is out for the season with a torn ACL.

Roll on Sunday where the Portland Thorns welcomed a much shaken Orlando Pride to the Providence Park. Nothing was welcoming about the score however as the Thorns ran out 6-0 winners. Hina Sugita opened the scoring in the 21st minute being on the end of a Janine Beckie cross. Captain Becky Sauerbrunn doubled the advantage three minutes later pouncing on a loose ball parried by McLeod in the Pride goal.

The floodgates opened in the second half with Sophia Smith scoring a brace of long-range efforts after being granted too much space by the Orlando defence. Natalia Kuikka and Taylor Porter also got in on the scoring with the latter scoring her first professional goal in the NWSL. This result means that the Thorns handed Orlando their worst result ever and took Portland to second on the table.

Elsewhere on Sunday, the San Diego Wave held the top spot heading into the international break with a 3-0 win away at Gotham FC. Alex Morgan set the Red Bull Arena alight with a first-half brace and provided an assist for Makenzy Doniak as they cruised in Harrison New Jersey. This is the second time Alex Morgan was involved in every single goal scored against Gotham FC after scoring four the last time the two teams met.

Above: Houston Dash players celebrate their victory over North Carolina Courage. Photo: Houston Dash.

The last game of the weekend proved to be a thriller as Houston Dash came from behind to narrowly edge out hosts North Carolina Courage 4-3 at the WakeMed Soccer Park. Denise O’Sullivan had the opener in the 6th minute with a superb half-volley. Houston replied nine minutes later through Maria Sanchez who was picked out by Shea Groom to slot the ball past Jane Campbell in goal.

It was chaotic opening 12 minutes in the second half as Elizabeth Eddy scored two quick goals for Houston. The second one was a deft attempt to get the ball past Casey Murphy in the Courage goal. Nichelle Prince made it 4-1 in the 51st minute cutting in from the left side and bending her shot beating Murphy. Six minutes later, Diana Ordonez pulled one back for the hosts with a skilful finish, taking down Pickett’s cross and dribbling past Chapman before scoring. Within two minutes, Courage had reduced the deficit to a single goal when Debinha fought her way past a crowd before unleashing a shot through Campbell’s legs. This set up a nervy finish to the game but Houston managed to hold on to the narrow victory. 

Here is how things stand going into the international break:

Table From: NWSL.

For Blaise‘s biography along with the rest of our contributors, click here: https://impetusfootball.org/about-our-contributors/

Chivas Crowned Champions In Front Of Huge Crowd

By Jorge Ceron (26/5/22)

Above: Chivas lift the 2022 Clausura title. Photo: @LigaBBVAFemenil

Mexican women’s soccer has a champion for its Clausura 2022 tournament, the Chivas Rayadas del Guadalajara.

It’s the second title in their history and concludes a brilliant season which saw them achieve several notable statistics. They had the strongest defence in the history of a regular season with only six goals conceded. They also remained undefeated throughout the regular season, and have in their ranks the two-time top scorer, Alicia Cervantes.

Monday night’s second leg was magical, and approximately 40,000 people at the Akron stadium, in Zapopan, Jalisco, witnessed Chivas seal the title after defeating Pachuca over two legs. But they didn’t have it all their own way.

The first leg was played at the Hidalgo stadium in Pachuca. This was a classic match in which both teams entered ready to strike the first blow. The first goal was scored on 27 minutes when Viridiana Salazar, after being played in via a brilliant pass Ruth Bravo pass put the hosts in front. However, home advantage was limited as visiting Chivas fans made up at least half of the crowd. They have long been the most supported men’s team in Mexico. That is transferring to women’s football now.  Before the end of the first half, both sides had opportunities to score, but the scoreboard did not move.

Above: Chivas’ Alicia Cervantes celebrates one of her goals in Pachuca. Photo: @ChivasFemenil

The whirlwind of goals arrived in the second half. Just four minutes in, Gabriela Valenzuela arrived to level the scores for Chivas. Yet, almost immediately the Gophers got back on the scoreboard with a goal from Mónica Ocampo. It was the same player who scored the next after registering an own goal in a corner kick that at first seemed to be an Olympico goal by Carolina Jaramillo after 71 minutes. Carolina Jaramillo, ten minutes from the end, then stepped up to provide an excellent pass for Alicia Cervantes to score with a good header. Things got even better at the death as Cervantes dispatched a penalty to give Chivas a two-goal advantage after their away leg.

Above: Blanca Félix makes her dramatic penalty save. Photo: @ChivasFotos

The second game was a total party, but with its moments of anguish, 40,000 people gathered to see the crowning of champions Chivas. Although the hosts of the second leg were the team with the better opportunities, it was the visitors who went ahead, reducing the aggregate difference to just one on the hour mark. Lizbeth Angeles scored the goal that gave hope. Things got even better for the visitors when they were awarded a penalty. Charlyn Corral prepared herself, but goalkeeper Blanca Félix became a legend by saving the penalty and causing huge delight to all the fans. Nothing happened in the final minutes, which allowed Chivas to secure the title, the second in its history.

Above: Post-match celebrations for Chivas. Photo: @ChivasFemenil.

Mexican Wrap

With the semi-finals of the top flight of Mexican women’s football played over the past week, Impetus’ Jorge Ceron rounds up all the action (19/5/22).

Above: Charlyn Corral celebrates one of her goals for Pachuca. Photo: @Tuzosfemenil

In the still very young Mexican women’s soccer league, there are two teams that stand out for being the most successful, Tigres de la UANL with their four league titles and three runner-up finishes in the eight league tournaments, and the Rayadas del Monterey with two titles and three sub-championships.

These two teams along with Chivas de Guadalajara (winners of the first league in history) and Tuzas de Pachuca (runners-up in the first league in history) would be the protagonists of the prelude to the final of the Clausura 2022 Tournament.

Rayadas Monterrey (1) vs Pachuca Women (4)

The first leg was played at Hidalgo stadium in the capital of Hidalgo, Pachuca, a city where according to several historians the first soccer game was played in Mexico, a sport brought by the English miners. The favourites and champions Rayadas arrived to face a team with high morale after eliminating the Eagles of America.

The game ended 2-0 in favour of Pachuca, a score that put the champions against the wall, but the result was secondary. The important thing in this game was the pair of goals scored by Charlin Corral, both goals worthy of being in a museum!

Above: Pachuca celebrating Viridana Salazar’s goal that would give them the ticket to the final. Photo: @Tuzosfemenil

Corral has not been called up to the national team for a long time for reasons outside of soccer. Let’s hope for the good of the Mexican team to see her in July in the qualifiers for Australia / New Zealand 2023, since she brings a superlative level of play. The qualifying tournament of CONCACAF will provide for direct tickets to the World Cup with two nations getting a second chance in playoffs. The qualifying tournament will take place in Monterrey.

Back to the second leg of this semi. Monterrey needed to win by two goals to advance to the final and continue with the dream of bi-championship. In the first half, Monterrey tried but could not score until the 48th minute when Yamile Franco brought the game closer with a great goal. Rayadas went with everything and got a reward by obtaining a penalty. Captain Rebeca Bernal scored on 57 minutes. This tied it up on aggregate. However, in the next play, Viridiana Salazar silenced the stadium to put the visitors 3-2 ahead on aggregate. Rayadas went in search of the goal that would save them, but they could not get it anymore, the champions were eliminated.

Chivas Guadalajara (2) vs. UANL Tigres (3)

Above: Karol Bernal celebrates her goal that brought Chivas to life in the tie. Photo: @ChivasFemenil

This was the duel of the undefeated. Neither of these teams lost throughout the season. The UANL team arrived with only one loss in its last 63 games and looking for its 8th consecutive final. The first leg was played at the Universitario stadium in the state of Nuevo León. Tigres Femenil entered to a huge welcome.

Both teams were nervy. Chivas with a great defense, combined this with several shots as they tried to take the game to Guadalajara. But the goal did not come. It was not until the 62nd minute when the American Mia Fishel scored the first goal of the game for Tigres. The second goal came, the work of Uchenna Kanu who scored her 12th goal in Mexico in just 19 games, stats that have earned a call up for her country to play the African Cup of Nations in July, hosted by Morocco.

Tigres were not able to get a third, but even so, they took a very important advantage for the second leg in Guadalajara. It must be mentioned that in this game Lizbeth Ovalle, one of the most important players for Tigres, was injured. Casandra Montero from Chivas also left due to discomfort.

Above: Chivas fans celebrate their team’s incredible success. Photo: @ChivasFemenil

In the return game, Chivas needed something more than complicated. The visitors had played more than 100 games without losing by that amount. Tigres were just about to score the first, but a heavenly intervention by Angelica Torres prevented it, in the same way Carolina Jaramillo saved a shot on the line with her head.

A goal finally came two minutes before the break when Karol Bernal scored with a header and made the Chivas dream. It was her first career goal. The second half was nervy for both teams, if Chivas dedicated themselves to defending themselves in the first game, Tigres did the same this time. When it seemed that Tigres would reach its eighth consecutive final, with four minutes left, Kimberly Guzman scored the second for the hosts – a goal that gave them the pass to the final. Chivas eliminated the favourites Tigres.

The final will be Chivas vs. Pachuca. The games will be on Saturday at 3am UK time and on Tuesday at 2am in the UK.

Mexican Wrap

Impetus’ Jorge Ceron rounds up all the latest action from the Quarter-Finals of Mexico’s top flight play-offs (12/5/22).

Above: Chivas fans gather at the University Olympic for the first leg of their quarter-final against UNAM PumasPhoto: @rojiblancas_nal.

The semi finalists of Mexican women’s soccer are known. Monterrey, Chivas, and Tigres as expected progressed into the next round. Pachuca joined them with a shock elimination of one of the favourites. 

Rayadas Monterrey (1) vs Xolos Women (8)

Tijuana, the place where the country begins, was the venue for one of the first legs of the quarter-finals.

It was a fascinating battle as Xolas ended the undefeated run of Rayadas on matchday 12 of the regular season, the only defeat in the entire season for Monterrey.

Despite the 22-point difference in the end of season table, an even and tough two games was expected, and in the first leg it was somewhat fulfilled. Both teams came out without offering their best football, and in a bland game, Rayadas were leading until the 81st minute , with a goal by Aylin Aviléz (runner-up with Mexico in the U-17 World Cup Uruguay 2018). There needs to be a special mention for Mónica Monsiváis, scorer for Rayadas, and the top scorer of the women’s MX League entered until the second half, Alejandra Caderón was sent-off.  

The second leg was at BBVA Bancomer. Xolas, with the requirement of winning by two goals and become the first team to do so in the MX league, entered with everything from the first minute, unfortunately for them, from the 24th minute Christina Bukenroad put Monterrey in front which left almost everything resolved, one more goal from Rebeca Bernal, a defender with more than 35 goals in her career in just over 150 games for which she is nicknamed the Mexican Beckenbauer, ensured that her team made the semifinals. An own goal Costa Rican Valeria del Campo put the Xolas on the scoreboard, but it was too late. Aggregate result: Monterrey 3-1 Tijuana.

Photo: Defender Rebeca Bernal celebrating Rayadas’ second goal in the second leg. Photo: @Rayadas

Chivas de Guadalajara (2) vs. UNAM Pumas (7)

This was a long-awaited clash between the undefeated Chivas, and the Pumas who got their place in the play-offs at the last minute. The first leg was at the fantastic Olympic University in Mexico City, and there was an invasion by the Chivas fans. that occupied three-quarters of the stadium, so visitors in theory, but in practice they were locals in the stands.

This was a great game, and despite the torrential rain that was present in the second half, the match never suffered. Chivas was in front twice, from a penalty, the scorer Alicia Cervantes scored first for Chivas, and it seemed like a quiet afternoon for the rojiblancas, but the American Aerial Chavarin was responsible for scoring twice. Susan Bejarano made a great goal that had put the visiting team ahead, the second goal for the Pumas was an error between defence and goalkeeper. The first leg was a total party on the field and in the stands that not even the rain could stop. It was 2-2 at the end, and they left everything to be decided for the return game.

In Guadalajara, the game was decided. Pumas needed to win to advance, and made their followers dream, as they went ahead after five minutes. Liliana Rodriguez scored for the students. With 33 minutes gone, Pumas got a second through Aerial Chavarin. Chavarin only scored two goals in the whole of the regular season, and in these two games, she had already beaten that with three. Guadalajara was already against the wall. Central defender Michelle Gonzalez approached. Already, the second half was being dominated by the hosts. With 54 minutes played, Carolina Jaramillo was responsible for tying the game and thus supplying passage to the semifinals. Alicia Cervantes made the final score 3-2 for Chivas. Aggregate result: Chivas 5-4 Pumas.

Above: Lizbeth Ovalle, Tigres UANL’s record holding goalscorer. Photo: 90Min.

Tigres UANL (3) vs. Atlas (6)

What can we say about the first leg in which Tigres travelled to Atlas and crushed the red and blacks 7-0? Well, it was an excellent game by the Tigres, I would say perfect, and it totally left the tie in their favour. Nancy Antonio and Lizbeth Ovalle played their 42nd game in finals, and they are the players with the most games in finals football ever. Ovalle scored a couple of goals, to add to her record of scoring the most in finals football with 16. Sandra Mayor also scored two which extended her record in finals at 13 goals in 18 games. Mia Fishel, Uchenna Kanu, and a great goal from Lydia Rangel left the final figures at 7-0. The return game in Nuevo León saw Atlas take the lead with a goal from Claudia Ibarra, but a couple of goals from the American Mia Fishel sealed victory and the tie for the locals. Aggregate result: Global Tigres UANL 9-1 Atlas.

América (4) vs. Pachuca (5)

Perhaps the most even tie of all, both teams being the favourites to dethrone the teams from Nuevo León. In the first leg game in Pachuca, Hidalgo, Charlyn Corral (Lmade the first for the locals. The American star Katty Martinez equalized for the azulcremas. At the start of the second half, Lizbeth Ángeles made it 2-1 and the score did not change. During the match, Scarlett Camberos lost her head and subsequently was banned for a match. This meant that an important piece of the America team would not play the return game.

The second leg took place in the majestic Azteca Stadium which registered its highest attendance for a game in the women’s MX league with 15,742 spectators. América knew that any win would see them advance to the semifinals. However, a great strategy from Pachuca from start to finish put them 2-0 up with a great goal from Charlyn Corral. America closed the gap with a goal from Daniela Espinoza, but it was too late, at the end of the match Katty Martinez missed a penalty for America and the dice were cast. At the end of the game, Craig Harrington, America’s English manager, was fired from his post. Sarah Luebbert, one of the favourite players of the American fans, also said goodbye. She is going to play in the American league with the Chicago Red Stars. Aggregate result: Global America 2-4 Pachuca.

Above: Sarah Luebbert idol of the América fans cries when saying goodbye in her last game in the women’s MX League. Photo: @Odiamemas1916

Mexican Wrap

Impetus’ Jorge Ceron rounds up all the latest action from Mexico’s top tier as the regular season draws to an end (4/5/22).

Above: Tiguana (Xelos) celebrate their dramatic qualification for the Finals with a dramatic goal at the last possible moment. Photo: @XolosFemenil.

The regular season of Mexican women’s soccer came to an end on Monday night, and it couldn’t have ended in a better way, a couple of heart-pounding and exciting games. The top eight sides now head into the Liguilla or the so-called playoffs where the best eight teams face each other.

Week 17 had three games that didn’t impact the final table. Atlas beat León 2-1 at the Jalisco Stadium, in the north of the country. Santos Laguna defeated Mazatlán 1-0, and Pachuca drew 1-1 with Necaxa.

In the latter game, Charlyn Corral (former Levante and Atletico Madrid player, who was the top scorer in Spain in 2017-2018) was still aiming for the top goalscorer’s crown. Corral needed one goal to snatch the award from Alicia Cervantes of Chivas. In the end, Corral failed in her bid.

Speaking of Guadalajara, the top two teams in the table met at the Akron stadium as Monterey took on Chivas. There was not too much to report from other than the fact that four players suffered injuries due to the terrible state of the pitch as a result of some concerts. Chivas won 1-0 with goal from Carlina Jaramillo. Alicia Cervantes did not score but ended up with the top scorer’s award after netting 14 goals. It is important to mention that the goals were scored in just 13 games because she missed several games due to injury and COVID. Cervantes has now scored a total of 64 goals for Chivas.

Above: Alicia Cervantes – with 14 goals in 13 games, won the competition’s top scorer prize. Photo: @somos_de_chivas

On Friday the 17th day began with Atletico San Luis against Queretaro. Both arrived with hopes of qualifying for the top eight. They had to win and wait for results, although it was very complicated. Atletico San Luis, which is twinned with Atletico Madrid from Spain, won 3-1, but unfortunately for them the results in other matches didn’t go their way and their finals hopes died.

It was the same case in La Noria, where Cruz Azul needed to win and wait for results. They easily defeated Puebla 3-1 with a double by Magaly Cortés. To qualify they hoped that Xolas de Tijuana would not win.

In the main game on Sunday night, at the Universitario Stadium, two of the great favorites faced each other to lift the trophy of champions. Tigres de la UANL faced América. An additional ingredient was the return of Katty Martinez, (second highest scorer in the league’s history) to Nuevo León, but now dressed in the América shirt. Martinez was the protagonist of a controversial piece of play when she was tackled by her former teammate Blanca Sierra inside the area but was not awarded a penalty. It was a tight game in which both teams did not show their best weapons and ended 1-1 American Mia Fishel scored for Tigres and Betzi Cuevas tied the game.

Above: Mia Fishel celebrates Tigres’ goal. Photo: @TigresFemenil

Finally, we leave the games that defined everything, on Monday afternoon where Toluca hosted Pumas. Whoever won qualified for the Finals. Even a draw would allow Toluca to make it. Within the opening minute, Toluca took the lead with a goal from Diana Guatemala, and from there they dedicated themselves to defending knowing that only two goals could eliminate them. Yet, with 33 minutes gone, Pumas levelled with a penalty. They then went ahead from an own goal just after the hour. That would have been enough to eliminate the home side. But six minutes from the end, Mariel Roman tied the game and caused joy for Toluca. Yet still the scoring was not over. And in a moment of huge drama, with two minutes left, Marilyn Diaz arrived two minutes from the end and gave the victory to the university students and the pass to the finals. It was a great game.

The season ended with a match between border teams, Tijuana and Juarez. Tijuana needed to win to qualify for the Finals at Cruz Azul’s expense. It took over 70 minutes until major incident and then it all happened. Silvia Elicerio arrived to score Juarez’s first goal, but nine minutes later, Renae Cuellar tied the game. The closing stages were high drama. Juarez scored a second with three minutes left. A minute later, Xolos tied and then seven minutes of stoppage time was announced. Incredibly, in the last of those minutes, Esmeralda Verdugo scored a goal that gave Tijuana victory.

The Quarter-Finals will be played on Thursday and Monday.

Mexican Women’s Football

Impetus welcomes new writer Jorge Ceron who will be providing us with regular news from the club and international football scene in Mexico. He begins by introducing us to the game in his country (26/4/22).

Above: Women’s Pumas salute the crowd at the University Olympic Stadium. Photo: Liga MX.

Let’s start with a brief history. The Mexican women’s soccer league is a very young league, created in December 2016, and its first season began in July 2017, although in that period a cup competition was played in May (and has subsequently not been played for again.)

The league started with a match between Pachuca and Pumas at the Hidalgo Stadium, the same venue used by the Pachuca men’s team, the first goal was by Berenice Muñoz, the result was a favorable 3-0 win for Pachuca, and that’s where it all started.

Currently, the Women’s Liga MX BBVA, as it is called due to sponsorship is made up of 18 teams, the same teams that make up the country’s men’s league. With the exception of two teams, they all play in the same stadiums as the men’s clubs, Cruz Azul continues to play in its training facilities, and Querétaro does so in its own stadium for the women’s team.

The other teams play in stadiums that have been World Cup venues, such as the famous Azteca Stadium, where Club América sometimes plays the local team, coached by the Englishman Craig Harrington. Another famous stadium is the León Stadium, which is well remembered for that vibrant game between West Germany and England in the World Cup in 1970, or the mythical University Olympic.

Above: The Liga MX logo. Photo: Liga MX.

The league is divided into two tournaments, each tournament has its final phase, after facing each other in 17 rounds, the eight best-placed teams qualify for the final phase and there begins the so-called “liguilla” or playoffs, First vs Eighth, Second vs Seventh, Third vs Sixth, and Fourth vs Fifth. These matches are played over two legs and the winners go to the semi-finals, in that round the same thing happens and the two finalists remain who also face a game over two legs to define the champions, per year there are two champions, one in May and one in December.

We are currently at the end of day Round 16 of 17, that is to say, from next week the finals will begin. Speaking of finals and titles, we can mention that in the eight seasons that there have been, (not counting the one canceled by the pandemic) only four teams have been crowned champions, Tigres from the Autonomous University of Nuevo León, Rayadas from Monterrey, Club América and the first champions in history, the Chivas Rayadas from Guadalajara.

The most successful teams in Mexican women’s soccer are: for titles and finals achieved, the Tigres de la UANL and Las Rayadas, Chivas and América base their popularity on the great support they have in the men’s branch and that has been transferred to women’s soccer, although all teams already have their loyal fans.

Finally, I can tell you that in the Mexican league since 2021, two foreigners are allowed per team, and players have arrived mainly from the United States but they have also arrived from Spain (the first two foreign players in the league in history) from Costa Rica, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Venezuela and even from distant Iceland and Nigeria, some of them selected for their national teams.

Next Week we’ll talk about the results!

One Step Forward, Three Steps Back

Impetus’ North American correspondent, Catherine Paquette details the quite staggering arrangements for this year’s NWSL Championship Final which has been saddled with arguably the least player and fan friendly kick-off time of any major women’s football match ever.

12/9/21

All leagues conclude their season with a team as their champion.  For the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), this champion is selected in a slightly different manner to European football.  

While a trophy is awarded to the team who accumulates the most points in the NWSL’s 24 game season, a championship game and trophy at the conclusion of a short post-regular season playoff also exists.  One could easily argue that that the regular season trophy, known as the NWSL Shield, is more difficult to achieve than the championship trophy as it requires greater consistency and success over several months and not just a few post-season games.  

However, for the NWSL’s clubs, players and fans it is the Championship that is the real prize.  Four teams have previously won it: the now defunct Western New York Flash and FC Kansas City, and the still existing North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns. This season’s championship was meant to be its most exciting one to date, with a longer post-season play-off structure expanded to include six teams and three rounds, thus making the route to the championship game also more difficult than ever.

Last week, less than two months away from the end of the regular season, NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird appeared during the half-time show of the CBS’s live coverage of the Orlando Pride-Houston Dash game to announce the hosts, date and time of this year’s championship game.  

Above: Providence Park, Portland. The venue for the NWSL Championship Final for the third time in nine years. Photo: footballgroundguide.com

The first part of her announcement, the championship game’s hosts, should have been the main cause of annoyance or controversy with NWSL players and fans. Again the game will take place in Portland, who have already hosted the championship game twice in the previous eight years it has been held.  

While it has now been reported that the Portland Thorns were the only club to submit a final bid to be hosts, due to venue restrictions of other clubs, fans of opposition teams are rightfully annoyed at the idea of the Thorns once again possibly having a home advantage.  

Moreover, NWSL players who have long been advocating for better playing conditions including the elimination of any matches on turf playing surfaces, are dissatisfied with this selection.  Portland’s Providence Park stadium is one of two artificial surfaces that remains in the NWSL, the other being the Washington Spirit’s part-time home at Segra Field. 

However, it was the latter part of commissioner Baird’s statement that created the real controversy.  The championship game for the winner of this year’s 2021 season will take place at 9am local time.  Yes, you read that right, at 9am.  

Once again, for those unfamiliar with the NWSL post-season structure and the championship game’s importance to North American sports, this championship game is meant to be the epitome of the season. It is meant to be the year’s top occasion, its crowning moment, its Super Bowl. 

The NWSL currently has a broadcasting deal with CBS and it has been reported that the 12pm eastern time slot, 9am local on the west coast where the final will be held, was previously agreed upon.  CBS also covers college American football in the autumn, with those games monopolizing the afternoon Saturday schedules starting at noon on the east coast, the same start time as this match.  The college games have long been scheduled across most of the broadcaster’s multiple platforms & channels.  

Above: The 2019 NWSL Championship Trophy. Photo: Fran Stuchbury.

Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports, stated when discussing the 9am kick-off: “Yeah, I think the location should be taken up with the NWSL.  We didn’t choose the location, and we’re trying to make sure that we can give the most exposure that we can to the championship game, and that happens to necessitate a noon start.  So, you know, I understand the dissatisfaction out there.

“That is the hand that we have been dealt and we’re going to make the most of it.  But we have a program schedule that is pretty full.  It’s not that we don’t value women’s soccer, I think our commitment to women’s soccer, especially with the broadcast window that we’ve given the league, I think, is pretty illustrative of the fact that we do value it.  But as far as the location, again we didn’t we didn’t chose the location, the NWSL did.”

With this broadcast scheduling limitation, one has to ask why the initial television deal did not include an assurance of an appropriate time for the final depending on host selection.  It is difficult to imagine any men’s professional league being given a 9am start, especially for their championship game.  Television is important, but again, one has to question why they could not do better. 

NWSL players have not played at 9am since they were children, for the obvious reason that no elite or professional athlete should be asked to compete at their optimal performance so early in the morning.  

This start time will result in a pre-game wakeup at 5am, a pre-game meal at 6:30 am, a stadium arrival at 7:45 am and a pre-game warm up at 8:15 am  On a day where the sun is expected to start rising at 7:17am, just imagine the crews preparing the stadium, under the floodlights, because it is just too early to see anything.

Above: North Carolina Courage’s Jessica McDonald has taken to social media to speak of her astonishment at the announcement of the venue and kick-off time of this year’s NWSL Championship Final. Photo: Lewis Gettier/ISI Photos/Getty Images.

Baird’s announcement has prompted players and managers from all around the world to question the decision and to call for a change.  World Cup winner and North Carolina Courage striker Jessica McDonald stated: 

Olympic gold medal winner and Manchester City attacker Janine Beckie also tweeted of her astonishment at the arrangements for the final:

Paul Riley the manager of the North Carolina Courage, who are the current NWSL Shield and Championship holders, simply stated:

“There’s not one league in the world that will play a championship game at 9am but unfortunately we are.  Two teams are going to be in it playing at 9am which is sad when you consider what a big league it is in the world and how it is revered and stuff like that.  But anyway, that’s probably for another day.”

To be ‘fair’ to the NWSL’s current scheduled time, this is not the first top women’s football competition scheduling blunder this year.  The women’s Gold Medal match of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was originally supposed to take place at 11am local time.  

The same concerns over player performance, combined with concerns over player welfare as the temperatures were meant to be in the high 30os (100oF), were raised. The inequity with the men’s time, who were scheduled to play at a more suitable 8:30pm, was also questioned. The game was eventually moved to 9pm that night.  

A number of UEFA Women’s Champions League first round group stage qualification games were also given early starts this year, as early as 11am local time – during the working week.  Again this was not ideal, but it was also not 9am.

Above: The NWSL’s decision for a 9am Championship Final kick off has led to widespread anger. Photo: Getty Images.

It is also not be the first time a major women’s final will take place around this time. The 2003 Women’s World Cup final, held in the United States, was scheduled at 10am.  It was a fantastic match between Sweden and eventual winners Germany.  But this isn’t 2003.  The world has moved on and seemingly progressed.  

This current 9am start shows that it hasn’t progressed enough. If the women’s game is to grow it must be given the circumstances to do so.  One cannot expect the best product to arise, or for it to be profitable, if it is not scheduled at times that are optimal for both players and fans. 

Clearly discussions still need to be had about the respect that women and those who support them should be given.  These are professional athletes and their gender should not result in them playing at the same time as young Sunday league players.  A 9am start is insulting to players who have spent ten months building to a championship game as well as to the fans that have supported them along the way.

Women’s football and women’s sport deserves better.  If that cannot be given by the broadcaster in question, and supported by the league, then changes need to be made in leadership so that basic respect for proper competition can be a primary driver of those in NWSL decision making positions. 

Until that happens it is difficult for proponents of the National Women’s Soccer League to state it is one of the best league in the world.  The 9am start proves they are far from this.

Notes From North America

Above: Washington Spirit celebrate Ashley Sanchez’s winning goal against Orlando Pride. Photo: Washington Post.

Impetus’ North American Women’s Football expert Catherine Paquette brings us up to date with all the action from the NWSL (25/8/21).

The past week in the National Women’s Soccer League was an odd one. Racing Louisville and the Chicago Red Stars participated in the inaugural staging of The Women’s Cup.  While their first game also doubled as a NWSL match, their weekend matches against Bayern and PSG were exhibition cup games.  Racing went on to win the cup by beating German champions Bayern Munich, a massive win for a club with less than six months of play under their belt.

The Portland Thorns and the Houston Dash for their part competed in the Women’s International Champions Cup, with FC Barcelona and l’Olympique Lyonnais also participating.   The Thorns went on to beat OL for the title of World’s Best Club.  The Dash finished fourth after having being beaten by Barça in the third place game.

The NWSL though did go ahead with four games.  The first, already mentioned, occurred on Wednesday between Racing Louisville and the Chicago Red Stars. The double meaning of the match, being both an NWSL league game and a decider for the first place game of The Women’s Cup, resulted in even more high tempo play than one normally sees in the league.

The record attendance in Louisville also spurred the home side on.  Ebony Salmon, who has been electric this year for Racing, stole the ball off a Red Stars defender in the 10th minute of the match and then proceeded to nutmeg Chicago’s goalkeeper to score.  


Like they have in many games this year, Louisville had a greater percentage of possession.  However, their transition and specifically their penetration into the final third was often lacking.  Despite having more of the ball, they were outshot by the Red Stars.  Chicago finally capitalized in the 57th minute thanks to a strike from Kealia Watt. Similar to Louisville’s goal, it was a defensive error that opened the door to Chicago’s equalizer.

The game ended 1-1 with each team taking home one point in the NWSL.  Louisville would go on to progress to the final of The Women’s Cup through penalties.  However, that result did not affect their standing in the league.  They remain in ninth place, while Chicago remain in seventh.  Both are currently out of play-off contention.

Two NWSL games occurred on the Saturday.  The second placed North Carolina Courage faced the league’s current bottom placed side Kansas City.  KC were hoping that their first franchise win the week before would continue their momentum in Carolina.  It was not to be. 

North Carolina decisively beat the visiting team.  This is not to say that KC did not produce.  Not only did they have more possession than their advisory, but also more shots and shots on goal as well.  The difference was that like most of this year, KC could not convert attempts into goals.

North Carolina for their part had no problems with that this game.  Lynn Williams opened the scoring in the 12th minute.  This was followed by a wonderful Jess McDonald header in the 21st minute.


Former KC attacker Amy Rodriguez, who was traded to the Courage earlier this month, then made it three in the 64th minute.  While North Carolina went down to ten players in the 75th minute, KC were not able to capitalize.  It was the Courage’s Meredick Speck who did in the 91th minute of play, putting the hosts ahead 4-0, the final score of the match.  While the Courage crept closer to first placed Portland in the league table, both teams’ positions remained unchanged after last weekend’s play.  

The second Saturday match was between the OL Reign and Gotham FC.  Ifeoma Onunomu, who has been electric this year, opened the scoring in the 10th minute of play. Well placed to receive the ball in the box she made a small deflection put it in.  Her second goal, which came minutes later, was the fantastic one.  Again receiving the ball in the box she managed to place her body in the proper position to one touch it past Sarah Bouhaddi. 


The Reign did not give up though despite the two goal deficit in the first fifteen minutes.  They found their first goal in the second half, through a Kristen McNabb header.  However, it was two successfully converted penalty kicks taken by Megan Rapinoe in the 78th and 91st minute of play that put OL ahead.  The Reign won the match 3-2.  The win put them in fourth position in the league, with Gotham FC falling to fifth. 

The last NWSL weekend match was between the Washington Spirit and the Orlando Pride. Washington came out taking control of the game.  However, despite dictating the pace and having good chances, they were not able to convert.  The same occurred for the Pride.  A number of missed chances and a double save by the Spirit’s Aubrey Bledsoe resulted in neither team finding the back of he net the first half. 

It was the Pride’s Marta who scored a fantastic long range to the scoring in the 68th minute.  However, just two minutes later the Spirit equalized.  A cross into the box was badly deflected by Orlando’s defence straight to Ashley Sanchez who scored.

The goal of the game though occurred in the 89th minute.  After Trinity Rodman received the ball in Orlando’s half off a great long pass from Tori Huster, the youngster did well to be patient with it.  She then passed it to Ashley Sanchez who beat a defender and then from outside the box scored a rocket shot.  The Spirit won the game 2-1.

TAKE A BOW ASHLEY SANCHEZ 💥

#WASvORL | http://nwsl.us/CBSSN | #NWSL21

Originally tweeted by National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) on August 22, 2021.


The win put Washington in third place and dropped Orlando to sixth place.  The league table has therefore separated at the top, with the Portland Thorns and the North Carolina Courage seven and five points ahead of the third and fourth placed teams.  However, from third to ninth place only six points separate the teams with some clubs having one or two games at hand. Only KC are arguably out of playoff contention.  
The latter part of the National Women’s Soccer League season should be an exciting one.  

The Women’s Cup: Racing Louisville Mixing With The Big Guns

Artwork: CBS.

Racing Louisville started playing in the NWSL this year.  The club was built on ambition: the ambition to win, the ambition to raise standards and ultimately the ambition to be the best in the world.  This week they welcomed three of the world’s top teams for The Women’s Cup, proving that their ambition can be matched by action. Impetus‘ North American correspondent Catherine Paquette reports (21/8/21).

When the Louisville NWSL expansion side was announced in October 2019, the new club’s ownership group outlined an ambitious project.  The new women’s club would start playing in 2021 at the new Lynn Family Stadium, a soccer specific venue in Louisville Kentucky for the new NWSL team and their ownership’s parent men’s club Louisville City FC.  

The expansion club would also move into a new $15 million USD training facility during their first season.  On top of a spectacular women’s locker room, the shared facility with the men’s side would be equipped with weight room, dining hall, media/film room and several fields.  The club would also build a girl’s academy, to operate alongside its boys academy, from scratch.  

New sporting projects are often filled with proposals, promises and ambitions, although follow through is never assured.  What is most inspiring about Louisville is that not only have they fulfilled their promises, but to most observers they have surpassed expectations and raised NWSL standards.  

Racing’s goalkeeper Michelle Betos, who has played professionally on three continents including two other NWSL clubs, stated that it wasn’t until she came to Louisville that she felt like a true professional. 

However, just when one thought that Louisville could not surpass franchise expectations, their hosting of The Women’s Cup in their first season of operation has made the ambitious club even more impressive.  With less than six months of play, they have welcomed German Frauen-Bundesliga winners FC Bayern Munich, French Division 1 winners Paris Saint Germain and fellow NWSL club the Chicago Red Stars for the four-match tournament.  

Upon their arrival in Louisville both European clubs’ airplanes were greeted by a water salute followed by a reception party in the terminal for the two teams and their representatives.  While this type of welcome is commonplace for big European men’s clubs touring the US in pre-season, it is a rarity to see such a display on the women’s side of the game.

Above: Racing Louisville’s Lynn Family Stadium. Photo: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images.

The good impressions continued when seeing the club’s stadium. German international and PSG midfielder Sara Däbritz expressed her amazement:  “We walked in, we said wow, it’s an amazing stadium for women’s football. We can’t wait to play here.  When you see a stadium like this, it’s like wow, I want to play now!”  Play they did.  

Despite both clubs being in their respective pre-seasons, the game was a very close and competitive affair.  This is hardly surprising.  After all, these are two very well organized teams, with incredible talent both on the field and the bench.  While Bayern originally dictated the game, it was PSG who opened the scoring account.

Sandy Baltimore, who caused all sorts of problems for Bayern during the match, made an excellent cross into the box to Marie-Antoinette Katoto who headed it in.  Bayern were able to not only equalize before the half, with Linda Dallman scoring a goal in the 43rd minute, but then double their score in the first half extra time with a Lea Schüller goal.

⚽️Goal for FC Bayern Munich! A fantastic free kick by Carolin Simon hits the crossbar. Lea Schüller is there to head it in.

45’+2|@FCBfrauen 2-1 @PSG_Feminines#TheWomensCup #Anzeige #MiaSanMia #FCBPSG pic.twitter.com/t5r547t70F— Her Beautiful Game (@HerBeautifulGam) August 18, 2021


PSG got the equalizer in the 57th minute, after Kheira Hamraoui headed home a goal off a corner.  The match ended 2-2 after 90 minutes and headed to penalty kicks. After six rounds of shots Bayern sealed their place in the final with a 5-4 penalty win.

The second match of the semi-final was between the Chicago Red Stars and the home team Racing Louisville. The match also doubled as an NWSL regular season game. Chicago entered the game in sixth place in the NWSL, with Louisville in ninth.  Despite the difference in positioning, Louisville were only five points behind their opponents with two fewer games played in the league. 

Louisville has had its struggles at times this season, as one would expect of any expansion team.  The newly composed team has been going up against clubs that have been in existence and played together for several seasons.  Some adjustment as they find their playing style and synergy was expected.  However, its most recent form has been promising and improving.

English import Ebony Salmon opened the scoring for the hosts in the second semi-final match.  Stealing the ball from Red Stars defender Danielle Colaprico, she then nutmegged their goalkeeper to score. 

.@ebony_salmon: professional pick-pocketer pic.twitter.com/7SKXrojd7F— Racing Louisville FC (@RacingLouFC) August 19, 2021


The high tempo game continued, with Louisville holding most of the possession. However, it was Chicago who had more shots and shots on goal in the match.  They finally capitalized in the 57th minute of play with a Kealia Watt goal.

After 90 minutes of play, drawn at 1-1, both teams proceeded to penalties like the first semi-final of the tournament.  The hosts came out on top, also winning the shoot-out in the sixth round of kicks by a margin of 5-4.  This was done in front of a record crowd of 7,310 individuals.  

Today will be the continuation of the exciting first year of existence for Racing Louisville.  Another double header event, the Chicago Red Stars will face PSG in the first match for the third place crown.  This will be followed by the first place Munich-Louisville game.  The hosts will surely hope to not only beat their attendance record, but also Bayern Munich in front of their new fans.

Speaking of the prospect of facing such a high calibre team in their first year of existence, Racing Coach Christy Holly stated:  “It is one of the clubs that I have admired and have a great level of appreciation for what they’ve done for the women’s game but also the game worldwide.  To see the headlines that Racing Louisville is playing Bayern Munich in Louisville on Saturday night, I’m not sure there were too many people who would’ve believed that if you told them 18 months ago.

Above: Ebony Salmon (left) in action for Racing Louisville in the Women’s Cup in midweek. Photo: Equalizer Soccer.

“That’s a testament to the fans that have been supporting us and the ownership that has invested in us not only money but time, energy and motivation to move this thing forward to give this incredible platform for women’s athletes. It’s a magnificent privilege but one that we definitely want to take advantage of and try and make a statement for this club and this city.”

The third placed game will kick off at 3PM ET/ 8PM BST on Saturday, August 21.  This will be followed by the final will take place at 6PM ET/ 11PM BST.   Games will be available on Paramount+ in the USA, PSG and BM networks in France, Germany, Switzerland and Austria and ATA Football elsewhere.

Should the final result go in Louisville’s favour, it will be a remarkable win for a nascent club.  It would be a great reward for all the efforts put forward off the field. It would prove to be a victory that has met the original ambition set by the club when it was created 18 months ago.  Ultimately though, what we have already seen coming out of Louisville off the field, including this Women’s Cup tournament, those are the real winners.

Notes From North America

Above: England star Jodie Taylor who made a big impact for Orlando Pride in the latest round of matches. Photo: Orlando Sentinel.

Impetus’ North American Women’s Football expert Catherine Paquette brings us up to date with all the action from the NWSL (17/8/21).

Five National Women’s Soccer League matches were disputed last weekend.  As has been the situation for a few weeks now, Portland Thorns entered the weekend top of the table with seven points separating them from the rest of the league. The second to eighth placed teams were separated by only four points.  Racing Louisville was in ninth place with 14 points and Kansas City were bottom of the league with 4 points, still chasing their first franchise win.

All of teams had played 12-14 of their 24 regular season matches, with the league entering the final third of its 2021 season.  The battle is therefore intensifying.  Under the new 2021 league changes, the top six teams make the play-off rounds.  All are therefore within a reasonable range of reaching of that goal with the exception of Kansas City.  They would arguably have to win nearly all games remaining, a difficult ask considering their record.

The first match occurred on Friday between the Houston Dash and the Washington Spirit.  At seventh and eight in the league, both teams were just below the play-off positions. The game marked the 150th regular season appearance of Tori Huster, the only member of Washington’s squad to have been with the franchise since it started in the NWSL in 2013.  It was her team that were first to find a goal.  In the eight minute of play Paige Nielsen received a deflected ball off a corner and then struck a fantastic curving shot into the net. 


Nielsen then went from goal scorer to goal saver several minutes later when she headed wide a ball being crossed into the box.  While both teams had chances in the rest of the first half, fans had to wait until the 54th minute for a second goal.   Huster celebrated her appearance milestone by taking the ball, making an impressive run and then sending a rocket shot into the net to put the Spirit up 2-0.  

As is often said in football, the worst lead is being up 2-0.  This was the case for Washington on Friday.  Six minutes after the second goal, the Dash got their first of the evening when Veronica Latsko put in a ball off a corner.  The highlight of the night though came courtesy of Michaela Abam.  A product of the Dynamo & Dash Youth soccer club, Abam is the first homegrown player to have been signed by Houston.

Eleven minutes after her debut for her hometown club, Abam stole the ball off a Spirit defender and proceeded to take a successful shot on goal.  Her equalizer was the last goal of the game and helped save a needed point for the Dash. It ended 2-2.


The second match of the weekend occurred on Saturday between the Orlando Pride and the Portland Thorns.  It was the third meeting this year between both clubs, with each having won a previous game 2-1.  The Pride had announced that Alex Morgan would be unavailable for the foreseeable future, after having picked up an injury during the bronze medal match of the Olympics.  The mid-season signing of striker Jodie Taylor last month was therefore not just a good move on the part of Orlando, but also an essential one at this point in their season.

It paid off 13 minutes into the game.  Courtney Petersen, who has been one of the principal sources of creation for the Pride this year, made a fantastic cross into the box which Taylor expertly headed in.  The Thorns did not let this deter them though.  A team known for not enjoying being on the back foot, they started a series of attacks on Orlando’s goal.  Ashlyn Harris, who has been in spectacular form this year, made a number of key saves to keep her team in the lead. 


The Pride for their part also went on the offence again with Petersen being the primary creator of chances. However, it was her Thorns counterpart Megan Klingenberg who stood out.  Klingenberg has had a fantastic 2021 season, placing herself amongst the top players in the league for progressive passes, passes into the box, expected assists, progressive runs and crosses.  

In this game latest game, she was the best player on the field. It was her fantastic set piece into the box that set up Simone Charley’s equalizing header.  The match finished 1-1, ending Portland’s four match winning streak. 


The second Saturday match was between Kansas City and the OL Reign.  The meeting was between a winless franchise in KC, who had recently acquired new talent, and a talent packed team in the Reign, who had been successful of late but inconsistent during the year. It was their first match under new manager Laura Harvey who had previously been with the club for the first four years of its existence.

The game was an intense one, not reflective of what can be a dominant team meeting a winless one.  The change in KC formation, their new players and their loud home fans, bolstered their attack.  While they were more direct in their forward progression than l’OL, KC had a very offensive night.  Lo’eau Lobonta had one of her best games of the season, looking seemingly free on the right hand side of the pitch. Despite having less possession than the visitors, KC registered more shots.

The home team contained the Reign by stopping their transition, playing a very physical game, where the OL midfield were given little space and time, thus restraining the Reign from playing in their usual fluid passing style. It paid off.  In the 72nd minute a deflected KC free kick found Victoria Pickett who scored the only game of the match.  Kansas City finally got their first franchise win.


The first match on Sunday was between NJNYGotham FC and Racing Louisville FC.  Racing were the ones to open the attempts on goal.  Ebony Salmon had a tremendous shot that hit the crossbar in the seventh minute.  Not long afterwards, she received a pass into the box from Cece Kizer and instead of being selfish and taking a shot on goal she passed it to Nadia Nadim who scored against her former club.  

Salmon nearly made it two in the 26th minute but was stopped by returning Canadian gold medalist goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan.  Gotham for their part were also offensive.  Ifeoma Onunomu, who has been a real attacking threat for NJNY all season, made a great pass in the box in the 36th minute that met Elizabeth Eddy’s head.  It was deflected away though. 

Onumonu would have to wait until the 83rd minute of the game to find an equalizer with a rocket shot in to the top goal.  The game would end 1-1.  The player of the match though for Gotham was Allie Long.  The midfielder had a 98.3% pass accuracy off 60 passes.  

The last match of the weekend was between the North Carolina Courage and the Chicago Red Stars.  The game was originally delayed nearly an hour due to weather and took place in very wet conditions.  The only goal of the match came in the 40th minute.  North Carolina were awarded a penalty off a Chicago Red Stars handball.  New player Amy Rodriguez confidently put it in.

While the Courage had a greater percentage of possession and greater pass accuracy throughout the match, the Red Stars were fully capable of attacking.  The best performer for North Carolina was arguably their goalkeeper Casey Murphy. Despite the wet conditions she made a number of key saves to keep her team in the lead.  She deserves to share the player of the match award with the fans, who stayed out in the rain for more than 90 minutes. 

So after this weekend some things have changed in the NWSL.  Several teams moved up in the table, the Thorns’ lead has been minimized and KC are not winless.  The upcoming week will see four games disputed. Three will occur next weekend between the North Carolina Courage v Kansas City, the OL Reign v Gotham FC and the Washington Spirit v the Orlando Pride. One midweek game will occur this Wednesday between Racing Louisville and the Chicago Red Stars.  The game will also double as a match in The Women’s Cup exhibition tournament.  Prior to it, Paris Saint Germain will face FC Bayern Munich.  The losers of both matches will face each other in a third place game on Saturday, followed by the winners of both matches in the Cup’s first placed game. The Portland Thorns and the Houston Dash will face l’Olympique Lyonnais and FC Barcelona in the Women’s International Champions Cup in the coming week.  Like the Women’s Cup it will start this Wednesday with both teams European teams facing each other followed by both American teams.  Again like the Women’s Cup the losers of both matches will face each other in a third place game on Saturday followed by the winners of both matches in the WICC’s first placed game.

Notes From North America

Above: Fifteen year-old Olivia Moultrie, who made her NWSL debut for Portland Thorns last weekend. Photo: Equaliser Soccer.

Impetus’ North American Women’s Football expert Catherine Paquette brings us up to date with all the action from the NWSL both on and off the pitch (13/8/21).

It has been a busy week and a half in the National Women’s Soccer League.  After the dismissal of Gotham FC general manager Alysa LaHue last month, the NJ/NY based club announced former player Yael Averbuch West was named as interim GM and head of soccer operations last week.  

This week saw the suspension of Washington Spirit head coach Richie Burke.  The club had originally announced this Tuesday that Burke had stepped down from his position due to health reasons and had been moved to the front office.  However, a further announcement from the Spirit organization occurred on Wednesday stating that Burke had been suspended.  

The second announcement came after the Washington Post reported alleged long standing abusive behaviour by Burke against present and former players.  The Post’s article stated that Burke had a pattern of behaviour which included insults, tirades, abusive treatment and racist and homophobic language.  An inappropriate contact incident in last weekend’s game against one of his players, Ashley Hatch, has also come to light. 

One former Spirit player, Kaiya McCullough, has since come out publicly to discuss the verbal and emotional abuse which she suffered at the hands of her former coach.  The abuse was so great that McCullough said she lost all her love of soccer and it ultimately led her to retire from the sport last fall.  

SB Nation’s Black and Red United reported that this abusive nature may have predated Burke’s hire at the Spirit.  When first appointed head coach in 2019, the publication wrote of several incidents of inappropriate behaviour.  The first occurred while Burke was a youth coach with FC Virginia.  Another player also came forward from their time with the DC United U-23 PDL 2015 squad.  They both stated alleged abusive incidents by Burke which included insulting, homophobic, sexist and violent outbursts.  

The U-23 PDL player in question stated that Burke’s then assistant-coach Tom Torres witnessed this abuse and did not act upon it.  Torres went on to coach with Burke at the Spirit until last year, when he left to pursue other interests.  The Athletic though have reported that this departure had been preceded by intoxicated inappropriate comments directed at players at a post-NWSL Challenge Cup party.  

Above: Richie Burke – suspended by Washington Spirit. Photo: Black and Red United.

Both the Washington Spirit and the NWSL have since stated they have opened a pending investigation into the allegations against Burke during his time with the capital region club.  The Spirit have since put Kris Ward and Paul Crichton, both current assistant coaches, as interim head coaches while they start a search for a replacement.

While the recent incidents may seem bleak, NWSL player’s association director Meghann Burke stated their importance. Speaking of the incident she told The Athletic “What we are seeing this season is the beginning of a reckoning.  The Players Association will continue to work towards creating an environment in the NWSL that is worthy of the people who play in and support it.”

The following is a resumé of last weekend’s matches.

The first match of last weekend’s NWSL was between NJNY Gotham FC and the North Carolina Courage.  In the tight league table, both teams were looking for a win to try to catch up to the first placed Portland Thorns.  

The first part of the match was a good two way game between both sides.  While the Courage had slightly more possession, neither team threatened in the final third.  This changed in the 38th minute.  Carson Pickett provided a great cross into the box.  After a block from the goalkeeper, Meredith Speck put it in for her first NWSL goal.  A few more chances occurred on both sides, however neither team was able to convert.  The Courage won the match 1-0.  

North Carolina’s Carson Pickett deserves a mention not just for her contribution in the last match but also for her form this year.  Joining the Courage from the Orlando Pride prior to this season, she has gone on to flourish with her new side.  In a team packed with talent, she has become not just the Courage’s but one of the league’s most effective attackers.  So far this season she leads the NWSL in progressive passes, with 70 more than any other NWSL player, and passes into the final third.  This past weekend she also played the full 90 minute despite picking a serious injury to her thumb that will require surgery.  Pickett is proving that development, progression, and grit are alive and well in the league.

The second match of last Saturday was between the Washington Spirit and the Portland Thorns.  15-year-old Olivia Moultrie, the youngest player to ever play in the league, started her first NWSL match for the Thorns.  It proved to be an inspired decision.  Despite her young age and professional inexperience, she showed her attacking abilities.  Her first shot on goal came just six minutes into the match and narrowly wide of Washington’s net.  She then supplied a fantastic ball into the box in the 29 minute which was headed in by Simone Charley. 

The Thorns’ defensive capabilities were also on full display in the last match.  While their offensive prowess and creativity are often mentioned, Portland’s defence has been an equal strength this season.  This defensive force starts with their press and goes all the way to their backline.  Just this past game they won 62% of all duels, 11 shots, and 64% of all tackles.  Spirit attackers Ashley Sanchez and Ashley Hatch, who have both had a fantastic month while international players have been away at the Olympics, were relatively restrained this past weekend. 

It is this defensive capability that has ensured Portland’s stay at the top of the league.  This past match also saw perhaps the nicest demonstration of defensive heroics this season. When it looked like Trinity Rodman would put it in for the Spirit, The Thorns’ Christine Westphal came flying in to block her shot.  The match ended 1-0 for Portland. 

The final Saturday match was between the OL Reign and the Houston Dash. The Reign started their 2021 season slowly.  After registering just three wins in their first ten games, in which they found the back of the net only six times, they have changed their fortunes in the last three weeks. Their talent-packed squad started to find their attacking power and have scored nine goals in three consecutive victories.  

The latest game can only be described as a Reign first half goal-fest.  Bethany Balcer opened the scoring account in the 6th minute of play.  Sofia Huerta doubled the score several minutes later.  The Dash were able to get one in though.  Shea Groom showed some fancy footwork, beating off her defender, before taking her shot on goal.  It was deflected off Alana Cook before going in to make the score 2-1.

Eugénie Le Sommer then made it 3-1 for the Reign when she was able to put her own blocked rebound in.  The goal of the game then came courtesy of Jess Fishlock.  She picked up the ball just inside the Dash’s half before striking an amazing long-range effort into the net.  Balcer made it 5-1 several minutes before the first half ended. This was the final result.

Sunday saw two games being played. Racing Louisville met KC in the first match.  Louisville were looking to turn around their form after a month of July with three losses and one draw.  KC for their part were still looking for their first franchise win.  

Louisville dominated the first 15 minutes with the majority of the possession. However, it was KC who registered the first shot on goal.  Despite this fact, Racing were the more attacking force of the game.  They were able to get ahead in the 43rd minute.  

The wonderful team goal started in the Racing half.  Savannah McCaskill made a run with the ball out of her box.  She then passed it into Emily Fox, who passed it back to McCaskill who was making an overlapping run.  McCaskill made a one-touch pass to Nadia Nadim who passed it back to McCaskill who was continuing her run.  The play ended with McCaskill sending in a cross which was then deflected in by Ebony Salmon.  

KC were able to get a goal just before the half ended.  Kiki Pickett, who has been one of the bright spots for KC, put in a cross.  After a rebound, Darian Jenkins equalized.  Upon her return from the half, McCaskill produced another bit of brilliant work when she was able to fight off her defender and send in a cross that found Nadim.  She headed it home to put Louisville in the lead.  The final goal of the match was another Racing spectacle.  Cheyna Matthews stole the ball off a KC defender, beat goalkeeper Rowlands and then walked the ball into the net.  Racing won the game 3-1.

Racing’s person of the match was Savannah McCaskill.  A terrific creative force, McCaskill has often been inconsistent during her time in the NWSL.  However, she seems to be settling in well with Louisville.  This game was her best one for her new side.  Not only did she dictate the play for her team and wreak havoc for KC but she also took chances on goal as well.  Racing will be hoping that this becomes her permanent form.  

The last match of the weekend was between the Chicago Red Stars and the Orlando Pride.  The Red Stars started the game by attacking.  The Pride were able to gain some control after the 15th minute.  For the second week in a row defender Ali Krieger provided a fantastic ball in for her attacker, this time Jodie Taylor, to finish and score.  

However, the Red Stars did not give up.  Morgan Gautrat’s wonderful 2021 form continued.  The vision, creativity, and passing capabilities that lead her to the USWNT when she was still in college have been on full display.  She was able to give one of those great passes to Mal Pugh in the first half who then turned and shot on goal.  Ashlyn Harris, who has also had terrific 2021 form, showed her goalkeeping skills by stopping it. Sydney Leroux was able to double the Pride’s lead late in the second half.  Erika Tymrak provided a great pass in for Leroux to finish. Putting in her seventh of the year, she became the leading NWSL goalscorer. The Pride won it 2-0. 

The game though was overshadowed by poor refereeing.  Two players from Chicago, Danielle Colaprico and Morgan Gautrat, were forced to leave the field after bad tackles.  Like too many NWSL games, the referee never had a grasp on the game nor the proper judgement to reprimand dangerous tackles.

With these results, Portland has increased their lead at the top of the table with 28 points.  Only four points separate the second-placed North Carolina Courage from the eighth-placed Houston Dash.  KC are still winless at the bottom.  Five matches occur over this coming weekend. 

Notes From North America

Impetus’ North American Women’s Football expert Catherine Paquette brings us up to date with all the action from the NWSL (4/8/21).

While the previous weekend has been overshadowed by Olympic football, the National Women’s Soccer League continued play in the United States.  After a bye-weekend, Racing Louisville and KC NWSL returned to the field and five matches were played on Saturday and Sunday.

They were important to nearly all teams.  Entering the weekend, just six points separated the top and seventh positioned teams.  It also represented the halfway point of the 24-match regular season for most involved.  

The first match of the weekend was between the fifth ranked North Carolina Courage and the seventh ranked Orlando Pride.  Both teams were looking for a win after not having had one in the previous three for the Courage and previous five for the Pride. The Pride were also in their first game under new interim manager Becky Burleigh.

The first half was largely a story of two teams trying to build up attacks but unsuccessful in converting in the final third.  The deadlock was broken in the second half by Orlando.  Fullback Ali Krieger stole the ball off a Carolina attacker and then made an incredible half field run before supplying a perfectly weighted ball to Sydney Leroux who scored.

It did not take long for Carolina to respond though.  New acquisition Amy Rodriguez crossed the ball into the 18 yard box.  It found Meredith Speck who then smartly passed to an open Brittany Ratcliffe who beat her defender and put it home.  The game finished a 1-1 draw.

The second match of the day was between the OL Reign and Racing Louisville FC.  After a difficult period midway through the beginning of the season, the Reign had started to find its winning ways again.  Racing was hoping the boost from newly arrived striker Nadia Nadim would bring life to their scoring, having found the back of the net once in the previous three winless matches. 

However, this game became all about Reign’s foreign striking import.  Eugénie Le Sommer, the prolific Lyon attacker on loan to the Reign for the season, had yet to score in her first six NWSL appearances.  This game was the one she would change that, with incredible form.  Her first goal came in the 28th minute when she beat her defender, literally making her slip, before shooting the ball into the top of net.  She then doubled the score in the 43rd minute after burying a ball received off a wonderful Jess Fishlock delivery.  The game would conclude 2-0 for the Reign.

The first match of the Sunday was between the Portland Thorns and KC NWSL.  KC remained bottom of the table while they were still trying to find their first franchise win.  Conversely, Portland who were top of the table wanted to remain number one.  

KC were lifted by their three newly acquired former North Carolina players, Kristen Hamilton, Hailey Mace and goalkeeper Katelyn Rowlands.  All were in the starting lineup.  While their introduction has helped KC up front and in goal, the new franchise still struggles and can be very disjointed between the lines.  They are able to create chances, but more often than not those are missed.

The Portland test, in their stadium, was never going to be easy for KC.  The Thorns opened the scoring in the 10th minute when Meghan Klingenberg’s shot on goal deflected off Kristen Edmonds and went in for an own goal.  They then doubled their account when Sophia Smith put in a cross that was deflected in by teammate Marissa Everett.  The score finished 2-0 with Portland retaining their dominance halfway through the season and KC remaining winless.

The second match on Sunday was between the Chicago Red Stars and the Washington Spirit.  The Spirit overall controlled the match, having more of the ball, a greater pass accuracy and more shots than the Red Stars.  Their coach’s insistence on possession once again appeared.  However, it was the Red Stars who came out on top with a greater conversion of chances created. 

The home team went ahead in the 19th minute with a goal from Mallory Pugh.  The striker picked up the ball just after the halfway line and ran the remainder of the pitch, shaking off four attackers, before putting a perfectly placed ball in the bottom corner of the net. After being left out of the USA’s Olympic squad Pugh is once again showing why she first appeared for the USWNT aged 17.

Her teammate Rachel Hill doubled the Red Stars’ lead just before half time when she was able to deflect a loose ball that had come off a corner into the net.  The Spirit would not give up though.  New prolific Spirit rookie Trinity Rodman decided to show that Pugh was not the only striker on the field who could make half field runs and finishes, scoring an equally impressive goal in the 72nd minute.

The Spirit tried to equalize in the minutes after Rodman’s goal, with a great strike by Ashley Sanchez which needed an intervention by Red Stars keeper Cassie Miller.  However, in the 80th minute, Washington were penalized for a handball in their box.  Chicago’s Morgan Gautrat was able to put it in for what became a final score of 3-1 for the Red Stars.

The last match of the weekend was between the Houston Dash versus NJNY Gotham FC.  Despite taking place at 6pm local time, the temperature on the field were close to 100F/38C. The scorcher did not stop either team from playing an intense game with both creating a number of chances on goal.   The first half saw a particularly productive Veronica Latsko and Ifeoma Onumonu, who made several dangerous runs and strikes on goal for both the Dash and Gotham respectively.  

The opening of the scoring though had to wait until the second half.  Gabby Seiler found the back of the net in the 52nd minute after a ball which came from a corner was deflected off a header towards her.  The introduction of teammate Bri Visalli five minutes later greatly increased Houston’s offensive drives, particularly on the right hand side where Visalli was operating.

However, it was Gotham’s offence who would convert next, with Onumonu finally finding the back of the net after a game of close but missed chances. The goal was a great team goal, built up through a series of passes which culminated in a Delani Sheehan pass to Onumonu just outside the box, who then right footed it home from a difficult angle.  

After this previous weekend’s play, a number of teams rose and a number fell.  New franchises KC and Racing are now bottom of the table.  Only nine points separate first and eight placed though with Portland remaining top of the table.  This upcoming weekend will see another five game match schedule spread over the Saturday-Sunday.

Notes From North America

Impetus’ North American Women’s Football expert Catherine Paquette brings us up to date with all the action from the latest two rounds of the NWSL (27/7/21).

It has been a busy two weeks in the National Women’s Soccer League, especially with regards to management.  

Gotham FC manager Alyse LaHue was let go on July 9th by the organization.  LaHue’s management was widely considered as a major reason for the team’s increase in standards and performance since her arrival in 2018.  The team stated she was no longer employed after an investigation “into a complaint of violation of league policy.”  LaHue’s attorney released a statement that she denied the allegations and had no further comment.

After the resignation of OL Reign head coach Farid Benstiti in early July, the OL Reign have appointed Laura Harvey as their new head coach.  Harvey has extensive coaching experience in both England and the US, at both the domestic and national team level.  This will be her second stint in charge of the Washington based club, having previously been head coach from 2013-2017.  At present she is with the USWNT, as an assistant to Vlatko Antonovski, and will remain with the side until the end of their Olympic campaign.  Sam Laity, who has been with the franchise since its inception, will continue to serve as interim manager until she returns.

Above: Marc Skinner who has departed Orlando Pride. Photo: Mane Land.

The Orlando Pride have also lost their head coach, after the abrupt resignation of Marc Skinner last week.  Skinner is currently rumoured to be a contender for Manchester United’s vacant head coaching position.  His assistant Carl Green managed the July 24 match against the Reign, with the Pride appointing Becky Burleigh as interim head coach on Sunday.  Burleigh will remain in place until the search for a new head coach is completed.

Manchester United’s former head coach Casey Stoney has been named the head coach of new NWSL franchise San Diego.  She, alongside newly appointed general manager Molly Downtain, will take the next few months to prepare San Diego’s team for their inaugural 2022 season.

Several players were traded and sent on loan.  The OL Reign have announced the loans of Nicole Momiki to Linköpings FC until the end of the calendar year and Cosette Morché to GPSO 92 Issy FC until July 2022.

KC and the North Carolina Courage announced a huge trade involving four players last week.  KC captain Amy Rodrigues was traded alongside $60,000 of allocation money to the Courage in exchange for Kristen Hamilton, Katelyn Rowland and Hailie Mace.

July 17-18

Four matches occurred over two weekends ago.  Racing Louisville and KC were both given a bye week.

The first match of the weekend was between the North Carolina Courage and the Houston Dash.  It ended 2-1 in the Dash’s favour, a huge win for them as they had never won at Carolina and had only one other recorded win against the Courage in their franchise history.

The opening goal was scored by Shea Groom, off a pass from a Veronica Latsko interception. It was also Groom’s hundredth NWSL regular season appearance.  Carolina’s Kriston Hamilton equalized.  However, the winning goal came from a Gabbie Seiler free kick, and it was one for the highlight reel.

The first game on July 18th was between the Washington Spirit and Gotham FC.  A controversial red card, which was later overturned on appeal, was given to Washington’s Sam Staab in the seventh minute. However, the 10-woman Spirit did not give up.  Their rookie Trinity Rodman opened the scoring after receiving a great deep ball wide from captain Andi Sullivan.  Gotham’s Naho Kawasumi and McCall Zerboni both then scored in the first half for Gotham to give NJNY the lead.

For the second week in a row Ashley Sanchez kept showing her skill, this time producing her own amazing free kick goal to give the Spirit the equalizer.  However, Midge Purce would then score the winner for Gotham in the 76th minute.  They won the match 3-2.

The Chicago Red Stars then faced the OL Reign.  The match became one for the record books due to the most bizarre of situations.  While Cecila Delgado Jimene opened the scoring for the OL Reign and Mal Pugh won the match for the Red Stars by supplying their third goal, the other two goals were own goals by the Reign for the Red Stars.

These two OG were the fourth and fifth consecutive OGs that the Red Stars have had this season, a record for any NWSL team ever.  In fact, prior to Pugh’s winning goal the Red Stars had 10 goals for scored in the 2021 regular season, half of which were supplied by the opposition.  The final score was 3-1 for the Red Stars.

The final match of the weekend was between the Portland Thorns and the Orlando Pride.  This match was all Portland.  While both teams are missing players to the Olympics, the gaps were much more heavily felt by the Pride.  The Thorns outshot their opposition 20 to six.  Were it not for the heroics of Pride keeper Ashlyn Harris, including another penalty save this match, the final score could have been worse.

The opening goal came courtesy of Sophia Smith, who is really getting a chance to shine during this Olympic period.  After a fantastic run where she fended off four defenders, she took a cracker of a shot on goal from just outside the box to score.  

The second Portland goal was just as brilliant.  Thorns taliswoman Meghan Klingenberg served the ball into the Orlando box in the 58th minute where it found the head of Marissa Everett.  The Pride did get a conciliation goal in the fifth minute of added time, when a cross found Marisa Viggiano who smashed it in.  The final score was 2-1 for the Thorns.

July 23-25 

The first match of the weekend was between KC NWSL and the North Carolina Courage.  It was an emotional match marred by a number of injuries as well as players missing due to the Olympics or COVID-19 protocols. Additionally, several recently traded players were making their debuts.

For KC it was a positive game, after having struggled this maiden year.  They dominated possession and shots, this despite converting players in some positions and the addition of three players who had joined the squad the day prior.  The Courage did not make the game easy for them, supplying a few shots on goal that nearly won the match.  The game finished 0-0.

The first match on July 24th was between the Orlando Pride and the OL Reign.  After a fantastic start to the season, the Pride lost their fourth match in their last five games.  Both teams were being managed by interim coaches.  While possession was nearly equal the more threatening team was the Reign with the Pride failing to produce a single shot on goal all night.

The Reign struck early in both halves.  A steal in the final third by Tziarra King in the 10th minute of the match was cleanly passed to Jess Fishlock.  She then turned and smoothly shot it home.  King proved deadly again in the second half, being the one to cleanly finish a pass from Eugenie Le Sommer.  The Reign won the match 2-0.

Above: Jess Fishlock – in fine form for OL Reign. Photo: Sounder At Heart.

The second match of the 24th was between the Houston Dash and the Portland Thorns.  Smith proved deadly for the second week in a row, providing a goal in the first minute of the match to put the Thorns up 1-0.  It turned out to be the only goal of the game and continued the Thorns’ unbeaten franchise run against the Houston Dash. 

The first match of July 25th was between Gotham FC and the Chicago Red Stars.  Gotham were the more dominant team, controlling possession.  The first half saw opportunities on both sides.  However, Gotham was able to capitalize on a short handed Red Stars, one player being off due to injury, with Allie Long getting their first goal in the added time of the opening half.  

The second half saw an increase in pace and chances.  A tackle by Bianca St George on Purce resulted in a penalty kick.  Purce would convert it to put the NJNY team up by two.  The Red Stars would score in the 95th minute, but it was too little too late.   Sadly for the Red Stars it appears that Own Goal has departed them and joined the USWNT in Japan, having supplied two of the American’s goals in their match against the Football Ferns. 

The last match of the weekend was between Racing Louisville FC and the Washington Spirit.       Both teams had a relatively solid game, each producing a large number of shots on goal.  However, costly mistakes lead to Louisville’s downfall.  

Above: Racing Louisville’s Ebony Salmon – the Lioness and former Bristol City star continues to play well in the NWSL. Photo: Racing Louisville FC

A passing error by Racing led to Ashley Hatch, who scored a brace two weekends ago, opening the account with a goal in the fifth minute of play.  Her teammate Sam Staab doubled Washington’s score in the 58th minute again off a Louisville mistake.  The hosts had a number of chances themselves but were not able to convert.  Washington won the match 2-0.

After two weeks, the table has changed significantly, however two things remain the same.  KC NWSL remains at the bottom of the table and is still searching for their first franchise win.  Meanwhile at the top of the table, with the Portland Thorns at the lead, only six points separate the first and the seventh position. 

The National Women’s Soccer League is still wide open.

Notes From North America

Catherine Paquette casts her expert eye over Round Eight of the NWSL and highlights all the moments that mattered (15/7/21).

All ten National Women’s Soccer League clubs were in action last weekend.  At this point in the summer, all Olympic bound internationals, except two Kiwis who were controversially held back by their clubs, were missing from the starting line-ups.

While many do ask why the NWSL does not take an Olympic break like the Swedish or Norwegian leagues do, something that could be expected given the more than 30 NWSL players departed for what could be more than a month and a half of international duty, a closer examination of the NWSL schedule easily explains why.

At present the NWSL’s regular season is expected to go until the end of October.  The play-offs, which this year has three rounds including the final, will extend the post-season into late November. 

Several northern NWSL clubs can expect to have temperatures at that time nearing freezing.  The Chicago Red Stars and New Jersey/New York Gotham FC are located in areas that have even had snow on the ground in mid-November.  From a climate perspective, it is just impossible to extend the season.

Moreover, for avid long time viewers of the NWSL the lack of World Cup and Olympic breaks have always been a positive thing.  The NWSL is a notoriously difficult league to break into for novice players.  The parity of the league and intense competition leaves very little leeway for player development. 

The World Cup and Olympic summers offer a unique opportunity for players on the periphery, or players who may not stand out when international teammates are around, to break into the first team or even get a chance to shine.

Many NWSL mainstay players got their break during these summer openings.  Previous years have seen present day superstars such as Crystal Dunn, Lynn Williams and even Jess Fishlock given the space to individually shine.  

For a league often overshadowed by big international names, the World Cup and Olympic game NWSL periods give fans a chance to really see talent that may otherwise go overlooked.  This past weekend lived up to this expectation.

The first match occurred on Friday between the Orlando Pride and Racing Louisville. Both teams were coming off a loss, and a tumble in the league table.  Expansion side Louisville came out strong to start, dominating the early possession.

Their 20-year-old signing from Bristol City, Ebony Salmon, continued her wonderful NWSL form.  Salmon broke the nil-nil deadlock in the twenty-first minute and put Racing up 1-0.  It was her third goal of the season.

The real drama in the game came in the fourth minute of second half added time.  Looking as if they were headed for another loss, Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris ventured into Louisville’s half to recuperate the ball.  Harris then struck a deep cross into Racing’s box.  After making contact with Taylor Kornieck’s head, it found the boot of Sydney Leroux who struck it home.  The Pride saved the point with seconds to go with the match ended at 1-1.

The Saturday match was between the Washington Spirit and the North Carolina Courage.  The relatively young Spirit side proved they could compete with a Courage side packed with seasoned players. The final score for the match was 2-0 to Washington due to a brace by Ashley Hatch.

A Washington player who stuck out though during this match was attacker Ashley Sanchez.  Sanchez decided to make the daring decision in 2020 of leaving UCLA and declaring for the NWSL draft a year early.  While she was surprisingly picked fourth overall, lower than expected, her form in this match showed why she could have easily gone first.

Sanchez created several chances for her teammates during the game, wreaking havoc on the seasoned North Carolina midfield and defence.  In total she took seven shots, including three shots on goal.  Sanchez was unlucky due to a brilliant stop by Courage keeper Casey Murphy and two post hits.  However, should she continue her form during the rest of the Olympic game period, she could easily turn out to be one of the new NWSL breakout stars.

Another player who played very well during this game was her teammate Andi Sullivan.  Sullivan has been on the brink of a consistent place in the USWNT for several years now.  However, while she has 18 caps for the team, she has yet to make a major tournament squad.  

The maturity and vision Sullivan is displaying this season though as Spirit captain may change this in the future. Playing in a more traditional defensive midfield role, Sullivan is becoming the team metronome, essential to both their defensive and offensive capabilities.  

Perhaps her best display of this defensive vision and the ability to be an offensive threat came with Washington’s second goal.  Spotting a bad pass midway in her own half she stole the ball and then made a half a pitch long run before her assist pass to Ashley Hatch.  Like Sanchez, this Olympic period could be her big break.

The first of the Sunday matches was between the Portland Thorns and the New Jersey/New York Gotham FC.  Overall it was a very defensive affair which ended in a 0-0 draw.

While the Thorn’s defence were better at limiting Gotham’s shots, to eleven total and two on goal, the Gotham defence and keeper for their part showed fantastic displays of defensive heroics. 

Despite twice as many shots and three times as many shots on goal by the Thorns, none were able to breach Didi Haraicic’s goal.  

Both Portland keeper Casey Murphy and Gotham keeper Didi Haracic have long been backup keepers in the NWSL.  With their respective first team goalkeepers away with the US and Canada for the Tokyo Olympics, it could give both the opportunity to show their abilities over the next month.

Above: Action from Portland Thorns v New Jersey/New York Gotham FC. Photo: courtesy of Craig Mitchelldyer / Portland Thorns FC)

The second match of the day was between the Chicago Red Stars and the Houston Dash. It finished with the most bizarre set of circumstances.

Both teams have shown inconsistent form this season. While the Red Stars did show a more promising start in this game, they still continued to struggle offensively.  The Dash for their part struggled with a number of their biggest offensive players away on international Olympic duty.  

They did however find a way to break through the Red Stars defence early in the second half.  A great long run by forward Jasmyne Spencer past a number of Chicago defenders was then passed to Veronica Latsko who found the back of the net. 

However, what then ensued is the bizarre part.  A Chicago free kick in the seventy-third minute was accidentally deflected by Houston defender Shea Groom into her own net. Her teammate Katie Naughton then also found the back of her own net three minutes later.

The Red Stars won the match 2-1 despite not having a single shot on goal.

The final match of the weekend was between the OL Reign and Kansas City.  The Reign won the affair 2-0.

Both teams have struggled to find form this season.  The Reign’s troubles seemed to be due to their inability to find form in the final third while KC has struggled to find form at all.  

The Reign looked a lot better this game compared to previous matches.  The connection and passing displays that have been on show for a while continued this game but were finally matched with offensive completion.  

They opened their scoring account in the third minute of the match. A mistake by an otherwise outstanding KC goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart was intercepted and put in by Reign striker Bethany Balcer.  

Balcer found the back of Barnhart’s net a second time in the first half.  A great team play by OL led to a cross into the box and a perfectly timed Balcer run.  Her header put the Reign up 2-0.

Drama occurred in the sixty-ninth minute of the second half.  Reign goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi ran out of her net and intercepted a run by KC forward Jéssica Silva.  The referee deemed it a denial of a goalscoring opportunity and handed a red card to Bouhaddi.

Despite being up against a 10-person Reign though, KC were not able to capitalize in the final twenty minutes of the game.  They barely created any opportunities despite the one woman advantage.  

This leads us to this upcoming weekend.  Eight teams will meet in four matches.  So far each NWSL team has played 9-10 matches. What is striking in the league standings is the parity within the NWSL.  

From the first to the seventh position there are only three points separating the teams.  There are six points separating first and ninth position.  With the notable exception of KC, this league is still wide open.

Notes From North America

Catherine Paquette casts her expert eye over Round Seven of the NWSL and highlights all the moments that mattered (6/7/21).

This past NWSL weekend was a foresight, arguably of things to come.  It was the first weekend where some of the internationally selected Olympic players were absent on national team preparation duty. 

The remaining Olympians departed this week and will be gone for at least the next month.  In total more than three starting line-ups worth of NWSL players will be heading to Tokyo.  The only team unaffected is Racing Louisville.

Teams are allowed to temporarily bolster their squads during this loss.  Some, the OL Reign for example, have planned ahead and arranged loans which will last through the expected Olympic period.  Others have signed replacement players on short term contracts.

The weekend gave us a first glimpse though of teams without some of their most skilled talent.

Friday had six teams meet in three fixtures.  The first of the long weekend saw the Chicago Red Stars get their third win of the year, on the road, against the Washington Spirit.  The winning goal was poked in by Kayla Sharples in the 33rd minute of the match off a corner.  

Chicago’s striker Kealia Watt, who looked significantly more offensive this match than any other all season, should have been given the second of the match.  It was erroneously not called as a goal after the ball bounced back into play from inside the net and was missed by the touchline referee.

Above: Washington Spirit’s Ashley Sanchez goes for goal . Photo: AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Overall though, it was not a great match for either team.  The Red Stars have had an erratic start to the beginning of the season, playing a dull brand of football often littered with mistakes and a lack of creativity.  While there were moments of respite from that during the last match, suffice to say that overall the Red Stars’ Friday performance was not much of an improvement.  Luckily for them most of their Olympic players had already departed.  The same occurred with the Washington Spirit.

Washington for their part do pass the ball well.  Sadly, that seems to be all they are currently capable of doing.  Their coach Richie Burke has been quoted as saying he wants his team to make 600 passes minimum each game.  While the idea of having a successfully passing team is a good one, if they are hardly hitting the back of the net and are consistently conceding then passing ideals are worthless.

The Spirit have conceded in every match of the year bar one and have yet to play a regular season game this year where their winning margin was greater than one. They are not the worst performing team in the league by far but they still have a ways to go to improve in order to become a dominant, consistent team.

The second match of the weekend was between the Houston Dash and the OL Reign.  Houston still had some Olympic talent who had yet to depart.  The Reign entered the match without their head coach Farid Benstiti, who had resigned the day prior after an abysmal year and a half in charge of the team. Sam Laity, who has been with the Reign since their inception, took over as interim coach.

The resignation did not change the 2021 form of the Reign.  They succumbed to a 2-0 loss to the Dash at home.  The OL Reign were able to show creativity in their build up, as they have done this year, but as always were not able to find space and convert in the final third.  A lot of credit has to go to the Dash’s Jane Campbell, who made a number of great saves.

The Dash for their part slowly built from the back but often looked predictable in their attack.  The Reign, to their credit, were able to keep the Dash contained in their own half for the earlier part of the match. 

Above: Jas Spencer celebrates a goal to remember after returning from injury. Photo: Yi-Chin Lee/Houston Chronicle

However, a great pass from Shea Groom to Jas Spencer led to the Dash’s first goal of the night.  The goal was especially emotional for Spencer who had just made a two year comeback from injury.  She had had an ACL tear at Houston while playing for the Reign in 2019.  Seeing her joy after scoring in the stadium where her career nearly ended was lovely.

The Dash were also able to capitalize later on in the game off a set play.  A great ball in from Sophie Schmidt was headed twice before finding the back of the net.  This is the second assist in two matches for Schmidt who will now depart for Olympic duty with Canada.

The final match of the first day of play actually stretched over two days.  Gotham FC’s game against Kansas City was delayed for more than three hours due to weather conditions and started at 10:20 PM on Friday night.  

A goal from NJ/NY in the middle of the first half by Ifeoma Onumonu resulted in a Gotham lead for most of the game.  Onumonu received the ball in front of goal off a great Midge Purce pass and sent a low curler into the corner of the net.

KC continued to show the struggles they are encountering as an expansion side. Some sloppy passing and mistakes under pressure plagued many of their attacking chances.  However, one cannot fault them for continuing to persevere and not giving up, especially against a Gotham squad that gave a lot of forward pressure and did not leave KC much room to operate.

This perseverance led to what is so far the goal of the season.  KC’s Mariana Larroquette received the ball just inside Gotham’s half.   She then proceeded to pass to herself and then charge towards the goal.  She finished it off with an incredible curling strike after 38 minutes into the top of the net.  There was nothing Gotham’s goalkeeper Didi Haracic could do about it. 

The match ended tied in the early hours of Saturday with a score of 1-1.

The next match occurred later on Saturday.  Portland Thorns were at Racing Louisville without all their American and Canadian internationals.  It was the two sides’ second encounter of the year.  The Thorns had bested Racing 3-0 in the earlier match in June.  

The scoreline for this game would be quite similar. An unlikely foul by Racing’s Yuki Nagasato in the first half led to a converted Raquel Rodriguez penalty for the Thorns.  A second goal, off a clearly well rehearsed set play, was headed home by Simone Charley.

Louisville are still learning a lot as an expansion franchise. While mistakes are still being made by the side and there are a lot of passes to nowhere, they showed they have a lot of good ideas to develop play and are able to follow through with tactical plans. In this match Louisville were able to keep the Thorns compact with a high defensive line for many parts of the match.  As they are not losing any internationals to the Olympics this should keep Louisville more stable over the next month of play.

The big story of this game though was the debut of 15-year-old Olivia Moultrie.  Moultrie, with the support of the Thorns whom she has been training with for the last few years, sued the NWSL for discrimination due to the league’s age restriction.  A judge sided with Moultrie and ordered the league to allow her to sign.

After a bit of drama with regards to discovery rights, which were allocated to the OL Reign after the court injunction and required the Thorns to trade a draft pick to get Moultrie’s rights back, Moultrie signed a professional contract earlier this week.  

A lot had been written about this young player, often described as a prodigy. She was offered a college scholarship at 11 and decided to turn professional at age 13.  Her debut was therefore hotly anticipated.  While she was on the field for only the last 10 minutes of the game, her few touches and runs showed signs of why Portland have been in agreement to allow one so young to turn professional. 

The final match of the weekend was between the Orlando Pride and the North Carolina Courage.  While the Pride have been performing very well for most of the season, this match was not their best.  They are both currently missing significant parts of their squads to international Olympic duty.  The beginning of their match started with severe pressure from the Courage and saw the Pride make many mistakes.

A big one, a bad pass back by Dougherty-Howard in the third minute of play, was well-read by the Courage’s Debinha who picked up the ball and slotted it home.  Things did not improve performance-wise for the Pride who looked very one-dimensional during most of the match.

Their goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris was the one reason that the scoreline did not finish off worse than it was.  Harris made a number of world class saves throughout the match including a penalty save in the 35th minute.

However, Harris’ heroics could only go so far.  A wonderful Courage team goal occurred in the 66th minute.  Angharad James crossed to Lynn Williams who in turn passed it in front of the net for Jessica MacDonald to make a short pass to Havana Solaun who kicked it into the net.

The Pride did try to fight back, with a number of attempts on goal but were unsuccessful in their comeback.  The Courage won the match 2-0 and were propelled to the top of the table. Whether they will be able to keep this position after the remainder of their Olympians leave will be seen.

There are five more matches this upcoming weekend spread over Friday to Sunday.

Don’t miss Catherine‘s round up each Tuesday from the NWSL and keep an eye out for her special articles for Impetus.

Table courtesy of @NWSL

The NWSL – Nine Years Strong

Impetus is delighted to welcome Catherine Paquette, of Her Beautiful Game as our newest writer. Catherine will be producing weekly round ups of the NWSL as well as playing a leading role in our coverage of next season’s FAWSL, international football and many other aspects of women’s football. Here, Catherine gives us all the background to the NWSL (27/6/21).

Nine years.  It is a big number for professional women’s soccer in the United States.  It is big because it represents the National Women’s Soccer League’s current duration.  This number is three times as long as the two other previous professional leagues have lasted.  

This did not happen by chance.  The NWSL was designed to be cost effective, very conservative and originally was supported by the national footballing associations of Mexico, Canada and the United States of America.  These national associations supported it through direct funding and the subsidization of national player salaries allocated to the league. 

A lot has changed since the 2013 debut season though.  Mexico pulled out of the agreement and established its own league in 2017.  Of the eight original franchises, five remain. Three teams folded, one was sold to another market and six new franchises were created.

The league currently has ten franchises playing: the Chicago Red Stars, the Houston Dash, Kansas City, NJ/NY Gotham FC, the North Carolina Courage, the OL Reign, the Portland Thorns, Racing Louisville FC and the Washington Spirit.  Two other new franchises, Angel City FC in Los Angeles and San Diego’s NWSL team are set to join the league in 2022.

The NWSL has not just grown in franchises but also in visibility. In its inaugural year teams averaged 4,270 spectators a match.  In 2019, when stadiums were last allowed at full capacity, this number had nearly doubled.  The Portland Thorns had an average attendance of 20,098 people, with a season high of 25,218 their stadium’s capacity.

While the first year of the NWSL had nearly every game broadcast for free on YouTube with sometimes very low resolution, one can now watch nearly every game on CBS or Paramount+ in the US and on Twitch internationally with relatively good resolution.

Much still needs to happen though.  The salary cap has more than tripled, from $200,000 to the 2021 cap of $685,500 per team, as has the minimum salary from $6,000 to $22,000 a year.  While salaries have increased, the NWSL like many other women’s leagues around the world thrives on the backs of its lowest salaried players.  

The same can be said of the NWSL’s current infrastructure.  Playing and practicing conditions have greatly changed for the better. However, again, like many women’s leagues around the world the NWSL suffers from an infrastructure gap with the men, unable to always find adequate and affordable soccer specific stadiums.  

At present two teams, the OL Reign and KC, play their games on temporarily converted baseball fields.  One team, the Washington Spirit, has an agreement to split its home matches between three different stadiums located in two different states as well as Audi Field in DC.

Above: Portland Thorns players in front of another packed house. Photo: Soccer Stadium Digest

The NWSL has come a long way, but is still striving to improve.  This improvement is supported by players, the league and also by fans, many of whom were drawn to the league due to the success of the United States Women’s National Team and the 2015 Women’s World Cup held in Canada.

It is this fan support, and the NWSL’s desire to ensure that it grows into the best women’s league in the world, that lead it last year to perhaps it’s greatest coup so far.  

While most women’s football leagues around the world were severely hit by COVID, with many originally not returning to play, the NWSL was able to organize a new competition and become the first league in North America to return to play.

The NWSL Challenge Cup, held in June and July of last year, led to record viewing numbers and a fantastic display of the quality of play within America’s only pro women’s soccer league.  The NWSL followed this up with a fall series where its then nine teams were separated into three groups and played a four match series each.

Due to the original uncertainty with regards to stadium attendance and the continued COVID-19 pandemic, the NWSL decided to start its 2021 season with its second iteration of the Challenge Cup.  The Portland Thorns, one of the league’s consistent high performers since the inception of the league, won the cup in a final played against NJ/NY Gotham FC.

Which leads us to the current 2021 NWSL season. Like previous season, each team will play a 24-match regular season, with at least one home-and-away against each team. The season started on May 15th and is set to conclude October 30th.

Eight teams will make the play-offs, with the top two seeded teams skipping the quarter-finals and progressing directly to the playoff semi-finals.  The NWSL Championship is set for November 20th and the competition will not take an Olympic break.

A number of big signings entered the league, many from the English FAWSL. Several Americans internationals who had gone to play overseas during the 2020-21 season, chose to return and sign for NWSL clubs.  There are also a number of short term loans, ranging from leagues such as the French Division 1 to the Mexican Liga MX Femenil.

Above: Portland Thorns goalkeeper Adrianna “AD” Franch clears in the game between the Thorns and North Carolina Courage last night. Photo: Andy Mead/ISI PhotosAndy Mead/ISI Photos

The beginning of the season has seen some expected results and a few surprise ones.  This past Saturday was the league’s first Super Saturday, where all ten teams met in five matchups.  So far teams have played between six and eight matches.  

Like in most seasons, the Portland Thorns and the North Carolina Courage have had relatively strong starts to the season. They met each other on Super Saturday with the Courage winning 2-0.  The win propelled the Courage to second in the league with the Thorns falling to third.

New expansion teams Kansas City and Racing Louisville have experienced some growing pains.  KC received the bulk of its players from the now defunct Utah Royals while Louisville built from its team scratch. 

Both clubs are less than seven months old and are still trying to find their feet.  Racing has fared much better than KC, who has yet to record a single win.  

A 3-0 win this weekend by Louisville over the Chicago Red Stars showed that they have the playing ability to develop attacks and score goals.  While questions still remain about their defence, the win placed them sixth in the league. 

KC on the other hand suffered yet another defeat.  While they scored early, through a wonderful goal by Amy Rodriguez, and looked like they may register their first franchise win despite a more dominant Washington performance, the team once again broke down in the final third of the match.  They let in one goal in the 78th minute and a second deep into injury time.  They remain last in the league.

The Washington Spirit and Gotham FC have continued their increase in form, after several difficult seasons.  Both teams are composed of relatively young squads supported by a number of seasoned veterans. 

Gotham’s pre-season went exceptionally well with an appearance in the Challenge Cup final.  Through good strategic counter attacking play they were able to beat the OL Reign on the road 3-0 on Super Saturday.  

The Washington Spirit have also had a good early season.  Bolstered by new recruits and the maturation of young talent drafted over the years they have shown a more disciplined and attacking minded team than in previous years. They also recorded a win on Super Saturday, described above.  The Spirit and Gotham currently sit fourth and fifth in the league respectively.

The Houston Dash, which has never qualified for the NWSL Playoffs, have had an inconsistent start.  This is surprising considering the 2020 form the team had which lead to their win of the Challenge Cup.  They have since had little change in the team’s squad.   

This inconsistency saw them loose to NWSL newbies Louisville last week, yet beat the Orlando Pride 2-1 on Super Saturday.  The win took them from ninth to seventh in the league.

The Chicago Red Stars have also had an inconsistent start despite also having little change in their squad.  While they are missing a few top players due to injury, and have never been able to replace Sam Kerr scoring-wise, the team started this season with lacklustre performances.  

Above: Danielle Colaprico of Chicago Red Stars (24) battles with Ashley Sanchez of the Washington Spirit last season. Photo: Robin Alam/ISI Photos/Getty Images).

This lacklustre run kept up on Super Saturday when they were beaten by Louisville at home 3-0.  After the loss the Red Stars have fallen to eight place.

The OL Reign, who were bought at the end of 2019 by French perennial winners Olympique Lyonnais, are one of the surprising teams so far.  Despite having an impressive squad bolstered by French Lyonnais loans, Manchester City’s Karen Bardsley and a number of world class international players, the team has suffered four defeats.  

The Reign have shown strong performances but they are not living up to its quality. While they often seem to pass the ball with creativity and ease, they are not able to finish, registering no goals in the majority of their regular season games.  

Moreover, mistakes made by several players in vulnerable positions have led to easy goals against as have a number of counter attacking plays.  This arguably happened in their 3-0 loss to Gotham on Super Saturday.  The Reign currently sit in ninth placed.

Perhaps the biggest shock though in 2021 is the Orlando Pride.  The Pride have long been a team packed with talent, including two of the top women’s scorers ever: Alex Morgan and Marta.  Despite this talent the Pride have been perennial under performers, both from individual players and from the capability expected of such a team.

This has changed in 2021.  The Pride were the only undefeated team in the league prior to Super Saturday, and had won four matches and drawn three.  Individually its players, including Morgan and Marta, are finally finding club form.  

The early lead this success gave them helped with their standing.  Despite a 2-1 loss on Super Saturday to the Houston Dash, the Pride currently still lead the NWSL.

The league, which does not have a consistent schedule and often has matches on weekend and mid-week days, next plays Friday, July 2nd.  Matches will also be held on July 3 & 4.  Internationally games are free to watch on Twitch.  The full schedule and match links can be found at nwslsoccer.com.

Catherine’s weekly articles on the NWSL will appear every Tuesday on Impetus starting on 6th July. For more information on Catherine and all of our contributors, visit About our Contributors (wordpress.com)

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