NWSL Week 3: A Look Back

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Jane G. Photography/Seattle Reign FC

By KAREEN DROT

Seattle and Washington took the challenge of playing two games in one week head on — but it was the Seattle Reign who came out victorious in both fixtures. Without skipping a beat, Seattle proved it is not a one-trick pony, as the Reign secured their second and third consecutive wins decisively at home against the Washington Spirit and the Houston Dash.

Even though the Spirit bowed out of Memorial Stadium with a loss, they still managed to rob Hope Solo of a clean sheet. Days later, the Spirit found a winning form again and earned a shutout against the Chicago Red Stars.

But just as the Spirit may be figuring out what works best, the Thorns are also starting to come together. For the first time this season, Portland looked dominant as they connected up top and found a new source for goals with Jessica McDonald’s brace against FC Kansas City earning three points for Portland. With that, the Thorns move up to second place on the National Women’s Soccer League table behind Seattle.

Other teams were not so lucky. In a battle of two teams that desperately needed a breakthrough, it was the Boston Breakers who finally notched their first win as Sky Blue continues searching for answers amid a winless streak.

Here is a recap of the week’s action in the NWSL:

REIGN TEAM EFFORT SEALS HOME VICTORY OVER SPIRIT

After their dominant win against FC Kansas City, the Washington Spirit were looking to repeat the performance but it was always going to be a tall order against a stacked Reign team. Seattle tallied another three goals in a single match, but couldn’t hold on for a clean sheet, settling for a 3-1 victory at home against the Spirit.

Seattle was hard to crack as the Spirit put more emphasis in the midfield in hopes to push the aggressive Reign offense back. The Spirit’s 4-2-3-1 formation didn’t pan out, as the Reign claimed the lead in just the 2nd minute. Jessica Fishlock found Kendall Fletcher outside the six-yard box, who chipped the ball over goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris’ head for the early goal.

Seattle wasted no time at the start of the second half to double their lead with Keelin Winters scoring a header off a corner kick in the 48th minute.

Washington was trailing Seattle by two goals in the 71st minute until the Spirit’s Diana Matheson converted a penalty kick that was awarded to Washington for a handball called on Seattle. Fishlock put the game out of reach in the 79th minute with a powerful low driven shot outside of the box to hit the back of the net, beyond Harris’ reach.

As much as the Spirit tried to get back into the game, they couldn’t manage to hold possession for long, with the Reign pushing to expand their lead to the final seconds.

Watch the match highlights below:

SPIRIT BOUNCE BACK FOR ROAD WIN IN CHICAGO

Buoyed by a Julie Johnston goal to defeat the Western New York Flash at home last week, the Chicago Red Stars looked to her again to host the Washington Spirit. But Johnston’s strong leadership in the back wasn’t enough as Chicago fell 1-0 to a Spirit squad that had traveled to Seattle just two days prior.

After a scoreless first half, Washington found their break through early in the second, with Danesha Adams finding the head of Tori Huster outside the penalty box for the game-winning goal. The first half saw few chances on goal with the Spirit threatening to steal the lead in the 34th minute off a Lori Lindsey shot that was targeted directly at Chicago goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc.

It was a lackluster match with blustery conditions making it hard for both sides to control the ball, leading to a scrappy game as frustrations flared. Johnston played a visible role on the field for the Red Stars, leading the attack out of the back but a compact Spirit side allowed little space for Chicago to create set pieces.

Watch the match highlights below:

MCDONALD’S BRACE CARRIES THORNS TO ROUT OF FC KANSAS CITY

It was a clash of last season’s titans, but FC Kansas City weren’t able to put up much of a fight in the end. Portland rallied late in the second half with a pair of goals from Jessica McDonald to earn a 3-1 win over Kansas City for the Thorns home-opener at Providence Park.

The Thorns and Kansas City exchanged early goals but as Portland pressed hard late for a game-winner, the Blues back line began to crumble. McDonald was left to roam free unmarked, even after she took the lead in the 84th minute on a short-range blast from inside the box. Four minutes later, McDonald struck again after getting on the end of a long range pass from Mana Shim.

Despite trailing by two goals, FCKC tried their luck at a late comeback during stoppage time but Angerer did well to stave off Kansas City’s attempts.

Allie Long and Lauren Holiday exchanged penalty kick goals, with Long opening scoring in the 44th and Holiday scoring in the 56th.

Watch the match highlights below:

BREAKERS  NOTCH FIRST WIN OVER STRUGGLING SKY BLUE

After riding the bottom of the table for two weeks, Boston picked themselves itself up with a 3-2 win against Sky Blue FC on Sunday. Lianne Sanderson and Julie King both earned a goal and an assist on the night, with Sanderson scoring a brace and the ultimate game-winning goal in the second half.

Sanderson gave Boston a two-goal lead in the 59th minute but , Sky Blue didn’t give up with Ashley Nick pulling Boston’s lead back on a stoppage time goal that was too little, too late. Sky Blue equalized in the 29th minute as Alyssa Naeher came far off her line, giving Monica Ocampo space to chip the ball over her head and bounce safely into an open net.

Boston got the early lead in the 14th minute as King slipped a short ball into the net. Boston was the better team on the field as Sky Blue FC seemed disconnected in the midfield and struggled to place shots on target. The visitors had a hard time connecting on passes and placing shots on target. Sky Blue had 14 corner kicks to the Breakers’ four.

Watch the match highlights below:

SOLO EARNS SECOND SHUTOUT IN REIGN WIN OVER DASH

The Dash were coming off their first franchise win, but Seattle made sure to keep it at just that on Sunday, hosting the Houston Dash to a 2-0 victory, with a pair of goals from Kim Little early in the first half.

The Dash weren’t able to test Seattle much in the first half. The Reign played smart, allowing Houston room on the ball as they cut off passes and made it hard for the Dash to connect. Houston’s best opportunities on goal came from Kika Toulouse, who managed to place two on target shots in the second half but both were stopped by Hope Solo.

Little opened scoring on a penalty kick in the 19th minute and returned 20 minutes later for a goal in the run of play. Off service into the box from Beverly Goebel, Little cut behind the Houston back line and quickly fired the ball into the net and past goalkeeper Erin McLeod.

Match highlights are not yet available.

SBI WEEK 3 AWARDS

Player of the Week: Jessica McDonald for a late brace that pushed the Portland Thorns to victory over FC Kansas City in their best performance of the season so far.

Team of the Week: Seattle Reign for two dominant performances this week that saw goals and big plays coming from all over the field.

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What did you think of Week 3? Which teams impressed and which look to be in trouble? Who is your player of the week? Which team stood above the rest?

Share your thoughts below.

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4 Responses to NWSL Week 3: A Look Back

  1. Brandon Baker says:

    From the supporters section in Providence Park, the Thorns look very poor for most of the match. FCKC seemed to hold possession better (until the last 10 min) and looked better in possession in general. The Thorns looked content to try and punt the ball down to Sinclair and McDonald.

    I thought the Thorns looked much better when Kerr went off and Shim came on.

  2. Alex H says:

    After viewing the Chicago-Washington game it is pretty clear that high winds plus fake grass plus a stadium that does not shield the pitch makes for a very poor soccer game. The game at Toyota Park was very nice to watch. This weeks game, not so much.

  3. aaron says:

    at this rate, the only club that will be able to stop the reign is portland, and as of right now, i think it’s a question if even portland can stop them. They haven’t even reached there peak yet and that should really terrify paul riley.

    • Chris says:

      When the Reign and the Thorns play, the Reign will probably have a lot more of the ball, but Portland seems to have a knack for scoring and winning even when they’re being outplayed, so I’d put that game at even odds.