NWSL Week 15: A Look Back

Craig Mitchelldyer - Portland Thorns FC
Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer/Portland Thorns FC

By SARAH HALLETT

It was a pivotal week in the National Women’s Soccer League as the first playoff spot has been claimed. To no one’s surprise, the Seattle Reign FC clinched a berth into the playoffs while last year’s champion Portland Thorns greatly improved their chances of reaching the post season, too.

A draw against the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday was enough for the Reign FC to guarantee they will advance beyond the regular season. Meanwhile, the Thorns picked up four points this week thanks to a draw against the Red Stars on Thursday night and then a big win against the Breakers during the first nationally televised game of the season.

Sky Blue FC continues to enjoy its role as a spoiler this season as they delivered a big loss to the Washington Spirit, who are thick in the battle for a playoff spot.  It was a loss that may come back to haunt the Spirit as they will close out the season facing the league’s top teams.

Though the Western New York Flash still sit in sixth place, they were able to draw with FC Kansas City on Friday night and only a few points outside of that last playoff spot. With a healthy Abby Wambach back for the last month of the season, their fortunes may turn around.

Here’s a closer look at the week’s results:

THORNS, RED STARS SPLIT POINTS IN DRAW

The Portland Thorns and the Chicago Red Stars met for the third time this month on Thursday night. The result was a familiar one-a 1-1 draw for the third time in as many weeks as the two teams found themselves splitting points once again.

Jessica McDonald recorded the quickest goal in NWSL history when she scored only 33 seconds into the match for Portland. Stephanie Catley is credited with the assist as she delivered a perfect cross from the left flank to McDonald right in front of the goal line.

The Red Stars equalized late in the second half with a goal from Lori Chalupny in the 77th minute.  Chalupny was able to punch in a deflected shot after the Thorns FC defense failed to clear a missed attempt.

No match highlights available.

DASH SALVAGE DRAW WITH LATE GOAL TO SPIRIT

The Washington Spirit went to Houston looking to pick up three points from the Dash. Instead they had to settle for a 1-1 draw thanks to a goal in the 74th minute by Houston defender Marissa Diggs.

A corner kick drew center back Diggs to the goal line and she tapped in the equalizer from the far post, the first professional goal for the rookie.

Lisa De Vanna earned the lone goal for the Spirit in the 19th minute after a quick breakaway by Jodie Taylor caught the Dash defense out of position and allowed De Vanna a fairly easy chip shot past keeper Erin McLeod.

No match highlights available.

FLASH STAY IN PLAYOFF HUNT IN DRAW TO BLUES

The Western New York Flash are trying to make a push for the playoffs without their star forward Abby Wambach, who has been out since the end of May with a knee injury. Sam Kerr has done her best to fill in the gap, adding her seventh goal of the season on Friday night to give the Flash one point after a 1-1 draw with FC Kansas City.

FC Kansas City struck first in the 17th minute when Sarah Hagen added her third goal in only four games with the Blues. Hagen has been a key addition for the second place team after joining them midseason from FC Bayern Munich.

Kerr then added her goal only five minutes later with a looping header that was just out of reach of FC Kansas City keeper Nicole Barnhart.

Check out the match highlights:

SINCLAIR NABS HAT TRICK FOR DRAMATIC THORNS WIN OVER BREAKERS

The Boston Breakers may have the worst record in the league, but they still managed to give the Portland Thorns FC a challenge on Sunday afternoon. However Portland rallied in the second half to pull off a 6-3 victory at home in front of over 14,000 fans.

The first forty-five minutes saw a bevy of goals exchanged between the two teams, with the game drawn at 3-3 at the half. Portland captain Christine Sinclair broke the tie in the 46th minute with her third goal of the game and the Thorns FC never trailed after that.

Alex Morgan, Jessica McDonald and Allie Long also contributed goals for the Portland with McDonald scoring her eleventh goal on the year, which ties her for the most in the league.  And while Vero Boquete was held without a goal, she was perhaps the most valuable player on the field for Portland as she controlled and created chances for the team that made up for their many defensive lapses.

Check out the match highlights:

SPIRIT STUMBLE IN UNTIMELY LOSS TO SKY BLUE

The Washington Spirit’s battle for the playoffs just got a little bit harder after losing 4-2 against one of the worst teams in the league. It was a loss of three much needed points for the Spirit who have one of the toughest remaining schedules.

Kelley O’Hara had a brace with goals in the 22nd and 85th minute for Sky Blue FC.  Sophie Schmidt and Nadia Nadim also contributed goals for the seventh placed club. Washington did score twice in the waning minutes of the game with Jodie Taylor and Robin Gayle providing the late offensive attack for the Spirit. It was not enough however as the team now clings to fourth place in the league and will take on the red-hot Portland Thorns FC on Wednesday night.

Check out the match highlights:

DRAW TO RED STARS IS ENOUGH FOR REIGN TO CLINCH PLAYOFF SPOT

The Seattle Reign FC needed to earn at least one point to secure a spot in the playoffs. They managed to do that with a 1-1 draw against the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday night and now the team with the best record in the league will make the playoffs for the first time.

Beverly Goebel scored her fourth goal of the season with an assist from Kendal Fletcher in the 70th minute. The Red Stars however were able to equalize in the 82nd minute with a goal from Christen Press.

The result left the Red Stars in fifth place and needing to make up some ground if they want to make the playoffs, which begin in a month.

Check out the match highlights:

SBI WEEK 15 AWARDS

Player of the Week: The honor goes to another Portland Thorns FC player as Christine Sinclair helped her team win a big game against the Boston Breakers and doubled her goal tally for the year. Sinclair had a slow start to the season on the offensive front but seems to be finding her form-and the net at just the right time.

Team of the Week: Although it wasn’t the flashiest game of the week, the Seattle Reign FC have punched their ticket to the post season after their draw against the Chicago Red Stars. This team was one of the worst to take the pitch last year and now can enjoy their last month of the season knowing they will be in contention for the championship.

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2 Responses to NWSL Week 15: A Look Back

  1. STT says:

    Everyone’s saying that the Reign clinched a playoff spot on Sunday… No-one did schedule analysis!

    A look at the article NWSL posted on the 18th shows that Washington’s, Portland’s, and Chicago’s max possible points were 45, 44, and 44 respectively, while Seattle had 42 points and WNY had a max of 41. Seattle had the tiebreak over Washington, so for all those three teams (WAS, POR, CHI) to pass SEA, they could at worst drop two points each. BUT Washington still has to play both CHI and POR before the end of the season, so one of those three teams is going to drop more than three points! As such, there was no way to have four teams pass Seattle as of the 18th.