NWSL is back and that is very exciting because there’s only a handful of games left before we hit playoffs, and this season has been topsy-turvy in terms of playoff contenders. FC Kansas City? Seattle Reign? More like FC Eighth Place and Seattle Tenuous Rule. (I’m sorry, these were too fun to pass up.) The Washington Spirit are six points clear at the top of the table while Portland, Chicago, and Western New York are all within two points of each other in the next three positions. Seattle and Sky Blue could also make late grabs for points that boost them into a playoff spot. Hang on to your butts.
Note: Houston and Washington played a makeup game on August 18 that Washington won 2-1. Ali Krieger played a full 90 minutes in this game.
Orlando Pride 1 - 2 Washington Spirit
Ashlyn Harris: It was a pretty good game from Harris despite the scoreline; she was the reason it wasn’t worse and made two great parries in the 72’ to keep it to a one goal differential.
Alex Morgan: She was troublesome for Washington and continues to adapt to the role of provider as well as focal point, but the finishing touch wasn’t quite there for her as her late chances went over or wide.
Ali Krieger: She continued providing width and pace up the flank, and generally doesn’t seem to have missed a beat being gone for weeks during the Olympics.
Crystal Dunn: 67 minutes for Dunn in this game as she no doubt comes back to full strength post-Olympics. Dunn returned to a central attacking position for Washington and though she didn’t score, her presence in the box opened up a lot of space for other players, as you can see on the Spirit’s second goal.
Seattle Reign 3 - 1 Portland Thorns
Megan Rapinoe: Pinoe finally returned to action, getting 11 minutes with the Reign as a sub and immediately making an impact with a well-placed insurance goal in stoppage. She’s clearly still not 100% but the form is still there in short bursts, which makes her an ideal closer for Laura Harvey for now.
Hope Solo: On indefinite team leave
Tobin Heath: Heath was pushed high on the pitch for Portland and switched off between left and right for the entire game. She did her best to work the ball through with Lindsey Horan while also trying to cut centrally and hold the ball to set up attacks, but couldn’t find a breakthrough.
Lindsey Horan: She played higher in the midfield than she usually does for the WNT and had some good steps to force turnovers. She dropped deeper later in the game, trying to hold the ball and look for incisive passes.
Allie Long: Had some good interchanges with Lindsey Horan working the ball through the midfield when she wasn’t playing extremely deep on top of the center backs. She also had Portland’s only goal, a terrific one-touch off a free kick.
Meghan Klingenberg: Got caught too high a couple times and as the Reign pressed in, was forced deeper into her own territory, which limited her ability to provide service. She had a couple of good stops later on Seattle counters though.
Emily Sonnett: She kept getting split from her fellow CB Emily Menges and had a bit of a howler on a giveaway to Manon Melis, who picked Sonnett’s pocket and scored off of it.
Western New York Flash 2 - 2 Houston Dash
Samantha Mewis: She won some good battles and was able to find seams or hit a big ball for runners. Unfortunately a badly-weighted ball from her in the second half led to a Houston counter that resulted in a goal.
Morgan Brian: Brian is another player who is still coming back to full 90s; she got 69 minutes with the Dash, but made some instrumental plays, including being instrumental in the buildup to the first Dash goal.
Carli Lloyd: Out for this game on a personal matter
Sky Blue FC 1 - 3 Chicago Red Stars
Kelley O’Hara: She subbed in early in the second half at left back, where she tried to pull strings for Sky Blue and made lots of runs cutting inside high up the field. It wasn’t enough for Sky Blue and O’Hara left the field injured after an extremely bad late tackle from behind by Chicago’s Alyssa Mautz.
Christen Press: She had a good game overall and clearly was having fun, or at the very least felt less intense pressure, out there after a rocky Olympics. She played a bit behind the other attackers as a playmaker and got a goal herself, holding off her run and timing it perfectly to stay on and chase down a neat little through ball.
Julie Johnston: She had some bad timing on the ball, which drew Alyssa Naeher off her line to clean up the ball, but also had some great picks in the box to cut out danger from Sky Blue.
Alyssa Naeher: Naeher had some nice, big saves, including a nutty sequence in the 38’ that required her to scramble to make multiple point-blank range blocks.
FC Kanasas City 0 - 2 Boston Breakers
Heather O’Reilly: O’Reilly was consistently dangerous throughout most of the game, taking up acres of space on the right side with her speed and sending in several near-miss balls across the face of goal.
Becky Sauerbrunn: While she had another mostly solid game, she perhaps ranged a little far forward at times, which gave Boston’s Tasha Dowie the chance to burn Yael Averbuch with footwork and speed. Still, there wasn’t much she could do about either goal, short of reaching out with a large hooked cane and yanking other players into position.
Whitney Engen: She did a mostly good job pinching off FCKC forays forward and had a couple of calmly-done stops on FCKC counters, timing her picks just right to strip onrushing players of the ball.