The National Women’s Soccer League has entered playoff season. The top four teams are now whittled down to two; the Portland Thorns and the North Carolina Courage will meet in Orlando next weekend to duke it out after two polar opposite semifinal games: one an early thriller that nevertheless gave way to a lopsided score, and the other a tedious, faintly humid deadlock that looked like it was headed to penalties until very late. Meanwhile the Orlando Pride did a remarkable job jumping up to playoff position this season after finishing ninth last season, and poor always-a-bridesmaid Chicago got knocked out in cruel fashion on a very late goal. Here’s how USWNT players did in the semifinals.
Portland Thorns 4 - 1 Orlando Pride
Tobin Heath: She was all over the midfield for Portland, doing her best to reinforce whatever side was attacking. She ended up subbing off after a hard-earned 80 minutes for Nadia Nadim.
Lindsey Horan: A lot of defensive work from Horan in this game, especially to help Portland contain Alex Morgan any time she got near the attacking third.
Allie Long: Subbed on for Amandine Henry in the 82’ and helped Portland push high enough in the dying minutes to keep the pressure on Orlando.
Ashlyn Harris: A very rough day at the office for Harris, who made some critical mistakes on two, if not three of the Portland goals, whether it was not coming out decisively for a ball or leaving too much space between her and the back line.
Alex Morgan: Orlando found her here and there but Portland did a good job of keeping her isolated. She managed a few runs at the Portland goal and got into position to receive the ball but just didn’t have a ton of chances.
North Carolina Courage 1 - 0 Chicago Red Stars
Christen Press: She had a couple of great runs at goal but didn’t manage to finish her chances. She did more trying to set up her teammates in the attack.
Julie Ertz: Not the most solid day for Ertz, who was part of a Chicago that seemed out of joint. She also made the unfortunate deflection that helped give NC their only goal.
Alyssa Naeher: A mixed bag from Naeher, who made a lot of routine stops, but also had weird moments coming off her line and some bad distribution.
Casey Short: A good game from Short, who was stuck much more working the defensive side and wasn’t able to help Chicago push up the flank. She did her best to track Lynn Williams and cut off passing channels to her wide.
Sofia Huerta: Not a ton from Huerta on the day; she was part of a Chicago attack that couldn’t manage to piece anything together and kept having to recover from turnovers.
Morgan Brian: not available to play due to injury
Abby Dahlkemper: She helped keep a lid on Chicago’s probing forays forward and attempts to release one or two players into the box.
Lynn Williams: Plenty of attacking pressure from Williams, who helped keep Casey Short pinned back and was sometimes able to get around her to put a ball into the box.
Sam Mewis: She did a decent job trying to open things up from the midfield, although North Carolina didn’t particularly have a steady tempo either. But she did help them crash onto Chicago in waves.
Taylor Smith: Smith had tons of space out wide thanks to Chicago’s formation and made the most of it with tons of runs that ate up almost two-thirds of the field at a time.