Even though the middle of the NWSL table remains packed tighter than an overstuffed burrito, some teams are beginning to show the quality that could pull them away from the pack in the last third of the season. almost every game featured at least a two goal difference, and we had not one, but two clobberings, and not against Sky Blue either. Well, kind of against Sky Blue, but it could have been worse. Here’s how USWNT players did in NWSL in week 15.
North Carolina Courage 4 - 1 Chicago Red Stars
She did a pretty good job with CB partner Abby Erceg to hold the line as Chicago tried to probe at their defenses and had some good blocks on the ball.
She had a little bit of trouble with Chicago’s DiBernardo, but otherwise did a good job turning back their midfield.
Dunn opened the scoring in the 20’ and constantly outstripped Chicago’s midfield in the 68 minutes of playing time she got. Just little Dunn things.
A goal and an assist for Williams on the night. It feels churlish to say she could have had more, but she could have had more.
She subbed on in the 68’ for Crystal Dunn and made just as many problems for Chicago with intelligent through balls.
Woof. Really what is there to say about about a 4-1 loss? Naeher didn’t help by looking unsteady off her line on challenges and positioning.
Brian got the start for Chicago and looked pretty good, trying to read Chicago’s movement and time her passes, but NC’s midfield just wasn’t having it.
A return to midfield for Ertz as Chicago attempted to match NC’s muscle in the middle, and she did sort of have a handle on Crystal Dunn, but not enough to totally stop Dunn from doing what she wanted.
Did not play
Portland Thorns 4 - 0 Utah Royals
Smith had similar problems to Naeher, misjudging movement off her line although she certainly wasn’t helped by her defense.
She lost Lindsey Horan a bit on Portland’s second goal and probably should have been better to see Tyler Lussi was poised to make a break on the fourth goal.
Portland put a lot of pressure on Rodriguez and it showed; she wasn’t able to find space or connect to anyone around her.
Portland also swarmed Press, who often found herself going 1-v-2 or 1-v-3. Even if she elbowed a little maneuvering room for herself, she had little help.
A goal, an assist, and some defensive cover from Horan in a game that needed some emergency shuffling after Portland lost Midge Purce to a bad tackle.
Heath set the tone with a second-minute chip with four or five yellow jerseys in her face. She also got the assist on Horan’s goal.
Sky Blue FC 1 - 3 Chicago Red Stars
After the pasting by NC, Naeher got a little breather as Chicago really took the game by its scruff for much of the 90.
She and the defense got exposed on Sky Blue’s lone goal, not only getting threaded by a through ball but losing Shea Groom in the box.
Some trouble from her handling McCaskill, but Sky Blue’s offense wasn’t clicking enough to really take advantage of it.
Her connection McCaskill and Dorsey is developing, but first she needed more help in the midfield to capitalize on that relationship.
She was able to break Chicago’s lines some, but Chicago kept an eye on balls over for her. Still, McCaskill looking out for Dorsey paid off in the 73’ with an assist.
Orlando Pride 2 - 1 Washington Spirit
She got 65’ on the right wing and seemed to do all right with it, putting in some nice passes, but no final balls.
Hatch got Washington’s only goal and kept trying to take on Orlando’s defense but wasn’t able to break through by herself.
Lavelle subbed on in the 75’ and did her best to pick out Hatch, but Orlando surged late in the game.
A few errors from Harris, like misplaying the ball out while not under pressure and parrying when she could have held, but she also kept Hatch out in the second half.
Out with right calf strain
Seattle Reign 3 - 1 Houston Dash
She was out of position on the first Seattle goal, couldn’t do anything about Rapinoe’s rocket penalty, and then hesitated on a challenge for Seattle’s third.
Her corner kick assist gave Houston the early lead but she spent the rest of the game fighting with Rumi Utsugi.
Two assist and a goal from Rapinoe (and a yellow card for the trifecta) propelled Seattle to a decisive victory.
Long’s insurance goal in the 85’ was a nice touch after she spent a lot of the game shielding the back line from some challenges and setting them to cycle the ball out.