The NWSL playoff race is starting to look a little clearer. North Carolina is so far ahead of everyone else - and in fact took the NWSL shield in their last game - they might as well be an outlier. But the teams in spots 2 through 5 are starting to maybe put some separation between themselves and the teams in spots 6 and 7 who are still sniffing at a playoff spot. #2 Seattle is at 33 points and #5 Chicago is at 28 with a game in hand; that’s not a lot of room for error. And the bottom table teams are all spoiler threats, even Sky Blue, who took two points off Orlando. Meanwhile, you never know when Houston will turn up, and Washington just got back big threats Mal Pugh and Rose Lavelle. Hold on to your butts, everyone. Here’s how USWNT players did in the league this week.
North Carolina Courage 2 - 1 Portland Thorns
A lot of good grabs from Franch in this one, but Lynn Williams was just too dialed in for NC on the day.
Sonnett looked a little tired after playing through Tournament of Nations and nearly gave up a penalty with a big foul in the 30’, but mostly kept it together.
She was a mix of creating movement through the midfield for Portland and some turnovers, but she also had a perfect header to pull one back for Portland.
She tried to help control the midfield with Christine Sinclair but wasn’t always that successful as Debinha and Denise O’Sullivan were ready for a fight. She did get the assist on Horan’s header.
Two goals for Williams on the day, who often had the speed and movement to beat Klingenberg.
Zerboni hung tough despite going down early with an injury that looked like a cramp. She kept tangling with Caitlin Foord and limiting Portland’s attempt to equalize.
She got the start after resting through much of Tournament of Nations. She found some nice seams and took plenty of space for NC in the middle.
A little trouble defending Foord 1-v-1, but mostly managed from Dahlkemper.
She was dangerous when she engaged in the high press with the rest of NC and had Williams as a target.
Dunn got a slight rest, subbing on for Mewis in the 78’. She helped keep Portland searching for the last 15 minutes or so.
Orlando Pride 2 - 2 Sky Blue FC
She kept having to come off her line to deal with Imani Dorsey as Orlando’s defense often gaped wide open and had a good quick grab in the 69’ to deny Carli Lloyd.
Morgan came off the bench in the 61’ and helped put the pressure on Sky Blue as Orlando looked for an equalizer. She was very much a target for Orlando but her shots were deflected out.
McCaskill was a good source for both Dorsey and Groom throughout the game and picked up an assist on Sky Blue’s second goal.
She subbed on in the 55’ for Madison Tiernan and played pretty hard as Sky Blue sensed a chance for their first win of the season. Alas, she went off in the 97’ with a red card for slapping a ball off the line with her hand.
Houston Dash 1 - 2 Utah Royals
Bad communication between Campbell and Amber Brooks set up Utah’s first goal and Campbell was out of position for Utah’s second.
Huerta got the assist on Houston’s only goal and threatened a couple of times but she also whiffed an early shot that should’ve but Houston up early and set the tone for the game.
She really had to stay on her toes for most of the game as Utah’s defense had trouble limiting chances from getting beaten at speed.
Press started the Utah comeback, pouncing on a mistake from Houston’s defense and finishing nicely past Campbell.
A-Rod got 74 minutes for Utah and tried to make herself a target for balls into the box but she was often surrounded by three or four orange jerseys at a time.
Seattle Reign 2 - 0 Washington Spirit
Pugh has finally returned after rehabbing an injury, subbing on in the 69’. She was clearly still working on her timing and touch, but she looked energetic and hungry to score.
Lavelle also came on in the 69’. She switched right or left as needed, often pulling Reign players like a magnet.
Rapinoe said she was tired after a very full Tournament of Nations but didn’t play like it until the last 15 minutes or so, when she finally looked gassed.
She got the assist on Seattle’s first goal, acting as the pivot in the midfield that set up the run and the finish.