Another season of NWSL is nearly at a close. 2018 saw one of the tighter playoff races, at least for teams not named North Carolina Courage. As for the Courage, they were an unstoppable force with no complementing immovable object. It didn’t matter how beautifully the Chicago Red Stars moved the ball in their semifinal match; the Courage let Chicago play beautifully, ate that beauty, and spit back goals.
If NC vs Chicago was beauty and the beast, then Portland vs Seattle was all beast. This was a match between two teams who did not care for each other, with tkfouls per minute. Which is not to say there weren’t highlights here either. But there was the undercurrent of rivalry that can make any game turn from a simple competition into an airing of grievances, a situation which will probably repeat itself in the final as the Thorns and the Courage go head to head in a repeat of 2017’s final, although hopefully this time no one will get injured, especially not in the first 10 minutes of the game.
Meanwhile, NWSL fans were blessed with two exciting semifinals, either one of which would have made for a satisfying championship game. Here’s the best and worst moments for USWNT players to come out of either game.
Crystal Dunn pulls the strings
If you love soccer for how the game is played in and of itself, Crystal Dunn highlight reels are probably the equivalent of taking a bunch of expensive drugs and then feeling yourself go galaxy brain for a couple of hours. Anyway, she set up the first NC goal with this fantastic turn and feed for Jess McDonald.
Lindsey Horan owns all airspace in front of Seattle’s goal
The delivery from Christine Sinclair was bullseye-perfect, but it was perfect because she knew that if she put the ball in the middle of three – three! – Seattle defenders, Lindsey Horan would rise and get her head on the ball anyway.
Dahlkemper keeps Sam Kerr under control
Dahlkemper obviously didn’t do it alone, but surely controlling Kerr around the box was a huge part of NC’s strategy and planning before they went into the semifinal. Dahlkemper and the rest of the back line helped to execute almost perfectly, frustrating one of the best players in the world over and over again until Chicago had exhausted pretty much every possible chance. Here’s Kerr’s shots, distribution, and possession over the course of the game from NWSL’s chalkboard. You can see how unsuccessful Kerr was anywhere in the attacking third, excepting her early turn and shoot that dinked off the goalpost.
Sam Mewis doesn’t care about your feelings
Please watch this goal (unless you are a Chicago fan, in which case just keep scrolling and try to think about deep dish or something).
Go field level on that @sammymewy #NCvCHI | #NWSL | #NWSLPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/QcMXHsmWUY— NWSL (@NWSL) September 19, 2018
What were the best moments from semifinals for you? What are you looking forward to now in the final?
Portland Thorns vs North Carolina Courage
Saturday, September 22
4:30 PM ET / 1:30 PM PT