Photo by Meg Williams/Portland Thorns FC
By CASSIDY GABRIEL
While FC Kansas City and the Western New York Flash were able to earn convincing blowout victories this weekend, the National Women’s Soccer League-leading Seattle Reign had a shaky start for the second time in a week with another late from-behind result over last-place Boston Breakers.
The Portland Thorns lost sight of three points once again when they met the Chicago Red Stars on Independence Day. While the sides split the points with a draw, the Thorns gave up their two-goal lead and remain stuck in sixth place in the league standings.
The Boston Breakers surrendered five points from leading positions this week and failed to find their first road win of the season once again. After taking the lead against the Washington Spirit and Seattle Reign, the Breakers continued their losing streak and remain at the bottom of the league table.
For Sky Blue FC and the Houston Dash, glaring defeats leave them in seventh and eighth place respectively, though a coveted playoff spot remains in reach for both. But both sides will need a change of pace to be in contention for the postseason as the race to the playoffs tightens.
Here’s a closer look at this week’s results:
LATE PENALTY SEALS SPIRIT COMEBACK AGAINST BREAKERS
On Wednesday night, the Boston Breakers missed out on yet another opportunity to earn their first away victory of the season, settling instead for a 3-3 draw. Despite taking an early 2-0 lead over the Washington Spirit on a pair of Heather O’Reilly penalty kicks in the early minutes of the game, the Spirit’s comeback effort was relentless up until their penalty that tied the game in the 90th minute.
The Breakers carried the momentum of their early lead through the match, though a weather delay and a questionable red card for midfielder Maddy Evans dampened their efforts and allowed the Spirit to regain a foothold on the match. In the 90th minute, a controversial call by the referee for the third penalty of the match, this time in favor of the Spirit, sealed the comeback for the home team, as Diana Matheson buried the effort past Boston’s Alyssa Naeher for the Spirit’s third goal.
The controversial calls left the Breakers fuming after a badly-needed three points slipped away, with coach Tom Durkin and general manager Lee Billiard publicly blaming poor officiating. The league later fined the Breakers over the comments.
Watch the match highlights below:
REIGN OVERCOME EARLY DEFICIT TO EDGE FLASH, KEEP UNBEATEN STREAK ALIVE
The third time was not a charm for the Western New York Flash as they yet again could not beat the Seattle Reign, giving up an early lead to fall, 1-2. The match marked the return of two of the Reign’s biggest stars — Hope Solo returned from a brief disruption caused by her arrest and Megan Rapinoe, who suffered a foot contusion in April. After coming on as a substitute for her first game action since Reign’s season-opener, Rapinoe played a direct role in the comeback by assisting Jess Fishlock’s winning goal in the 85th minute.
Vicky Losada opened the scoring for the Flash in the 33rd minute after finishing a Brittany Taylor freekick that took a miscued deflection off of Keelin Winters. While they retained the lead through the half, Beverly Goebel equalized for the Reign in the 63rd minute to set the stage for Fishlock’s late, heroic goal.The result marks the second time in a span of two weeks that the Reign recovered from an early conception to earn a 2-1 victory over the Flash.
Watch the highlights below:
THORNS SURRENDER TWO-GOAL LEAD FOR A DRAW WITH THE RED STARS
With the fourth and final playoff spot at stake, the Portland Thorns hosted the Chicago Red Stars on Independence Day looking to avenge their inconsistent form as of late. After an impressive first half performance that saw the Thorns secure a 2-0 first-half lead, a brace from Christen Press rallied the Chicago Red Stars to a 2-2 draw.
Tobin Heath made her return to the Thorns’ starting eleven on Friday, after a spell overseas with Paris Saint-Germain. The midfielder played a role in the Thorns’ dominant first-half performance where a goal from Jessica McDonald and another cool finish from defender Sarah Huffman secured the early lead off of corner kicks. Christen Press was kept relatively quiet in the first half by the well-organized Thorns defense and outstanding recoveries from Rachel van Hollebeke, but a deft touch past Nadine Angerer late in the second half put the Red Stars on the scoreboard. Press completed her brace and earned Chicago a late point with an unstoppable finish minutes later. With the draw, the Red Stars and Thorns remain level on 21 points, with the Red Stars taking up fifth place.
No match highlights available.
FLASH SCORE FOUR IN ROUT OVER DASH
The Western New York Flash recorded a tidy 4-1 win over the at-home Dash, a victory that propelled them into third place even in the ongoing injury absence of star striker Abby Wambach. A consolation goal from Jordan Jackson in the 81st minute couldn’t save Houston Dash from an embarrassing defeat as they continue to struggle in front of goal.
Goals from Jasmyne Spencer, Samantha Kerr, and substitute Sonia Bermúdez found their way past Dash goalkeeper Erin McLeod, who was caught off of her line often on Friday night. An own goal from Becky Edwards continued the misfortune for the Dash, and overshadowed the long-awaited debut of defender Meghan Klingenberg and a stellar performance from Kealia Ohai, who assisted Jackson’s late goal. With the result, the Flash sit comfortably in third place, while the push upwards from eighth in the standings escapes from the Dash once again.
Watch the highlights below:
HAGEN BRACE LEADS BLUES TO ROMP OVER SKY BLUE
Four first half goals and a late fifth from Amy Rodriguez secured a no-nonsense 5-0 victory for FC Kansas City over Sky Blue FC on Sunday evening. After the Blues took the lead in the second minute through a collected finish from Erika Tymrak, Sky Blue was unable to repair the early damage as they surrendered four more goals throughout the match. The result marks the largest blowout in NWSL history.
After Tymrak’s early go-ahead goal, Kansas City picked up momentum quickly, with Lauren Holiday doubling the Blues’ lead with her 7th goal of the season after nine minutes. Sarah Hagen was next to make her way onto the scoresheet in the 20th minute and again shortly before halftime, after heading a deflected ball from Holiday past Sky Blue goalkeeper Brittany Cameron. Aside from her brace, Hagen was heavily involved offensively for Kansas City in her first start of the season for the Blues, and her first-half brace secured the lead. Amy Rodriguez secured Kansas City’s fifth in stoppage time with her 10th goal of the season, despite Sky Blue’s valiant effort to fend off the Blues offense in the second half.
While Sky Blue created chances in front of goal, FC Kansas City goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart was alert and made several comfortable saves, while guiding the Blues to their seventh straight victory. Barnhart, who was named the Army National Guard Player of the Month earlier this week, also extended her shutout streak to 585 consecutive minutes with the clean sheet.
No match highlights available.
REIGN MAKE ANOTHER COMEBACK TO CONTINUE BREAKERS’ WOEFUL SEASON
In their David vs. Goliath matchup against the Seattle Reign, the Boston Breakers couldn’t find the slingshot they needed to take down the undefeated league leaders. The Reign overcame a deficit for the second time this week to earn a 3-2 victory, the eighth time this season the Reign have avoided defeat after going down first. A brace from Japanese international Nahomi Kawasumi led the comeback, after the Reign surrendered the lead twice throughout the match. With the result, the Reign extend their season-long unbeaten streak to 16 matches, while the Breakers remain in search of their first away victory.
Despite their last-place position in the table, the Breakers challenged the Reign throughout the match, opening the scoring in the 19th minute with a long-range shot from Courtney Jones. While Breakers goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher managed a number of crucial saves to shutout the league’s best offense in the first half, Kawasumi’s 56th minute volley was the first to evade the goalkeeper. Seattle took the lead after 76 minutes after forcing an own goal from the Breakers’ Bianca Sierra, but Katie Schoepfer equalized minutes later. Kawasumi’s winner came in the 83rd minute, and the Breakers, in desperate need of positive results to improve their table position, relinquished another three points as well as a red card for midfielder Lianne Sanderson, who was sent off in stoppage time.
No match highlights available.
SBI WEEK 13 AWARDS:
Team of the Week: FC Kansas City made history this weekend with their 5-0 shutout over Sky Blue FC, the largest blowout victory ever for the team. The Blues scored four unanswered first half goals against Sky Blue on Sunday night, and extended their unbeaten streak to nine matches, while goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart extended her personal shutout streak to over six matches. The impressive team victory and continued positive results earns them the honor of team of the week.
Player of the Week: Christen Press of the Chicago Red Stars could not be contained by the Portland Thorns back line as she led her side to a comeback draw with two stunning goals. Press opened her NWSL scoring account with a smooth finish past Thorns goalkeeper Nadine Angerer, who was caught off of her line. Minutes later, the striker completed the comeback for her side after sending a quality, upper 90 finish past an on-looking Thorns defense. Press’ heroics salvaged the Red Stars a hard-fought point and raised questions for a deflated-looking Thorns side, earning her the player of the week award.
What did you think of Week 13? Who was your player of the week? Are Sky Blue and the Houston Dash showing signs they can turn their seasons around? Are the Reign showing signs of breaking?
Share your thoughts below.