The six games played over the weekend brought us plenty of excitement. If you missed it, a hat trick, a brace, a major upset, and a new record for appearances all made headlines for this week's NWSL action. It's hard to believe that we're already halfway through the season, but Week 11 is over, so let's jump right into this week's recap.
A pair of draws
San Diego's draw with Racing Louisville on Friday was enough to earn them the top spot in the league based on goal differential. Louisville hosted the Wave in Friday's only match, which ended up being a defensive battle. In the first half, San Diego goalie Kailen Sheridan faced some tricky shots and lots of pressure from Racing, including a scary moment where striker Ary Borges nearly intercepted a back pass. On the other side, Katie Lund stayed strong in the net despite smart play from Jaedyn Shaw and the San Diego attack.
In the second half, chances from Shaw and a header from defender Madison Pogarch put more pressure on Lund, but ultimately the Wave could not capitalize. The last ten minutes of the game were filled with action up and down the field as both teams scrambled to come away with three points. There were 25 shots taken, but nobody could find the back of the net and the match ended in an 0-0 draw. San Diego records their fourth away clean sheet in a row and will face California rival Angel City in their next regular season game.
Jaelin Howell (in purple) takes on Naomi Girma (in white) on Sunday in Louisville / Photo Courtesy of San Diego Wave
In Sunday's early game, the Houston Dash hosted a tough NJ/NY Gotham FC team. Gotham tested Dash keeper Jane Campbell right away with early shots and a corner kick header, but Houston quickly countered. María Sánchez opened up the scoring for Houston in the 35th minute on a beautiful cross from fellow Mexican international Diana Ordóñez. Michelle Alozie also had an opportunity for the home side during the waning minutes of the first half but was unable to beat Gotham goalkeeper Abby Smith.
The second half of play swung the momentum right back to Gotham early on, as the visitors earned a penalty kick in the 50th minute from a foul in the box. Lynn Williams easily slotted one past Campbell to bring her side level on the PK. Smith made great saves to keep out strong chances from Houston, including another from Alozie at close range.
The game's drama came in the 62nd minute when Alozie put a beautiful header past Smith, only to have the goal disallowed by VAR. Gotham appeared to have played the ball out of bounds and Houston regained possession before scoring, but the review by VAR resulted in a disallowed goal. In the final minutes of stoppage time, Abby Smith made another fantastic save. Both teams came away with one point in the 1-1 draw, a noteworthy performance by the Dash against a powerful Gotham side.
Home Team Victories
Angel City traveled to D.C. for a matchup against the Washington Spirit on Saturday. Angel City's attack started strong with a few early chances, but the Spirit quickly gained their footing. Strong play from Ashley Hatch and Trinity Rodman put the pressure on keeper Didi Haračić, and in the 33rd minute, Ashley Hatch headed home a beautiful goal off of Ashley Sanchez's rebounded shot. Just a few minutes later, Paige Metayer played a perfect ball to Sanchez, who headed it home past Haračić to put the home team up 2-0. Angel City fought to cut the lead in half with a banger of a goal from defender M.A. Vignola right before the end of the half.
Attacker Katie Johnson went down injured and came out early in the second half, not a good sign for an Angel City side already riddled with injuries. The rest of the game was full of chances for both sides, with Angel City creating many opportunities but unable to finish. Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury was subbed off with an apparent head injury in the final minutes of regular time. Claire Emslie put in a great shift for the visiting side to keep her team competitive and test backup goalie Nicole Barnhart, but ultimately Angel City could not equalize. With the 2-1 win, the Spirit remain undefeated at home.
Saturday night in Seattle saw OL Reign host the Kansas City Current. In just the seventh minute of play, Megan Rapinoe came out of the game after going down early. Both sides traded good opportunities, and Reign keeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce made a great save on a shot from Vanessa DiBernando in the 30th minute. The Reign opened the scoring in the 35th minute when a penalty kick was awarded from a handball in the box. Sofia Huerta stepped up and converted the PK, scoring her first of the season.
The first few minutes of the second half nearly put the Reign up by two goals when forward Elyse Bennett beat the Current's Cassie Miller; however, a defensive goal line save kept Kansas City in it. The Current had a Michelle Cooper goal waived back thanks to VAR finding a player offsides. Huerta picked up an assist when she found Jordyn Huitema to put the Reign up 2-0 in the 68th minute. The Current did not give up, and Izzy Rodriguez found the back of the net during stoppage time. Despite their battle, the visitors could not make a comeback and the final score stayed at 2-1. OL Reign defender Lu Barnes celebrated her 200th cap, a league record, with a win at home for their devoted fans.
The North Carolina Courage traveled to Chicago to take on the Red Stars on Saturday in what ended up being a blowout victory for the visitors. The Courage got into the scorebook early on when Kerolin one-touched a pass from teammate Mille Gejl in the 11th minute. Gejl then scored on a lovely shot herself in the 35th minute after leaving her defender behind in the box. Not long after that, Kerolin scored again on a perfectly timed ball from defender Kaleigh Kurtz to put them up 3-0.
In the second half, the Courage continued to prove a tough match for the home side, and Courage stalwart Denise O'Sullivan scored on a give-and-go after seven minutes of play. In the 60th minute, Kerolin notched her third goal of the match, beating Alyssa Naeher and putting herself at the top of the NWSL Golden Boot race. Chicago couldn't seem to threaten the Courage at all and the match finished with a 5-0 scoreline.
A major upset was brewing on Sunday when the Orlando Pride defeated the Portland Thorns, 3-1. The visiting Thorns threatened Orlando's keeper Anna Moorhouse early from dangerous runs by attacker Sophia Smith. In the 20th minute, Smith's efforts eventually paid off and she was able to beat Moorhouse off of a beautiful pass from teammate Morgan Weaver. Orlando quickly equalized from the foot of Adriana on a free kick when she took an outstanding shot from just outside the box.
The Pride again beat keeper Bella Bixby just two minutes into the second half, thanks to Adriana. Ally Watt found Adriana on a breakaway and Adriana dusted two defenders before slotting home her second goal of the match. Attacker Messiah Bright jumped on a poorly played ball from Portland's defense and put the Pride up 3-1 halfway through the second half. Portland tested Moorhouse a few more times, with Michelle Vasconcelos forcing a big save from the keeper, but they couldn't work themselves back into the game. The Thorns dropped to third overall, and the Pride rose up to eighth after a strong performance at home.