In the last weekend of play, before the World Cup players leave their teams to being prep for the biggest tournament of the summer, the NWSL did not disappoint in terms of action. Two red cards, a Sophia Smith hat trick, and some questionable cramp solutions that got the internet buzzing. Here’s what happened in week 13 of NWSL play that saw Portland take back the top of the standings.
World Cup stars ball out in their sendoff matches
While Gotham couldn’t beat their rain delay curse, they could beat the Chicago Red Stars who they beat 2-1 on Sunday. They played one of the most interesting formations of the season, with captain Kelley O’Hara playing forward and Allie Long playing center back. The Red Stars were the better side of the first half, with Abby Smith making Gotham fans nervous as she played boldly off her line a few times. But the game remained scoreless until Lynn Williams took a gorgeous one-two touch and turned it into a banger goal that even Alyssa Naeher couldn’t save.
The game then took a short thirty-minute lightning delay break before the players returned to the field to play when it was actually raining. The second goal came from an Allie Long free kick that kissed the crossbar before bouncing into the net.
Chicago got their point off a gorgeous Cari Roccaro kick in the drizzling rain, but couldn’t get the win this time. Gotham had two other victories on Sunday as Midge Purce got her first minutes since April after tearing her quad and was greeted with triumphant cheers. Gotham also announced the signing of a short-term contract with Mana Shim, who was available for selection in the match but hasn’t seen any minutes yet. But seeing her in a jersey on the bench was a powerful moment for players and fans as the NWSL builds back from its rocky history.
Sophia Smith left Portland with the best possible send-off gift as she bagged her second hat trick of the season in their blowout match against the Washington Spirit.
When asked at halftime how she managed the incredible goals, she put it as simply as possible “I’m just being Soph.”
Morgan Weaver also kept up her hot streak, scoring in the 68th minute to seal Portland’s victory. Don’t let the 4-2 scoreline dupe you though, the Spirit fought their way through this one. Their two goals came courteous of Ashley Hatch and Ashley Sanchez.
Sanchez and Trinity Rodman in particular had an excellent game, hopefully showing forward momentum as they head off to play for the States. While Hatch set Spirit fans at ease that they might still be able to find wins during the World Cup since Hatch was unfortunately left off the final roster. The Thorns pulled this one off with incredible moves, Crystal Dunn and Sam Coffey providing excellent service as always and they were helped along by the Spirit’s defense crumbling in the second half.
The hottest trend of the season: DOGSO
The Reign and San Deigo clashed in Snapdragon this weekend with the Wave struggling to try and get the win at home. But it wasn’t enough to settle Bethany Balcer who netted a brace to get the Reign the win with goals in the 8th and 77th minute with assists from Quinn and Sofia Huerta. The Reign’s defense played just as strong a role as Balcer, with Phallon Tullis-Joyce going toe to toe against an Alex Morgan breakaway and keeping her out of the net.
Jayden Shaw got one back for the Wave courtesy of a Morgan assist, finding the equalizer in the 47th minute. But in the end, the Reign played the kind of game that everyone knows they’re capable of when they’re feeling it. The big headline of this match of course was the Kalien Sheridan red card. Originally a yellow before VAR review, Sheridan stopped a breakaway run with a relatively harmless trip of Elyse Bennett. But being way off her line as the last line of defense, Sheridan got the red card and was sent off in second-half stoppage time for denying of a goal-scoring opportunity. The Reign remain unbeaten by San Diego in their six-game history, fighting for four wins and two ties.
With their statement win against San Deigo last weekend, Angel City was riding that momentum into this sold-out home match. Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out for them in this gritty zero-zero draw. They weren’t without chances, as Paige Nielsen, Julie Ertz, and Alyssa Thompson all had a great game.
Houston looked disorganized, and relied on the talents of Jane Campbell to save them, which she did several times to keep them in this one. Her saves were the statement of the match from Houston for sure, blocking several promising chances from Leroux and Thompson.
Houston had their chances a few times, but this was a chippy game, with players flying everywhere. In the end, Houston relived last week's match as Katie Lind was sent off with a red card for, you guessed it: denying of a goal scoring opportunity. She tumbled into Sydney Leroux and got sent off in the 58th minute after VAR review. In short, both teams need to build better chemistry with their frontlines and rely less on the hard work of their defense.
No longer underdogs
The North Carolina Courage are making a statement with a 1-0 victory over Racing Louisville as Casey Murphy becomes the youngest keeper to get to thirty shutouts. The Courage dominated in possession, refusing to give Racing the time of day to make their moves. Their goal came from Tyler Lussi who has been an exceptional acquisition for them since they acquired her from Angel City during the offseason. With four wins in their last five matches, they’re the only team on the table right now that has three consecutive wins.
Racing has been doing well to hold their own, and had a few opportunities in this game. But their shots went wide or were unable to make it past the talents of Casey Murphy, leaving them scoreless. Hopefully, they’ll be able to bounce back and finally get their shot at playoffs, but they’ll now have to adjust to the loss of their top goal scorer as Savannah DeMelo heads off to USWNT camp.
Better late than never for the Kansas City Current to start turning things around. The Current walked away with a road victory of 2-1 against the Orlando Pride, finally starting to look like themselves. Debinha kicked things off for the Current with a chip that was the most Debinha being Debinha moment ever. Afterward, the Current finished off their half with the best goal build-up they’ve had all season to serve up an excellent ball to Cece Kizer.
The Pride answered in the second half with a Marta penalty kick, but couldn’t come up with anything else. Similar to Racing, they had a couple of good looks at goals mostly in transition moments, but couldn’t finish those shots.
In other news: Hotshots
After both Michelle Cooper and Alyssa Thompson had visceral reactions to taking Hotshots on the field to relieve cramps, Twitter has run rampant with a debate on whether or not to try them. The product is supposed to relieve cramps by basically distracting your nerve endings with spice. The internet seems split on whether you should try them or not, but the reactions are priceless.