NWSL Week 14 Recap
This weekend's NWSL action kept us all on the edge of our seats as we began to see how teams will shape up without their national team players. Upsets were in the air this week, and there was no shortage of late game antics, either. Add all that to a long-awaited return, a brace, and two penalty kicks, and we've got chaos. Let's take a look at all that went down during Week 14.
Nothing but Headers for OL Reign
In Saturday's early game, Racing Louisville traveled to Seattle to take on OL Reign. Racing got off to the stronger start when they capitalized off of a handball in the box by Reign midfielder Jess Fishlock midway through the first half. Wang Shuang knocked home the penalty kick against keeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce to put the visitors up 1-0 in the 24th minute.
The action continued in the second half when Katie Lund made some important saves to keep Louisville leading, and the post stopped a shot from Reign striker Tziarra King. In the 76th minute, OL Reign's defense was just one step behind when they believed the play had been stopped, allowing just enough room for Louisville's Paige Monahan to score on a near-post strike to extend their lead to 2-0.
The Reign continued to battle and eventually, Veronica Latsko scored a header goal off of a deflected cross to cut the lead in half in the 82nd minute. Less than five minutes later, Elyse Bennett, who had played well all game, got her head onto a cross from Nikki Stanton and put it past Lund to equalize. Despite the support from the Reign faithful, they were unable to use their momentum to earn a win, but this hard-fought game featuring 5 yellow cards felt worthy of a 2-2 final.
OL Reign players surround Elyse Bennett (center, in blue) after her equalizing goal against Racing Louisville on Saturday / Photo Courtesy of OL Reign
The Chicago Red Stars played host to the San Diego Wave on Saturday and earned a 1-0 upset against the visitors. The Wave looked threatening early on as Jaedyn Shaw found herself dangerously close to the goal on several occasions, but couldn't hit the mark. On the other side of the field, a shot from Chicago's Bianca St. Georges in the 21st minute hit both posts before the Wave could clear it. Then in the 41st minute, a VAR review took back Wave striker Makenzy Doniak's goal due to an offsides call. The home side fought back in stoppage time when Tatumn Milazzo found Ella Stevens, who slotted the ball home past keeper Shae Yáñez to put them up 1-0.
The second half of the action saw both teams trade opportunities, but neither team could find the back of the net. Yáñez made some great saves to keep the scoreline within reach for her team. While San Diego had possession 61% of the time and outshot the Red Stars 15-8, their efforts fell short. Notably, the Wave have not yet won without Alex Morgan this year in five games across all competitions, according to Tom Krasovic. They sit at 6th, just inside the playoff line, but their recent decline in form will definitely raise some questions. The Red Stars remain in last place.
Chicago Red Stars' Ella Stevens (in black) receives the ball during Saturday's match against the San Diego Wave / Photo Courtesy of Chicago Red Stars
The Washington Spirit were upset at home on Saturday when the Orlando Pride came in and left with three points. The Pride jumped ahead early in the 8th minute when a rebound in the box fell to the feet of Julie Doyle, who hit it hard and put the visitors up 1-0. Doyle would go on to score again off of a curling shot in the 16th minute, notching the first brace of her NWSL career. Doyle nearly found a third towards the end of the first half when her headed
ball from Haley McCutcheon sailed just wide of the net.
Starting the second half down 2-0, the Spirit began their attack early, but Orlando's Anna Moorhouse proved up to the task. Ashley Hatch had a few good chances on goal, but ultimately could not beat the keeper. In the 61st minute, Ally Watt's hard work would force the Spirit backline to commit an own goal, and the Pride extended their lead to 3-0. The Pride celebrated their victory and McCutcheon's 100th NWSL appearance with a resounding victory on the road.
In Saturday's late game, the Kansas City Current silenced the fervent home crowd of the Portland Thorns at Providence Park. Both teams came out firing- first, the Current's Jenna Winebrenner saw her shot hit the post and go just wide; then, Izzy D'Aquila nearly put the home team up off of a pass from Morgan Weaver, but a goal line clearance kept the score even. In the 34th minute, Meghan Klingenberg took down Kansas City attacker Alexa Spaanstra, and the Current were awarded a penalty kick. Michelle Cooper sent keeper Bella Bixby the wrong way to give the Current the 1-0 lead.
The Thorns had their share of opportunities in the second half, especially from D'Aquila, who seemed to be involved in a lot of their attacking chances. D'Aquila saw her shot hit the post in the 63rd minute, and her header turned away on a good save from keeper Cassie Miller. Despite Portland's efforts, they could not beat Miller, and the Current secured their first ever win over Portland.
Courage's Hot Streak
The North Carolina Courage sit atop the table and have won 5 of their last 6 regular season games after defeating the Houston Dash at home on Saturday. The Courage started out on the right foot, with shots from Brittany Ratcliffe and Brianna Pinto, who could not beat keeper Jane Campbell. Forward Tyler Lussi challenged Campbell again in the 44th minute, but the scoreline sat at 0-0 going in to halftime.
Courage keeper Katelyn Rowland came off her line to make a good save in the first few minutes of the second half. Not long after, Lussi would beat Campbell with a rocket of a shot to the top corner of the net, putting the Courage up 1-0. They would continue to test Campbell, who kept the game close for her team, but neither side could break through again, and Lussi's goal would be the game winner. The Courage held possession for 65% of the time throughout the game and had nearly two times as many passes as the Dash to keep them off the scoresheet.
Tyler Lussi celebrates scoring a goal for the North Carolina Courage on Saturday / Photo Courtesy of North Carolina Courage
Historic Return in Gotham-Angel City Match
Sunday's only game saw Angel City travel across the country to take on Gotham FC. Angel City made an early substitution in the 16th minute for an injured M.A. Vignola, who had been a bright spot as the left wingback. Both sides played off of a high press and the game featured many goalscoring chances. The smart play of Gotham's Yazmeen Ryan and Delanie Sheehan created a few strong opportunities in the first half, but yielded no goals. Going the other way, Savannah McCaskill forced a skillful save from Gotham keeper Abby Smith in the 28th minute.
The momentum of the game continued to swing back and forth throughout the second half. Midge Purce made an immediate impact when she came on after halftime, and her energy and playmaking skills proved a threat to the Angel City backline. The biggest news of the night was when, in the 62nd minute, Mana Shim came off the bench for Gotham in her first NWSL appearance in over 5 years. Shim was a key change-maker when she spoke up about systemic abuse and harassment in the NWSL, and she hadn't seen the pitch since June 3, 2018. Her return to the NWSL has been celebrated by fans and players throughout the league.
The visitors nearly scored in the 81st minute when Megan Reid played a perfectly-timed through ball to the feet of striker Claire Emslie, but Ryan, now on defense, made an amazing recovery to shut down her angle. Angel City's late push came too little too late, and the score held at 0-0. Both Didi Haračić and Abby Smith played well in net, coming up with big saves in key moments to keep it close. In an up and down match with lots of energy and a perfect 50/50 split of possession, neither team could score and they finished in a scoreless draw.
Mana Shim on the ball for Gotham FC during Sunday's match / Photo Courtesy of Gotham FC