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  • Writer's pictureKinsey Manchester

NWSL Week 15 Roundup

Another weekend in the books, and another round of surprises. In the last week of NWSL action before the World Cup break, we saw top teams tumble, four out of six home teams secure wins, two teams extend their winless streaks, and lots of movement on the table. Let's get right into all the nitty gritty of Week 15.

Purple Shakes and Purple Wins

The color purple has been all around the internet recently, and the NWSL's two purple teams seem to have taken that in stride. Both the Orlando Pride and Racing Louisville FC pulled off big wins during action on Friday night.

In the opening match of the weekend, the Orlando Pride hosted OL Reign. The Reign looked dangerous early on in the match, with forward Elyse Bennett playing in combination with Olivia Athens to force a good save from keeper Anna Moorhouse. Not longer after, Orlando

Messiah Bright, center, celebrates her goal for the Orlando Pride / Photo courtesy of Orlando Pride

would go on the attack and end up hitting the post. They kept up the momentum and notched the game winning goal in the 15th minute from a Messiah Bright header. Bright, who leads all rookies in the league with four goals, headed a beautiful cross from teammate Julie Doyle to put the home team up 1-0. Bright, Doyle, and midfielder Kerry Abello all made OL Reign keeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce work ard to keep the score close in the first half.

While the visiting side had a few chances in the second half, they could not seem to find their footing or rhythm. They tested Moorhouse a few times, but never felt threatening. On the other side of the ball, Bright continued to make opportunities for the Pride up until the 85th minute when she hit the post on a strike from the right side. Orlando's 1-0 win is their second in a row and they now sit just two spots below the playoff line.

The other victorious purple squad was Racing Louisville FC as they played host to the Kansas City Current on Friday night. Racing came back from an early Kansas City lead to secure the victory. Defender Abby Erceg cleared the ball into the arm of teammate Jaelin Howell in the box, resulting in a Kansas City penalty kick in the seventh minute. Rookie Michelle Cooper sent Katie Lund the wrong way and put the visitors up 1-0 early.

The momentum shifted back to Racing as wingback Carson Pickett's cross found Erceg to put the ball past Current keeper AD Franch, but the goal was called back. Racing kept the pressure high and was able to even the score in the 21st minute off the foot of Finnish international Elli Pikkujämsä. Pikkujämsä's shot was an absolute rocket off of a rebound on a corner kick. While Louisville had a few more opportunities that tested Franch, the teams remained level at the half.

In the first minute of the second half, Paige Monaghan scored for Louisville on a beautiful strike from outside the box. Monaghan's goal was unreachable for Franch, and the home team went up 2-1. Chances continued to fall in Louisville's favor, especially off of smart play from Wang Shuang. The Current nearly equalized in stoppage time, but Erceg made a goal line save to keep her team victorious. In this match, AD Franch recorded her 400th save, putting her in the top five of NWSL keepers of all time. With this win, Racing now sits just outside the playoff line.

Kayla Fischer (left) and Paige Monaghan (right) celebrate Monaghan's go-ahead goal on Friday for Racing Louisville FC / Photo courtesy of Racing Louisville FC

Winless Streaks

Two teams are now winless in their last five regular games: the Houston Dash and the San Diego Wave. Houston hosted the Chicago Red Stars on Friday night. The Dash looked dangerous early, as a ball from María Sánchez was cleared at the last second off the goal line by Chicago forward Ella Stevens. The Red Stars jumped on the attack as well and forced a goal line clearance of their own, with defender Caprice Dydasco clearing the ball and keeping the score even.

In the second half, Stevens made her mark on the offensive side of the ball as well, creating some good opportunities. Sánchez and forward Ebony Salmon tested Chicago's Emily Boyd with two tough shots back to back in the 65th minute, but she proved up to the task. It took until the 69th minute for either side to find the back of the net, when Penelope Hocking scored shortly after subbing on for the Red Stars. When a rebounded shot landed right at Hocking's feet, she skillfully lifted it into the net for what would ultimately be the game's only goal. Chicago has now won two games in a row.

The San Diego Wave, who have also not won in their last five games, drew 2-2 in a hard-fought match with the visiting Washington Spirit. Ashley Hatch put early pressure on the San Diego Wave, getting behind their back line early and then drawing a foul in the box on keeper Shae Yañez. Yañez, coming out to meet a long through ball, was ruled to have fouled Hatch after an extensive VAR review. Hatch then buried the penalty kick and eighth goal of the season to put the Spirit up 1-0 in the 20th minute. This score held until halftime.

San Diego's Cheyenne Shorts was then involved in the next two goals on both sides of the ball. She scooped up a rebounded ball in the Spirit box to equalize in the 46th minute of play for her first career NWSL goal. Less than 10 minutes later, however, a ball from Spirit defender Dorian Bailey led to a Shorts own goal to put the visitors back up 2-1. The Wave continued pushing and a beautiful ball from Kelsey Turnbow in the 90th minute led to a Taylor Kornieck header goal that helped them bring the score back to 2-2. Both the Spirit and the Wave sit just inside the playoff line.

Taylor Kornieck (right) celebrates her equalizing goal with teammate Madison Pogarch (left) on Saturday / Photo courtesy of San Diego Wave

Home Team Advantage

NJ/NY Gotham FC beat the Portland Thorns in New Jersey on Sunday in yet another flirt with bad weather for the home side. Goalie Abby Smith made some very big saves early on, including a close-up save on Morgan Weaver in the 14th minute. Rallied by Smith's strong performance, Gotham got on the attack thanks to efforts from Midge Purce. A shot by Jenna Nighswonger fell right to the feet of Allie Long, who did not hesitate to bury the ball in the back of the net, putting Gotham up 1-0 in the 21st minute. Attacker Katie Stengel continued to test Portland keeper Bella Bixby, once hitting the post in the first half. Back to back big saves from the goalies at the end of the half kept the scoreline at 1-0.

In the 56th minute, Purce chipped a ball on goal, forcing an incredibly athletic save from Bixby. The rebound fell to a wide open Stengel, who easily tucked away the ball to put Gotham up 2-0. Portland did not give up and Hannah Betfort beat Abby Smith on a lovely pass from Meghan Klingenberg in the 62nd minute. They ultimately could not score again and the game ended with a win for home team Gotham. The Thorns, who appear to be feeling the loss of their international players, have now lost two in a row, but still sit at second, while Gotham climbs to third.

Goalkeeper Abby Smith (in blue) passes the ball upfield to a teammate during Sunday's game / Photo courtesy of NJ/NY Gotham FC

For proof of how close NWSL competition is, look no further than the last game of the week. Angel City, who entered week 15 as the last team in the league, hosted the top of the table North Carolina Courage and came away with a win.

The game opened up with opportunities on both ends, setting the high-paced tone of the match. Brianna Pinto opened the scoring for the visiting side when she scored a nearly unstoppable shot on a great pass from Frankie Tagliaferri in the 15th minute. Angel City was eager to equalize and the tenacity of forward Scarlett Camberos led to a goal in the 21st minute. Camberos' header was ushered into the goal from the hip of midfielder Savannah McCaskill, and supporters went wild. Feeding off that energy, Angel City had another chance in the 40th minute when a shot from Sarah Gorden hit the back post.

Angel City continued to maintain possession and felt like they were due for another goal. National team replacement player Elizabeth Eddy forced an own goal from defender Kaleigh Kurtz in the 75th minute. Another chance from Sydney Leroux nearly put the home team up 3-1, but ultimately the score remained 2-1 when the final whistle blew. Angel City outshot North Carolina 21-9, and had 11 corners to the Courage's two. Since Interim Coach Becki Tweed took the helm, Angel City is undefeated in five games across all competitions.


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