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  • Writer's pictureOliver Hunt

NWSL Week 9 Action: All Gas, No Breaks

Almost every game was a nail-biter this week, with players showing up to score out-of-this-world shots in back-and-forth games where defenders and keepers showed up big time to keep everyone on the edge of their seats. After three days full of games, here's what you missed in NWSL week nine.

Top-of-the-table competitors end up splitting points in high-intensity ties

There were huge matches in the league this weekend, pitting top-of-the-table teams against each other, and the games didn’t disappoint.

Starting off strong, Portland traveled to the infamous Snapdragon Stadium to attempt to rattle the Wave. This was a game of box-to-box action, and even though there wasn’t a point on the board until the 86th minute, it was one of the most intense matches of the weekend. There were 19 corner kicks in this game, with 10 for the Thorns and nine for the Wave, and just one resulting in a goal. Sofia Jakobbson was the strongest player of the match for the Wave, working to keep Crystal Dunn off the ball and scoring their lone goal on a breakaway. Taylor Kornieck was also back for the Wave this week at home for the first time since April, and christened her return to Snapdragon with a yellow card after some chippy play.

The Thorns found their response though in an incredible Reyna Reyes header to tie it one up and split the points. Coffey pulled the strings for Portland in this one as usual, but wasn’t able to get the ball to Sophia Smith and Dunn as usual due to the Wave’s strong defensive work. Portland tested Kailen Sheridan several times, but could only find a goal once off a corner kick. Ultimately, the teams split the points, leaving them tied in points for second place with Portland pulling ahead due to their significant goal differential.

The Wave and the Thorns weren’t the big teams to settle for a tie this weekend after 90 minutes of adrenaline. The Washington Spirit faced down Gotham FC on Sunday in the final match of the weekend at Audi Field. Both teams were in final-season form, giving this one their all. In a similar fashion to the Wave, Gotham’s defense was key, cutting off the channels that the Spirit would usually rely on to get the ball to Ashley Sanchez, Ashley Hatch, or Trinity Rodman. Ellie Jean and Ali Krieger were a pairing to contend with, stopping several breakaway runs when the Spirit began to look dangerous in transition. Gotham’s other key to success was keeping possession and denying the Spirit time on the ball to make anything happen.

Gotham players celebrate a goal by Bruninha in their match against the Washington Spirit at Audi Field in Washington DC, May 28. Photo courtesy of Gotham FC.

In the end, they managed to split the points. Gotham didn’t capitalize on several chances and was on the receiving end of this weekend’s most questionable VAR call which denied them another goal from a Yazmeen Ryan banger. Their lone point came off the foot of Bruninha as she put Gotham up in the 23rd minute with an incredible shot from outside the box. The Spirit found their response late, with a header from rookie Paige Metayer to snatch the tie and a point as these two giants settled for a tie.

Scrappy wins shuffle the middle of the standings

The opening match of the weekend took a while to find its footing, with both teams struggling to get into the groove for the majority of the first half. Both sides struggled to keep possession, unsure of what to do with the ball once they received it, which ended up making the first half mostly uneventful. Debinha and Cece Kizer provided the first-half energy for the Current, and made a couple good runs but couldn’t get anything past Jane Campbell. The Dash found the back of the net first, with the ultimate due of María Sánchez and Diana Ordóñez connecting for a goal in the 42nd minute. The Current came out with better energy in the second half, with the substitutions of Kristen Hamilton and Michelle Cooper bringing in some much-needed energy. But that wasn’t enough, as Houston found their second goal in the 54th minute with Ally Prisock’s first-ever goal. The Current will be headed back to the drawing board after another disappointing match.

The Courage owe this win to persistence, the magic of Kerolin, and defying physics. Racing was on the front foot for much of this match, but it was the Courage who made the most of the chances they were gifted and walked away with the road victory. Racing had a few really good looks at goal in the first half, including a breakaway from Paige Monaghan that almost got them the lead. But they couldn’t convert those chances and eventually the Courage made them pay with Rikke Madsen’s first NWSL goal and an excellent backflip goal celebration to go with it. The gifted boots of Kerolin are always at an advantage to find the back of the net, and the Brazilian did just that in the 60th minute. Racing eventually found a response with Jordan Baggett’s first goal for Louisville in the 88th minute but in the end, it was too little too late to redeem them from missing their shots in the first half.

Alyssa Naeher gifts the Red Stars a much-needed win

Chicago goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher punches out an Orlando Pride corner kick at SeatGeek Stadium in Chicago, Illinois, May 27. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Red Stars/IMAGN.

The Red Stars have been suffering for many games now, struggling to find themselves a goal, and this match was no different. They played on the heels of Orlando for the majority of the match, focusing on keeping the ball away. This win was truly a credit to how incredible of a keeper Alyssa Naeher is, as she broke the most NWSL saves record in dramatic fashion. She shut down anyone questioning her World Cup spot with a spectacular leap to tip the ball off the woodwork and deny Orlando their deserved lead.

The Pride are a real threat, and it’s remarkable that they walked away from this one without a win in a game where they were the more convincing side. Marta and Adriana connected dangerously all over the pitch and rookies Emily Madril and Messiah Bright were excellent as well. All it took was one perfectly weighted ball off of Casey Krueger and onto Yuki Nagasato’s head to get the win for the Red Stars, a win that they desperately needed but might not have deserved. However, it’s likely that the Pride will bounce back and continue to surprise teams all over the league with their dangerous attack.

The Reign bounce back

After a tough loss to Gotham, everyone was beginning to question if the Reign were truly ready for the rest of the season. But they were back to their usual selves when they took down Angel City in a convincing 4-1 victory. Megan Rapinoe was a bright spot in this win, with the veteran attacker finding lots of space on the ball and assisting on three out of the four goals. Every goal in this game was noteworthy, with Claire Emslie scoring the lone goal for Angel City off a corner kick. She admitted in the halftime interview that she didn’t intend for the kick to be shot but was happy to get the goal.

Unfortunately for Los Angeles, their moments in this match were few and far between with just two shots on target to rival the Reign’s eleven. They found their passing channels in the midfield clogged by the defensive work of Emily Sonnett and Jess Fishlock and saw themselves often turning over the ball before they were able to build momentum toward a goal. DiDi Haračić was forced to make seven saves as the Reign were firing on all cylinders again. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle taking on the Wave in the mid-week Challenge Cup match.

More players reaching incredible league milestones

Leaving the scorelines out of the discussion, there were several other accolades to be handed out this weekend celebrating players across almost every team. Ashley Sanchez and Hailie Mace both reached 50 NWSL appearances at their games this weekend. Cari Roccaro reached 100 appearances. Campbell reached 10,000 NWSL minutes and became the first keeper to reach that milestone with a single club. During the Reign’s incredible victory, Elyse Bennett scored her first goal for the Reign, and Veronica Latsko scored her first brace. Quinn finally got their first NWSL goal, becoming the first transgender player in the NWSL to score when they served up a dime right into the net from outside the box. Rapinoe also added to her legacy with three assists, having the most in club history for the Reign at 25 and the fifth most in the league overall. Not to mention, she was the first player to get three assists in one game since Kristie Mewis did it for the Dash back in 2020.

The league proved to be its usual chaotic self, with Gotham continuing their comeback story as they went top of the table again this week. With Challenge Cup matches and pride-themed games on the horizon, there is lots to look forward to in upcoming NWSL play as teams start to fine-tune their approach and turn up the heat.


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