NWSL: Portland Thorns return to top of the league
NWSL Portland Thorns return to top of the league with 1-0 victory over rivals Seattle Reign.
The National Women’s Soccer League’s Portland Thorns defeated Pacific Northwest rivals Seattle Reign to return to the top of the league 1-0. Nadia Nadim tallied her fifth goal of the NWSL season with a 74th minute header that just sneaked past Seattle goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer, who was filling in for Hope Solo. Nadim’s header gives Portland a three-point cushion as the NWSL heads into the Olympic break.
Washington Spirit continued its strong season with a comprehensive 3-1 win over Sky Blue FC. Despite being postponed on Saturday night due to adverse weather, the two sides kicked off on Sunday morning, for the second time in consecutive weeks. Sky Blue was 1-0 winners last time, but this time Washington got on the scoreboard early. Estefania Banini scored her fourth goal of the season in the 28th minute following Johanna Lohman’s through ball.
Sky Blue leveled things in the 33rd minute, however, as Washington defender Megan Oyster’s backpass to goalkeeper Kelsey Wys was intercepted by Tasha Kai. The Sky Blue star struck the equalizer, but the game wouldn’t stay level for long.
Washington’s Cheyna Williams tallied her first goal of the season after finding space in the penalty area to give the Spirit a 2-1 lead going into halftime. Washington would do just enough in the second half to hold on to its slim lead, before a 90th minute goal by defender Alyssa Kleiner put the match out of reach.
Western New York Flash battled Houston Dash to a 3-3 draw at Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium. The Flash’s Lianne Sanderson opened the scoring in the third minute, slotting past Houston goalkeeper Bianca Henninger. However, Houston came back with two goals on either side of the break. Rachel Daly grabbed the first before Kealia Ohai added a second.
Ohai then made the score 3-1 just after the hour mark as her deflected shot off Stephanie Ochs’ cross looked to have the match sealed for the Dash. However, Western New York made a dramatic comeback with Jessica McDonald striking her seventh goal of the season in the 70th minute. Lynn Williams then added her NWSL league leading eighth goal three minutes into stoppage-time to give the Flash a share of the spoils. The draw keeps the Flash in third place, three points behind top of the table Portland.
FC Kansas City fell 1-0 to Chicago Red Stars thanks to a Stephanie McCaffrey goal. Kansas City had a plethora of chances in the opening 45 minutes, but the ladies seemed to have left their shooting boots back home. Kansas City forward Tiffany McCarty was the guiltiest of missing chances for her side. Despite finding herself in good position, the former Florida State player failed to capitalize.
After finishing the first half at nil-nil, Chicago broke the deadlock in the 54th minute when McCaffrey slotted Sophia Huerta’s saved shot into the back of the net. The Red Stars goal had been coming for some time, and Kansas City goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart had done her best to thwart Chicago’s best efforts.
Despite Kansas City’s best attempts, the team couldn’t find an equalizer in the closing half an hour of the match. The result leaves Kansas City nine points from the final NWSL playoff spot, which is occupied by Chicago.
In the final match of the weekend, the Boston Breakers won for only the second time during the NWSL season, as the ladies picked up a 1-0 win over Orlando Pride.
England international Natasha Dowie made her NWSL debut for the Breakers after her midseason move from England Women’s Super League side Doncaster Rovers Belles. Dowie’s signing proved fortuitous as she netted her first goal for the Breakers in the 10th minute. Orlando left-back Kristen Edmonds’ backpass was intercepted by Dowie, who slotted it first time past Orlando goalkeeper Kaitlyn Savage.
Despite Orlando pushing for an equalizer throughout the remaining 80 minutes, including having a goal called off for offsides, Boston held firm and picked up the 1-0 victory. The Breakers remain in last place in the NWSL, however. With Dowie’s signing, the team does look more dangerous going forward, and have the remainder of the NWSL season to prepare for the 2017 term.
As with all NWSL games, fans can watch all the matches in full on YouTube.
Follow Drew Farmer on Twitter @DrewMFarmer. Check out his latest book, Soccer Travels, in paperback and on Kindle at Amazon.com.