NWSL: Seattle Reign keep playoff hopes alive
National Women’s Soccer League returned to action after the Olympic break with the Seattle Reign keeping their playoff hopes alive thanks to a 3-1 win against northwest rivals Portland Thorns.
Seattle Reign were without suspended US women’s goalkeeper Hope Solo, yet the team were able to claim their first win over the Thorns this season. It was the fourth time the two sides had met in the NWSL season. The teams shared the points in the first two matches before Portland won 1-0 before the Olympic break.
Manon Melis opened the scoring in the 27th minute after a beautifully weighted pass from Nahomi Kawasumi eluded Portland’s defense. Melis outpaced Thorns’ goalkeeper Michelle Betos to the ball and put it into the back of the net. Melis doubled the Reign lead just after halftime as Portland’s Emily Sonnett miss played a pass, allowing Melis to steal it away and stroll in on goal. Betos made a halfhearted attempt to save it, and Seattle were up 2-0.
Portland pulled a goal back in second half stoppage-time when Allie Long slotted home. However, Seattle once again extended their lead as Megan Rapinoe, playing in her first match of the season following a knee injury, scored a late goal.
Seattle now sit four points behind Western New York for the final NWSL playoff place with four matches to play.
Thanks to Seattle’s win over Portland, the Washington Spirit were able to extend their lead at the top of the NWSL with a 2-1 win over Orlando Pride. Washington’s Cheyna Williams scored her second goal of the season as she beat Orlando’s defenders in the 18-yard box before firing past goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris.
Christine Nairn added a second just before the hour mark when she found herself all alone in front of Orlando’s goal with only Harris to beat. Her low shot made it 2-0. Orlando’s Sarah Hagen added a second 19 minutes from time, but the Spirit held on for the 2-1 win.
Western New York Flash dropped points to Houston Dash, and gave Seattle the chance to catch them in the race for the final NWSL playoff place. The Flash had to comeback twice as Houston opened the scoring when Denise O’Sullivan tallied her second goal of the season.
Western New York levelled things eight minutes later when Lynn Williams’ layoff in the box found Lianne Sanderson streaming into the penalty area. She rifled her shot into the back of the net, and both teams went into the half level at one.
Kealia Ohai put Houston back on top in the 54th minute with her fifth goal of the season. Ohai picked up a pass just inside her own area and dribbled in on the Flash’s goal. Ohai cut inside her defender before curling a well placed shot past Western’s goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo.
The lead only lasted four minutes as Flash defender Makenzy Doniak got Western New York back on terms. Williams cutback pass found Doniak arriving late in the box. Her shot beat Lydia Williams, giving the Flash a share of the points.
The Chicago Red Stars helped their case for an NWSL playoff place, simultaneously damaging Sky Blue FC’s postseason chances with a 3-1 win. The Red Stars completely dominated the New Jersey side as Stephanie McCaffrey opened the scoring just after the half hour mark. Her miss hit cross went over the head of Sky Blue goalkeeper Caroline Stanley and settled into the back of the net to make the game 1-0.
Chicago’s Christen Press doubled the Red Stars’ lead in the 73rd minute with her fifth goal of the NWSL season. Sofia Huerta added a third seven minutes later as her shot past Stanley made it 3-0. Sky Blue’s Samantha Kerr got a consolation goal in second half stoppage-time. The loss puts Sky Blue five points off the last NWSL playoff place.
In the final match of the NWSL weekend, the Boston Breakers record their third victory of the season defeating FC Kansas City. The match featured two teams that will miss out on the NWSL playoffs, but are building for next season. The Breakers got goals from Katie Schoepfer and Kristie Mewis on either side of halftime to pick up all three points away from home.
PHOTO: @KristieMewie celebrates her first goal of the year, which was her 10th goal as a Breaker. :: ISI Photospic.twitter.com/esiA7Brp50