NWSL Weekend Recap: Chicago, Portland feature in best-ever match

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NWSL
TACOMA, WA — APRIL 21: Seattle Reign FC pose for a photo before the NWSL soccer match between the Orlando Pride and the Seattle Reign on April 21, 2019 at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, WA. (Photo by Joseph Weiser/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

Bridgeview, Illinois (April 22, 2019) — From the get-go, the Chicago Red Stars and Portland Thorns FC began their match with intensity. Goals were plenty in the tilt between the two powerhouse teams in NWSL.

Eight goals were scored between the two sides. For fans, it was a goal fest show being put on right in front of their eyes. Portland saw three goals scored by their Canadian captain Christine Sinclair, while Yuki Nagasato notched a brace.

NWSL Weekend Recap: Chicago, Portland feature in best-ever match

Of course, for Chicago, it can’t be a true complete match without a goal from Sam Kerr. In the 20th minute, Kerr robbed Emily Sonnett on defense, stole the ball away and snuck it past Adrianna Franch. Chicago also had another goal scored by Michele Vasconcelos.

Meanwhile, the Thorns only goal that wasn’t scored by Sinclair was tallied by Swiss international Ana-Maria Crnogorčević.

It was a back-and-forth affair between the two sides. Throughout 90 minutes, the lead changed four times. Meanwhile, out of the eight goals, two came off of penalty kicks. Despite the physical and high-intensity match, no players were shown a yellow or red card from referee Karen Abt.

With the draw, Chicago now has two points, after drawing with the North Carolina Courage in the opening week of action. Meanwhile, the Thorns sit in second place, behind the Courage, with four points.

Up next for the Red Stars is a second consecutive home match at SeatGeek Stadium. The Red Stars will host the Reign FC at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. Meanwhile, a day later, the Thorns will head to New Jersey for their third-straight match on the road. Portland is forced to play their first six fixtures on the road due to renovations to Providence Park.

Sunday’s match will begin at 6 p.m. ET.

Sky Blue FC 0, Houston Dash 1

Sky Blue FC hosted their home opener at Yurcak Field on Saturday.

However, the home team could not find their first victory of the NWSL season. After coming off a loss to the Washington Spirit last weekend, the New Jersey-based club hosted the Houston Dash, looking for the first win.

The momentum never swung in Sky Blue FC’s direction. There was hope in the 26th minute, when Carli Lloyd collided in the box with Amber Brooks. However, despite the play being a collision and not Lloyd being taken down, referee Danielle Chesky signaled for a penalty kick.

Lloyd, without hesitation, picked up the ball and walked toward the penalty spot. However, when taking the penalty kick, Lloyd shanked the shot wide of Jane Campbell’s net. Sky Blue still hasn’t scored a goal in the 2019 season.

Meanwhile, toward the end of the match, in the 83rd minute, Sofia Huerta found the back of Kailen Sheridan’s net for Houston. The Dash wrapped up the final minutes of the match and secured three points to jump up to fourth place on the table.

Houston will look to continue the club’s momentum, heading into their return to BBVA Compass Stadium at home to host the North Carolina Courage. The match will begin at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday. Meanwhile, Sky Blue FC will host another home match at Yurcak Field, facing off against the Portland Thorns.

Utah Royals FC 1, Washington Spirit 0

With nine clubs in the NWSL one club has to sit out each weekend. During last weekend’s opening festivities of the NWSL season, Utah was that club.

In the second year of existence, the Utah Royals FC kicked off their 2019 season with a victory and three points. Utah will need plenty of reinforcements helping out with key players like Christen Press, Katie Bowen, Rachel Corsie, Kelley O’Hara, Becky Sauerbrunn and Desiree Scott heading to the World Cup this summer.

Meanwhile, Lo’eau Labonta showed off that she doesn’t need those players in France to make an impact. Instead, Labonta scored the opening goal of the Royals season in the 10th minute. Press notched the assist.

The goal was also her first in a Royals uniform.

However, there were other first-time occurrences for the Royals. Mandy Laddish took her first steps on the Royals pitch in the 79th minute. Laddish missed the last two NWSL seasons due to two hip surgeries. According to the Royals, it has been 952 days since her last appearance.

Meanwhile, defender Michelle Maemone made her NWSL debut. The Royals selected Maemone from Pepperdine University in the third round of this past year’s NWSL College Draft. Kelley O’Hara also made her season debut, after recovering from an ankle injury. She featured eight times for the Royals last year, battling an ongoing hamstring injury.

As for the Washington Spirit, Rose Lavelle made her return after an injury, replacing Cheyna Matthews in the 46th minute. The rookie backline trio of Sam Staab, Tegan McGrady and Paige Nielsen started for the second consecutive week. Tori Huster serves as the veteran presence on defense, taking the right back position.

Up next for the Royals is a trip across the country to face the Orlando Pride on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET at Orlando City Stadium. Meanwhile, the Spirit have the weekend off. They’ll feature next on May 4 against the Reign FC at the Maryland SoccerPlex.

Reign FC 1, Orlando Pride 1

A new air surrounded the Reign FC for their home opener.

For the first time ever, the Reign held their season opener at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, Washington. The team made the move to Tacoma this offseason, as Memorial Stadium was not deemed fit for NWSL matches. Instead of adding “Tacoma” to their name, the “Seattle” was just dropped.

The Reign FC gave up an early lead to the Orlando Pride, who are desperate for points after losing two straight matches to the two teams that made the NWSL Championship game last year. Orlando fans saw Alanna Kennedy score a bicycle kick in the 6th minute.

Meanwhile, Reign FC rookie Bethany Balcer leveled the score in the 21st goal with her first professional goal. Balcer joined the Reign undrafted from Spring Arbor University in the NAIA. She featured on the Seattle Sounders Women team in the WPSL where she won the league championship in 2018.

“It’s kind of a Cinderella story,” Vlatko Andonovski, Reign FC head coach, said. “She’s coming from a small NAIA school and fifteen minutes into the game makes a name for herself. She’s a great human being and an unbelievable soccer player. It’s so nice to work with her. She just wants to get better every day and has a great mentality. When she scores goals for us, it’s even greater.”

Up next for the Reign is a trip to Chicago to face the Red Stars. Meanwhile, the Pride will face the Utah Royals on the same day, Saturday.

 

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