NWSL Wrap Up: Washington keeps rising, NC falls once again

NWSL
TACOMA, WA — MAY 27: North Carolina Courage midfielder Lauren Milliet (27) dribbles the ball down field against Seattle Reign FC midfielder Jess Fishlock (10) during the NWSL soccer match between the North Carolina Courage and the Seattle Reign on May 27, 2019 at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, WA. (Photo by Joseph Weiser/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

Bridgeview, Illinois (May 29, 2019) — The Chicago Red Stars were riding waves of momentum into their Saturday contest against the Washington Spirit. Chicago found their groove early this season. The partnership between Sam Kerr and Yuki Nagasato is better than ever.

However, most internationals are gone. A few are left and played their final match before heading off to the FIFA Women’s World Cup. One of the players gone was Kerr, who will help Australia in the tournament. Meanwhile, the Washington Spirit also are missing a couple of key internationals, like Rose Lavelle, Mallory Pugh and Cheyna Matthews.

NWSL Wrap Up: Washington keeps rising, NC falls once again

The NWSL will go on during the World Cup, but with many teams missing valuable players, the competition is completely wide open.

That was showcased on Saturday. The Washington Spirit have been quietly climbing up the NWSL standings. They’re a young team, with Washington rookies and second-year players taking plenty of spots in the starting lineup. Jordan DiBiasi, Tegan McGrady and Sam Staab have been highlight-reel rookies this season.

In her third season, Ashley Hatch is hitting her stride.

The youthful Washington Spirit headed to Illinois to take on the Red Stars. After upsetting the Portland Thorns last weekend, Washington went into SeatGeek Stadium with plenty of confidence. That confidence paid off with a victory.

Nagasato scored an own goal in the 9th minute on a crowded corner kick. However, in the 63rd minute, Ashley Hatch snuck one past Emily Boyd. Arielle Ship recorded the assist for Hatch.

Chicago did have a golden opportunity moment when Vanessa DiBernardo caught Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe in a different direction. However, DiBernardo’s potential goal was blocked and headed away by defender Paige Nielsen.

Washington has now quietly climbed to second place in the NWSL, with 13 points. Only the Utah Royals, who have the same amount of points, are ahead of the Spirit.

Portland Thorns barely edge out Sky Blue FC

Taking on the Portland Thorns at home, Sky Blue FC were unable to find an equalizer or hang on for a draw.

The Thorns didn’t find the back of the net until the 69th minute. With some commotion inside the box, the ball found the foot of Margaret Purce. The former Boston Breakers midfielder slotted the ball past Britt Eckerstorm on an unassisted goal.

Portland managed to get 16 shots off throughout the whole night, while Sky Blue only took eight shots. For the home side, only one shot was registered on goal from newly acquired defender Gina Lewandowski. The former U.S. Women’s National Team international has spent the last eight years in Germany featuring for Bayern Munich.

After the match, Lewandowski said that everyone at the club has been welcoming to her. Lewandowski’s appearance was the first of her Sky Blue FC career. She featured forr the whole 90 minutes.

“It was kind of an easy transition,” Lewandowski said. “I think we had a good performance, certain phases of the game we got dangerous going forward a couple times but we just need to get more consistency going forward … there were phases where we actually were the better team we just need to do that over a longer period of time.”

The Thorns will return to Providence Park after the stadium is ready to open after renovations to the building and the inclusion of more seats. The Thorns, who are currently in third place, will host the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday.

Controversy surrounds Utah Royals FC win

The Orlando Pride have not won a single match this NWSL season.

That trend continued on Saturday for the struggling, last place Pride. A trip to Utah didn’t help the Pride as they fell to the Utah Royals, 2-0. Meanwhile, the Royals saw another goal from Amy Rodriguez, who has scored four in her last four appearances. Mackenzy Doniak also found the back of the net.

However, the victory did not come without controversy.

During the match, Carson Pickett of the Pride and Lo’eau LaBonta of the Royals battled for the ball. However, with no player touching the ball, LaBonta kicked Pickett, sending her to the ground. She was not given a yellow or red card from referee Karen Abt.

After the match, various players from around the league called out for a suspension for the Stanford alum. Meanwhile, after the match, Orlando Pride coach Marc Skinner did not comment on the play in his opening remarks.

“I don’t think they were better than us, I thought we were actually better than them but we’ve got to take the chances,” Skinner said, via a press release. “But what I’ve seen tonight, and this is the take home message, is that our team showed the spirit that I want the Pride to show going forward. We need to add the quality but they’ve defined the spirit needed to be on the Pride team today and I think that’s really, really important.”

Reign FC beat Courage for the first time

There have been six matches between the North Carolina Courage and Reign FC. In those six matches, the Courage have claimed five wins and both teams drew once. However, all of the cards fell on Memorial Day.

On Monday, for the first time in club history, the Reign FC defeated North Carolina. At their new home of Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, fans saw the rookie prowess of Bethany Balcer back in action.

Balcer has been a shocking rookie sensation in the league. She was the first player drafted from the NAIA, as she attended Spring Arbor University. Balcer has competed in six games this season for the Reign and scored her second goal of the season against one of the best teams in the league. On a corner kick, Balcer found herself open and smacked the ball off her head and past Katelyn Rowland.

However, the Reign weren’t done there.

Shea Groom scored her first goal of the season in the 86th minute. After Rowland came off her line and collided with defender Abby Erceg, Groom found herself wide open and the net open. She chipped the ball in the net.

Meanwhile, two minutes later, the Courage got one back. Erceg found herself open for a header on a corner kick and hurried to get the ball back in play.

The Reign had a bit of a change in goal. After an Achilles injury to Michelle Betos last week, Casey Murphy earned the nod in goal. Lydia Williams is off with Australia for the World Cup and Murphy was signed about two weeks ago.

Monday also saw the return of Jess Fishlock to the Reign FC after spending the first-half of the season with Lyon in France and winning the UEFA Women’s Champions League.

 

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