Week three of NWSL season four got underway with two Friday night games. The Washington Spirit traveled to Rochester to face the Western New York Flash and the Houston Dash welcomed Sky Blue FC. The league then stood down on Saturday, leaving it to the rest of the sports world to battle for attention, before coming back with three more games on Sunday.
So let’s begin this week’s NWSL Roundup with Friday’s doubleheader. As always, home teams listed first.
Western New York (3-0-0, 9pts) 0-3 Washington Spirit (1-2-0, 3-pts)
Three weeks into the league’s fourth season and the Washington Spirit just keep rolling along, even if Friday night’s 3-0 win wasn’t quite as easy as the scoreline makes it appear. The Spirit did jump out to a quick lead just four minutes in when Canadian international Diana Matheson put the finishing touch on Crystal Dunn’s set up.
The goal was the second of the season for Matheson and the helper was number three from 2015 NWSL MVP Dunn, but the floodgates hardly opened after that initial strike.
In fact, the outcome might have been different if the Flash had converted a penalty kick in the 49th minute, instead Sam Mewis clanked her spot kick off of the upright and into the waiting arms of Spirit netminder Stephanie Labbe to miss out on a potential equalizer.
Matheson wasn’t so wasteful when she faced down WNY keeper Sabrina D’Angelo from 11 yards out, making the Flash pay for Jaelene Hinkle’s takedown on the Spirit’s Cheyna Williams and extending Washington’s lead to 2-0 with her 70th-minute pk.
A late own goal added to Western New York’s misery and assured Washington of a perfect 3-0-0 record and continued residence atop the NWSL standings.
Houston Dash (1-1-1, 4pts) 0-0 Sky Blue FC (1-1-1, 4pts)
The Dash will be without the services of Carli Lloyd for the next three to six weeks and the deleterious effect of her absence was clear to all in game one of the post-Carli era with Houston unable to muster a goal in a 0-0 home draw.
In fairness to Lloyd’s remaining attacking colleagues, a good deal of the credit for the zero on the home side of the ledger Friday night is down to Sky Blue keeper Caroline Stanley. Stanley’s primary victim at BBVA Compass Stadium was Dash rookie striker Rachel Daly who was unable to convert on a quartet of chances, with a 50/50 split on those lost chances divvied up between Stanley saves and Daly misses.
Andressa also troubled the Sky blue defense while New Jersey-based Sky Blue received a promising offensive performance from Costa Rican international midfielder Raquel Rodriguez; who last year earned the MAC Hermann Trophy for her outstanding season with Penn State.
The result leaves the teams stranded in mediocrity with four points each, with identical 1-1-1 records.
Seattle Reign (2-0-1, 7pts) 1-0 FC Kansas City (0-2-1, 1pt)
The Reign earned a small measure of revenge for last season’s NWSL Championship loss with Sunday’s 1-0 win over two-time defending champions FCKC. Kim Little continued her stellar play for the Reign, scoring the game’s lone goal in the 56th minute, and the Scot’s second tally of the year was too much for the still winless champs to overcome.
The victory, the second in a row for the Reign, took some of the sting out of the news that the team will be without Jessica Fishlock for the next four to six weeks due to a fracture to the Welsh midfielders left tibia.
The result and the score was a reversal of Kansas City’s win in last year’s final, so a tight match was no surprise. It is, however, a shock to look at the NWSL standings and find only the Boston Breakers at 0-0-3 below the 2014 and 2015 NWSL title holders.
Boston Breakers (0-3-0, 0pts) 0-1 Portland Thorns (2-0-1, 7pts)
Boston hosted the Portland Thorns on Sunday with hopes of eliminating that ugly ought from its win column, but the Thorns would see to it that the Bostonians misery would continue for another week at least by handing the home side a 1-0 loss.
Portland’s Tobin Heath maintained her sizzling form setting up Dagny Brynjarsdottir for the game’s only goal, picking up her fourth helper of the young season. Goalkeeper Adrianna Franch earned a shutout in her first game as a Thorn, her first in the league since the 2013 NWSL Championship match, which Franch lost 1-0 to Portland as a member of the Western New York Flash.
After spending time playing in Norway, the former U20 and U23 U.S. WNT keeper was sharp in her return on Sunday and she gives coach Mark Parsons another option on a talent-laden squad.
Chicago Red Stars (2-1-0, 6pts) 1-0 Orlando Pride (1-2-0, 3pts)
In a match rife with implications for the U.S. WNT Olympic Gold Medal defense, Chicago’s Christen Press beat Orlando keeper Alyssa Harris for the only goal of the game as Red Stars netminder Alyssa Naeher picked up the shutout in a battle between Hope Solo’s backups.
That is not to say that Harris did not play well, she did, but in earning a second shutout on the trot Naeher will surely have caught national team coach Jill Ellis’ eye, remember Ellis is on record as saying that league form will have a lot to do with her Rio selections.
On that same note, Ellis is sure to be happy with Press’ performance early in the NWSL campaign. Not only has Press scored in back to back weeks, the forward’s overall game has been outstanding.