The Rio Olympic Games raised its five-ringed head this week to interrupt the NWSL season for the first, but not last time this year, as Jill Ellis called 25 players into national team camp beginning May 27, ahead of a two-match series with Japan.
The league will stand down from May 29, through June 10 to accommodate the U.S. WNT, as they prepare to defend back to back Olympic Gold this August when the league will once again suspend play.
Play went ahead for the fourth year league this week but it was hardly regular service, not in a week that saw the perfect fall and the downtrodden rise.
Portland Thorns 4-1 vs. Washington Spirit
And then there was one, one team without a loss that is after Portland prevailed in the battle of the unbeaten over Washington.
The Thorns were playing in front of a raucous home crowd of close to 16,000 at Providence Park and they gave that crowd plenty to cheer about. Lindsey Horan headed home from Tobin Heath’s corner, Heat’s fifth of the season, as Horan continues to shine in her first professional season stateside.
The Thorns also had Christine Sinclair back for her first start of the season and the Canadian international picked up an assist on Tobin Heath’s goal that made the score 3-0. An own goal had put the Thorns up by two, so when Heath made it three the Spirit was in trouble.
Crystal Dunn set up Joanna Lohman to give Washington a lifeline but the Spirit would get no closer and when Meg Morris picked off a Washington backpass she finished her chance for her first Thorns goal and Portland had the win.
Even with Saturday’s win third place Portland (3-0-3) trail the Spirit (4-1-1), and Chicago (4-1-1) in league standings.
Boston Breakers 1-0 vs. FC Kansas City
Boston finally scored its first goal of the season and while they were at it the Breakers also picked up win number one of the 2016 campaign. For Whitney Engen it capped a pretty good week personally, the center back scored the winning goal and also stayed in the Olympic picture when she received an invite to U.S. WNT camp.
The result continues a miserable season for two-time defending champion FC Kansas City, who have gone from first to worst and remain the only team in NWSL without a win.
Houston Dash 0-1 vs. Orlando Pride
Tom Sermanni coached expansion side Orlando Pride earned the first road win in its short history with a 1-0 win over the Houston Dash at BBVA Compass Stadium on Friday night. Perhaps it was appropriate then on this night of firsts’ that lone goal of the match was also the first NWSL goal for the Pride’s Kristen Edmonds.
Edmonds took a pass from took a pass from Lianne Sanderson who earned the assist on the goal but this goal was 95%, who Edmonds fired from distance, leaving Dash keeper Lydia Williams no chance as her shot ticked in off the bottom of the crossbar.
The shutout was third straight for Ashlyn Harris and her defense, impressive in its own right, and it also gives Harris a boost heading to U.S WNT camp where the Pride goalkeeper continues to battle Chicago’s Alyssa Naeher and now Portland number one Adrianna Franch for the chance to back up Hope Solo in Rio this summer.
Seattle Reign 1-2 vs. Chicago Red Stars
Hope Solo was not available for Seattle’s home match this weekend versus the Chicago Red Stars due to a death in the family, and the Reign was also hit by the injury bug with Megan Rapinoe still unavailable as were Jess Fishlock, and Manon Melis.
Chicago hardly needed the help, maintaining its five-game unbeaten run and coming within an 89-minute penalty kick from BBC Player of the Year Kim Little of earning a fifth consecutive shutout for goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and her defense.
As mentioned earlier Naeher is one of three American keepers fighting for the right to back up Hope Solo in Rio this summer and with the way the trio are performing in NWSL, it seems the U.S. Gold Medal push would be in safe hands if Solo were to pick up a knock.
The hero for the visiting Red Stars on Sunday was Jen Hoy, who scored both goals with considerable help from Vanessa DiBernardo. DiBernardo claimed the assist on Hoy’s 55-minute opener and sent a fine through ball in for Hoy, who scored on her own rebound after a great save from Solo understudy Haley Kopmeyer.
The win puts Chicago level on points with Washington, who occupy the top spot in the NWSL standings by virtue of a superior goal difference.
Western NY 5-2 vs. Sky Blue FC
Can we call this an NWSL Derby, or rivalry along the lines of the New York Red Bulls vs. New York City in MLS?
Probably not for a host of reasons, but we did get a bit of a rout in Saturday’s engagement in Rochester, although in this case it was the home team that dominated.
The Flash were in charge of this on from the opening whistle and it took just five minutes for Western New York to gain the upper hand on the Jersey girls. Jessica McDonald scored the first goal on U.S. WNT call up Jaelene Hinkle’s first assist of the evening and the rout was on.
Goals came in the 19 minute (Sam Mewis, another national teamer), 23 minutes ( Lynn Williams), and a second from McDonald one minute into first-half stoppage time. That sent the WNY into the intermission with a very comfy four-goal lead and that was essentially that.
Not to say that Sky Blue quit, the hole was simply too deep. Sky Blue got one back 10 minutes after play resumed, and it was a cracker of a shot from U.S. World Cup and Olympic winner Kelly O’Hara.
It was never going to be enough as the clubs added a goal each and the home team ran out impressive winners.
Below is the 25 player U.S. WNT roster.
GOALKEEPERS (4): Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns FC), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)
DEFENDERS (10): Whitney Engen (Boston Breakers), Jaelene Hinkle (Western New York Flash), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Gina Lewandowski (FC Bayern Munich), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Christie Rampone (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Rose Lavelle (Wisconsin), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Samantha Mewis (Western New York Flash), Heather O’Reilly (FC Kansas City)
FORWARDS (4): Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado)