Clutch performances and late goals were the highlights of another exciting week of NWSL action. Four teams are in the running for fourth place as the playoff race heats up.

Carli Lloyd came up with a deep game-winner, Crystal Dunn authored the Spirit’s first-ever hat trick, and a number of late equalizers and game-clinchers came from unexpected sources.

Below is a review of this past week’s matches.

 

Wednesday, July 29

FT – Western New York Flash 0-2 Portland Thorns FC

Western New York Flash, 5-7-3 (18 points)

Portland Thorns, 5-6-4 (16 points)

Sahlen’s Stadium, Rochester, NY

Behind goals by Allie Long and Christine Sinclair, Portland picked up a key road win and ended their three-game long scoreless streak. The Thorns coupled the solid offensive production with a strong showing on defense. Portland limited the Flash to five legitimate scoring opportunities – all of which were smothered by goalkeeper Michelle Betos.

The Flash, who were looking for their first win since June 28, came close to taking an early lead on Michelle Heyman’s first-minute shot. The attempt, which missed the mark by several feet, epitomized the Flash’s scoring attempts for the rest of the match.

Player of the Game: Christine Sinclair

Not only did the captain of the Canadian National Team record a goal and an assist in Wednesday’s match, but she also played a central role in all of the Thorns’ advances downfield. Sinclair’s veteran presence helped provide balance and patience to a Portland offense that desperately needed it.

 

FT – Houston Dash 3-2 FC Kansas City

Houston Dash, 5-5-5 (20 points)

FC Kansas City, 5-6-4 (19 points)

BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, TX

A match dominated by scoring opportunities, this was a game that would be won with a goal at the right time. Luckily for the host Dash, Carli Lloyd was in full clutch mode.

Lloyd took the game-winning shot from 30 yards away and in the 87th minute, lifting Houston over the Blues in front of over 6,400 fans at BBVA Compass Stadium. Before that, the two teams traded the lead back and forth, with FCKC starting the scoring on Lauren Holiday’s goal in the third minute. The Dash tied it up on Ellie Brush’s first goal of the year, then took the lead on Jessica McDonald’s sixth. The two points went unanswered for 58 minutes until Liz Bogus’ shot bounced off the post and right to Sarah Hagan, who put the ball in the back of the net for the equalizer.

Two minutes later, Lloyd took a shot that blew past goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart and into the net for the game-winner.

Player of the Game: Carli Lloyd

Number 10’s third goal of the month capped off an exciting win and extended her NWSL scoring streak to three. Lloyd continues to change the dynamic of a game by putting constant pressure on opposing defenses. She leads a Houston offense that will be difficult to stop down the stretch.

 

Saturday, August 1

FT – Boston Breakers 1-2 Seattle Reign FC

Boston Breakers, 3-10-3 (12 points)

Seattle Reign FC, 9-3-3 (30 points)

Soldiers Field Stadium, Allston, MA

The Breakers were looking for their first win since May 30th, but Seattle rained on that idea. Kristie Mewis, who scored Boston’s lone goal, took the Breakers’ only two shots on goal in the whole game. The Breakers were unable to create opportunities and control possession, and allowed two Seattle goals in the meantime.

Beverly Yanez and reigning MVP Kim Little scored Seattle’s 29th and 30th overall goal this season, and helped the team remain in first place in the league table.

Also worth noting for the Reign is the increasing impact of Katrine Veje. The newly-acquired Danish forward took two shots before being substituted out in the 70th minute.

Player of the Game: Kim Little

Little showed yet another example of why she was chosen as last season’s MVP. The midfielder was an integral part of both of Seattle’s goals, helping set up Yanez for the first one and scoring the second one on a penalty kick. She continues to demonstrate her ability to create a lane and make big plays downfield.

 

FT – Washington Spirit 3-1 Houston Dash

Washington Spirit, 7-4-3 (24 points)

Houston Dash, 5-5-5 (20 points)

Maureen Hendricks Field, Boyds, MD

The Crystal Dunn Show in Boyds featured a star performance backed by a strong supporting cast. Dunn’s first-half hat trick not only solidified her reputation as one of the most powerful scorers in the league, but it also showcased the set-up skills of Diana Matheson, Christine Nairn, and Joanna Lohman. Dunn’s individual performance was one that required a soli team effort.

Dunn’s third goal of the match, which came in the first minute of stoppage time before the half, provided more than enough insurance for the Spirit to win the match. Houston’s attempt at a second-half comeback fell short. Despite multiple point-blank threats, only Jessica McDonald found the back of the net for the Dash.

The Dash’s defensive front was hampered by an injury to goalkeeper Erin McLeod, who left the game with a skin laceration after a collision with Dunn. McLeod’s replacement, Bianca Henninger, would later allow Dunn’s second and third goals.

Player of the Game: Crystal Dunn

Dunn became the author of the Spirit’s first-ever hat trick by powering through Houston’s defenders for three goals before the end of the first half. The UNC alum, who often leaves opposing defenses off-balance, seemed to wear out the usually-strong Dash backfield. A perfect combination of speed, power, and control, Dunn will continue to lead the Spirit offense as they make their playoff run.

 

FT – Sky Blue FC 1-2 Western New York Flash

Sky Blue FC, 3-7-5 (14 points)

Western New York Flash, 5-7-3 (18 points)

Yurcak Field, Piscataway, NJ

The Flash picked up their first win since the last week of June by edging Sky Blue FC on the road. New addition Lady Andrade started the scoring in the 34th minute, before Sky Blue found the equalizer on Kelley O’Hara’s shot in the 52nd minute.

O’Hara’s goal went unanswered until Lynn Williams’ 90th minute cross was headered into the goal by Elizabeth Eddy. For Eddy, who had been subbed into the game a mere ten minutes prior, it was her third goal of the season.

Player of the Game: Chantel Jones

Goalkeeper Chantel Jones allowed only one goal in a remarkable 21 shots by Sky Blue. The Virginia native made several key stops to prevent Sky Blue from taking the lead. Her stop on Samantha Kerr in the 28th minute was an excellent play on a point-blank shot from Kerr.

 

FT – Chicago Red Stars 2-2 FC Kansas City

Chicago Red Stars, 7-1-6 (27 points)

FC Kansas City, 5-6-4 (19 points)

Village of Lisle – Benedictine University Sports Complex, Lisle, IL

The Blues held off the host Red Stars in a 2-2 draw in front of 3,477 at the Village of Lisle. Backed by two goals by Christen Press, Chicago looked to be on the verge of their eighth win of the year.  FC Kansas City, however, found an 87th minute equalizer when Sarah Hagen, who had just entered the game as a substitute, scored on Heather O’Reilly’s left cross.

The game ended on a 2-2 draw, but not without some controversy. In stoppage time, FC Kansas City defender Becky Sauerbrunn appeared to commit a handball but resulted in a no-call by the referees.

Players of the Game: Sarah Hagen and Christen Press

Hagen, a usual starter, was left out of starting lineup due to fatigue resulting from FC Kansas City’s match at Houston two days prior. That did not stop her from playing a role in the final score, however, as she came off the bench and provided a clutch goal to force a draw.

Press’ continued to put pressure on opposing defenses, taking four shots on goal and scoring on two of them. Since her return from the Women’s World Cup, she has shaken up the Red Stars’ offense and opened significantly more scoring opportunities for them.

The California native has now scored eight goals in her six NWSL games this season.

 

All NWSL games can be streamed on the league’s official YouTube channel.

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