The Forecast Calls for Reign

Yes, I’ve been waiting on using that weather pun for the Seattle Reign for quite awhile now. And with the former only win-less club in the NWSL picking up two victories during the week, things are looking up for Laura Harvey’s club. In a jam-packed week of fixtures, we also saw one of the more pesky teams in the league, currently boasting the most in-form player in the NWSL of recent times, play both of the NWSL leaders with only three days of rest in between matches. The league’s bottom dwellers Washington Spirit had to make a change, and there was a trade that many didn’t see coming and had my head shaking when the announcement was made. So with that being said, lets look back at Week 12 of the NWSL regular season:

The Players

Lauren Cheney: Everything is going right for the USWNT playmaker in the past few weeks. Including the US match against South Korea last Thursday, Cheney has scored a goal in each of her last four matches. And in her last three NWSL matches, she has hit the net four times, twice this week. The first goal on Wednesday against Sky Blue  looked to be the game clinching goal with a nice strike to beat Brittany Cameron, but the league leaders found a way to make that goal become just a point getter and not a goal to claim all three. On Sunday, her long distance goal past Karina LeBlanc was a thing of beauty. It was a swerving dipping effort that took an extra deflection off of Portland’s defense, that the Canadian International had no chance at stopping. But even without the goals, her precision passing in both matches was quality and has the knack to make the game go to her pace. Regardless, it was quite a week for Cheney and FC Kansas City hopes that this run of form will carry on for a few weeks.

Monica Ocampo: It’s hard being a substitute, no matter the level that a person plays. So when the opportunity arises, a sub can make their statement on the game and that is what Ocampo did on Wednesday night in her 27 minutes of action. She had two opportunities in that appearance and hit the net on both occasions, rescuing Sky Blue on the night after going 2-0 down through 75 minutes against FC Kansas City. It seems that Sky Blue Head Coach Jim Gabarra has really gotten some strong performances from reserve players this year, most notably Taylor Lytle coming on and scoring the winner in a 1-0 victory over Portland earlier this season. Gabarra has also rewarded those players who come off the bench and perform well with starts which was what happened on Sunday in Boston, as Ocampo got a start against the Breakers and scored another goal in that match plus had multiple opportunities for a second. If that sends a message through to the Sky Blue bench, their competitiveness for playing time could prove more quality in team depth for the second half of the season for Gabarra’s side.

Carli Lloyd & Abby Wambach: It was hard to pick between the two of these Flash players who was going to get the nod in this week’s column, so instead of choosing, they both make the cut. In Western New York’s 4-0 win over Washington on Friday night, Carli Lloyd had a hat trick on the night (two goals in the first half and her third was scored before the hour mark) and Abby Wambach had two assists, originally three but after review the league took an assist away. Regardless, how they both played on Friday night really impacted the outcome of the game. And to have those two players clicking on the same time, especially with the Flash without a couple of key role players in Samantha Kerr and Adriana (who missed the match due to international duty), is crucial to keep the Flash in the playoff hunt.

The Little Things

How Megan Rapinoe Makes A Difference: It’s no secret that Megan Rapinoe is one of the best, if not the best, wide player in the world. And when the Seattle Reign finally got the chance to put her on the field, it has made a world of difference for Laura Harvey’s team. Players are now attacking the game more freely and are using Rapinoe’s fluid wing play and great service to good effect. But it isn’t as if the USWNT midfielder is doing all the work, it is more like Seattle needed that last piece of the puzzle to get everyone going. You can see role players like Christine Nairn (who by the way had quite a week in her own right, scoring a smashing winner against Boston on Wednesday and then getting two assists against Chicago on Saturday) and Teresa Noyola playing up to their expected standards of showing some attacking flair on the field. And with Rapinoe on the field, the weight of the world is off Jess Fishlock’s shoulders as now she doesn’t have to put the burden of the team load on herself. Now she can play the free spirited game that has become synonymous with the Welsh international. If Saturday night’s dominant 3-1 victory over Chicago is a sign of things to come, the Reign might have something to say about this 2013 season.

Boston’s Response to Adversity: June has been a tough month for the Breakers. It started with getting smoked by Sky Blue 5-1, then allowing a late equalizer to Western New York to draw 2-2 after seeming the three points were theirs. And then three straight one goal losses would seem to demoralize a team. But Sunday night’s victory against Sky Blue was admirable and showed that Lisa Cole’s side does still have fight in them. Sydney Leroux got back on form with a brace and Alyssa Naeher came up with a couple of clutch saves late against Monica Ocampo to hold onto the three points. New signing Jazmyne Avant looked to be a threat down on the wing and with the depth the Breakers have, they could also make a run at the playoff picture

Laura Harvey Wheeling and Dealing: Having this report coming out a little later than usual, a main reason was to include a major day of movement among the Reign locker room, both for the present and the future. The Reign traded Teresa Noyola, rights to Nikki Krzysik and a 2nd Round pick in next years NWSL College Draft to FC Kansas City for Renae Cuellar. The Reign weren’t done however, as they traded Lindsay Taylor and a conditional fourth round pick to Washington for a second round pick. While Noyola has done well in moments for the Reign this year, Cuellar has seemed to drop out of favor in Vlatko Andonovski’s side as after she got injured, Melissa Henderson has stepped into the lone striker role for FCKC. But for Harvey, she could potentially start or be a super sub and could thrive playing with Rapinoe and Fishlock. Plus, with getting the pick from Washington, they may have solidified a top pick in the second round. So while Laura Harvey may have lost a couple of players, she is looking to build for the future heading towards next years draft, one that will be stocked with plenty of talent.

What Had to Happen

After a fairly decent start to the season for Washington (one win, three draws in the first six matches), the Spirit have lost their last five matches in a row and have failed to score in any of those matches. A change had to be made and that change was announced late Sunday night that the Spirit have fired Head Coach Mike Jorden. A statement was released by Spirit general manager Chris Hummer saying “I feel everyone at the club has, and will continue to have, great respect for Mike as a professional and as a person. But the poor results of the past six weeks have pushed the team into last place, and that’s just not something we can accept. We have the best fans in NWSL, and they deserve a winning team.” There seemed to be unrest within the camp as players have started to vent their frustration about the lack of positive results. With the new players that have been brought in, namely Toni Pressley and Conny Pohlers, they haven’t found their feet yet under Jorden so the move had to happen. Washington Spirit Reserves Head Coach Mark Parsons was promoted to take over Jorden’s position for the near future. The positive thing about Parsons is that his recent charges, the Spirit Reserves, are doing well in the USL W-League Northeast Division, currently placed second in the seven team division while only allowing five goals in nine matches. So hopefully for Washington, the change of scenery will change the momentum for Washington in the back half of the season.

What Made Me Shake My Head

The Carmelina Moscato – Adriana Leon trade: As I said at the top of this recap, I honestly can say I didn’t see this trade coming at all. And while I understand the rules of trading Allocated Player for Allocated Player, I’m still unsure why Chicago wanted or agreed to make this deal. Carmelina Moscato is a top defender and I could see her pairing well with Sonja Fuss at center back or maybe shifting to an outside back position. And with my feeling that Chicago still has an outside chance of slipping into the playoff picture (especially since Fuss and Inka Grings have joined the squad), trading a veteran for a player who hasn’t lived up to her potential this season (just look back to last years U-20 WWC), doesn’t make a lot of sense. And with the pairing of Grings and Ella Masar up front, plus other strikers like Jen Hoy and Maribel Dominguez, I can’t see her role being much different in Chicago. But I do respect the business in soccer and that trades/free agency/picking up players off waivers happen all the time and to just go with it. And Boston will be really happy now that they have Moscato in their defense to add to their team depth (including the above mentioned Jazmyne Avant who had an assist on Sunday’s match in her first appearance for Boston) and that could be a key going forward for Lisa Cole and company. And hopefully for Leon, she can improve her game under the tutelage of Grings and be a factor late in the season for the Red Stars.

Week 13 Match to Watch

Seattle Reign FC vs. Boston Breakers, Wednesday July 3rd, 7pm Local Time, Starfire Sports Complex

This match strikes me as one worth watching out for because both teams are in need of a win. Seattle, as mentioned, is really starting to get into a good rhythm over the past couple of weeks and have taken seven out of their last nine possible points. Plus with winning their match over Boston this past week, they will want to keep things rolling against the Breakers. On the other side, Boston would like a little retribution for that match. A win for Boston will do two things: 1) It will jump start their western road trip in a positive direction as with a good result they will have a lot of confidence heading into Portland on Saturday. And 2) if Boston come out with at least three points on the weekend, they will be within four points of Western New York, who have a tough assignment with a trip to FC Kansas City on Sunday. Watch out for plenty of changes in Starting XI’s for both teams, both teams have been playing a packed schedule over the past two weeks and may look to rotate their squad to spare tired legs.

Week 12 Results

Boston Breakers 1-2 Seattle Reign FC

Sky Blue FC 2-2 FC Kansas City

Western New York Flash 4-0 Washington Spirit

Seattle Reign FC 3-1 Chicago Red Stars

FC Kansas City 2-0 Portland Thorns FC

Boston Breakers 3-2 Sky Blue FC