[dropcap size=small]I[/dropcap]n another tightly packed round of National Women’s Soccer League action, there was a little bit of movement in the table, some of which turned a few heads. A familiar side got itself back into the playoff picture and a few teams received roster boosts from overseas players and internationals though the results didn’t pan out as expected. With rosters gutted due to national team duty over the next couple of weeks, it’s a perfect time to put together some thoughts on which teams will fare better than others while coping with thin rosters.
Kansas City Back in the Fray
Although the beginning of the season was a rough one for FC Kansas City, it was only a matter of time for the results to start tipping in their favor. Vlatko Andonovski’s side is getting the goal-scoring production from the forward position that the team desperately needed in 2013 from Amy Rodriguez. With Rodriguez, Lauren Holiday and Erika Tymrak gelling, the Blues picked up needed wins against slumping Western New York Flash and the Boston Breakers. What might come as a handicap in the season’s back stretch is that the majority of the league has two games in hand on the newly promoted second-place team. So while Kansas City will miss a big core of its team due to national team commitments, don’t be surprised if teams within striking distance of the Blues close the gap or pass them temporarily. Otherwise, the Midwestern unit is sitting pretty right now.
Turning it Around with a Bang
The Western New York Flash have been a surprising side over the past few weeks, losing four of its past five matches, including a midweek contest at FC Kansas City. With Abby Wambach on the bench recovering from injuries, a trip to the northwest to take on the Portland Thorns was probably one of the last things that Aaron Lines’ side wanted to take. But the Flash came away with a thrashing 5-0 victory over the Thorns, in part due to their clinical finishing. Of the nine shots the Flash put on frame, five were converted, and while the controversial sending off of Portland’s goalkeeper Nadine Angerer may have very well changed the outcome of the game, Western New York capitalized on its opportunity. With goal difference potentially being a big factor late in the season — as it was during the seeding of the 2013 playoff teams — picking up a 5-0 victory could help out in the long run come August.
The Stars Came Out… But Didn’t Align
Though a plethora of overseas talent and European-based American players made their 2014 NWSL season debuts this weekend, not many teams who gained the new players saw a lot of success. The Thorns saw the debuts of Vero Boquete and Stephanie Catley, as well as the return of Alex Morgan and Rachel Van Hollebeke from injury, but were on the wrong end of a 5-0 scoreline. The Chicago Red Stars saw the return of Taryn Hemmings from a torn ACL and MCL this week and the debuts of Abby Erceg, Christen Press and Emily Van Egmond. Despite Van Egmond’s goal against the Seattle Reign, her former club, the Red Stars lost both of their matches. The only team to see a positive result in the win column was the Houston Dash, who played Whitney Engen the full 90 against Sky Blue FC in a comfortable 3-0 victory.
This week marked a return to the field for U.S.Women’s National Team defender Amy LePeilbet, who made cameos in both of FC Kansas City’s matches this week. It was a great moment to see her back on the pitch after a very long recovery process that kept LePeilbet out of action for the past 18 months while recovering from ACL surgery. Hopefully, this is the sign of good things to come and while she wasn’t added to the roster for the upcoming USWNT matches, longer and positive appearances on the field could see her back in the USWNT squad real soon.
A couple of influential roster signings were made this week. The Flash picked up Australian international Teigen Allen and the Washington Spirit announced the signing of Alex Singer. Both teams are still looking for that final piece in defense and with the quality these players bring in, they might have found it.
USWNT Roster Selection: Who Wins and Who Loses?
With the USWNT in for the first training camp under newly appointed Head Coach Jill Ellis in preparation for friendlies against France in the next few weeks, all NWSL teams will have to readjust to the losses. Which teams can better cope with national team players out of action? Washington, for one, as the Spirit travel to a beleaguered Boston Breakers side and then on to Portland, who have a lot of things to sort out with new players in camp. Houston might fare well with two home matches against Kansas City and Western New York, both teams who will be lacking in the depth category. Chicago, too, could struggle during this time. Although Christen Press has arrived, she’s only been able to play one match for the Red Stars. It’s the absence of Julie Johnston, who has been one of the most influential players on Rory Dames’ roster this season, the squad will feel the most.
At the end of the day, with players out on national team duty for the next few weeks, it gives squad players a valuable opportunity to stake their claims for valuable minutes down the road with good performances in the next week or two. Expect the intensity level to remain as high as it has been.