[dropcap size=small]I[/dropcap]n one of the tightest weeks this season in the National Women’s Soccer League, some results were easy to see coming while other came out of left field. But when focus shifts toward the business end of the season, any result is a good result, no matter how pretty the game turns out to be. That’s what we saw in Week 12, notably from one of the current bottom three teams. As a result, the battle for the third and fourth positions in the standings became a bit more congested as we head toward a jam-packed holiday weekend schedule. Let’s check back in with some of the top moments from this past week in NWSL.
Sky Blue Playing Jekyll and Hyde Soccer
To be fair, it’s worked because the New Jersey-based club went to the Pacific Northwest and picked up four points, including a draw against the still undefeated Seattle Reign. Last Wednesday, Sky Blue effectively used its high pressure system to disrupt the Portland Thorns possession game and for the second time this season, Jim Gabarra’s team walked out of Portland with three points. With a 2-0-1 record against the Thorns this year, nearly half of the points Sky Blue has picked up this season have been from games against Portland. Plus, in that match, Katy Freels may have scored the goal of the year (again, use the hashtag #OGMGoals on Twitter to nominate your favorite goals for the month) when she lobbed Nadine Angerer from 45+ yards out after Kelley O’Hara dispossessed a Thorns player in the midfield. It was a bold and courageous strike from Freels that caught everyone, including the FIFA Ballon d’Or winner Angerer, by surprise with the shot’s deadly accuracy.
On Saturday at Seattle, Sky Blue played a defensive game and with a bit of skill and a lot of good fortune, picked up the nil-nil draw, the first in the NWSL this season. Sky Blue are now within four points of fourth place. With two home games this week, we could be seeing a late Sky Blue charge for that final playoff position.
Counterattacking At Its Finest
After watching the highlight of the Washington Spirit’s goal against the Houston Dash, I realized that was one of the more clinical counterattacking moves and finishes we’ve seen this season. In truth, it was quite simple to see how it all broke down: Lisa De Vanna gets out wide after a Houston Dash attack, draws a couple of defenders down the far touchline while Jodie Taylor is 1v1 with a defender streaking toward goal on the other flank. De Vanna played in the ball perfectly toward the top of the box and with a deft touch wide, Taylor sprung loose of her defender and delicately chipped the Dash’s Erin McLeod. Washington had the game-winner. Seems simple enough, but talking about it is much different than executing it on the pitch and that’s what the Spirit did to exploit the Houston defense. With the addition of De Vanna, Washington become very deadly on the counterattack and with Jodie Taylor getting back in rhythm, this is a team that can now beat teams with many options; they can play the possession game, look for the counter attack, and they have players that can hit the perfect set piece.
In a week filled with closely contested matches, another matter briefly rose to the forefront as Hope Solo and the Seattle Reign released statements regarding the goalkeeper’s recent arrest. The U.S. Women’s National Team goalkeeper will be available for selection until her August 11th court date.
Sarah Hagen made her first appearance for FC Kansas City this past weekend, coming off the bench and making a 12-minute cameo against the Portland Thorns in the squad’s 1-0 win. It will be interesting to see how the Blues use Hagen going forward, especially with the team working so well together during its six-match winning streak and only allowing one goal during that time.
Tobin Heath recently tweeted that she had arrived to Portland after ending her spell with French side Paris Saint-Germain last month. With Portland next playing on Friday, it’s unclear at this time if she will be available for selection for the match. With Portland currently riding a two-match losing streak before its “home and home” against Chicago, the Thorns could sure use Heath.
And finally, we have our second edition of #OGMGoals for the Month of May. Check out some of these classy goals from NWSL play: