Playoff Battles Heating Up
With five weeks left in the regular season and six or seven games to play before the playoffs begin, it goes without saying that every point is valuable for the Washington Spirit, Chicago Red Stars, Western New York Flash, and Portland Thorns, all teams in the playoff hunt. The Spirit went up to Western New York, where it’s always tricky to get points on the road, and walked away with a 1-0 win. It looks as if the ever gritty, never-say-die attitude of Mark Parsons’s bunch could make them contenders to grab one of the two playoff spots behind the Seattle Reign and FC Kansas City.
The Thorns drew with the Red Stars, 1-1, during the midweek game but looked like a team on a mission against FC Kansas City. The Thorns took it to Kansas City right from the start on Sunday and handed the Blues a 7-1 drubbing. Up until this game, the Thorns had a bad habit of establishing a lead, only to give it back. Not this time. Portland went up 2-0 early, and true to form, let Kansas City back into it at the half-hour mark as Kat Gorry netted one. However, the Thorns scored right before halftime and added four in the second half to give Head Coach Paul Riley the perfect result.
As for the Red Stars, after their draw with Portland, they did what no team has been able to do this season: beat the Seattle Reign.
Reign Fall for the First Time
The Chicago Red Stars, backed by an early goal from Canadian international Melissa Tancredi, defeated the Seattle Reign, 1-0, on Saturday evening to put an end to the Reign’s 16-game unbeaten streak. You don’t often see teams go an entire season without losing. In fact, it’s rarely done at the professional level. A team needs to have the perfect amount of skill and luck go its way to even have a shot at a perfect season. On Saturday night, the luck was just not there for the Reign.
If you’re Seattle, you would rather have that first loss come now than in the playoffs where you don’t get a second chance. So, it’s back to the drawing board for the Reign. The Red Stars will have one more crack at the Cascadia teams as they welcome the Thorns for a second time on Thursday night, and then head to Seattle to face the Reign, who will have had a week to think about their last meeting.
Waldrum Takes Over Trinidad and Tobago
Houston Dash Head Coach Randy Waldrum has accepted the position as the Head Coach of the Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Team for the Caribbean Federation Union (CFU) Championship, which serves as the qualification tournament for a place in the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship, the qualifying tournament for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Waldrum, who coached the T&T U-17 National Team years ago, is also taking over the position on a volunteer basis, which speaks volumes to his dedication to growing the game. I wish him the best of luck in guiding T&T.
While the Thorns put together the most one-sided result in NWSL history this past weekend, Alex Morgan came off the field with a lower leg injury. While the severity of the injury is unknown at this point, PTFC and U.S. Women’s National Team supporters might have held their collective breath as Morgan has recently returned to the pitch after foot and ankle injuries kept her off the field for months. Morgan tweeted out that it’s nothing too serious, so exhale:
Felt good out there today. HUGE team win for us!! and sidenote- my other ankle is all good, nothing too serious. #keepitgoing #BAONPDX
— Alex Morgan (@alexmorgan13) July 14, 2014
The Houston Dash has had a trying season this year offensively but they finally got production out of young Kealia Ohai this weekend as the former North Carolina Tar Heel bagged a pair of goals on Friday night en route to a 2-1 win over the Boston Breakers. Ohai, who has featured in 14 of Houston’s 16 matches in 2014, has come close on several occasions to breaking into the goal column this season before Friday night’s game.[divider]USL W-League and WPSL[/divider]
The regular seasons for the USL W-League and the WPSL have come to an end and league playoffs are on the horizon.
In the USL W-League, plenty of familiar faces will be competing in conference championships this weekend, starting off with the Washington Spirit Reserves who went 10-0-2 in the Northeastern Conference and will face Braddock Road Stars Elite next Friday night at the Maryland SoccerPlex for the Northeastern Conference Championship. The Spirit Reserves have been backed by Adelaide Gay’s seven clean sheets and Spirit call-up Kelsey Pardue, and look to be one of the favorites to win the W-League title in Brandenton, FL, at the end of the month. Other conference championships will see Ottawa Fury, with former Boston Breaker Lisa Marie-Woods, facing K-W United FC in the Central Conference Championship; Charlotte Lady Eagles facing new side Gulf Coast Texans in the Southeastern Conference Final; and the LA Blues hosting the Colorado Pride in the Western Conference Championship.
The latter will be the most interesting of the four as it features several big collegiate and post-collegiate names for both sides, plus the Blues are working off a perfect 12-0-0 season. The Pride feature a few Australian players who played in the Westfield W-League last season, including Newcastle Jets midfielders Tara Andrews and Ashley Spina and Sydney FC forward Chloe Logarzo. The Pride also feature former Washington Spirit midfielder Holly King and former Chicago Red Stars call-up Maureen Smunt. Meanwhile for the Blues, Head Coach Charlie Naimo has put together his usual talented side of top college players (UCLA’s Abby Dahlkemper and Sarah Killion, and UNC’s Paige Nielsen and Brooke Elby among many others), recent college graduates (Wake Forest goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe and striker Katie Stengel) and seasoned professionals (former Boston Breaker Shawna Gordon, WNY Flash (of Women’s Professional Soccer) defender Kandace Love, and Perth Glory defender Sasha Andrews).
The WPSL will see two NWSL reserve teams making the playoff rounds as both the Boston Breakers Reserves and the Chicago Red Stars Reserves have clinched their spots in the Eastern Conference and Midwest Conference, respectively. The Breakers Reserves feature all professional players and have cruised to a 9-0-1 record in the New England Division and will face New York Athletic Club, ASA Charge (MD), and CFC Passion (CT) in the Eastern Conference Regional Final this weekend with a place in the WPSL National Championships on the line. Meanwhile, Chicago Red Stars Reserves, an amateur side mostly filled with college players, went through the regular season with a 9-0-1 record and will face FC Indiana in a one-off final for the Midwest Conference. The winner goes to the WPSL National Championships.
We’ll keep an eye on the playoffs in the next few weeks as these two leagues provide a proving ground for future NWSL players as well as a showcase for the best talent in both of these leagues.