This week in the NWSL, we saw two teams start to pull away at the top, and a shakeup at the bottom of the table. There were comebacks, a rare straight red card, and a few (maybe unexpected) shutouts. With four midweek games to look forward to this week, here are our takeaways from Week Ten
Nadia Nadim Meets with TAPS Family after Washington vs. Portland – Jordan Small
After Saturday night’s loss to the Washington Spirit, Portland Thorns forward Nadia Nadim walked over to the side of the field to meet with a group of fans that had been escorted down onto the field. The group was from an organization called TAPS. The Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors, or TAPS for short, is a program that offers resources and services to those who have lost a loved one while serving in the United States Armed Forces.
A young lady who lost her father in Afghanistan presented Nadim with a bracelet following the match. Nadim, whose father was also killed in Afghanistan, took the time to talk with the family and take a few pictures. This was just another reminder that life is so much bigger than sport and that win or lose, a simple gesture such as a bracelet or a small conversation can have a greater impact on someone’s life.
Does Portland Have Too Much Star Power? – Jordan Small
Looking at the Portland Thorns roster, it is incredible to see the amount of talent that they have. As a team, they have combined for over 625 caps for six different national teams. Against the Washington Spirit, they had 62.7 percent of possession. What do they have to show for all of that? Getting shutout on the road for their second straight loss. Against a team that’s only just barely broken away from the bottom of the table over the past few weeks.
In 10 games this season, the Thorns have scored 12 goals while only giving up nine. Not bad all things considering. But when you look at the goals, three have come via the penalty spot and two were own goals. Sure they are scoring, but they aren’t creating many opportunities for themselves. Against Washington, Lindsey Horan, Allie Long, and Christine Sinclair were nonexistent on the field. Amandine Henry was subbed out at the half and won’t be around for much longer because of the upcoming EUROs. Is Tobin Heath coming back from injury the answer to this struggling Portland attack? I’m not so sure. But I do know that they are going to have to figure some things out if they want to be in the hunt for a playoff spot come September.
Dash Put it Together (at Least for One Week) – Luis Hernandez
As unlikely as it seemed, the Houston Dash bounced back from the four-goal drubbing at home to enact payback against the Orlando Pride this weekend, taking home three points on the road for their effort. Head Coach Omar Morales made several key adjustments while taking advantage of the lackluster performance from Orlando. Perhaps the post-match comments from Carli Lloyd last week also lit something under her teammates as she took the field in just her second game back from the UK.
The Dash rolled out a new combination on the backline, the sixth different version of the season, to clamp down on the Orlando attack. Limiting the Pride to three shots on goal allowed Jane Campbell to bounce back for her second start of the season, a much better showing from the rookie even with the few shaky moments she had in the beginning of the match. As the Lifetime game of the week, Houston proved to the national audience which team wanted to win more. The result moves the Dash out of last place on the table and puts them in ninth, sitting just above the Boston Breakers, who they’ll host in their midweek game on Wednesday. Houston is positioned to give themselves some separation from the Boston while gaining confidence for the weekend showdown at FC Kansas City.
Missed Opportunity for FC Kansas City on the Road – Luis Hernandez
If you had told Vlatko Andonovski on Friday that his team was going to leave Seattle with a point on the road, he would have been happy. A point would have been a great result in the first of two road games for the Blues after already drawing against the Reign the week before. However, Seattle were left with just ten players on the field after Lauren Barnes was issued a straight red card in the 4’ for an armbar of striker Shea Groom. Kansas City took advantage of the imbalance early on, making Seattle pay in the sixteenth minute with a goal from Brittany Ratcliffe. However, FCKC couldn’t hold on to the lead, and the Blues leave the Emerald City dropping two points.
The draw keeps Kansas City one point behind Seattle, and barely keeps Orlando at bay. As FCKC go into the midweek match at Portland, they will have a challenge getting a result at Providence Park. If FCKC fail to make the playoffs, will they look back at this game as one of the reasons they miss the postseason, dropping two points when they had the clear advantage from almost the very start.
Sportsmanship – Elizabeth Wawrzyniak
Living just over an hour outside of Chicago has its benefits, and one of those is the ability to schedule a trip down to Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL, to catch matchups between the Chicago Red Stars (my “geographical” faves) and Sky Blue FC (my “absolute” faves). Last year’s trip down was actually my first live, in-person, soccer game ever, and it was an event to remember (and one that ended with a selfie with one of the greatest players of the game, Christie Pearce). This year I was looking forward to another good matchup, and the chance to see Kelley O’Hara play with her club team. She’d been on NT duty in 2016, and though I’d seen her play with them in Chicago and again in Minnesota late last year, club play is different, and brings out different sides of a player’s game.
Unfortunately, O’Hara didn’t play on Sunday, either suffering from a slight injury or being rested in anticipation of a midweek match-up against the Orlando Pride. But them’s the breaks and with any luck, I’ll get to see her play with Sky Blue at Toyota Park next summer.
The thing I noticed, though, that I want to call attention to, is just how much of a leader O’Hara is on and off the field. Sitting on the bench in trainers, she was coaching and offering tips to the younger members of the backline who were out there on the field. Before the game, during the slight break when Chicago’s GK Alyssa Naeher was down on the field and the Sky Blue players came to the sideline for some water, at the half, and so on, O’Hara was demonstrating how to defend against Chicago’s attack, reassuring her teammates, helping them out.
With the news that this year is almost certainly Christie Pearce’s final season with Sky Blue FC, it’s good to see that the backline and the team will have someone as focused on teaching and leading as playing. And most of all, for all the little girls and boys in the stands, for all the grown-ups in the stands, it’s an important and visual reminder that an athlete’s work doesn’t begin and end on the field, and isn’t simply the accumulation of their physical talents. How a player performs on the bench is maybe just as important as how they perform on the field.
And I just felt like this is a good moment to acknowledge that.
Tears and Tears – Elizabeth Wawrzyniak
We need to talk about ACL tears.
Obviously, we’re all tearing up about Kealia Ohai’s unfortunate injury over the weekend, or the fear that we’ll hear the same news from Danny Colaprico after she went down in Sunday’s game against Sky Blue FC. ACL tears are tearing up the league this season, and we need to talk about why that is.
Here’s the thing about this kind of injury. It’s three times (3x) more likely to happen to a female soccer player than a male one. And this year, it’s taken down a number of players in our league (or former NWSL players), starting with Amy Rodriguez and Joanna Lohman over opening weekend, Kim Little over in the UK, and Yuri Kawamura. (Did I forget anyone?) And Diana Matheson, Cali Farquharson, and Kelsey Wys are all still in recovery for injuries suffered late last season or during off-season play.
It’s no secret that the focus in sports kinesiology and physical therapy is imbalanced, that most teaching, studies, and practical therapies and preventative techniques are based on the male body and the way the male body reacts to usage and stress of joints, ligaments, etc. But the male body is not the universal norm, and there needs to be more attention given to the physiological differences of female bodies to male ones, differences that don’t make women weaker or inferior, but ones that requires us to pivot differently, shift our weight differently, run differently, than our male counterparts.
And women’s teams (and leagues like the NWSL) need to make it a priority to find and work with trainers and therapists who understand the different needs and abilities of female athletes.
Who understand the science of playing like a girl.
Well, that’s what we took away from Week Ten as we head to a slew of Wednesday matches. Give us your biggest takeaway in the comments or let us know where you disagree with us. Until next time, fair readers.