Well, faithful followers, it has been quite the week in WoSo, hasn’t it? From the nail-biting 12-minute score-a-thon from Sam Kerr to Carli Lloyd’s “You think that’s a red card, I’ll show you a red card” last minute send-off on Saturday night, our heart rates are still not quite back to normal.
But, the excitement only fuels our fingers, folks! We’ve got six takeaways from this weekend to share with y’all.
The Legacy of Tony DiCicco – Luis Hernandez
As the Boston Breakers hosted the Chicago Red Stars, the club also paid homage to Tony DiCicco, the team’s former coach from 2009 to 2011 in Women’s Professional Soccer, the pro league prior to NWSL. The passing of DiCicco touched off a series of in memoriam moments in the women’s soccer community as many remembered how he led the 1999 Women’s National Team to victory in the World Cup. But Coach DiCicco’s impact to the sport and WoSo family was more than this achievement. Honoring him at the national and club levels not only honors his memory, but also introduces and educates new fans of women’s soccer.
The history of women’s soccer is rich and goes back a lot further than casual fans realize. As people retell the legacy of Tony Dicicco and are exposed to his impact at the club level, I hope it also fosters an appreciation for the role he played in the larger tradition in the sport as well. His life touched the lives of so many players, and they in turned touched and inspired so many of today’s players and fans. His legacy will truly endure.
His legacy will truly endure.
Exciting Draws is More than Just Parity – Luis Hernandez
Three of the five matches this past weekend ended in a draw, but they were anything other than a dull watch. Starting last Friday, the Breakers, perhaps inspired by the previously mentioned DiCicco memorial, managed to hang on for dear life at home to preserve the nil-nil draw against Chicago with Sammy Jo Prudhomme starting in goal. The tension grew the whole match, as Matt Beard’s side fought off the Red Stars peppering the Boston defense with ten shots on goal. The Breakers defense bent at times, but it did not break, and it rode out the waves of Chicago attack. This was not a case of parity in the league, just the resilient effort of a team refusing to lose for one night.
Meanwhile, on Saturday the Orlando Pride and Washington Spirit drew 2-2 in another entertaining showdown. Both sides felt hard done by the referee, and even though that storyline risked overshadowing the final result, it seems like the points being shared by both sides was the right outcome. Watching Marta playing this season has been a joy and her impact–and leadership out of the other Orlando players–has taken the Pride to better results than last season. And it seems like the Spirit have rebounded from the negativity of the offseason, adding Mallory Pugh and bringing back Estefania Banini to the fold. Once Washington’s attack gels, the rest of the league may have to watch out. Plus, Pugh’s development is exactly the result U.S. Soccer hoped for when backing the league. Just throw each team’s record out the window, it’s going to be entertainment at its finest.
Finally, the week ended in a dramatic style with Houston versus Portland. Dramatic might actually be an understatement. Houston scored early as Janine Beckie, the Canadian International, finally got on the score sheet, the Thorns equalized with a skillful free kick from Lindsey Horan. Throw in the straight red card to Carli Lloyd and the post-game conflict between Allie Long and Meghan Klingenberg, and this match was definitely worth the price of admission. Watching both teams clawing for a result makes every match must watch television. These results are good for the league.
Red is the New Blues – Elizabeth Wawrzyniak
Halfway into the season, and FCKC leads the league in red cards. They’ve accumulated three of the seven reds shown by refs; no other team has received more than one. That’s three red cards in just twelve games. Across their four preceding seasons, FCKC has only ever had two players ejected with a red: Lauren Sesselmann in 2013 for pulling Lisa De Vanna down by her jersey in the box, and Shea Groom in 2016 for picking up two yellows in a game against the Thorns.
So, why are they so red-heavy this season?
You can argue back and forth all you want about whether the cards were deserved or not, whether the refs are shit or not, but the fact is, KC has racked them up this year. Because they are frustrated. Because they are better than 8th place.
This was supposed to be a comeback season for the two-time league champions. Instead, they lost Amy Rodriguez in the opening match, they’ve struggled to win whether at home or away, and once again, playoff chances are seeming further and farther out of reach. The team’s frustration–and Groom’s in particular, after a season that’s kind of used her as a punching bag so far–is coming out in their play.
Sure, it’s not an excuse, but you can kind of understand it.
If they want to make a play for the post-season, though, it’ll have to be fast. Time is quickly running out. And, they’ll need to tighten up their play and keep their frustration a little better in check on the field.
Because let’s be honest, we all know that FCKC is better than 8th place. They have the talent, they have the experience. But what they might be lacking at the moment is the mentality.
They need to not let their circumstances get the better of them.
The Puzzling Portland Thorns – Elizabeth Wawrzyniak
You ever build a puzzle and you’ve got two pieces you are sure will fit together? Right color, right pattern, the shape of the tabs and the blanks look like they’ll join together just right … but when you put them together, there’s just something off? Like one of the lines doesn’t quite match, or the join isn’t snug or doesn’t actually fit.
Watching the Thorns this weekend, that’s all I could think about.
This puzzle doesn’t quite gel.
Sure, they’ve got all the pieces you’d think were necessary to be on the top of the standings–multiple world class international players, the height of professional soccer facilities for women in the US, a huge fan base both home and away. And yet right now, they’re sitting in fifth place. They won the Shield last year but lost to the 4th place team (who, true, did go on to win the final).
Honestly, what’s up with Portland?
It’s an example of having all the money to buy the best players, but not really understanding how a team works. How teamwork works. A team full of elites might look good on paper, but in practice, it rarely works out. Because for every Mal Pugh, you need a Tori Huster. For every Rose Lavelle, you need a Julie King.
What I mean is, you need balance. You need melody and you need harmony–flash and drive. And what we’ve been seeing from the Thorns this year suggests that they’re not harmonizing well, at all.
You don’t have to look any further than the game against Houston to see that this team?
It’s not a team right now.
Plenty of people have said that the injuries in the team’s deep bench are where the problem is, but look, I don’t know that if Tobin Heath comes onto the field next week they’re suddenly going to turn themselves around. I don’t know that she’s the steady and calm leader that somehow balances everything else out on the field and off.
All I know is that this?
Is a big part of why they’re in 5th place right now.
Sam Kerr Proves Why She is the MVP – Jordan Small
Once again, Sam Kerr put on a show in New Jersey. In the final 12 minutes of the game, Kerr scored a hat trick to bring Sky Blue back from the brink of death to beat FCKC 3-2. Now Kerr did have some help along the way, but without her, this team would not be where they are today.
With her hat trick, Kerr took over the Golden Boot race and now leads the pack over Megan Rapinoe and Marta. In the early portion of this season, Kerr was not herself. After a trip back to Australia for an awards ceremony, Kerr came back with a vengeance. Without Kerr, the attack for Sky Blue would be hurting. Very few have the impact on their team that Sam Kerr has.
The Pugh-Banini-Ordega Trio is Just Getting Started – Jordan Small
This week against Orlando, Estefania Banini, Francisca Ordega, and Mallory Pugh all started together for the first time. They connected to score the first goal for Washington on a passing sequence that went from Banini to Ordega and then to Pugh for the score. The combination of speed, foot skills, and vision will be one to keep an eye on.
So much of what was missing early on in the season for Washington was that spark to take the pressure off of young Mallory Pugh. After getting a game and a half under their belts, the attack will continue to build and will put defenses across the league on notice. With a four-game road trip coming up, the Spirit will need a strong stretch from these three to pick up some points.