It’s not even December, but it still felt like Christmas as the National Women’s Soccer League Week 17 came to an end. As soccer fans, we have been treated to some fantastic matches so far. The word historic has been tossed around to describe this season, and honestly, that’s almost an understatement. As most teams have only a handful of games left for the 2017 season and the playoff race continues to heat up, we outline some of the takeaways for the week which saw eight matches played.
Orlando Needs to Make Turnovers Count – Luis Hernandez
This past weekend the Orlando Pride traveled to Jordan Field, and took all three points from the Boston Breakers. The performance was marred by a late foul in the box by Jamia Fields leading to the penalty kick which allowed Amanda Da Costa–retiring from professional soccer after the match–to pull one back for the Breakers for a final score of 2-1. Once Head Coach Tom Sermanni views the tape of the match, he should note that the Pride caused Boston to turn the ball over multiple times, but Sermanni’s side could not make the Breakers pay for those takeaways.
As potent as the Pride attack was prior to the match against Boston, the score line should have been worse from this past weekend. The top teams in the league force their opponents into turning the ball over and punish them by scoring. Case in point, the Chicago Red Stars have faced Orlando several times this season, and had been able to quickly pounce on the Pride to score once an Orlando player made a mistake. For the Pride to continue their push to the playoffs, the team will have to convert the mistakes into goals like Camila did versus Sky Blue when Kailen Sheridan misplayed a ball in their most recent meeting. As Orlando goes into Kansas City to face the Blues, both teams riding a three match winning streak, the team who takes advantage of the other errors will be the one to come out on top.
Roster Freeze Date Around the Corner – Luis Hernandez
As we have been focused on the action on the pitch and the excitement of the playoff race, everyone was quickly reminded by this Washington Spirit tweet that there was more going on behind the scenes.
— Washington Spirit (@WashSpirit) August 19, 2017
Prior to the match, it was announced Kristie Mewis was not going to play for Washington due to an at the time pending trade. This wheeling and dealing is a good thing because it speaks to the level of competition in the league; as well as the pressure of the playoff push for teams to find any way to improve before the roster freeze date. This is what makes the offseason exciting, and during the season causes the fan base to buzz. The only negative on moves like this is the roster limit forces a team like Chicago, who carried a full roster, to cut a player like Morgan Proffitt who needed more time to develop since she wasn’t getting minutes on match day.
Washington’s Starting Backline Could Be a Temporary Fix to a Major Problem – Jordan Small
Just when things seemed like they couldn’t get any worse for the Washington Spirit, they left North Carolina with zero points, a defender who has a possible illness and two more who have possible injuries from the match. While a team like Sky Blue has all the luck in the world right now, the Spirit definitely do not have any remaining. Despite all of that, the Spirit finally put together a backline that could possibly hold its own for the rest of the season.
With Whitney Church out with an injury sustained in practice this week, head coach Jim Gabarra was forced to put Kassey Kallman in alongside Shelina Zadorsky. Along with Caprice Dydasco and Estelle Johnson on the outside, the backline of Washington seemed to be doing a lot better. Against a very quick front line for North Carolina, Washington held their own in the first half. If Kallman does not have an injury from the own goal against the Courage and Johnson is able to recover from illness, the Spirit’s backline will see a major improvement going forward. The only question is: will Gabarra put Church back in the lineup once she is healthy again?
Zerboni Joins the 100 Appearance Club – Jordan Small
When talking about the North Carolina Courage midfield, Sam Mewis is usually the first name to come up. One of the players that does not get as much credit as she is due is McCall Zerboni. On Saturday, Zerboni became the fourth NWSL player to reach 100 appearances in the league. Whether it was in Portland, Western New York or North Carolina, Zerboni has always been a stud in the midfield. The tough nosed midfielder has an incredible soccer IQ that has really helped her team’s midfield. This season she has taken a leadership presence both on and off the field that has helped the rookies really grow. Courage head coach Paul Riley said after the game that she isn’t too old to make the national team. While Zerboni’s talent in the midfield could be a nice addition, it’s hard to see Jill Ellis calling up a 30-year-old into camp, especially with a major competition still two years away.
An Elegy for Sky Blue – Elizabeth Wawrzyniak
We’ve all heard by now–Christy Holly is out as Sky Blue’s head coach and Christie Pearce is out for the rest of the season (and presumably has ended her career) with “accumulative injuries.”
In the end, we don’t know why Holly is gone. Whatever happened behind the scenes hasn’t been made public. In the end, doesn’t really matter since it’s done. He’s gone.
But what does matter is how the fuck Sky Blue is going to have any chance at the post-season now. Sure, they have Sam Kerr. But Sam Kerr cannot continue to drag this team kicking and screaming across the goal line each week. She is good, yes. No, she is great. But she is not yet consistent in a way that can guarantee Sky Blue’s continued success.
Not only can they not rely on Kerr to win every game for them, but Sky Blue now has a leadership problem because the two guiding forces on the team are gone. Christy Holly and Christie Pearce, between the two of them, formed this team, molded it, and created the burgeoning positive culture that it had become over the past two seasons–a far cry from its initial “poor little sister” status of the league. The leadership on a backline that was already in dire need of support is gone.
As much as I can hope for SBFC to make that final miracle run to the playoffs, I don’t think it’s going to happen. And so I’m already thinking about next season and what the team needs to even have a chance. As always, it’s the backline that has me most concerned. First off, they need an experienced center back. Mandy Freeman, when paired with Pearce, has been doing okay, but she needs help. Second, I love me some Kayla Mills but she either needs to figure out how to defend or she needs to take her seat on the bench. Plus, she needs to stop looking like she’s ready to pass out in the last, crucial, ten minutes of the game. And, for real, either they need to play O’Hara as a winger or force her to stay in her defensive position because fast as she is, she has made some brutal, game-ending mistakes this past season tracking back.
Right now, they have four picks in the 2018 draft. They’re going to need to use them wisely. And they’re going to need to do some negotiating because this team can’t survive on Kerr’s nose for goal, O’Hara’s drive to win, and youthful energy alone. They need to explore some trade options and expand the depth of their bench.
I hate to admit it, but they need to start thinking like Washington now, and making next year their priority.
(Come on, Sky Blue, prove me wrong. Please?)
Sam Kerr – Elizabeth Wawrzyniak
Edub is still recovering from that game. She practically had a heart attack that second-half.