Week 7 of the NWSL regular season has passed us by. It was a rough week for almost all, whether due to a mid-week match, unfavorable weather, or injuries, but it was also a week of some damn good soccer. And, it seems there’s a line beginning to emerge between the top and bottom of the table, as some teams start to rack up points and begin to breakaway from the pack. So, let’s get right down to it, and give you our Week 7 takeaways.
Marta (or Alex Morgan for that matter) Won’t Fix Orlando’s Problems – Luis Hernandez
The Orlando Pride increased its on-the-road winless streak to 12. The last time they won away from home was against the Dash on May 20th, 2016. For the second time this season, Tom Sermanni’s side were ahead late, and once again the team shut-off mentally to allow an opponent to score. Against Sky Blue, the Pride did it twice and came away from New Jersey a 2-1 loser.
On the game-winning goal, Sermanni said it was "just abysmal defending" #NWSL
— Dan Lauletta (@TheDanLauletta) May 28, 2017
All the offensive firepower doesn’t help a struggling team like Orlando. The defensive lapses that haunted the Pride last season seem to have creeped back in; however, it’s a different cast of characters. Orlando dominated total passes, passing accuracy and possession in the box score, yet Sky Blue basically matched Orlando in shots and had more shots on goal. Good teams find ways to win, and create a winning culture.
The Start of a Gap in the Standings – Luis Hernandez
One of the talking points for those who cover the league has been the level of parity. What this means is that there is a sense that, on any given day, any of the ten teams can win their game. Eventually, each season, that feeling tends to fall apart as some teams begin to rise while others consistently fail to perform. And this season, Week 7 is where the league’s initial parity seemed to slip away because, as the league got into the second quarter of the season, the point gap between the top of the table and those bottom four teams started to open up. Realistically, nobody is surprised by the top five teams in the standings outside of the order. Certainly, nobody is shocked on the last four teams either.
Week 8 has a few key matchups, but more importantly for those bottom teams, Boston takes on Orlando on the road and the Spirit host the Dash. Those points are going to go a long way to stay with the pack, and a major challenge for those clubs which will have an uphill battle to keep pace with the playoff line.
Syd the Kid Is All Grown Up – Jordan Small
Well y’all, she’s back. After giving birth to a baby boy less than a year ago, Sydney Leroux is getting right back into it. On opening weekend, Leroux showed us that she wasn’t just coming back, but that she would continue to be a goal scoring threat. This past weekend against Washington, Syd the (not such a) kid was back at it again. This time she proved to us that her strength and power are still there and a force to be reckoned with.
With her three goals, Leroux is now tied with Natasha Dowie of Boston for fourth-most goals scored in the league this season. And just this past week, US Women’s National Team head coach Jill Ellis called Leroux into camp for the USWNT’s two games in Scandinavia. Many questioned whether or not she could make it back after her child. But Leroux is proving to be one of those badass soccer moms ready to tear up the NWSL.
Rookie Who? – Jordan Small
When you look at candidates for rookie of the year in the NWSL, few get any more attention than Boston Breakers midfielder Rose Lavelle. The first overall pick in last year’s draft has proven that she can play at this level and be very successful. But one player that isn’t getting the recognition she deserves in this race is Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan. Currently Sheridan ranks second in saves just behind her Canadian National Team teammate Stephanie Labbé.
There are only 20 goalkeeping spots in this league. So to see a rookie come in and immediately win the starting spot is impressive. But just how impressive has she actually been this season? Just watch the two previous matches for Sky Blue. This girl has no fear and that’s what makes a goalkeeper so great.
— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) May 25, 2017
In eight games played this year, Sheridan has allowed just 11 goals for a goals against average of 1.4. Those are not the numbers of an average rookie. She may not be on the highlight reel scoring goals, but you can bet she’ll have some saves on there. And she’s just getting started.
These Girls are On Fire – Elizabeth Wawrzyniak
No, but for real. Did you catch that Lifetime match between the Houston Dash and the Seattle Reign?
At 3pm CT, when the match started, the temperature was the 91.1 degrees, with a dew point of 90 degrees, or almost 100% humidity. The NWS’s Heat Index calculator says that the heat index for Saturday’s game would have been 134 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s the kind of heat it’s dangerous to spend too much time just sitting around in, and the NWSL players played a full 90 minutes with only two 3-minute hydration breaks and a 15-minute halftime. Playing in those conditions literally put the NWSL players at-risk, and the league should be ashamed of themselves for letting it happen. We don’t put players on the field during lightning storms, we shouldn’t put them on the field when they could literally put their heart and kidneys at risk of organ-failure.
The fixed time of the NWSL on Lifetime games has been a point of concern for fans of southern teams since the beginning. 3pm games in Houston and Orlando not only put players at risk–I mean, the moment a single player collapses of heat exhaustion on the pitch the league should be working their asses off to make sure it doesn’t happen again–but attendance as well. Because when it’s as warm as it was on Saturday, when taking a breath makes you feel like you’re drowning, fans are far likelier to stay home with their AC than they are to show up. And honestly, who would blame them.
Certainly not the players, who probably each wished they could do the same.
All They Do is Work, Work, Work, Work, Work – Elizabeth Wawrzyniak
In case you weren’t paying attention, Sky Blue FC and the NC Courage each played three games over a seven-day period this past week. And in both cases, it’s likely that the increased travel, the lack of recovery time, and the sheer volume of play took a heavy toll on the players. All in all, I think Sky Blue came out better. They had an extra day between the Week 6 and first Week 7 match-up against the Courage in Cary, NC. And while they lost, they rested some players mid-week, only subbing in Kerr and Rodriguez late in the match. NC, on the other hand, was already coming off a tough loss to Chicago in Week 6, and though they won against Sky Blue, they came into Saturday’s rematch against the home Red Stars in Chicago looking tired, and with Jessica McDonald on the bench. Unfortunately, this exposed them in the end, as Lynn Williams seems a little lost up top on her own, or did on Saturday.
The real question, though, is whether the short turnaround contributed to injuries like Yuri Kawamura’s aborted performance on Saturday, or Kelley O’Hara’s strained gluteus medius (that’s a butt muscle, in case you were wondering). Without the appropriate recovery time, injuries are going to happen more and more frequently.