6 Takeaways from NWSL: Week 8


Well, Week 8 is done and gone, and we’re firmly into the season now, folks. 

This week saw some unexpected wins from teams on the lower-half of the table, PKs made and PKs missed, and a lot–A LOT–of rain down Florida way. 

As usual, after a weekend full of great soccer, we have some armchair opinions. So stick around and see what we each took away from Week 8.

Houston Won’t Be Rebuilt in a Day – Jordan Small

The struggles over the past few years in Houston have been apparent and the Dash finally took a step in the right direction this past week when they fired general manager and head coach Randy Waldrum. While Waldrum was a great college coach, it just didn’t translate to the NWSL. So this week against the Washington Spirit, interim head coach Omar Morales was tasked with leading the struggling Houston team. Let’s just say that there is still a lot of work to be done.

This team has a lot of issues that need to be resolved and it’s not surprising to see that they weren’t all fixed in the first week of Morales’ tenure. It’s going to take time and patience. There is a lot of talent on this Houston team, but there is definitely a lack of confidence in this team. Will it all be fixed in a few weeks? Not possible. But by the end of the season, could we see a resurgence in H-Town? Don’t count them out.

Havana Solaun is Washington’s Secret Weapon – Jordan Small

In four of the last five games for the Washington Spirit, Havana Solaun has a goal or an assist. After coming over from Seattle in a trade that sent Christine Nairn back to the west coast, it was unclear how Solaun would fit in or even how she would do in her first full season as a professional. But she was able to put her injured past behind her to get a fresh start with her new team.

Solaun has played a huge role in the midfield so far this season. Whether it has been coming in off the bench or as part of the starting XI, Solaun brings a different edge to the game with her great vision. That vision was clear prior to both Spirit goals on Saturday as she had an assist on the first goal and the pass to set up the assist on the second goal. Solaun’s vision on the first goal allowed Cheyna Williams to get in behind the defense with a well timed through ball waiting for her on the other side. With Tori Huster out, Solaun and Meggie Dougherty Howard have both helped Washington cope with Huster’s absence. This off-season trade has worked out well for the Spirit.

Orlando Home Schedule Could Pay Off in the End – Luis Hernandez

In just about every league, if you get results at home while stealing points on the road, it’s going to be successful season. Looking at the standings, North Carolina and Chicago are the top two teams in the league, but also have each had five home matches this season. Meanwhile, Houston and Orlando, who are in the bottom end of the table, are in the opposite end of the scheduling spectrum and have each only been at home three times this year. Thankfully, Orlando has been more successful than the Dash in those three opportunities by not losing at home.

The Pride, a talented team some would say have played inconsistent and underachieved so far, are looking more together with each passing match. This week Tom Sermanni added Rachel Hill to the starting XI, and the arrival of Alex Morgan will boost the team around the same time Ashlyn Harris is projected to return from injury. As the team looks to be on the rise, the schedule is looking more and more favorable to Orlando after a challenging start. Going into the FIFA break, the Pride will prepare for a home series against the struggling Houston Dash, and getting six points is a realistic possibility which could give this developing team the confidence it needs. Not to mention that in the tail-end of the season, the Pride will have multiple home games to try and make a real push for the post-season.

Breakers’ Growing Pains Planting Seeds to Future Success – Luis Hernandez

It’s been a rough spell of play for the Breakers, who are winless since April with only two points to show for in five matches. However, the team isn’t playing like mediocre reflections of previous seasons. Boston has turned to a balanced blend of young talented players and experienced veterans. The team doesn’t seem down on itself as it has in winless streaks before this year. Matt Beard has been able to change the culture of the team, and they have been strong at home. Abby Smith’s performances for the Breakers have led to her call-up by the senior national team for the June friendlies against Sweden and Norway, while Rose Lavelle has been as good as advertised for Boston.  They’re a couple of pieces from a complete package, but once the team figures how to put everything together for a full 90, the Breakers are going to be a hard out for teams in the league. They aren’t a bottom-dwelling team anymore. This bunch is trending up.

Sky Blue Caught Ball-Watching – Elizabeth Wawrzyniak

Sky Blue’s loss against Portland was not for lack of trying. But it wasn’t their inability to get in the goal that led to Portland taking home all three points on the road. It was some messy and unorganized defending.

First was Kayla Mills’ just ill-advised challenge to Nadia Nadim in the 20’ minute. That mistake led directly to another, when the NJ player trying to mark Horan played her too loose and gave the Portland player too much room to maneuver, leading to Horan’s header past Sheridan.

The third was again a mistake by Mills. Playing to high up along the wing opened up space behind her, and she was too easily turned, caught reacting to Boureille’s drive in instead of defending proactively. That mistake by Mills drew the NJ team toward the left side of the box, so when the ball was sent back to the top of the box for Portland to reset their attack, the right was wide open for Klingenberg’s pass in and all a Thorn had to do was wait to receive it and tap it toward goal. Which is exactly what happened.

The entire NJ team got caught ball-watching, the entire game. They spent almost 90 minutes playing reactionary soccer instead of making organized moves to interrupt the ease that Portland had moving the ball around.

Let’s Talk About Heat – Elizabeth Wawrzyniak

So, I never thought I’d have to talk about hydration breaks so much this season. But a few things happened over the past week, and it seems a little important to bring it up again.

First, there was last week’s game in Houston where Rachel Daly collapsed with heat exhaustion almost exactly as the whistle blew. Next, the US federal government announced that the US would be withdrawing from the Paris Accord meant to help combat climate change.

And then just today, Chicago and Seattle played 90+ minutes in 90+ degree temps (humidity around 45%).  Afterward, Christen Press reportedly looked a little worse for wear, and Dan Lauletta, a well-respected WoSo journalist, tweeted that he didn’t really believe in the necessity of hydration breaks, but if they had to happen, could the clock stop at least?

Here’s the thing.

Climate change leads to rising temperatures.

Rising temperatures leads to the need for hydration breaks. (Because soccer is a game, not a gladiator-style execution. I want to be entertained; I don’t want anyone to die.)

And no matter what we do, the clock isn’t going to stop. We can’t pause the damage we’ve done to the planet, and we can’t turn back time and fix it.  All we can do is try to minimize the damage already done.

We’re here because we love soccer. But it’s time to start talking about how politics and policies affect the game.

Withdrawing from the Paris Accord is going to do generations-worth of harm to the planet. Already the damage we’ve done is affecting our favorite sport.

The question isn’t “should there be hydration breaks” (there should be) but “how did we get here,” followed up with “what can we do to fix the larger–literally, global–problem?”

Sports is always, always political.

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