Plenty of good and not so good things happened this week in the world of women’s soccer. Here’s my weekly roundup for you.
Kelley O’Hara Taken Down From Behind:
The tackle heard around the National Women’s Soccer League on Saturday night was on Sky Blue and USWNT member Kelley O’Hara. This was her first game back from Rio. The challenge came in the 91st minute from an unlikely source in Chicago Red Stars midfielder Alyssa Mautz. The tackle came from behind, which usually does not end well. This was an uncharacteristic foul by Mautz, who I’ve seen play in person. I’ve watched countless footage from her A&M days and in the NWSL, and I’ve never seen her make that kind of reckless challenge. I am in no way excusing her decision to make that tackle, as it was a terrible mistake and one that was strange because of the circumstances (Chicago was leading by three goals, clearly about to win). After leaving the stadium in a boot and on crutches, O’Hara seems to be in good spirits, taking to Twitter to update her status:
Made my heart happy to play again last night, despite the result. Thanks for the well wishes, I’ll be back soon 🙏 #kanklelife
— Kelley O’Hara (@kohara19) August 28, 2016
Ada Hegerberg Named Best Player in Europe:
If she didn’t have it before, this 21 year-old from Norway certainly has everyone’s attention now, after beating out French star Amandine Henry (PSG/Portland Thorns FC) and Germany’s Dzsenifer Marozsan (FFC Frankfurt/Olympique Lyonnais) to be named UEFA Best Women’s Player in Europe for 2015/2016. This is the first time that a German player hasn’t won (the last three winners include Celia Sasic, Nadine Kessler and Nadine Angerer). Hegerberg has scored an impressive 28 times in just 50 appearances for her national team since being called up in 2011—a feat exciting to see from someone so young. She plays her club ball at Olympique Lyonnais in France (D1 Feminine) and has made 43 appearances since 2014, scoring 59 goals along the way. She is proving to be a special player. Hopefully we will see more of the same from her in the future.
Duke Falls to Arkansas in NCAA upset:
When the number two ranked team in the country traveled to Fayetteville, Arkansas last Friday, I was sure they would come away with a convincing win, but I was wrong. Not only did Duke lose, they only managed three shots on goal and gave Arkansas their first win in program history over a top 10 ranked opponent. Credit of course to the Razorbacks for using home atmosphere to their full advantage, playing a very impressive match in front of a record crowd of 3,010. With the disappointing loss this early in the season, Duke has two wins and, looking ahead on the schedule, it doesn’t get any easier as the Blue Devils face North Carolina and West Virginia in the next two weeks (also top 10 teams). The good news for Duke is that it’s early in the season; they have time to improve and learn from mistakes to get where they need to be. For me, this is the biggest upset in Women’s Division I so far. What will it do for Arkansas and Duke moving forward? What kind of effect will this game have on the rest of the season? In the long run, it’s a massive confidence booster for Arkansas, proving they can seriously compete with any team. Duke will need to forget this game and get back to the quality soccer we are used to seeing. Definitely worth keeping an eye on these two teams.
Seattle Show Signs of Life:
The Seattle Reign faced the Portland Thorns this weekend, and they came away with a 3-1 win to end the Cascadia Rivalry with one win apiece. Before the match, the Reign were in sixth place in the NWSL standings and seven points out of playoff contention. With these three points, they move to fifth (helped by a Sky Blue loss) and are still mathematically in the hunt for that fourth spot. Dutch playmaker Manon Melis scored two goals, and Megan Rapinoe added a third to ensure a victory for Seattle. Melis now is the Reign’s leading goal scorer, with five on the year. The way they played, the spirit they showed, and the style in which they won reminded me of the Reign from last year’s regular season. With Jess Fishlock (looking refreshed), Bev Yanez, and the returning Kawasumi Naho all grabbing assists, the Reign looked very comfortable going forward. Haley Kopmeyer stood tall in goal for Seattle and (in the absence of Hope Solo) made six saves, while keeping her back line organized enough to grab three crucial points. It’s no secret the assertion of Naho into the lineup certainly has had a positive effect on the team. For Seattle fans, it feels like they are finally coming together. But with four games left, is it too late? Playing in front of 5,888 at home seemed to give the Reign that energy and spark needed to win. I’m not counting out Harvey’s team just yet.
Marta and Schelin lead FC Rosengard to Swedish Cup Victory:
Less than week after the Olympics ended, many players were back with respective clubs, including five-time Ballon d’Or winner Marta and Olympic silver medalist Lotta Schelin. Both play for FC Rosengard in the top Swedish league, the Damallsvenkan. FCR are known for bringing in top players from all over the world; in the past they have fielded the likes of Ramona Bachman (SUI), Nilla Fischer (SWE), Formiga (BRA), Ana Mittag (GER), and Manon Melis (NLD). The rich history is understandably quite the draw for many players. The Svenska Cupen final against Linkoping FC had many recognizable players on display for Rosengard: Marta, Schelin, Emma Berglund (captain), Ali Riley, Ella Masar, and Lieke Martens. For Linkoping, one standout player is Stina Blackstenius, who many should remember played a superb tournament for Sweden in the recent Olympics. She scored the only goal for Linkoping but just didn’t have enough star power to find the win. As for Rosengard, they put on a dominant 3-1 performance, with goals from Marta, Schelin, and Martens to earn the victory. This was the club’s third Svenska Cupen in program history, and with that kind of roster, one of its most impressive, surely.
Dunn Hasn’t Been Crystal Clear For Washington:
Last year’s NWSL MVP has yet to score a single goal in 2016. Yes, you read that correctly. Crystal Dunn had a breakout year in 2015, scoring 15 goals in 20 appearances. Last season she took 84 shots and 48 were on frame, yet this season, in 10 games Dunn has managed 23 shots; only seven have been on goal. Dunn hasn’t scored yet, but she has tallied four assists on the year. One explanation could be that teams have figured out how to frustrate her. With her speed, that is a difficult task, but players all across the league have shown the ability to contain her. Dunn has done tremendous work in games this season—her effort is next to none; she’s just contributing in a different way this year. It’s clear the Spirit, as a whole, have done a better job spreading the ball around, as 10 different players have scored this season, as opposed to seven players last season. Washington are sitting pretty in first place and have earned 35 points. They have more than proven that Dunn doesn’t need to do all the heavy lifting for them to have success. If you would’ve told me at the beginning of this year that the reigning MVP wouldn’t have a goal to her name with four games left, I would’ve laughed and said that’s crazy. Turns out Dunn and Washington are the ones laughing all the way to the playoffs.