KC Gets Kerr-powed: NWSL Power Rankings, Week 12/13 Edition

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My sincerest apologies for not releasing a Week 12 edition of the Power Rankings last week. To make up for it, Week 12 and 13 have been combined into one edition, as it would be unfair to leave any games out.

1 (+1). Sky Blue FC (7-6-2; def. Kansas City 3-2, drew Chicago 2-2)

Round 1 of Sky Blue vs Kansas City was a dull match with very little action. Round 2 turned out to be a different story. In a disjointed first half performance, Sky Blue was completely dominated by a determined Kansas City team, conceding twice before halftime and mustering almost no offense. But a sending off of Shea Groom in first half stoppage time left the Jersey side with a player advantage for the entire second half, and they punished the visitors. Sam Kerr continued her white hot form, bagging a hat trick in the final 12 minutes to pull off a stunning comeback.

Sky Blue next welcomed Chicago into town, and the patchwork backline of the home side was hit for two first half goals from the Red Stars, leaving them to claw out of yet another deficit. Although Maya Hayes did pull one back for Sky Blue 5 minutes after Chicago’s second, the visitors held their slim advantage for over an hour and looked to be walking away with 3 points and first place. But Kerr stepped up in the 90th minute once again and headed past Alyssa Naeher for an equalizer.

Next match: 7/22 @ Seattle at 10 PM EST.

2 (-1). Chicago Red Stars (7-3-4; drew Boston 0-0, drew Sky Blue 2-2)

In the third game of a four game road trip, Chicago headed to Boston determined to earn three points, but only came away with one after 90 minutes of frustration. The Red Stars dominated the Breakers in nearly every aspect of the game, repeatedly peppering the Boston defense with shots and giving Alyssa Naeher an uneventful evening in goal. Chicago seemed to have gotten the breakthrough after Christen Press scored, but her goal was disallowed for offside and the Red Stars headed home with another draw.

The fourth and final game of Chicago’s road trip was a visit to New Jersey, and it looked to be a rewarding visit when Sofia Huerta put the Red Stars ahead in the 4th minute. Press added a second in the first half, and although Chicago conceded shortly after, they held on to their lead until the 90th minute. A Hail Mary cross by Sky Blue was converted past Naeher to leave Chicago with just one point and still in second place.

Next match: 7/22 vs Orlando at 3:30 PM EST.

3 (-). North Carolina Courage (9-5-0; def. Seattle 2-0, lost to Portland 1-0)

North Carolina took on Seattle at home, and after weathering some early threats from the visitors, the Courage took over and dominated the majority of the match. NC bombarded the Reign goal with a league record 30 shots, and took the lead in the first half when Ashley Hatch pounced on a misclear for her team leading 4th goal of the season. The Courage were fortunate not to have conceded an equalizer late in the half after Katelyn Rowland carelessly turned the ball over just outside the NC box, but the shot missed just wide to preserve the shutout. McCall Zerboni added an insurance goal in the second half to ensure the 3 points for the hosts.

Hoping to build on the strong win, North Carolina hit the road to face Portland. But despite some shaky defending from the Thorns, the Courage proved wasteful with their opportunities, only recording two shots on goal in 90 minutes. Their wastefulness came back to haunt them, as a poor clearance from Taylor Smith was crossed in and converted by Portland for the only goal of the match, leaving the Courage with zero points.

Next match: 7/22 @ Kansas City at 8 PM EST.

4 (+2). Orlando Pride (5-5-4; drew Washington 2-2, def. Kansas City 4-1)

Orlando traveled to last place Washington, and in a reverse of their previous encounter, it was the Pride who scored first when Marta converted a first half penalty. A sloppy bit of defending from the Orlando backline allowed the Spirit to equalize less than 15 minutes later, but after halftime, Marta restored her side’s lead with a well-struck volley. Orlando appeared to have the 3 points in hand heading into the last few minutes, but a foul by Toni Pressley sent Washington to the penalty spot and Aubrey Bledsoe was unable to save it, sending the Pride home with a mere draw.

Stinging from two dropped points, Orlando hosted Kansas City and wasted little time going after the 3 points. The Pride opened the scoring in the first half when Alanna Kennedy headed in a cross from Marta, then Alex Morgan earned a penalty, which she scored for her first goal of the season. The Blues pulled one back in the second half, but Toni Pressley restored the Pride’s advantage less than 10 minutes later. Kristen Edmonds added a final goal off the bench, giving Orlando their biggest win in franchise history.

Next match: 7/22 @ Chicago at 3:30 PM EST.

5 (-). Portland Thorns FC (6-4-4; drew Houston 1-1, def. North Carolina 1-0)

Portland made a brief road trip to Houston looking to return to the Top 4 but was put behind early after the Dash capitalized on a defensive mistake by the Thorns, and Portland spent most of regulation  in search of an equalizer. They finally got their chance after being awarded a free kick in second half stoppage time, which was put home by Lindsey Horan. The Thorns spent the remainder of stoppage time up a player after a Houston red card, but could not get a second goal and had to settle for one point.

Portland returned home to take on North Carolina, and just like their previous match, the Thorns were quickly put under the Courage’s trademark high pressure. But this time Portland’s defense withstood the onslaught without conceding, and in the second half, Hayley Raso outmuscled the NC defense to head home a cross and give her side a lead they would not relinquish.

Next match: 7/22 vs Washington at 10 PM EST.

6 (-2). Seattle Reign FC (5-3-6; lost to North Carolina 2-0, drew Boston 1-1)

On a stormy night in Cary, North Carolina, Seattle hoped to bring the Reign down on the Courage. But it was the Reign who came out second best on this occasion. Despite Seattle falling behind and being on the back foot for most of the first half, Megan Rapinoe came within a hair of an equalizer after stripping Katelyn Rowland and firing just inches wide of the open net. The wasted opportunity proved even more costly when Seattle conceded a second goal late in the second half, and the Reign left NC with no points.

Back at home for a rematch against Boston, Seattle started brightly, earning several first half chances. The Reign finally took an opportunity from a shanked clearance that fell to Nahomi Kawasumi, who chipped it in from outside the box to give her team the lead. The lead would not last long, however, as Boston equalized 10 minutes later. And while Seattle had the edge in nearly every offensive category, they had to settle for a draw, as neither side was able to score in the second half.

Next match: 7/22 vs Sky Blue at 10 PM EST.

7 (+1). Houston Dash (5-7-2; drew Portland 1-1, def. Washington 2-1)

Houston hosted Portland in Week 12, and despite a fairly even match, the Dash jumped out to an early lead when Janine Beckie took advantage of sloppy defending by the Thorns and slotted home from close range. Houston had several more opportunities to add to their lead, but failed to net an insurance goal, and were punished for their poor finishing when Portland equalized in second half stoppage time. And to add further insult, Houston was forced to play the remainder of stoppage time with 10 players after Carli Lloyd was sent off for a reckless challenge.

Houston next faced off against Washington, and once again tallied the opening goal in the first half when Poliana redirected a cross from Beckie into the goal. Andressinha doubled the advantage in the second half, and the Dash were in firm control. And although Jane Campbell conceded a second half goal, she made some outstanding saves throughout the 90 minutes to extend Houston’s unbeaten run to five.

Next match: 7/22 vs Boston at 8:30 PM EST.

8 (+1). Washington Spirit (3-7-3; drew Orlando 2-2, lost to Houston 2-1)

Washington hosted Orlando looking to rebound from a disappointing loss the week before, but fell behind early after a foul by Kassey Kallman saw a penalty awarded to the Pride. The Spirit would not trail for long, as Mallory Pugh exploited a gap in the Pride defense to equalize midway through the first half. Washington once again trailed early in the second half, but after pushing for a second equalizer for almost half an hour, the Spirit were awarded a penalty of their own, which was successfully converted by Pugh to give her team a badly needed point.

Washington’s third and final match against Houston in Houston, however, would not have a happy ending for the Spirit. A Dash goal in each half sent Washington away with no points, but Estelle Johnson ensured her side would not be shut out when she pulled the Spirit within a goal in the second half.

Next match: 7/22 @ Portland at 10 PM EST.

9 (-2). Boston Breakers (3-6-5; drew Chicago 0-0, drew Seattle 1-1)

On an emotion-filled night for Boston- the Breakers were honoring former coach Tony DiCicco- the hosts faced off against Chicago, and it was another defensive-minded performance for a team lacking in offense. Aside from one or two missteps, Sammy Jo Prudhomme had a solid game in goal to earn a club record third consecutive shutout. Captain Julie King also hit a milestone, reaching 100 appearances for the Breakers.

Boston next traveled to Seattle and saw their shutout streak come to an end in the first half when a botched clearance from the returning Abby Smith resulted in a Seattle goal. The Breakers would not trail for long, though, as Adriana Leon slammed home a cross at point blank range for the equalizer. The score would remain deadlocked at the end of the 90 minutes, thanks to some key saves from both keepers, and Boston would depart Seattle with a point.

Next match: 7/22 @ Houston at 8:30 PM EST.

10 (-). FC Kansas City (3-7-4; lost to Sky Blue 3-2, lost to Orlando 4-1)

Needing a win to keep their flagging playoff hopes alive, Kansas City headed to New Jersey and looked to end their long winless run as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first half. Katie Bowen opened the scoring with a long range blast, and Christina Gibbons added the second with less than 5 minutes remaining in the half. But the Blues’ fortunes turned sour after Shea Groom was sent off before halftime, and KC spent the entire second half under siege from the Sky Blue offense. The Blues’ defense held firm until the 78th minute when three Sky Blue goals in the final 12 minutes ensured the visitors went away empty handed.

The next match would be one to forget for Kansas City, as they traveled to Orlando and were handed an embarrassing defeat. The poor set piece defending that has plagued the Blues all season reared its ugly head in the first half, conceding first on a short corner, and then a penalty whistled on Bowen. Maegan Kelly gave her side a bit of hope when she cut the deficit in the second half, but a quick response from the home side snuffed out that hope. A costly error by Nicole Barnhart allowed a fourth Pride goal and a 4th straight loss for KC.

Next match: 7/22 vs North Carolina at 8 PM EST.