The National Women’s Soccer League officially hit the midseason mark in Week 11, with highlights including one of the best single week performances in league history, and a stunning bicycle kick goal that has to be considered a strong favorite for Goal of the Season. And to wrap up the action, we have the midseason Power Rankings.
1 (-). Chicago Red Stars (7-3-2; lost to Seattle 2-1, def. Orlando 0-1)
Chicago began a four-game road trip with a midweek visit to Seattle and they were on track to extend their unbeaten run to eight when Alyssa Mautz tapped home a cross from Julie Ertz to give the Red Stars a first half lead. But the Reign turned the scoreline around in the second half after Chicago was whistled for a pair of penalties, both of which were converted, sending the visitors away with their first loss since April.
The weekend match saw a weary Chicago squad travel cross country to Orlando, where they were on the defensive for the entire first half as the Pride pounded the Red Stars’ defense hoping to strike quickly. But Chicago successfully weathered the storm, and a foul on Casey Short in the second half sent Christen Press to the penalty spot, which she put home for the only goal of the match and a hard-earned 3 points went home with the visitors.
Next match: 7/7 @ Boston at 7 PM EST
2 (+1). Sky Blue FC (6-6-1; lost to Orlando 2-3, def. North Carolina 0-1)
Sky Blue’s midweek match saw them host Orlando for the second time this season, and Round 2 started similar to Round 1, when the Pride opened the scoring in the first half. Sky Blue were able to equalize just before half-time when Kelley O’Hara converted a penalty and Sam Kerr scored on a spectacular bicycle kick at the start of the second half to put the home side in front. But two Orlando goals in the last 15 minutes of regulation ensured that Sky Blue would not claim the three points.
The weekend game saw Sky Blue head down to North Carolina, and in a reversal of their earlier matchup, it was the Jersey side who came out on top. Other than a penalty save, Kailen Sheridan had an uneventful afternoon in goal as the Sky Blue defense shut down the vaunted Courage offense. And Sam Kerr continued her tear, capitalizing on an NC defensive breakdown in the 84th minute to score what would be the lone goal of the contest.
Next match: 7/8 vs Kansas City at 7 PM EST
3 (-1). North Carolina Courage (8-4-0; lost to Sky Blue 0-1)
North Carolina was riding high on confidence heading into their match against Sky Blue. The Courage had not been shut out in 2017 and, as the WNY Flash, had not lost to Sky Blue since 2014. But both those streaks came to an end in Week 11. The usual intense pressure from the NC front line was nowhere to be found in the oppressive heat of the day, and the Courage forwards were mostly limited to long range shots easily handled by the Sky Blue defense. Sam Mewis had a second-half penalty saved to keep the score deadlocked, and the Courage were left to rue that miss after Sky Blue scored late in regulation to snag the three points.
Next match: 7/8 vs Seattle at 7:30 PM EST
4 (+1). Seattle Reign FC (5-2-5; def. Chicago 2-1, def. Portland 2-0)
Hoping to avoid a winless June, Seattle hosted Chicago midweek. But it was the Red Stars who enjoyed most of the chances in the first half and put the Reign behind going into halftime. The second half saw the momentum swing back to the hosts after Chicago conceded two penalty opportunities, which were both scored by Megan Rapinoe, and Seattle held off a late surge from the Red Stars to end the month on a high note.
The weekend fixture saw Seattle renew their fierce rivalry with Portland, and the Reign were the dominant side from the opening whistle. Although Seattle was dealt a major setback when Jess Fishlock was forced to depart with an injury, Rapinoe pounced on a giveaway by the Thorns’ defense to give her team a lead. She added a second in the second half to ice the result for Seattle, and pull the Reign level in the all-time series for the first time.
Next match: 7/8 @ North Carolina at 7:30 PM EST
5 (-1). Portland Thorns FC (5-4-3; def. Kansas City 3-0, lost to Seattle 2-0)
After two tough losses, Portland came into the week desperately needing a win and found their opportunity against Kansas City. The Thorns’ defense returned to its 2016 form, handling every offensive effort from the Blues, and Christine Sinclair turned back time with a strong performance punctuated by a brace. Hayley Raso also managed to get on the scoresheet for the first time as a Thorn to help her side end the slide.
The good times would not last for long, as Portland returned to the loss column courtesy of their weekend opponent–and longtime rivals–Seattle. The Thorns were unable to conjure up the same attacking prowess they had shown just a few days prior, and a horrendous defensive mistake by Emily Sonnett in first half stoppage time was punished by the potent Reign offense to put Portland behind. Seattle doubled their advantage late in the second half, leaving the Thorns with a third loss in four games and out of the top four.
Next match: 7/8 @ Houston at 8:30 PM EST
6 (+1). Orlando Pride (4-5-3; def. Sky Blue 2-3, lost to Chicago 0-1)
Orlando made their second visit to New Jersey in midweek play and got off to a strong start when Chioma Ubogagu opened the scoring in the 11th minute. Aubrey Bledsoe came up big 10 minutes later to save a Sky Blue penalty, but could not repeat the feat when the home side was awarded a second spot kick that Kelley O’Hara sent screaming into the net. Trailing 2-1 in the final 15 minutes, the Pride were able to come back when Marta found an equalizer, and Rachel Hill provided the game-winner late in regulation to give Orlando their first ever win over Sky Blue.
Seeking to build on their massive midweek victory, Orlando came out flying in their weekend match against Chicago. The Pride dominated possession at 70% and were camped out in the Red Stars’ side of the field for most of the first half. However, Orlando could not convert that domination into goals and paid for their wasted chances in the second half after a sloppy foul by Toni Pressley gave Chicago a penalty, which was put home. Alex Morgan finally made her season debut in front of the Pride supporters, but it was a debut to forget as her side was left with no points.
Next match: 7/8 @ Washington at 3:30 PM EST
7 (+2). Boston Breakers (3-6-3; drew Houston 0-0, def. Washington 1-0)
Boston’s midweek match was a trip to Houston, and although the home team dominated the majority of the match, the Breakers’ defense held strong against the Dash’s offensive pressure. Ironically, after being on the back foot for 80+ minutes, it would be Boston who would be disappointed with the draw on this occasion. Adriana Leon scored what appeared to be the game-winning goal in the 84th minute, but her strike was disallowed after it was judged to be aided by a deflection off the hand of Natasha Dowie.
The Breakers returned home for their weekend match against Washington, who had been inactive midweek, and were put on their heels for most of the first half thanks to a gusty afternoon in Boston which favored the visitors in the opening 45. But just as they had done midweek, the Breakers’ defense remained unbroken, and in the second half, Boston found a hole in the Washington defense. Less than 10 minutes after coming on as a sub, Midge Purce successfully converted from a short corner for her first professional goal, and Boston played out the remaining 20 minutes for their first win since April.
Next match: 7/7 vs Chicago at 7 PM EST
8 (+2). Houston Dash (4-7-1; drew Boston 0-0, def. Kansas City 1-2)
Fresh off a rare road victory, Houston hosted Boston in their midweek game and controlled play from the opening kickoff. But despite their domination, the Dash were unable to crack open the Breakers’ defense and were nearly made to pay for their wastefulness when Boston scored what seemed to be a game-winning goal late in regulation. Fortunately for Houston, the goal was waved off and the two sides were forced to settle for a draw.
The weekend game was away to Kansas City, and although the first half was an evenly matched contest, Houston conceded in stoppage time and went into the locker room with a deficit. But Rachel Daly pulled her side level after she was able to put home a spilled shot, and Nichelle Prince took advantage of an uncleared Dash free-kick to give the visitors the lead. And while KC put the Houston backline under pressure in the final few minutes, the Dash held firm and maintained their unbeaten record in KC.
Next match: 7/8 vs Portland at 8:30 PM EST
9 (-3). Washington Spirit (3-6-2; lost to Boston 1-0)
Hoping to take advantage of a less rested opponent, and some strong winds at their backs, Washington came out strong in their lone Week 11 match against Boston. The Spirit were able to earn a number of first half opportunities, and had the edge in play, but could not make their domination pay off with a goal. Mallory Pugh made her return from injury in the second half, but neither she nor the newly re-signed Estefania Banini were enough to get on the board, and Washington was left empty handed when Boston took the lead in the second half and held onto it.
Next match: 7/8 vs Orlando at 3:30 PM EST
10 (-2). FC Kansas City (3-5-4; lost to Portland 3-0, lost to Houston 1-2)
After squandering a player advantage and having to settle for a disappointing draw against Seattle, Kansas City trekked down to Portland for their midweek match and was handed a humbling loss by the Thorns. The Blues found themselves trailing by two goals at halftime, and although the KC offense was able to generate a fair number of chances, they were ultimately unable to put one away. A third Portland goal late in the second half left no doubt of the result.
Their weekend match was a home game against Houston, and although the chances were evenly split in the first half, Shea Groom scored a lovely goal in first-half stoppage time for a KC lead. But the Dash equalized in the second half and took the lead just two minutes after Lo’eau LaBonta was sent off in the 62nd minute with a second yellow. And despite a furious push in the final 20 minutes for an equalizer, the Blues were unable to add a second and finished their week with no points.
Safe to say that Week 11 of the 2017 season will likely not be remembered fondly by the Kansas City faithful.
Next match: 7/8 @ Sky Blue at 7 PM EST