Off the Bench with Backline Soccer: 2017, Week 2

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Backline Soccer Recap:

Last week on Backline Soccer, we introduced several new series that you can look forward to reading throughout the 2017 NWSL season.

  • The Unused Sub – Jacob Cristobal graced us with two pieces in this series last week. The first piece details the introduction of the streaming platforms and where we are at in year five. In the second piece, Jacob breaks down his thoughts on the uproar about Week 1 streaming, curses the Gods for taking Amy Rodriguez and Joanna Lohman out of the 2017 NWSL season with torn ACLs, and more. As always, he asks you to give him your best shot on twitter, @jacobcristobal, for any questions or comments!
  • Route Two Soccer: The Counterattack and Houston’s 4-3-3 – The first piece from our newest addition, Charles Olney, is all about tactics. In this first edition, he breaks down the tactics of the Houston Dash in their game against the Chicago Red Stars. This series is sure to be a hit, so make sure you keep your eyes peeled to our site for the next one.
  • Rising Blues, Falling Spirit- NWSL Power Rankings Week 1 Edition – Jenn Hayes will take you through power rankings each week of all ten NWSL teams. Week 1 saw FC Kansas City claim the top spot after a great opening game but the Washington Spirit, a team who made the 2016 NWSL championship game, found themselves at the bottom.
  • 6 Takeaways from NWSL: Week One – Jordan Small, Leigh Nieves, and Luis Hernandez will take you through their six takeaways each and every week following a weekend of NWSL games. Some highlights for week one included streaming issues, the first game on Lifetime, and the huge game Stephanie Labbé had.
  • Jane Campbell Didn’t Have an Excellent First Start (And That’s Okay) – Elizabeth Wawrzyniak takes a look at Jane Campbell’s first pro start for the Houston Dash. Even with the goals allowed she looks into why Campbell is going to be just fine.

Check them all out on our website–make sure to catch up on last week’s great pieces before diving into Week 2!


NWSL Week 2 Game Recaps:

We have arrived at the end of Week 2 in the 2017 NWSL season! We saw some great games this past weekend, so let’s dive right in.

 

Game 1: Chicago Red Stars 1 vs FC Kansas City 0

Chicago Red Stars record: 1-1-0
FC Kansas City record: 1-1-0
Attendance: 2,153

The first game of the day was the home opener for the Chicago Red Stars against FC Kansas City. Both teams were bringing the heat with some quality matchups, but it was ultimately a goal by Julie Ertz in the 41st minute that decided the game. Yes you read that right, Julie Ertz, our beloved JJ, scored the lone goal and game winner for the Chicago Red Stars! The 49th minute provided a PK to the Red Stars but Christen Press’ shot went wide, continuing the struggles with PKs for another USWNT star. FC Kansas City was noticeably different without the star power of Amy Rodriguez (who is out for the season with a torn ACL) but Nicole Barnhart kept Chicago limited to just one goal with some amazing saves. We’re only in week 2 but she is looking prime Barnie in goal so far.

Game 2: Orlando Pride 1 vs Washington Spirit 1

Orlando Pride record: 0-1-1
Washington Spirit record: 0-1-1
Attendance: 14,452

The Lifetime Game of the Week this week showcased the Orlando Pride and the Washington Spirit. This was the home opener for the Pride, the first appearance in their brand new stadium, and also the first game for Marta. A lot of give and go between both teams took us into halftime with no goals but plenty of excitement. Orlando has arguably one of the best backlines (at least on paper) in the league, but some slipups forced goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris into a number of crucial saves. Pride fans will appreciate the saves but I’m sure would prefer to see Harris less busy. She herself has said that a perfect game involves having to make no saves. With the continuing struggles of the front line for the Pride, the addition of Marta should provide a much needed boost. The return of Alex Morgan in June will also be a big help, but let’s hope Pride fans don’t have to wait that long for the team to start finishing their chances.

The Washington Spirit also looked much better this week, with Stephanie Labbé continuing to perform well. Marta made her anticipated appearance in the 59th minute, only to see Line Sigvardsen Jensen notch her first NWSL goal and put the Spirit up 1-0. But it was a stunner of a goal from rookie Danica Evans, her first as a professional, in the 87th minute that tied the game up. Shortly after, Marta came very close to scoring her first  and sealing the Pride’s first win of the season but couldn’t quite find the mark. Both teams come away here with a hard fought point.

Game 3: North Carolina Courage 1 vs Portland Thorns 0

North Carolina Courage record: 2-0-0
Portland Thorns record: 1-1-0
Attendance: 6,298

The Courage were up next in their home opener, the first for the newly relocated team, against the Thorns. In a rematch of the intense semi-final of last season, both teams game out of the gate swinging. Portland started off early as a FK by Nadia Nadim almost found its way to Allie Long for the first goal of the match but we went into halftime still scoreless. On both sides, Franch and D’Angelo came up big in the net to keep this game tight. Finally, in the 81st minute, Debinha scored the lone goal of the night to put the Courage up 1-0. She also came close earlier in the match with a supreme bicycle kick. The game was intensely physical, with the Courage ultimately coming out on top and seeing out the win in their new home in North Carolina.

Game 4: Seattle Reign 5 vs Houston Dash 1

Seattle Reign record: 1-0-1
Houston Dash record: 1-1-0
Attendance: 2,727

The final game of Saturday night saw the Reign take on the Dash in Seattle. The Dash were coming off a hopeful start after a win and shutout for Lydia Williams last week against the Chicago Red Stars but this time they looked like a different team. Jane Campbell made her NWSL debut in goal for Houston, and was put under pressure early and often. Jess Fishlock opened the goal-fest in the 17th minute. From there, it was all downhill for the Dash. Rapinoe launched a rocket in the 26th minute, McNabb followed in the 29th minute, Yanez in the 55th minute, and finally Katie Johnson, (her debut and first professional goal) in the 74th minute. Poliana put the Dash on the board, finally, in the 84th minute, but by then it was too late. Amber Brooks came up huge for the Dash in the 51st minute with a goal line clearance to keep the Reign off of the board but the Dash struggled most of the night against the Reign.

The decision to go with Campbell over Williams in goal was met with skepticism by many, and unfortunately she did not seem to be quite ready for the test. However, she certainly wasn’t helped by a shaky backline which, missing Janine Van Wyk due to illness, looked messy and unorganized. Ultimately, while it wasn’t a great night for Campbell, she should fare better going forward.

On a final note, Merritt Mathias took a hard knock and had to come off after a huge welt formed on her head. Despite the bump, she was seen laughing about it with teammates Haley Kopmeyer and Megan Rapinoe and seems to be OK.

Game 5: Boston Breakers 1 vs Sky Blue FC 0

Boston Breakers record: 1-1-0
Sky Blue FC record: 0-1-1
Attendance: 2,329

The final game of the weekend was the Boston Breakers’ home opener against Sky Blue FC. Not wanting a repeat of last years slow start, the Breakers came out determined to get three points. They looked much better this week and should give their fans a lot of hope. On the other side, Sky Blue also looked different from week 1, but in the other direction. After the dominating performance against the Reign last week, they could not buy a goal on Sunday to save their life. It was Natasha Dowie who scored the deciding goal in the 37th minute, thanks to Rose Lavelle’s first career assist. Kelley O’Hara took quite a beating this match as she was hustling all over the pitch, shuttling from forward to midfield, trying to make things happen for her team and fill in holes as needed. In the later part of the game, she was moved to fullback, in an effort to bolster the backline, but did not seem pleased about it. Both keepers, Abby Smith and Kailen Sheridan, looked dominant all game for their respective teams and should be proud of their output.

The weekend saw the Red Stars, Courage, Reign, and Breakers come away with three points, while the Pride and Spirit each garnered their first point of the season. Held winless and pointless this week were FCKC, the Thorns, Dash, and Sky Blue.

A reminder for U.S. fans that you can catch the Lifetime Game of the Week live and on demand either via TV, computer, or mobile and all other games live and on demand on the go90 app and (as of this weekend) on the go90 website. Additionally, after 48 hours, all go90 games will be on demand on the NWSL website. All international fans can catch every game, live and on demand, on the NWSL website.


The Scouting Report:

The Scouting Report went live last night with our second official NWSL weekly TSR recap of all NWSL games from the weekend. Make sure to tune in every Monday at 8pm EST to catch our weekly series!

You can find last night’s TSR here:

Come back next week for the next edition of Off the Bench! And don’t forget to check out the rest of our great content created weekly on the Backline Soccer website!