The Game Changers is a weekly series looking at the most important results each week. Each section will look at one team and how its win, loss, or draw impacts the season.
With only a few games left in the NWSL regular season, the race for the final spot in the playoffs is heating up. The North Carolina Courage, Chicago Red Stars, and Portland Thorns have separated themselves from the rest, with five points separating No. 3 Portland from No. 4 Utah Royals. But Utah and Reign FC are currently tied on points, with only goal differential lifting Utah into the playoffs at the moment. The race for the Supporters’ Shield also remains competitive, with North Carolina launching themselves into the No. 1 spot this weekend. Here is a full breakdown of the matches from Week 22.
Orlando Pride vs. Chicago Red Stars (0-1)
Portland Thorns vs. North Carolina Courage (0-6)
Houston Dash vs. Utah Royals (2-1)
North Carolina Courage vs. Orlando Pride (6-1)
Washington Spirit vs. Reign FC (2-2)
Sky Blue FC vs. Chicago Red Stars (0-3)
North Carolina scores 12 goals in two games.
North Carolina had a very impressive Week 22. But even more impressive than a 6-1 win over the lowest ranked team in the NWSL was North Carolina’s 6-0 victory over the Portland Thorns at Providence Park. Not only did North Carolina manage to get this result on the road, but they did it against one of the top teams in the league.
As North Carolina often does, this game was highlighted by two bursts of goals. The first happened when the Courage scored three goals between the 15th minute and the 24th minute, including two goals from Lynn Williams. Two more goals came between the 61st and the 68th minutes, including the goal that completed Williams’ hat trick. And Kristen Hamilton topped things off with a goal of her own in the 89th minute.
North Carolina hasn’t been as good this season as they were last year. But this looks like a team that can win a Supporters’ Shield and maybe add another championship to their collection of accolades.
Chicago Red Stars extend to three-game win streak.
The Chicago Red Stars have been hit-and-miss this season. But they’ve managed to get hot at just the right time, extending to a three-game win streak after victories over the Orlando Pride and Sky Blue. They currently sit in the No. 2 spot in the NWSL Standings, two points behind the North Carolina Courage. They also have two fewer games left to play. But, if the Chicago Red Stars continue playing like this, they could also be looking at adding a trophy or two to their collection.
In their match against Sky Blue, Chicago got a goal apiece from Morgan Brian (her first NWSL goal) and Sam Kerr in the first half. Sky Blue actually had more shots and more shots on goal, but six critical saves from Alyssa Naeher and a second-half insurance goal from Yuki Nagasato gave Chicago the win.
Washington Spirit hold Reign FC to a draw at Audi Field.
The Washington Spirit played their second game of the 2019 season at Audi Field on Saturday night. The crowd of over 17,000 was treated to some late drama — the game was 1-1 going into stoppage time, but a 90th minute goal from Chloe Logarzo gave Washington the lead. But Ifeoma Onumonu snatched away the Spirit’s dreams of a second win in the District when she equalized just two minutes later. In doing so, she also earned her team a critical point in the playoff race.
The Spirit attracted over 19,000 fans to their first match at Audi Field and over 17,000 to their second match a few weeks later. They treated fans to a win over the Orlando Pride in their first match and a draw against Reign FC in their second. Surely, this team has made their case for playing full-time at Audi Field. If those dreams come to fruition, it would be massive for both the Spirit organization and the NWSL as a whole.