The NWSL Podium: Top Performances in Week 10

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The NWSL Podium: Top Performances is a weekly series that looks at the best attacking, defensive, and goalkeeping performances each week. 

We’re right around the midpoint of the NWSL season, and the table is starting to take shape. With the exception of the midweek battle between the North Carolina Courage and the Portland Thorns, Week 10 challenged each team to play without their U.S Women’s National Team members, who are currently in Salt Lake City preparing for a pair of friendlies against China. Despite losing six players to the national team camp, the North Carolina Courage narrowly maintained their unbeaten streak with a 1-1 draw against the Houston Dash on Sunday night. The Utah Royals found their first road win of the season against Sky Blue FC, who are still looking for their first win after nine games. The Chicago Red Stars also bounced back with a 2-0 win over the Washington Spirit in a match that was delayed over five hours due to weather. Overall, there were 12 goals scored across five matches in Week 10. Here is a full list of scores:

Portland Thorns vs. North Carolina Courage (1-4)

Sky Blue FC vs. Utah Royals (1-2)

Washington Spirit vs. Chicago Red Stars (0-2)

Houston Dash vs. North Carolina Courage (1-1) 

Seattle Reign vs. Orlando Pride (0-0)

Top Three Goalkeepers

1. Haley Kopmeyer Kopmeyer would probably be a starting goalkeeper on most rosters, but it’s difficult to break out of Ashlyn Harris’s shadow (just ask Aubrey Bledsoe). With Harris away on national team duty, Kopmeyer earned the start against the Seattle Reign, whom she played with before being traded to Orlando this past offseason. Kopmeyer took advantage of her opportunity. She faced 15 shots from the Reign and made five saves, including one in the 51st minute that earned her a nomination for NWSL Save of the Week. Naomi Kawasumi took a shot from distance and Kopmeyer jumped into the air, punching the ball over the net. Even without Megan Rapinoe, it isn’t easy to get a clean sheet against Seattle. But Kopmeyer managed to shutdown the likes of Jess Fishlock and Naomi Kawasumi, giving the Pride their fourth clean sheet this season, and helped her team earn a point on the road. 

2. Emily Boyd— Like Kopmeyer, Boyd also stands in the shadow of a national team goalkeeper. But with Alyssa Naeher away on national team duty, the rookie out of California earned her first NWSL start. The Washington Spirit were lacking two of their stars on offense– Mallory Pugh, who is out with a knee injury, and Francisca Ordega, who is representing Nigeria in a pair of World Cup Qualifiers against Gambia. But Boyd still faced eleven shots from the Spirit and made four saves. Her save in stoppage time earned her an NWSL Save of the Week nomination. The Spirit managed to slot a ball behind the defense, and it landed at the feet of Ashley Hatch. Boyd saw that her defenders couldn’t get there, and she came off her line, sliding to the ground and putting her body in front of the ball. She got hit in the face with Ashley Hatch’s foot, but still managed to jump back up, although the second effort from the Spirit went over the net. A clean sheet and three points on the road not a bad way to make your NWSL debut. 

3. Lydia Williams Williams, who has been alternating with Betos throughout the season, earned another clean sheet this week against the Orlando Pride. Like other teams, the Pride had a somewhat diminished offense, lacking the talents of Alex Morgan and Marta. But Chioma Ubogagu, Sydney Leroux, and others can be equally threatening. Williams faced 12 shots and made two saves on Sunday night. In the 74th minute, the Pride set up a shot from Emily Van Egmond. Williams managed to stick her foot out and make an instinctive kick save, knocking the ball to her left where it was eventually knocked out of play. The scoreless draw marked Williams’ third clean sheet of the year. 

Top Three Defenders

1. Amber Brooks The North Carolina Courage may have been missing a few key attackers in their weekend match against the Houston Dash, but the Houston defense was still going up against Jessica McDonald and Lynn Williams. The Houston defense looked shaky early on in the game, but eventually they settled down, and Brooks played a critical role in the central defense to keep the Courage from setting up their shots. The Courage were only able to get eight shots in that match, including three shots on goal. Brooks made a couple of key blocks and dispossessions throughout the match, again preventing the Courage from developing a firm rhythm. With Brooks and Van Wyk in the central defense, and Allysha Chapman and Haley Hanson on the outside, the Houston defense is shaping up to be competitive with the best in the league. 

2. Katherine Reynolds Reynolds is one of the best defenders in the NWSL. In Portland’s midweek match against the North Carolina Courage, Reynolds made her 100th career NWSL appearance. While the Thorns ultimately allowed four goals in, including a penalty given away by Reynolds in the 30th minute, Reynolds also had some shining moments. One of those moments came in the 50th minute, when Reynolds got in front of Lynn Williams to block her shot. But Reynolds best moment of the night came– surprisingly– on offense. A free kick was given to the Thorns in the 88th minute, just outside of the 18-yard box. Heath took the free kick and sent the ball towards the edge of the 18-yard box. With no other players there to grab it, Reynolds set up her shot and slotted it across the keeper to the back of the net. The goal is Reynolds first in her career. 

3. Jess Fishlock Fishlock is not usually a name one expects to hear on defense. And while she had some spectacular moments on offense in this weekend’s match against the Orlando Pride, it was her save in the 50th minute that earned her a spot on the highlight reel. Leroux had the ball at the edge of the 18-yard box, and tried to send a cross into the middle. But Fishlock anticipated the play and jumped in front of the ball, sending it out of play. 

Top Three Attackers 

1. Lynn Williams It’s been a slow start to the season for Lynn Williams. She’s started in nine of the Courage’s 12 matches, but prior to this week, she had scored only one goal. But in the midweek match against the Portland Thorns, Williams started to find her rhythm again, scoring her second and third goals of the season. She opened up the game in the 30th minute, when Debinha was taken down in the box by Katherine Reynolds and the Courage earned a penalty. Williams took that penalty, slotting the ball into the bottom corner. She found the back of the net again in the 62nd minute. A corner kick was sent into the box, and bounced off the heads of a couple of Courage players before Williams was able to get her left foot on it and send it into the back of the net. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to carry that momentum into the weekend against the Houston Dash. The Courage just couldn’t get going on offense, and Williams was substituted out in the 56th minute.

2. Yuki Nagasato Nagasato is an unsung hero for the Chicago Red Stars, and she proved that again this week with a goal and an assist in the Red Stars 2-0 win over the Washington Spirit. The first goal was set up by Nagasato when the Red Stars earned a free kick in the center of the pitch, a few yards outside of the 18-yard box. Nagasato slotted it towards the bottom corner, forcing Kelsey Wys to make a diving save. While Wys was able to successfully block the shot, she couldn’t grab onto it nor could she jump up in time to stop Sam Kerr, who came in with the second effort and found the back of the net. Nagasato found a goal of her own in the 48th minute. She brought the ball down inside the 18-yard box, settling it and passing it off to Alyssa Mautz. Mautz then sent it right back to Nagasato, who found some space and sent the ball back into that bottom corner. This time, Wys wasn’t quick enough to stop it, and Chicago found themselves with a 2-0 lead. This was Nagasato’s first goal and second assist on the season. 

3. Sam Kerr Kerr made her seventh start of the season on Saturday night, and did plenty to make her presence known. She scored the Red Stars first goal of the night in the 25th minute, after a terrific free kick by Nagasato bounced out of the hands of Kelsey Wys. Kerr was able to get to the ball before the Spirit defenders and kick it into the back of the night to give Chicago the lead. While Kerr would be limited to one goal that night, she had a couple of other fantastic chances. In the 20th minute, she took a shot from outside the 18-yard box that sailed just over the top of the net. And then in the 64th minute, Alyssa Mautz threaded a ball through the Spirit defense to Kerr, who couldn’t get a good angle and sent the ball just wide of the post. In those seven appearances, Kerr has scored five goals for the Chicago Red Stars, including three goals in her last two games.