The NWSL Podium: Top Performances is a weekly series that looks at the best attacking, defensive, and goalkeeping performances each week.
Week 14 was packed with action, with three midweek matches and four matches over the weekend. After winning their match against the Washington Spirit in Week 13, the Pride dropped to 3rd place after losing both of their Week 14 matches. The Chicago Red Stars extended their unbeaten streak, defeating the Washington Spirit 2-0 on Sunday and pulling themselves into the 4th place slot. And many new faces made an impact this week, with Christen Press scoring her first goal in a Utah Royals kit on Saturday night against Sky Blue, and Morgan Brian making her 2018 NWSL debut as a substitute for Chicago. Here is a full breakdown of the scores from this week:
Orlando Pride vs. Houston Dash (1-2)
Utah Royals vs. Seattle Reign (0-0)
Portland Thorns vs. Sky Blue (1-1)
Orlando Pride vs. North Carolina Courage (0-3)
Utah Royals vs. Sky Blue (3-1)
Seattle Reign vs. Portland Thorns (1-0)
Chicago Red Stars vs. Washington Spirit (2-0)
Top Three Goalkeepers
1. Adriana Franch— Franch started in both of the matches for the Portland Thorns this week, allowing just two goals in two games . Against Sky Blue, she had three saves and faced fourteen shots. She had a great save in the 38th minute off a shot from Imani Dorsey. She made another important stop in the 87th minute, when Sky Blue thought they could steal three points at the last minute. Shea Groom got around her defender and tried to slot one past Franch, but the Portland goalkeeper blocked the shot with her knee. Portland’s second match this week was on the road against the Seattle Reign. Megan Rapinoe launched a couple of rockets during that game, but Franch managed to keep them out. One such save in the 87th minute earned Franch an NWSL Save of the Week nomination. In total, she made eight saves and faced eighteen shots against Seattle.
2. Jane Campbell— The Houston Dash played just once this week, earning a 2-1 victory over the Orlando Pride. In that match, Campbell faced 21 shots and made five saves. Early in the match, she made an impressive kick save off a shot from Kristen Edmonds. In the 63rd minute, Edmonds sent the ball into the box and Dani Weatherholt got a shot off her heel. But Campbell knew where the ball was and leapt up to save it. Finally, after the Houston Dash had taken the lead, Chioma Ubogagu tried to send in a cross into the box, but Campbell punched the ball away, ensuring that her team earned three points on the road.
3. Michelle Betos— The Seattle Reign have alternated between Lydia Williams and Michelle Betos throughout the season. Betos got the start in their midweek draw against the Utah Royals, while Williams got the start in their 1-0 victory over Portland over the weekend. Betos faced sixteen shots from the Utah Royals and made six saves. The Royals got a lot of shots off early, but Betos was able to shut down their opportunities. Christen Press tested her luck in the 16th minute, taking a shot from outside the 18-yard box, but Betos made a diving save. She made almost the exact same save against five minutes later, off another shot from Christen Press. In the 64th minute, Press dribbled the ball into the box and tried to send the ball in front of the net while she had Betos distracted, but Betos got her hand on it and ultimately the ball was cleared by the defense. The Royals had more than twice as many shots that night as the Reign did, so it is a testament to Betos and the Seattle defense that they were able to get the point and the clean sheet.
Top Three Defenders
1. Becky Sauerbrunn— Sauerbrunn is one of the best defenders in the league, and usually finds herself somewhere on this list every week. In Week 14, the Utah Royals played two matches and earned four points, with Sauerbrunn playing the full 90 minutes in both games. Their first match was a scoreless draw against the Seattle Reign. While the Reign have one of the strongest offenses in the league, the Utah defense was able to limit them to just seven shots on the night. In that match, Sauerbrunn had five clearances, two tackles, and one interception. On Saturday, she appeared with Sam Johnson for the first time since the blockbuster trade between Houston, Chicago, and Utah. Sauerbrunn had three clearances, four interceptions, and one block, and the Royals went on to win the match 3-1.
2. Megan Oyster— The Seattle Reign also walked away with four points in two matches this week. Oyster played the full 90 minutes in both matches, and her impact was particular noticeable in the match against the Utah Royals. The Royals had eighteen shots on the night, and with the likes of Christen Press and Amy Rodriguez leading the Utah attack, it’s impressive that the Seattle defense was able to keep the game scoreless. Oyster had six interceptions on the night.
3. Caprice Dydasco— The Washington Spirit only had one match this week, playing the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday night on the road. It seems that the Spirit always seem to attract storms, and while the game thankfully wasn’t cancelled or delayed, the Spirit and the Red Stars dealt with less-than-ideal field conditions. While the Spirit would ultimately lose that match 2-0 thanks to goals from Casey Short and Yuki Nagasato, Dydasco was a bright spot on the Washington defense. In the 51st minute, she had a good interception when Sam Kerr sent a ball across the box to Alyssa Mautz. Dydasco read the play and was able to slide in front of Mautz, keeping the ball out of the danger zone. In the 67th minute, Dydasco made another important interception. This time Michele Vasconcelos had an opportunity to score on the counter attack, with Kerr and Nagasato to her right and only Dydasco there to stop them. But again, Dydasco read the play and was able to intercept the pass to Kerr.
Top Three Attackers
1. Katie Stengel— While all the talk has been focused on another Utah Royals striker this week, Katie Stengel made her presence known in the Royals Saturday night match against Sky Blue. Stengel scored two goals in this match, making her the only player across the NWSL to get a brace in Week 14. Stengel found her first goal in the 24th minute, thanks to a nice service from Christen Press. Press was able to place the ball right where it needed to be, and Stengel out-ran the Sky Blue defense. She went one-on-one with the goalkeeper, Kailen Sheridan, and was able to find the back of the net. Her second goal came in the 28th minute, off a free kick from well outside the 18-yard box. Katrina Gorry sent the ball into the box and Stengel was able to get her head on it, sending the ball into the top-left corner. After her second goal, she ran to the throne on the Utah Royals sidelines and celebrated like royalty.
2. Debinha— The North Carolina Courage had another impressive performance this week against the Orlando Pride, thanks in part to an assist and a goal by Debinha. She opened up scoring in the 37th minute. Crystal Dunn sent a ball into the box and there was a swarm of Courage players ready to pounce on it. Ultimately, Debinha got her foot on it and sent a powerful shot towards Ashlyn Harris. Harris got her hand on it, but there was too much momentum on the ball, and it slid past Harris’s fingers and into the goal. Only two minutes later, Debinha assisted on Merritt Mathias’s goal. Denise O’Sullivan originally intercepted the ball from the Pride defense. She passed the ball on to Debinha in the middle, who set up the shot for Mathias on the right. Mathias was able to step up and launch her shot, which bounced through the Pride defense and past Harris, giving the Courage their second goal in as many minutes. They would go on to win the match 3-0, scoring their third goal a minute later.
3. Yuki Nagasato— Nagasato is proving to be one of the more important players on the Chicago Red Stars roster. This week, she earned her third goal of the season in the 60th minute of the Red Stars home match against the Washington Spirit. Sam Kerr got the ball and ran down the left side of the pitch. She sent the ball into the box and Nagasato stepped up with a diving header, sending the ball past Aubrey Bledsoe. Nagasato now has three goals and two assists on the season for Chicago.