The NWSL Podium: Top Performances in Week 6

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The NWSL Podium: Top Performances is a weekly series looking at the top three goalkeeping, defensive, and attacking performances each week.

Week 6 was full of excitement, providing a lot of options to choose from. The Utah Royals earned their first win in franchise history against the Washington Spirit at Rio Tinto Stadium, and the Houston Dash earned their first win under Vera Pauw on the road against Sky Blue. The Saturday matchup between the Portland Thorns and the Seattle Reign was an instant classic, with the Seattle Reign solidifying themselves as a force to be reckoned with this season, and the North Carolina Courage were almost handed their first loss of the season, but were saved by a goal in the 82nd minute. Here is a full breakdown of the scores from Week 6:

Chicago Red Stars vs. Orlando Pride (0-2)

Portland Thorns vs. Seattle Reign (2-3)

Sky Blue vs. Houston Dash (2-3)

Utah Royals vs. Washington Spirit (2-0)

North Carolina Courage vs. Chicago Red Stars (1-1)

Top Three Goalkeepers

1. Alyssa Naeher—  Naeher may have put up the NWSL goalkeeping performance of the season on Sunday against North Carolina. The Courage are a difficult opponent to face under any circumstances, and the Chicago Red Stars were coming in with tired legs after their 2-0 loss to Orlando on Wednesday. The Red Stars faced a total of 42 shots from North Carolina, yet the Courage didn’t get their equalizer until the 82nd minute. It’s hard to pick a single top save from the dozen she managed. In the 17th minute, she made a brilliant block to keep a strong shot from McCall Zerboni. At the start of the second half, Naeher used her face to block a shot from Crystal Dunn, who was only a few feet in front of her. In the 56th minute, she made a diving save to stop a shot from Sam Mewis from sneaking into the bottom-right corner. Ten minutes later she stopped another shot from Crystal Dunn by diving to her right. And that’s just what made the highlight reel.

2. Michelle Betos— The Cascadia Rivalry is always a heated match. For Betos, there was even more meaning as she returned to Providence Park for the first time since leaving Portland at the end of the 2016 season. And the Thorns did not go easy on their former teammate. She and her teammates faced a total of 24 shots in that match, and Betos made eight saves. Amongst her best were back-to-back saves made in the 88th and 89th minute of the match. After Christine Sinclair did a fantastic job keeping the ball in play, Betos faced a shot from Tobin Heath right in front of her. Betos made the initial block, and after the ball bounced around a bit, she grabbed the ball and ended the ball. Only a minute later, the Thorns earned a corner kick. A Portland player got her head to the ball, but Betos was able to make a diving block, keeping the Thorns from scoring. Betos’ saves in the final minutes may have been the difference between a draw or a win on the road.

3. Sabrina D’Angelo— D’Angelo only had to make one save in Sunday’s match against the Chicago Red Stars, but it was a nice one. In the 86th minute, after the Courage had equalized off a goal from McCall Zerboni, Sam Kerr had the ball delivered to her feet inside the 18-yard box. D’Angelo came off her line and charged at Kerr, ultimately blocking the shot when the ball bounced off her leg. D’Angelo’s last minute save kept her team from suffering their first loss of the season.

Top Three Defenders 

1. Amber Brooks—Brooks earned herself a Save of the Week nomination this week after defending an empty goal in the 55th minute. Sky Blue had a nice passing sequence and got the ball up to Katlyn Johnson, who rounded Jane Campbell and seemed to be through on goal. But Brooks anticipated the danger and cut behind her keeper, putting herself in perfect position to block Johnson’s shot.

2. Kelli Hubly— While the Thorns did not have the best defensive weekend, Hubly gets credit for a wonderful save she made on the goal line in the 74th minute. After a bad defensive giveaway a few moments before that nearly cost them a goal, the Thorns had another defensive miscommunication and Nahomi Kawasumi got possession of the ball inside Portland’s 18-yard box. She passed it to Fishlock, who handed it off to Jodie Taylor. Taylor faced three defenders in addition to the goalkeeper, but may have found the back of the net had it not been for a brilliant header by Hubly. 

3. Steph Catley Catley is a versatile player, who has great moments on both offense and defense. As an outside back, she is great at getting those runs up the field and creating opportunities for her team to score. She was traded to Seattle from the Orlando Pride in the offseason, and she has only been back for a couple of matches with the Reign. But she played a critical role in keeping the ball down the pitch and creating opportunities for Seattle in their 3-2 win over the Portland Thorns this weekend at Providence Park.

Top Three Attackers

1. Katlyn Johnson— Johnson had a stellar match this week against the Houston Dash. She earned her first goal of the night in the 57th minute, tapping in a cross from Shea Groom. Her second goal unfolded similarly, when Sarah Killion sent a ball into the box, and Johnson sent the ball with a header. While Johnson’s brace ultimately wasn’t enough to bring her team points, she is now Sky Blue’s leading goal scorer, with two goals and one assist so far this season.

2. Chioma Ubogagu— Ubogagu continued to prove her worth this week in the match against the Chicago Red Stars. She opened the scoring in the 28th minute with a ball that took a deflection off a defender and snuck past Naeher into the bottom-left corner. Ubogagu was critical to setting up the goal as well, winning the ball in the midfield and working with Sydney Leroux to take the ball down the pitch. The goal marked Ubogagu’s third goal of the season, and even with all the veteran talent on the Pride’s offense, she is currently the Pride’s leading goal scorer.

3. Diana Matheson—  Matheson scored the second goal for the Utah Royals on Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium. As the Washington Spirit were passing the ball around their defense, Matheson made a sliding tackle on Estelle Johnson. Matheson got the ball and Johnson jumped over Matheson to stop from falling. As both players chased after the ball, Aubrey Bledsoe came out from goal. But Matheson got the ball and flicked it over Bledsoe. The ball rolled into the net with no defender to stop it.

 

Image courtesy of Leanne Keator