The NWSL Podium: Top Performances in Week 7

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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.

There were six matches played in Week 7, including two mid-week matches on Wednesday and four matches on Saturday. The Houston Dash picked up two points from two draws this week after earning their first win of the season last week against Sky Blue FC. The Seattle Reign continued their hot streak, defeating Sky Blue FC 4-1 on Saturday night with two goals from Megan Rapinoe. And the Orlando Pride earned their first win against the Portland Thorns in franchise history when they traveled to Providence Park for the Lifetime Game of the Week. Here is a full breakdown of the scores from Week 7:

Houston Dash vs. Portland Thorns (1-1)

Utah Royals vs. Orlando Pride (0-0)

Portland Thorns vs. Orlando Pride (1-2)

North Carolina Courage vs. Washington Spirit (1-0)

Chicago Red Stars vs. Houston Dash (2-2)

Seattle Reign vs. Sky Blue FC (4-1)


Top Goalkeeping Performances

1. Katelyn Rowland Rowland had to step up into the goalkeeping role for the North Carolina Courage this weekend because Sabrina D’Angelo was out with an ankle injury. Rowland had a stellar game for the Courage, making three saves and earning her team another clean sheet. Her best save came in the 48th minute when she faced a shot from Washington Spirit Midfielder Tori Huster. Rowland stretched out her arm and the ball bounced off the palm of her hand. The ball was still inbounds, and Pugh took the follow-up shot, but Rowland had another save and knocked the ball out of bounds. 

2. Lydia Williams Williams took over as the starting goalkeeper for the Seattle Reign this season, with Haley Kopmeyer getting traded to the Orlando Pride, and on Saturday night, Williams played a key role in the Reign’s dominant win. While Sky Blue doesn’t have the best attacking power in the league, Williams faced fourteen shots that night and was forced to make four saves. Her Save of the Week nomination came in the 88th minute of the match. Savannah McCaskill sent the ball into the 18-yard box for Sky Blue and the ball connected with Katlyn Johnson– who had two goals in last week’s match against the Houston Dash. Johnson headed the ball towards goal, but Williams extended her arm and managed to get a couple of fingers on the ball, knocking the ball out of play.

3. Aubrey Bledsoe While Bledsoe was on the losing side of her match this weekend, Bledsoe has been a solid addition to the Washington Spirit lineup this season. Bledsoe leads the league in saves with 37 so far this season, including 5 in this weekend’s match against the Courage. While Bledsoe did allow a goal, only allowing one goal isn’t bad against the best offense in the league. Bledsoe’s saves have earned her a couple of Save of the Week nominations so far this season, and I expect that she’ll continue to show off her talents in the weeks to come.


Top Defensive Performances

1. Janine Van Wyk Van Wyk has been a solid defender for the Houston Dash so far this season, appearing as our top defender just two weeks ago for her performance against the North Carolina Courage. The Dash had two matches this week, facing the Portland Thorns during the week and the Chicago Red Stars over the weekend. Both games ended in draws, and Van Wyk had some fine moments against some of the best offenses in the league. Her best moment, earning her a Save of the Week nomination, came towards the end of their match against the Portland Thorns. Meghan Klingenberg took a corner kick for the Thorns and sent the ball into the 18-yard box. The ball found the head of Lindsey Horan, but Van Wyk was on the line to stop it.  She headed the ball herself, and it soared over the net and out of play.

2. Allysha Chapman Chapman only joined the Houston Dash last week, but already she is making an impact. She sat on the bench for their game against the Thorns (understandably, since she was only traded to the team earlier that day), but she played the full 90 minutes in the match against the Chicago Red Stars. Chapman had many good defensive moments for the Dash, particularly when she was covering Sam Kerr in the box. In the final moments of the game, the Red Stars sent a cross into the box for Kerr, but Chapman got her head to it first and sent it out of play. Earlier in the match, Nagasato sent a cross to Kerr in front of goal, but Chapman once again got her head to it first and got the ball out of the 18-yard box. The Dash gave up their 2019 first round pick for Chapman, but it looks like she may be a great addition to their backline. 

3. Alanna Kennedy Kennedy played the full 90 minutes in both matches for the Pride this week, but she really stood out in the match against Portland. Kennedy plays as a central defender for the Australian National Team, but Tom Sermanni put her back in the defensive midfield for the Pride starting last season. Kennedy was all over the field for this match, making crucial stops and even tallying her own shot on goal. Kennedy works well in that defensive midfield position, roaming around the field where she is needed. She definitely showed her skill this week.


Top Attacking Performances

1. Megan Rapinoe Rapinoe had two goals in Seattle’s 4-1 win over Sky Blue FC this weekend. In the 38th minute, she tacked on Seattle’s second goal when she got the ball just outside of the 18-yard box. She settled the ball and sent it flying into the top-left corner. She hit a very similar shot in the 60th minute, when she ran down the field with the ball, set up the shot, and launched it past Kailen Sheridan. She currently sits second in the league in goals, with four on the season, and helped her team earn their fourth win of the year. They currently sit in second place in the league with 13 points in 6 matches.

2. Christine Nairn Nairn earned the Pride their second goal in the match against Portland and it was beautiful. After getting a long ball from Monica, Nairn attempted to settle the ball but lost it to a Portland defender. The ball bounced off the defender’s head and back to Nairn. The ball bounced off of Nairn’s chest, and Nairn connected with the ball mid-bounce. It soared over an empty 18-yard box and barely slipped under the crossbar and into the back of the net. Britt Eckerstrom was caught a bit off guard and the Pride took a 2-0 lead. The goal was Nairn’s first of the season, and earned her the NWSL Goal of the Week. She also leads the Pride in assists with two on the year.

3. Savannah McCaskill McCaskill, the rookie out of the University of South Carolina, has had a solid start to her season. She tallied another goal for Sky Blue on Saturday against the Seattle Reign; a bright moment in an otherwise disappointing match for Sky Blue. In the 62nd minute, Carli Lloyd handed off the ball to McCaskill inside the 18-yard box. McCaskill was at a difficult angle, but sent the ball over her defender, and into the back of the net. The goal marked McCaskill’s second of the year; she currently is tied with Katlyn Johnson for the most goals for Sky Blue so far this year and has started in all five of Sky Blue’s matches.

Image courtesy of Leanne Keator