The NWSL Podium: Top Performances is a weekly series that looks at the best attacking, defensive, and goalkeeping performances each week.
NWSL’s Week 8 was a bit slow, with only five goals being scored across four matches. The North Carolina Courage continued their unbeaten streak with a 2-1 win over Sky Blue FC, but failed to maintain their clean sheet thanks to a last-minute goal from Carli Lloyd. The Portland Thorns finally bounced back with a 1-0 win over the Washington Spirit. In that match, Ellie Carpenter surpassed Mallory Pugh as the youngest goal-scorer in NWSL history at the age of 18. And the Chicago Red Stars managed to silence the Seattle Reign at home. Here is a full list of the scores from Week 8:
Utah Royals vs. Houston Dash (1-0)
Washington Spirit vs. Portland Thorns (0-1)
Sky Blue FC vs. North Carolina Courage (1-2)
Seattle Reign FC vs. Chicago Red Stars (0-0)
Top Goalkeeping Performances
1. Katelyn Rowland— Rowland started in her second match this season for the North Carolina Courage on Saturday, with Sabrina D’Angelo out with an ankle injury. Rowland faced eight shots in the match against Sky Blue and had to make four saves. She had a spectacular save in the 6th minute off a shot from Shea Groom. Groom set up her shot in the corner of the 18-yard box and launched it towards the far corner of the net, but Rowland leaped into the air and sent the ball out of play. Rowland’s most impressive moment came in the 72nd minute. The North Carolina defense gave up a penalty kick, and Carli Lloyd lined up to take it. Rowland made a diving save to deny Lloyd on the initial shot and then denied Raquel Rodriguez on the rebound, pushing the ball out of play.
2. Lydia Williams— Williams faced eleven shots and made four saves in Saturday night’s late game against the Chicago Red Stars. Williams had good saves against shots from Sofia Huerta and Julie Ertz early in the second half, but it was her save at the end of the first half that earned her a Save of the Week nomination. In the 42nd minute, there was some chaos in the box and Williams was surrounded by a sea of Reign and Red Stars players. A corner kick came in from Danielle Colaprico, and the Red Stars were hoping to just finish it off and head it into the net. Arin Gilland got a head to it, but Williams swatted the ball away. Rapinoe attempted to clear the ball, but it only got as far as Samantha Johnson. Johnson took a shot of her own, but it went right at Williams, who caught the ball and ended the Red Stars’ chance.
3. Jane Campbell— While Campbell failed to get the clean sheet or the win on the road this weekend against the Utah Royals, she managed to shut down their offense for most of the match and made a couple of very impressive saves, especially in the first half. In the 31st minute, Katrina Gorry sent a beautiful ball upfield for Amy Rodriguez, who settled it and took a shot. Campbell made a diving save and Chapman cleared the ball out of the 18. A few minutes later, the referee gave a penalty to the Utah Royals after Amy Rodriguez was tripped inside the box by Amber Brooks. Diana Matheson took the penalty kick for Utah, but Campbell dove the right way and made the stop. At the end of the match, Utah tried to tack on more following Erika Tymrak’s goal, but Campbell wouldn’t let them through. She made a total of 4 saves in 18 shots faced.
Top Defensive Performances
1. Lauren Barnes— Facing the likes of Sam Kerr and Sofia Huerta is no small task for a backline. But Barnes and her fellow defenders stepped up to the task. Barnes had a couple of good clearances early in the match and did a good job at shutting down the Red Stars attack. She almost had a bad giveaway early in the match, where she couldn’t quite clear the ball out of the box, but Kristen McNabb was there to save the day. The Seattle Reign have a lot of talent on defense, and the efforts of Williams, Barnes, McNabb, and others helped get the Seattle Reign their second clean sheet of the season.
2. Allysha Chapman— The Houston Dash defense admittedly looked a little shaky this weekend against the Utah Royals, but in just her second appearance for the Dash this season, Chapman once again managed to step up in a big way. She played a physical match, going head-to-head (literally) with the Utah Royals offense, and she made a couple of critical clearances and dispossessions that kept the Houston Dash in that match. She did make one big mistake in the 51st minute when she was caught ball-watching in front of the net and allowed Erika Tymrak’s goal to roll right past her. While this may have been a step back for the Dash’s defense, Chapman remains an important addition to a defense that has impressed in the past and could become a force to be reckoned with, with a bit more chemistry.
3. Kristen McNabb— McNabb played a critical role in the success of the Seattle Reign’s backline on Saturday night. McNabb had a particularly nice moment in the 11th minute of the match. Barnes kept trying to clear the ball, but she couldn’t quite head it out. Colaprico saw an opportunity and charged the ball, taking her shot but McNabb was there to stop it. Her effort helped get the Seattle Reign their second clean sheet of the season.
Top Attacking Performances
1. Carli Lloyd— Taking on the undefeated North Carolina Courage is no small task, especially for a team that has struggled this season like Sky Blue. But they stepped up to the plate, and as they settled into the match, put up a good performance against the #1 team. Lloyd had two particularly good moments towards the end of the match. In the 70th minute, she drew a penalty kick for Sky Blue. Unfortunately for Lloyd, both the shot and the rebound were brilliantly saved by Katelyn Rowland. But Lloyd wasn’t done yet. In the final moments of the game, Lloyd took a free kick just outside of the 18-yard box. Lloyd’s shot curled past Rowland into the top corner of the net for her first goal of the NWSL season. The goal wasn’t enough to earn Sky Blue points, but it was a sign of the potential this team has moving forward (and ended the Courage’s chance at another clean sheet).
2. Ellie Carpenter— Carpenter made her third appearance for the Thorns this weekend, coming on in the 64th minute for Midge Purce. Less than five minutes later, the Thorns faced the Spirit defense in a three-on-four attack. The Thorns had the edge, and Tobin Heath crossed the ball in front of the Spirit defense. The players got a bit tangled in the middle, but the ball rolled on to the feet of Carpenter, who sent the ball into the back of the net. The goal was ultimately enough to get the Portland Thorns their first win in over a month.
3. Erika Tymrak— Prior to this week, Tymrak had been a consistent substitute, but never a starter, for Laura Harvey’s Utah Royals. But with Kelley O’Hara out with a hamstring injury, Tymrak got her chance to step into the starting line-up this weekend. She made her chance count, scoring the lone goal of the match in the 51st minute. Gunny Jonsdottir found space and moved with the ball towards Houston’s 18-yard box. She passed the ball off to Rodriguez, who the Dash were marking. So, Rodriguez let the ball slide past her to a wide open Tymrak, who slotted the ball into the bottom corner of the net. The goal was ultimately enough to earn the Utah Royals their second win of the season.
Honorable Mention: North Carolina Courage— It is difficult to single out one offensive player on this team that stood out this weekend, but North Carolina’s counter-attack is clinical and proved dangerous this weekend against Sky Blue. Their first goal came from Crystal Dunn, but it was a beautiful set up from Debinha, who sent the ball out to Jessica McDonald, who slid the ball right past three Sky Blue defenders to Dunn, who tucked it away in the far corner. This North Carolina Courage team is something special, and they are fun to watch.