The NWSL: Top Performances is a weekly series looking at the top three goalkeeping, defensive, and attacking performances each week. Week four of the NWSL was full of tight matchups, with only one match ending by more than a one goal differential. Ashlyn Harris, Alyssa Naeher, and Sabrina D’Angelo each added another clean sheet to their seasons, while North Carolina Courage and Sky Blue FC found late equalizers in their weekend matchups. In total, there were six games in week four, with a total of 13 goals scored.
These were the week four matches:
North Carolina Courage vs. Seattle Reign (1-0)
Chicago Red Stars vs. Houston Dash (3-0)
Portland Thorns vs. Washington Spirit (1-1)
North Carolina Courage vs. Utah Royals (2-2)
Chicago Red Stars vs. Sky Blue (1-1)
Orlando Pride vs. Houston Dash (1-0)
Top Three Goalkeepers:
- Alyssa Naeher— A late goal from Savannah McCaskill stopped Naeher from getting a clean sheet in both her matches this week, but her performances proved why she is one of the best goalkeepers in this league. She made three saves in the match against Sky Blue, including one that earned her an NWSL Save of the Week nomination. Naeher was ultimately unable to stop McCaskill’s shot that deflected off one of her defenders, but her saves in the second-half of the match against Sky Blue may have kept her team from dropping more points.
- Abby Smith— Smith made some questionable decisions in Utah’s match against the North Carolina Courage, but she was ultimately able to make up for it with some fantastic saves. In the 48th minute, Smith came out to take a free kick near midfield. The ball was intercepted by North Carolina, and Smith had to run back to her net and blocked a shot from Jessica McDonald. Ten minutes later, Smith had another brilliant save off a strong shot from Kristen Hamilton. A costly mistake towards the end of the game led to a goal from Crystal Dunn and a draw for the Royals, but Smith definitely had many strong moments in this match.
- Aubrey Bledsoe—Bledsoe had a few good moments in Friday night’s match against the Portland Thorns, but it was her penalty save in the 87th minute that earns her the number three slot this week. When going after the ball, Bledsoe slid into Emily Sonnett and the referee awarded Sonnett a penalty kick. Bledsoe had already allowed a penalty by Christine Sinclair earlier in the game, but this time Bledsoe saved the shot off her foot and helped her team earn a point on the road.
Top Three Defenders:
- Taylor Comeau— Comeau played the full 90 minutes in both matches for the Chicago Red Stars this week. She played a critical role in those two matches, shutting down offensive chances for both Houston and Sky Blue. Her best moment of the week came towards the end of the match against the Houston Dash, when she slid to stop Nichelle Prince from going one-on-one against Naeher.
- Estelle Johnson—The Portland Thorns are not an easy offense to keep at bay, but the Washington Spirit sent the message early on that they weren’t going to let the Thorns run away with this match. Johnson played a critical role in getting that point across when she made a massive stop in the 12th minute. Ifeoma Onumonu made a run down the pitch, but Johnson chased her down and made an excellent slide tackle that stripped Onumonu of the ball. The Spirit defense wasn’t perfect that match, but they did shut down the likes of Lindsey Horan and Christine Sinclair.
- Erica Skroski—In the 48th minute of Sky Blue’s match against Chicago, the Red Stars had an opportunity to go up 2-0. Michele Vasconcelos tried to break away with the ball, looking to go one-on-one with Kailen Sheridan, but a nice slide tackle from Skroski kept Vasconcelos from taking her shot.
Top Three Attackers:
- Merritt Mathias—Mathias’s goal for the North Carolina Courage in the match against the Utah Royals was enough to make SportsCenter’s Top 10. In the sixth minute of the match, Mathias opened up scoring with a beautiful shot from about 30 yards out. After a corner kick was cleared out of the 18-yard box, the ball rolled to Mathias’ feet and she launched the ball into the top corner. The goal was the best offensive play of the week, and set the Courage up for a draw against the Utah Royals.
- Sofia Huerta—Huerta also played the full 90 minutes of both matches for the Chicago Red Stars this week and walked away with two goals and ten total shots on goal. Her goal in the 6th minute of the match against Sky Blue was a beauty. She launched her shot from outside the 18-yard box and beat Kailen Sheridan at the far post. Her goal against the Houston Dash in the 74th minute sealed their victory and gave her some satisfaction after multiple close shots.
- Savannah McCaskill— McCaskill scored her first NWSL goal over the weekend and it came at a critical time. Chicago went up 1-0 early in that match thanks to an impressive goal from Sofia Huerta. But McCaskill equalized in the 78th minute for Sky Blue. Kaitlyn Johnson sent the ball to her just outside of the 18-yard box and she took a moment to settle the ball before taking her shot. The ball bounced off Taylor Comeau and past Alyssa Naeher. It was McCaskill’s first goal in her NWSL career and the first goal for Sky Blue FC this season.