The NWSL West teams started out the weekend strong with a San Diego win Saturday night, but continued Sunday with a tie for OL, a loss for Angel City, and a postponement for Portland.
With the Challenge Cup being intertwined with the regular season, there was a chance that the western division teams could only have anywhere from two to four matches this weekend depending on how the semifinals went on May 4th. As it happened, OL lost in their semifinal to Washington, so their regular-season match against Racing Louisville went on as planned, and a tired OL walked away with a tie. Portland was set to face North Carolina in a regular-season matchup, but with the North Carolina win, the Courage headed to the Challenge Cup finals and Portland enjoyed a bye weekend. Angel City took on Orlando, but was unable to find the netting and walked away with their first loss. San Diego had their home opener in which the offense put on a show and walked away with a dominating win against Gotham.
The Reign Attack Racing but Exhaustion Wins
23’ Jessica McDonald, Assist Cece Kizer (1-0 LOU)
33’ Tziarra King, Assist Angelina (1-1)
37’ Tziarra King, (2-1 OL)
60’ Own Goal-Balcer (2-2)
After a heartbreaking loss in PKs to the Washington Spirit in the Challenge Cup semifinals after a stoppage-time handball was not awarded to the Reign, OL returned home for the regular-season matchup with Racing Louisville. OL made some great adjustments in the Wednesday matchup compared to the regular-season opener, which was also against the Washington Spirit just days prior.
Racing Louisville came out with a high press that OL didn’t seem able to handle. Although the Reign controlled possession, they were losing the ball when they attempted to leave their own half. In the 23rd minute, Savannah DeMelo intercepted an errant OL pass and was able to dribble forward until she passed the ball off to CeCe Kizer. Kizer then found Jess McDonald in the box who one-touched it into the upper 90 past an outstretched Phallon Tullis-Joyce to put Louisville ahead early. Going behind seemed to be just the shock to the system that OL needed.
Just under ten minutes later, Rose Lavelle stripped Emina Ekic of the ball at the beginning of a Racing counterattack, and slipped it out to Angelina who was able to dribble to right outside the box and send a pass into Tziarra King making her run in the box. King was able to toe-poke it past Lund to tie up the match. Just four minutes later in the 37th minute Sofia Huerta was given the space to take the ball all the way into the right side of the Louisville box and send in a beautiful cross to the feet of Rose Lavelle. Racing’s Katie Lund made an incredible save on Lavelle’s shot, but the ball bounced right into the far-post run of Tziarra King, who put the ball into the net before Lund could recover.
In the 60th minute, DeMelo took a free kick 15 yards outside the 18-yard box. It narrowly missed the head of Olofsson crashing in the box and was saved by Tullis-Joyce. Unfortunately for the Reign, the ball went straight from Phallon’s hands and hit Balcer who was attempting to defend the free kick. Although it did appear in real-time that Balcer was able to clear the ball before it fully crossed the line, the assistant referee called it a goal, and replay showed that call to be correct.
OL would finish the game with 16 shots, 9 of which were on frame, but were unable to find that clinical finishing that fans have come to expect from them. It was clear to see that having three games in eight days was getting to them. Even with their depth of roster, the week plus of hotel living while on the road in Washington DC plus the long travel day home on Thursday was evident in their play. Fun fact: In both of OL’s regular-season matches, the opposing goalkeepers have been awarded yellow cards.
After the North Carolina Courage walked away from the Challenge Cup semifinal with a win, the regular-season match between Portland and North Carolina on the road was postponed until Wednesday, August 24th. Portland will be hosting the Women’s International Champions Cup the weekend prior, meaning they’ll now head into the Courage game after a multigame week, which will be closely followed by another regular-season home game scheduled on Saturday, August 27th against San Diego. Portland likely took advantage of the off weekend to restore their batteries after a game-packed Challenge Cup.
Angel City versus the Offside Flag
3’ Sydney Leroux (1-0 Orlando)
Coming off a 3–0 loss to Gotham, Orlando came out hard against Angel City. In the 3rd minute, Gunny Jónsdóttir sent a cross in from the right side of the Angel City box, past a diving Didi Haracic and right onto the run of Sydney Leroux. Leroux sent it toward the net with her left foot from close range, and although ACFC’s Megan Reid got a leg in front of it, she was unable to stop the ball from going into the goal. Both Angel City and Orlando finished the first half with a single shot on goal, but Angel City only had 3 total shots versus Orlando’s 6. ACFC finished the first half with 3 offside calls including a gorgeous Christen Press goal which was called back.
The offside woes continued for Angel City into the second half, with two more calls in the first twenty minutes. The Pride would go on to hold their lead until time ran out in the second half, much to Angel City’s chagrin. They ended the match with 10 shots, 4 of which were on frame, but none were able to find the netting behind Orlando’s goalkeeper Erin McLeod. Orlando’s sole shot on frame was the goal in the 3rd minute.
Alex Morgan Puts on a Show in San Diego Home Opener
45+1’ Alex Morgan, penalty (1-0 SDFC)
66’ Alex Morgan, penalty (2-0 SDFC)
70’ Alex Morgan (3-0 SDFC)
90+1’ Alex Morgan (4-0 SDFC)
In the first few minutes, it looked like Gotham was going to dominate possession, but around the 6th minute everything switched and the Wave started possessing the ball a lot more. In the 30th minute, it appeared that San Diego captain Abby Dahlkemper had a collision with a Gotham attacker, and although she kept playing until the ball went out of play, she was taken out of the match after going down to her knees. Postgame, Coach Casey Stoney reported that Abby was in stable condition.
In stoppage time, an improperly cleared corner found Tegan McGrady at the edge of the box. When sending it in, it caught Gotham defender Ifeoma Onumonu in her hand, which was clearly not within the confines of her body and a penalty kick was awarded. Alex Morgan took the penalty and sent a rocket straight at the goal, and Gotham goalie Ashlyn Harris dove to her right but could do nothing to stop it. Overall, the Wave ended the first half with 18 shots—5 of which were on target—34 touches in the Gotham box and a 57% possession. This was in stark contrast to Gotham’s 2 shots, only 1 of which was on frame, and 6 touches in the San Diego box. Fun fact: All 18 of San Diego’s shots in the first half were from within the box.
In the 64th minute of the match, San Diego brought in Amirah Ali and just two minutes later she had a breakaway with Gotham’s Imani Dorsey hanging on her, and was able to get all the way into the Gotham box before Dorsey forced a change in direction. Unfortunately for Gotham, McCall Zerboni came in and tripped Ali while she was still in the box, leading to the second awarded penalty kick of the match. Alex Morgan once again stepped up to take the penalty and was able to get it past a diving Ashlyn Harris to put the Wave up 2–0.
Just minutes later Taylor Korniek sent in a cross from inside of the box which was intercepted by Zerboni on the edge of the 6-yard box. Instead of a quick clearance, Zerboni tried to dribble it out of danger and Alex Morgan was able to strip Zerboni of the ball and get a quick shot off past a surprised Gotham keeper. This increased the Wave lead to 3–0 and is the first hat trick in the expansion team’s history.
In the first minute of stoppage time, Emily van Egmond sent a long ball across the pitch which was picked up by Dydasco, and in a sloppy backpass to Harris was given away to Alex Morgan, who ran with it along the left side of the box, took on Ashlyn Harris one-on-one and came away with her fourth goal of the night. In doing so, Alex Morgan became only the third player in NWSL history to score four goals in a single match. San Diego finished the match with 31 shots, 9 on target, 59 touches in the Gotham box, and a 53.3% possession through the game. Compared with the offensive numbers last week against the Houston Dash, San Diego as a whole made some great adjustments that bode well for their next games as they continue to grow.