NWSL West Week 9 Recap

Another lossless weekend for the west teams as OL walked away with a win, Portland scored late to tie Angel City, and San Diego handled Washington easily. 

By Taylor Vincent

It was an exciting week 9 of NWSL play as the west teams all announced adding national team replacement players (NTRI’s) to supplement their rosters for this three-week stretch during World Cup qualifiers. OL kicked off the action for the western teams Friday night and on Pride night had a great performance against the North Carolina Courage. Angel City scored early in their home match against Portland, but the Thorns had some late stoppage magic to get a point. Sunday, the action wrapped up with San Diego dominating the Spirit and gaining three points. 

After another week of play, the western teams still all sit among the top six in the standings. San Diego retains its position atop the table with 21 points and two points up on Chicago in second, with an extra game in hand. With its tie, Portland dropped down to third with 17 points. The Reign stayed at fourth place with their win, but now hold it solely with no need to look at goal differential. Angel City still sits in sixth place after the tie, with Kansas City coming up knocking below them. 

Reign continue their momentum

52’ Jessica Fishlock, Assist Bethany Balcer (1–0 OL)

74’ Bethany Balcer, Assist Jessica Fishlock (2–0 OL)

Kim Little arrived in Seattle on Wednesday, and as a testament to the type of player she is, played the first 45 of the Friday night match. Tobin Heath also arrived this past week but fans will have to wait another week to see the fan favorite get some playing time.

Jess Fishlock and Bethany Balcer celebrate a goal / OL Reign

In the first half, North Carolina did have some nice chances being led in the attack by Kerolin but the OL defense with Phallon Tullis-Joyce in goal were able to contain them. The Courage were limited to 5 shots, 2 on frame, and 14 touches in the Reign box. OL was a bit slow to get going on the attack in the first but still ended with 8 shots, 3 on frame, and 11 touches in the Courage box. Jess Fishlock and Kim Little did show some of their brilliant connection was still well-intact considering they haven’t played together since Little left the Reign after the 2016 season. 

At the half, Kim Little was subbed out for Nikki Stanton, who is naturally a bit more of a defensive midfielder, and the defensive shape returned to something closer to normal. In the second half, the Reign defense held North Carolina to only 5 shots, 1 on frame, and just 5 touches in the OL box. OL, on the other hand, had some lovely counters in the second half, showing off the chemistry between Jess Fishlock and Bethany Balcer. In the 52nd minute, Bethany Balcer was able to place a perfect pass onto Fishlock’s run into the box and Fishlock poked it past Courage goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland for a tap in goal. Later in the second half, around the 74th minute, the Reign had another counter, this time led by Ally Watt on the right wing. Watt passed it centrally to Fishlock who then sent it forward onto Balcer’s run, who was able to punch it past with a right-footed shot. The Reign ended the second half with 6 shots, 4 on frame, and 11 touches in the Courage box. 

Portland get a point with the late stoppage-time goal at Angel City

2’ Savannah McCaskill (1–0 ACFC)

90+6’ Yazmeen Ryan, Assist Madison Pogarch (1–1)

Not having the national team players over the three July matches always brings a certain amount of the unknown to an already competitive NWSL league where anyone can beat anyone on any given day, but no one expected the news that came out of Portland Thursday evening. Both Bella Bixby and Abby Smith, Portland’s number one and two goalkeepers, were announced as unavailable for the Friday night match due to Covid protocols. The Thorns’ third goalkeeper, Shelby Hogan, had been away from the team with the USWNT U23’s and was already planning on meeting the team in Los Angeles, but learning she would be starting was a surprise. Additionally, the Thorns temporarily signed Britt Eckerstrom as a backup goalie. Eckerstrom played for the Thorns from 2017 until she announced her retirement in January 2021. 

Savannah McCaskill takes the penalty. Angel City Football Club

The drama continued early in Los Angeles Friday night as in the 2nd minute, a penalty kick was awarded to Angel City after Portland defender Kelli Hubly accidentally tripped Miri Taylor in the box after she had passed the ball. Savannah McCaskill was set to take the penalty and sent it to the left but not far enough that Hogan wasn’t able to get her hands on it. Luckily for Angel City, the deflection bounced back centrally and McCaskill was able to poke the rebound into the netting for the early lead. Angel City ended the first half with 9 shots, 5 on target, 39 final third entries, and 10 touches in the Thorns box. Portland struggled to be on target with 8 shots, only 1 on target, 23 final third entries, and 6 touches in the Angel City box. 

In the second half, the defenses buckled down. Angel City captain Ali Riley came out at the half and that forced forward Jun Endo to cycle back into the defense. The Angel City attack suffered without Endo up top and during the second half, they were limited to only 4 shots, 2 on target, and 29 final third entries. It should be noted that Sydney Leroux, this week’s Angel City signing from Orlando, did make her debut when she was subbed in at the 64th minute. They started time-wasting early, and it came back to haunt them as in the 96th minute Madison Pogarch got free wide and sent in a dime to the box right on the run of Yazmeen Ryan, who headed the ball in to tie up the match with just seconds left in stoppage time. Portland ended the second half with 4 shots, 3 on target, and 31 final third entries. 

San Diego’s high press stumps the Spirit

36’ Makenzy Doniak, Assist Christen Westphal (1–0 SDFC)

45+4’ Belle Briede, Assist Marlene Schimmer (2–0 SDFC)

90+3’ Jordan Baggett, Assist Tara McKeown (2–1 SDFC)

The Wave had a dominating performance as it looked like business as usual even with players out this week, but the same could not be said for the Spirit, who looked out of sorts the entire match. In the 36th minute, Kelsey Turnbow had a lovely backheel to Christen Westphal making an overlapping run on the right edge of the box and Westphal sent in a gorgeous ball across the face of the goal which Makenzy Donaik was able to redirect with her right foot into the netting. During late stoppage time, the San Diego high press was able to strip Dorian Bailey of the ball. Marlene Schimmer took off toward the Spirit box and then laid it off to a wide-open Belle Briede with a look at goal. Briede sent a right-footed shot to the lower left 90 past an outstretched Spirit goalkeeper. Washington ended the half with only 1 shot, and it wasn’t on frame, but a 62.2% possession. In contrast, the Wave had 6 shots, 3 shots on frame, and only 37.8% possession.

Abby Dahlkemper sends a long ball forward / San Diego Wave FC

Coming out in the second half, San Diego held the ball a bit more but struggled a bit to find the frame with the shots as more substitutes cycled in. They ended the second half with 6 shots, only 1 on frame, 33 final third entries, and 50.1% possession. The Spirit made some good adjustments in their attack, but Carly Telford and the Wave backline held it together. In the 93rd minute the Spirit were finally able to find the netting when Tara McKeown served a perfect cross into the box which found the head of Jordan Baggett and then the back of the net. Unfortunately for the Spirit it was just too little, too late. They ended the second half with 5 shots, 3 on frame, and 24 final third entries. 

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