NWSL West Week 13 Update

It was an unfortunate week for the NWSL West, with Portland and Angel City drawing on the weekend while San Diego lost at home and OL walked away with a draw and a loss.

By Taylor Vincent

For the first week in regular season play, no western NWSL team brought home three points. OL drew Louisville in a midweek game and then lost to Houston at home on the weekend. Portland hosted the North Carolina Courage, and although they led 2–0 at the half, walked away with a tie. Angel City traveled to Orlando and conceded a stoppage-time own goal to draw on the road. San Diego enjoyed playing at home but lost to Kansas City. Here’s where the western teams stand after Week 13 action. 

Tobin Heath elevates to win the ball / Taylor Vincent

OL’s Finishing Woes Continue, Compounded With Conceding Uncharacteristic Goals

The Reign had a rough schedule this past week as they went directly from LA after their Angel City match to Louisville for a Tuesday evening match, and then flew right back to Seattle to start recovery/preparation for their Sunday match against Houston. 

In Tuesday’s matchup OL definitely had the chance to put away the match, but that final touch kept being just barely off, or Louisville goalkeeper Katie Lund’s positioning in the box happened to be perfect to make the stop. With 25 shots and 11 on frame, but only 1 goal to show for it, it’s no surprise that a majority of the open practice on Friday was spent on practicing the buildup of the attack and finishing. 

Sunday’s matchup against the Dash was on the 1-year anniversary of the Reign’s 5–1 dominating win over Houston last season, but unfortunately they couldn’t repeat that performance. Houston did a great job of limiting OL’s high-powered offense to just 10 shots through the entirety of the match. The Reign came out with the opening goal early in the first half: a Megan Rapinoe goal which was made even more special by Kim Little assisting in her final match with the Reign before returning to Arsenal for the WSL season. 

Unfortunately, breakdowns in the OL defense created a catastrophic three minutes in the second half where Houston was able to score two goals and take the lead. Other things to note for the Sunday match: Nikki Stanton had her 100th NWSL cap, while Tobin Heath and Jordyn Huitema enjoyed their first home matches since joining the Reign. 

Losing Kim Little in the midfield is going to be rough for the Reign, especially with Brazilian midfielder Angelina officially on the season-ending injury list and USWNT midfielder Rose Lavelle out for an unknown amount of time with an injury to her right leg. The summer trade window is officially still open until August 23rd; when asked about adding to the roster before then head coach Laura Harvey said, “I’m not sure if we’ll make any moves, if I’m honest we weren’t even considering any but with the injury, it’s made us look a little bit.”

With only one point earned in their two matches, the Reign dropped from fourth in the table to sixth, just above the playoff cutoff line. OL next plays on Sunday, August 14th at Lumen against a NJ/NY Gotham team that has been going through a bit of a rough patch, and will likely be recovering from the Covid outbreak that affected the team in Week 13. Having a normal training week and getting back to the basics will be key for the Reign. 

A Brace From Smith Can’t Keep Portland From Drawing the Courage 

From the initial whistle, the Courage dictated the tempo and possession of the Friday night match. Portland might have gone up 2–0 in the first half, but the scoreline did not reflect the North Carolina domination. Sophia Smith had two ridiculous goals, fearlessly taking on the entire Courage backline with her speed and precision. With those goals, Smith is currently tied with Alex Morgan in the NWSL golden boot race with 11 goals. 

Sophia Smith celebrates her second goal of the night / Taylor Vincent

Although conceding a 2–0 lead to tie 3–3 may seem disappointing, the Thorns are likely lucky to have walked away with a point. After the match, Portland head coach Rhian Wilkinson spoke to the press, “We talked about no excuses before the game, and there are no excuses today. They were the better team for big moments of the game; we got a tie.”

Portland moved to 25 points in the NWSL table after gaining this point against the Courage, and with San Diego’s loss, they took the position atop the table due to goal differential. The Thorns have a short turnaround this week as instead of having a weekend match in Week 14 they’ll be heading east to take on the Washington Spirit at Segra Field on Wednesday, August 10th. Portland will be looking to make some quick adjustments in order to hold onto their spot at the top. 

Angel City Drops Another Lead to Draw Orlando 

In what has become a worrisome trend, Angel City conceded a lead late in the match for the third time in their last four matches. On the plus side, looking at goals scored by ACFC in those four matches and comparing them to the four matches prior, there’s an increase from 4 up to 7, so not all of the trends are bad. 

The Angel City injury list heading into Orlando definitely didn’t make their lives any easier. Canadian gold-medalist defender Vanessa Gilles missed her second match since Concacaf with a right hip issue that she played with through the tournament. It isn’t believed to be serious, but it’s nice to see the coaching staff let her get back to health before her return to play. Additionally, Madison Hammond was out with a right leg injury that caused her to be subbed out in the 41st minute in the Week 12 match against OL. The two surprises in the availability report were the questionability of Sydney Leroux and Claire Emslie, both of whom are key players in the Angel City attack. Leroux wasn’t listed on the matchday 20 while Emslie was listed as a substitute but not used. Considering the number of players missing from the attack, others definitely stepped up. Both Ali Riley and Cari Roccaro scored their second goals of the year (and their NWSL careers) in the Sunday evening matchup. 

Cari Roccaro takes the ball upfield / Nathan Rae Seebeck, USA Today Sports

Angel City has an unofficial match in the midweek as they host Tigres Femenil in an international friendly Wednesday night. Coach Freya Coombe spoke of the meeting, “This partnership with Tigres is huge for us. Connecting with the soccer community both locally and globally is an important part of what Angel City is striving for.” The biggest focus for Angel City in this friendly will be player rotation and time management. ACFC still has a big NWSL game coming on Sunday, August 14th against the Chicago Red Stars, who are currently fourth in the table and looking very strong with the return of the international players. With the tie, Angel City retains seventh place in the table and are just three points away from OL, who currently holds the last playoff position. 

San Diego Falls to Kansas City at Home 

San Diego started off this week’s match on its heels defensively and never seemed to recover; they seemed completely unprepared for an aggressive and persistent high press by Kansas City. Head coach Casey Stoney said in the postgame press conference, “I’m not often disappointed, but I am today. The manner of our performance wasn’t good enough. We did not deserve to get anything out of today’s game, and we got what we deserved, which was a loss. Lots of things to fix, lots of things to review. I look at myself first and how I set the team up, but we did not come out the start well.”

Amirah Ali contesting a foul call / San Diego Wave FC

The damage could’ve been much worse if not for Kailen Sheridan coming up with big saves: an 8th-minute 1-on-1 situation with Lo LaBonta, a full extension diving save in the 42nd minute on a curling shot from Kristen Hamilton, and a 69th-minute diving penalty save were just a few. Since returning from the 7-day mandated break, the San Diego offense, which didn’t miss a step with the national teamers away, has finally started to see some hiccups. Casey Stoney attributed much of the team’s success over the international break to the fact that there was still a lot of rotation throughout the early season matches. Now after two games with the full roster back, it seems to be taking a little longer than normal for the players to find that cohesive flow again. 

Looking at the positives, San Diego did not give up. Late in the game, they did claw one back with rookie forward Amirah Ali’s first NWSL goal. On Ali’s growth, Stoney stated, ”We have been on a slow journey with Amirah in terms of fitness levels and getting her to be on the pitch for longer. She is working very hard; she is one of our top workers. We are coming to a point where we have to start integrating more minutes.” It’ll be exciting to see how she takes advantage of her increasing minutes in the upcoming weeks. 

With the loss, San Diego’s point total became even with Portland, and when you take goal differential into account the Wave has been knocked off the top of the table for the first time all season. They will look to regain their position at the top with a win at home against the Orlando Pride on Saturday, August 13th. 

Week 13 Scoresheet 

August 2nd – OL Reign vs. Racing Louisville – Official Recap 

2’ Jess Fishlock, Assist Megan Rapinoe (1–0 OL)

45+1’ Kirsten Davis (1–1)

August 5th – Portland Thorns vs. North Carolina Courage – Official Recap 

8’ Sophia Smith (1–0 POR)

24’ Morgan Weaver (2–0 POR)

61’ Diana Ordóñez, Assist Carson Pickett (2–1 POR)

72’ Diana Ordóñez, Assist Ryan Williams (2–2)

77’ Sophia Smith, Assist Olivia Moultrie (3–2 POR)

85’ Jaelene Daniels (3–3)

August 7th – San Diego Wave vs. Kansas City Courage – Official Recap 

27’ Cece Kizer, Assist Kristen Hamilton (1–0 KCFC)

39’ Hailie Mace (2–0 KCFC)

69’ Penalty Saved, Kailen Sheridan

88’ Amirah Ali, Assist Makenzy Doniak (2–1 KCFC)

August 7th – OL Reign vs. Houston Dash – Official Recap 

16’ Megan Rapinoe, Assist Kim Little (1–0 OL)

53’ Ebony Salmon, PENALTY (1–1)

55’ Ebony Salmon, Assist Shea Groom (2–1 HOU)

August 7th – Angel City FC vs. Orlando Pride – Official Recap 

40’ Ali Riley (1–0 ACFC)

64’ Julia Doyle (1–1)

72’ Cari Roccaro, Assist Paige Nielsen (2–1 ACFC)

90+1’ Paige Nielsen, Own Goal (2–2)

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