NWSL West Week 14 Update

It was a solid week for the west teams, with OL, Portland, and Angel City bringing home wins while San Diego just couldn’t find the net in their loss. 

By Taylor Vincent

Week 14 had no shortage of action for the western teams. The Reign put on a 4–1 show against Gotham while their sister team, Olympique Lyonnais, was in attendance. Portland rallied as a team and came from behind in stoppage time to beat Washington 2–1 in a stormy midweek match. Angel City celebrated a 1–0 win at home in the Banc against a tough Chicago late attack. San Diego lost 1–0 to Orlando in a match where they had twice the shots and three times the shots on target. Here’s where the western teams stand after Week 14 action.

Megan Rapinoe creating space in the box. / Taylor Vincent

OL Back on Track

The Reign had no trouble finding the net Sunday afternoon against NJ/NY Gotham, and hopefully they can keep the trend going. Rose Lavelle was back off the injured list and seemed to be everywhere on the pitch. Megan Rapinoe had just an incredible game with 2 goals, 10 shots, 4 of those on target, and she led the team in touches (70), passes in the final third (22), and crosses (9). If you want to watch a funny moment about Rose momentarily going up to the penalty spot, watch the below video:

Prior to heading to Portland for their WICC matchup on Wednesday, sister team Olympique Lyonnais showed their support for the Reign by instead flying into Seattle and cheering on the American side during the Sunday matchup. Fans were able to take pictures with their Champions League trophy and the team was honored during halftime.  

Additionally, NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman arrived in Seattle on Sunday for her tour of the teams and was available to the press. She did not comment on when the NWSL final will be announced, or any specific expansion markets that were in the lead to earn one of the two bids for 2024. Ideally, she’ll have enough time to really sit down and talk with players prior to their departure for Louisville. 

With the win, Laura Harvey now has the most NWSL regular-season wins of any coach. She apparently had no idea that she was close to the record, “At the end of the game I was like, ‘Why is everyone taking photos of me, like why aren’t they going to Pinoe or Rose or whatever,’ I had totally forgotten about it.” 

On Monday, August 15 OL Reign announced that it had acquired $150,000 in allocation money from the Orlando Pride in exchange for Ally Watt. Watt was listed as an excused absence from the match on Sunday so it’s safe to say she’s likely already in Orlando and preparing for their Saturday match against Gotham.

In the coming week, OL will have a quick turnaround as they head to Louisville for their opening match in the Women’s Cup on Wednesday, August 17 against Club America, and they’ll have either the final or third-place match on Saturday, August 20. Remember to look for next week’s Women’s Cup coverage by She Plays.

Portland With the Stoppage Time Win

An hour before gametime, the Thorns starting lineup came out with Sophia Smith playing up top as expected. When it came to kickoff, she’d been scratched and Marissa Everett was in her place. Talking to head coach Rhian Wilkinson about it postgame, she said that Smith had been feeling a little tight all week and they were prepared for the situation when during warmups it started bothering her a little bit. “No risks, we knew this was an important game but this is a big month for us, September is big as well. Marissa was ready to step in and did a great job.”

The game was the ultimate goalkeeper showdown, with both Portland’s Bella Bixby and Washington’s Aubrey Kingsbury coming up big with numerous saves that should likely be up for Save of the Week. The stalemate was broken when in the 76th minute Bixby accidentally stepped back past the goal line while trying to get her feet settled underneath her. From there, the Thorns offense came back with vigor, looking to have their goalkeeper’s back. Less than ten minutes later the Thorns would find the equalizer, and in the second minute of stoppage time they took the lead. Captain Christine Sinclair said of the match, “Bella’s had our backs many times this year, it was nice to pull one out for her.” With the win, the Thorns have now extended their unbeaten streak to 11—the record for the Thorns is a 12-game streak set in the 2016 season. 

It should be noted that with her stoppage time goal, Morgan Weaver now has 3 goals in 4 games and now has the second-latest goal of the season for the Thorns. Weaver has had tremendous growth this season from last considering she only had 1 goal in the entire 2021 season, with 20 games, 13 starts, and almost 1200 minutes played. So far in the 2022 regular season Weaver has a total of 4 goals in 13 games, 8 starts, and roughly 750 minutes played. Coach Wilkinson sang Weaver’s praise postgame, ”She is an incredible worker, she always gets back and supports defensively. She’s the type of player you want on your team … I’ve told her to just keep getting in the box, keep getting those opportunities and [goals will] come.”

The Thorns celebrate the equalizing goal against Washington. / Thorns FC

With the win, Portland continues to hold the top of the table for the second straight week at 28 points. Their one-point lead for the top position is now up to three thanks to the chaos happening below them in the table.

Looking forward, Portland has a big week ahead of them with the Women’s International Champions Cup (WICC) coming to town. Participants will include French D1 Féminine winners and Champion League winner Olympique Lyonnais, the English Women’s Super League winners Chelsea FC, and the Torneo Grita México Apertura 2021 champions C.F. Monterrey from Mexico. Action for the Thorns will kick off Wednesday, August 17 at 11:40pm EST and the 3rd place/championship matches will be Sunday, August 20. Remember to look for next week’s WICC coverage by She Plays. 

On Sunday, August 14 the Oregonian came out with a piece alleging a ‘toxic’ work environment for women, and specifically working mothers, in the Portland Timbers/Thorns front office. In response to that the NWSL released the following statement:

Angel City Holds On

After conceding the lead late in the match for the third time in their last four matches, Angel City scored early against a strong Chicago team, and under a barrage of attacks in the final 20 minutes of the match, held onto the lead to walk away with a 1–0 win. Savannah McCaskill said postgame, “We’ve talked about being able to close out games all season long. This was the first time that we dominated for the first 65 minutes and then were able to protect that lead in the last 25 minutes of the game. I think that’s huge and shows growth. It shows that we’ve learned those hard lessons throughout the season, and we’re really starting to apply what we’ve learned into the game.”

Claire Emslie sending in the cross. / Angel City Football Club

With the win, Angel City retains seventh place in the table, only two points behind Chicago in sixth place. Everyone above them in the table has either one or two extra matches played. Head coach Freya Coombe spoke of the remainder of the season, “With our push for playoffs, it’s important that we’re able to sustain wins and be able to put points on the board. I’ve identified certain games that we absolutely must get points from and that’s going to take us to playoffs. We’re on track.”

Angel City will continue NWSL play on Friday, August 19 at Kansas City marking the start of their four-game road series. Kansas City is on a current 10-game unbeaten streak themselves and will prove to be a difficult opponent for ACFC.

San Diego Struggles with Finishing Woes

It is easy to forget that San Diego is still an expansion team in their first year, since they’ve spent all but the last two weeks of the season atop the table and still find themselves in the top three and above the playoff cut line. These past two weeks, they’ve shown their first hints of growing pains. 

Orlando’s sole goal against the Wave came off of a penalty kick caused by a handball in the net. After multiple penalty saves this year, goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan was unable to get her gloves on a perfectly slotted ball by Orlando’s Dougherty Howard. Sheridan’s strength in the net has her leading the NWSL in fewest goals conceded right now among starting goalies. 

Having such strength in net has kept San Diego in games, but in Saturday night’s match it was the offense that was struggling. The Wave had multiple chances where they likely should’ve scored, but they just couldn’t put away the goals. After the match, head coach Casey Stoney spoke to the press, “I thought we were really good apart from scoring our chances, we created loads, hit the post three times, missed from close distance … We created enough chances to win that game twice over. We didn’t take them, so we need to do some more work in the final third.”

Looking at the positives, rookie forward Amirah Ali who is building up her minutes, put in an absolute shift in the first 60 minutes of the match. She ended the first half leading the Wave in crosses (4), duels won (8), fouls won (4), possession won (7), and had both of the team’s shots on goal in the first half. Stoney spoke of the performance, “I thought Amirah was brilliant tonight … she created, she caused them problems, she was really good for us.”

Amirah Al advancing against the Orlando defense. San Diego Wave FC, Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports

After the final whistle blew Kailen Sheridan was awarded a red card. In the postgame press conference, no one, including Stoney seemed to know why. From the league disciplinary report it appears the card was for abusive language towards a match official, including accusatory remarks regarding match fixing. Stoney did imply that they would try to fight the card, but it won’t likely be reverted and the Wave will be without her for next week’s matchup against Houston. Luckily for San Diego, they do have Carly Telford in reserve, who put in some good performances during the international break while Sheridan was away with the Canadian national team. 

San Diego has their last home match at Torero Stadium Saturday, August 20 against the Houston Dash. The final two home games of the season will be played in the Wave’s new home, Snapdragon Stadium. With this week’s loss, San Diego is now tied with Houston and Kansas City with 25 points, and due to the Dash having a two-goal lead in goal differential, dropped down to third place in the table. 

Week 14 Scoresheet 

August 10th – Portland Thorns vs. Washington Spirit – Official Recap 

76’ Bella Bixby, Own Goal (1–0 WAS)

84’ Christine Sinclair (1–1)

90+2’ Morgan Weaver, Assist Hina Sugita (2–1 POR)

August 13th – San Diego Wave vs. Orlando Pride – Official Recap 

23’ Meggie Dougherty Howard, Penalty (1–0 ORL)

August 14th – OL Reign vs. NJNY Gotham – Official Recap 

15’ Rose Lavelle, Assist Megan Rapinoe (1–0 OL)

42’ Megan Rapinoe, Penalty (2–0 OL)

69’ Megan Rapinoe, Assist Jordyn Huitema (3–0 OL)

72’ Taylor Smith, Assist Ifeoma Onumonu (3–1 OL)

73’ Mandy Freeman, Own Goal (4–1 OL)

August 14th – Angel City FC vs. Chicago Red Stars – Official Recap 

48’ Savannah McCaskill (1–0 ACFC)

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