NWSL Central Week 14 Update

Week 14 brought neck-and-neck action to the NWSL central teams with red cards, stunning go-ahead goals, and nail-bitingly close results in every match.

By Bekki Morgan

Every game in Week 14 was a nail-biter with a couple of red cards and some late goal theatrics ultimately deciding the fate of NWSL Central teams. Some teams have found their fortunes improved while others have found less favorable results. However, all teams had competitive, neck-and-neck battles that demonstrated just how tough it is to win in this league.

Houston’s Marisa Viggiano celebrates her goal / Image courtesy the Houston Dash

Down a Player, Racing Louisville Holds Houston Dash to a Scoreless Draw

All eyes were on last Friday’s Racing Louisville/Houston Dash match as Racing faced their former teammate Ebony Salmon for the first time since she was traded in July. To say Salmon is on a hot streak would be an understatement; ahead of Friday’s match, she scored six goals in six games. To put that in perspective, Racing’s entire squad has collectively managed six goals in that same amount of time. It seemed like Salmon would be primed to continue her scoring streak against her former team, but that was not to be. Instead, the teams battled to a 0–0 draw with Salmon only getting two shots off all night.

This is even more noteworthy considering that Racing played the majority of the match down a player. In the 42nd minute, Racing center back Satara Murray earned her second yellow card and was sent off, leaving Louisville with 10 players. Remarkably, Racing actually played better in the second half than they did with a full lineup. They controlled the tempo better and took more shots than they did in the first 45. 

Ultimately, Houston underestimated Racing and assumed they’d be able to continue their streak only to be thrown off by their opponent’s determination. They had significantly more shots and had the slight edge in possession, but they just couldn’t figure out how to break Racing down. 

Racing’s Emily Fox and Houston’s Ebony Salmon / Image courtesy the Houston Dash

For Racing, this match demonstrated just how resilient and headstrong they can be. They were determined not to give up a goal and they succeeded. However, it remains a problem that they can’t turn that determination into actual wins. Racing has gone winless in their last 11 matches but has drawn six out of eight. They’re a hard team to beat, but haven’t yet figured out a winning mentality. With only seven games left in the season, it’s unlikely they’ll find it quickly enough to earn a playoff berth, but they do have ample time to work on it ahead of next season. Racing also has a significant break from NWSL play with the Women’s Cup international friendly tournament taking place in Louisville this week. Maybe some games outside their usual NWSL competition will give them the break in pressure they need to start winning. 

Houston, on the other hand, held onto their second-place position as a result of this match. They also stood to benefit from another quick chance to move up even higher when they faced NJ/NY Gotham on Wednesday. 

Newcomer Lavogez Keeps Kansas City’s Streak Alive Against North Carolina 

The Kansas City Current extended their unbeaten streak to an impressive 10 games on Saturday in their 4–3 victory over the North Carolina Courage. A good portion of the credit for this win goes to Claire Lavogez, who came off the bench in the second half to earn an assist on the equalizer and then score a banger of a winning goal herself.

Kansas City Current versus the North Carolina Courage / Image courtesy Imagn

Throughout the majority of the match, the teams were neck-and-neck. North Carolina scored first in the 17th minute, but Kansas City equalized only three minutes later. North Carolina again went ahead in the 36th, but Kansas City scored again just before stoppage time. The pattern continued in the second half with the Courage finding the go-ahead goal in the 56th only for the Current to find yet another equalizer four minutes later. Kansas City was able to hold the Courage back until the 79th minute when Lavogez made a bold run through traffic only to stop 25 yards out and launch a rocket over the head of keeper Casey Murphy to earn the win. 

Kansas City once again showed just how dangerous and resilient they can be in this match. The North Carolina Courage gave them a run for their money, but the Current was able to find an equalizer three times before earning the go-ahead. With this repeatedly demonstrated ability to come back from behind, it’s hard to see how the Current is going to be stopped any time soon. Besides Lavogez, the fact that Cece Kizer has been scoring nearly every match since her arrival and Lo’eau LaBonta continues to be deeply effective with both an assist and goal on the night show just how many dangerous threats the Current have on their squad. 

The Current ended the week in fourth place with 25 points. They’re tied with San Diego in terms of points, but their goal differentials keep the Wave just a hair ahead of the Current. With games winding down and the top of the table so close together, it’s goal differential that may ultimately decide teams’ fates in the standings. While Kansas City is in good shape with a differential of zero, they need to not let teams score multiple goals on them so they can build up that positive differential if they’re going to stay truly solid within the standings. Goal differential won’t matter if they keep winning, however, and it doesn’t seem like the Current will slow down anytime soon. They next travel home to take on Angel City in Kansas City on Friday which could lead them to climb as high as second place.

Chicago Gets Edged Out By Angel City On the Road

Despite starting out on the front foot, the Chicago Red Stars ultimately stumbled and lost 1–0 to Los Angeles Angel City on Sunday. Chicago created a number of decent chances early, including two within a two-minute period in the 25th and 26th minutes, but just couldn’t find the back of the net. Unfortunately, in the 48th minute, Angel City’s Savannah McCaskill scored off a cross from a set piece and that would remain the only goal of the game.

Chicago Red Stars versus Angel City / Image courtesy Imagn

Ultimately, this was another frustrating match from Chicago who started the season on a hot streak but have suffered from inconsistency since the end of July. They’re playing competitively and gave Angel City a run for their money all match, but aren’t scoring consistently. Of course, it didn’t help that star forward Mal Pugh was unavailable for this match due to a minor injury. Chicago will need her back and in winning shape if they’re going to right their ship in the time they have left. They’re also letting goals in thanks to some small defensive lapses like the poor ball tracking that led to McCaskill’s goal on Sunday. It’s these small details like a lack of finishing good chances or momentary lapses of concentration in defense that will ultimately determine who makes the playoffs and who doesn’t and, right now, Chicago is very close to falling out of a playoff berth.

After the loss to Angel City, Chicago has now slid into sixth place in the standings. Another loss for Chicago and another win for Angel City, who sit in seventh, could see Chicago drop out entirely. It’s somewhat fortuitous for Chicago that Angel City is due to take on the red hot Kansas City Current because it will be tough for Los Angeles to gain all three points. 

Chicago next travels to North Carolina to take on the Courage who have certainly struggled this season, but as their match against the Current shows, they’re fully capable of scoring plenty of goals. Chicago has a good chance of earning points if they can just find the consistency they had earlier in the season. They’ve now lost three out of the last four matches and a win in North Carolina could really show them they have what it takes to make it into the postseason.

The Houston Dash Top Gotham 2–1 at Home

In their second match of the week, the Houston Dash found the results they were looking for with a 2–1 over NJ/NY Gotham on Wednesday night. Despite earning the win, it was neck-and-neck through the first half and much of the second. Around the hour mark, Gotham’s Midge Purce was sent off after getting a second yellow and Houston was able to capitalize in the 72nd minute when Ebony Salmon burst through to put Houston on top. This opened the floodgates because only four minutes later, Marisa Viggiano also got on the board for Houston. Gotham wasn’t going to go down without a fight, however, and in the 80th minute, Gotham’s McCall Zerboni helped Gotham rally and threaten Houston with a comeback. The Dash held on, however, and ended the night with all three points.

This is the second match in just one week for Houston where the opposing team went down to ten players after yellow card accumulation. Although Houston wasn’t able to capitalize on Racing Louisville earlier in the week, they had no such trouble against Gotham. This win and this result should give them confidence that the match against Racing was more of a blip on the radar than a hint of any growing weakness. Houston is probably unhappy that Gotham was able to get a goal back despite being down a player, but the fact they held on shows they were able to respond well and hold onto the three points.

With three points gained on Wednesday, Houston now sits in second place in the league. They’ve tied the Portland Thorns for points, but can’t compete with Portland’s insane positive 21-goal differential. However, with Portland busy playing in the Women’s International Champions Cup this coming weekend, Houston has a chance to take the number one spot when they play San Diego on August 20th. 

With only four days between Houston’s home game against Gotham and their trip on the 20th to take on the Wave, there’s not a lot of time for them to rest. This will be three games in one week for the Dash with some substantial travel added in. Still, the Wave has been more vulnerable than ever recently with two straight losses to Kansas City and Orlando. San Diego’s star keeper Kailen Sheridan will also miss this match thanks to receiving a red card, so they’ll be as vulnerable as they’ve ever been to Houston’s front line. Once the dust settles in Week 15, Houston may just find themselves at the very top of the standings.

Week 14 Scoresheet

August 12th – Houston Dash vs. Racing Louisville – Official Recap 


August 13th – North Carolina Courage vs. Kansas City Current – Official Recap 

17’ Diana Ordoñez, assisted by Debinha (1–0 NCC)

21’ Kristen Hamilton, assisted by Lo’eau LaBonta (1–1)

36’ Debinha, assisted by Kerolin (2–1 NCC)

45’ Lo’eau LaBonta (2–2)

56’ Kaleigh Kurtz, assisted by Brianna Pinto (3–2 NCC)

60’ Cece Kizer, assisted by Clair Lavogez (3–3)

79’ Clair Lavogez (4–3 KCC)

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

48’ Savannah McCaskill (1–0 ACFC)

August 17th – Houston Dash vs. NJ/NY Gotham FC – Official Recap 

72’ Ebony Salmon (1–0 HOU)

76’ Marissa Viggiano, assisted by Sophie Schmidt (2–0 HOU)

80’ McCall Zerboni, assisted by Kristie Mewis (2–1 HOU)

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