NWSL Central Week 15 Update

It was a rough week for NWSL Central teams as Week 15 passed with less than satisfying results. Will they be able to keep their playoff hopes alive?

By Bekki Morgan

Week 15 brought a whole lot of football between regular NWSL play, the Women’s Cup in Louisville, KY, and the Women’s International Champions Cup in Portland, OR. As a result of these tournaments, Racing Louisville was given a bye week to participate in the Women’s Cup where they came in second place. The rest of the NWSL central teams had a regular schedule, however, and the results were probably not all that they’d hoped for. With two teams taking a loss and the other drawing, will they be able to keep their playoff hopes alive?

Kansas City Rallies to Draw Angel City 1–1 In Front of a Record Crowd

The Kansas City Current kept their unbeaten streak alive with the help of their franchise-record crowd on Friday night when they rallied to draw Angel City 1–1. The Current started the match in strong form with Claire Lavogez and Kristen Hamilton forcing early saves. Kansas City continued to dominate in shots and shots on goal throughout the first 45 minutes, although the score stayed level at zero all through the half.

In the 78th minute, Angel City’s first shot in goal also brought the game’s first goal when Cari Roccaro headed the ball past keeper AD Franch. The Current would respond immediately and finally break through when Lo LaBonta was taken down by Paige Nielson to earn a penalty. LaBonta converted and the game stayed level until the end.

Ultimately, this was a good rally for Kansas City, but probably not as satisfying a game as they’d hoped for. The club broke their franchise attendance record with over 10,000 seats sold and the loud, boisterous crowd certainly helped motivate them to victory. Still, this is another match where they won solely on the back of earning a penalty. This is another match where they didn’t score in the run of play. Keeping their unbeaten streak alive is a good thing and so is rallying to pull back a point, but if they’re going to make progress in the playoffs, they’ll need to be more clinical in front of goal. 

LaBonta celebrates her goal against Angel City / Image courtesy Imagn

The Current are currently sitting comfortably in fourth place in the standings. On Sunday, they’ll be facing the North Carolina Courage. Although the Courage have had a rough season so far, they’ve recently been picking up momentum. This Thursday, they handed the Portland Thorns a surprise 3–1 upset and will be looking to carry that energy into their game against Kansas City. And when these two teams met a couple of weeks ago, the Current only barely edged out the Courage in a 4–3 battle. They’ll need to be locked down if they’re going to keep their streak alive because the Courage are looking to make up ground as fast as they can with only a handful of games left in the season.

Chicago Red Stars Get Flattened By the North Carolina Courage

One team that learned about the new, reinvigorated Courage the hard way is the Chicago Red Stars. The Red Stars have been in something of a slide as of late, but their roughest patch came last Saturday when they lost 4–0 to North Carolina. 

The Courage came out of the gates hot with a goal for rookie Diana Ordoñez in the 10th minute. Mallory Pugh and Bianca St-Georges both had chances before the end of the half, but the Red Stars couldn’t get on the scoreboard. In the second half, the Courage locked in and put the game away and then some with goals in the 64th, 74th, and 88th minutes.

This was surely a deeply deflating experience for the Red Stars. They’ve lost four out of their last five matches and are close to dropping out of playoff contention. They currently sit in sixth, but they’re only a couple of points out from being surpassed by Los Angeles and/or Orlando. 

This Saturday, they face Racing Louisville. Although Racing sits in tenth place, they’ve been competitive in every match and, after an 11-game winless streak, will be hungry for a win. They’ll certainly hope a weakened Red Stars team playing in Louisville in front of what is likely going to be a franchise-record crowd will be a good chance to earn one. And with rookie Kirsten Davis scoring goals and new signing Wang Shuang looking sharp in the Women’s Cup, they’ll certainly have a fighting chance. 

Chicago’s Yuki Nagasato and North Carolina’s Debinha / Image courtesy Imagn

For the Red Stars to earn a win against Racing, they’ll have to snap together offensively. After having a blazing hot streak in the beginning of the season, Mal Pugh has been cold since returning from the international break. If she and the Chicago offense can’t shake off their weak play, they might succumb to another disappointing loss.

The Houston Dash Stumble in San Diego

Early on it looked like Houston was going to continue their hot streak against the Wave. After a disappointing draw against Racing Louisville a couple of weeks ago, they seemingly righted their ship against NJ/NY Gotham mid-week. The dense schedule may have gotten to them, however, because despite going up early thanks to an Ebony Salmon goal against San Diego, they ended up giving up three goals and falling 3–1.

After Salmon scored in the seventh minute, San Diego adjusted and Alex Morgan brought things level only a few minutes later in the 13th minute, and everything stayed level until the half. Early in the second half, Houston again looked poised to go ahead, but in the 67th minute, the Wave went ahead and then they locked it down in the 90th minute with an insurance goal.

On the plus side for Houston, it’s great to see Salmon continue her scoring streak after a brief pause against Louisville. On the less positive side, they’ve looked a bit more vulnerable than usual these past three matches. First, Racing held them off despite the Dash having a player advantage for most of the match. Then, last-place Gotham rallied and came close to equalizing last week, and now they’ve fallen quite decisively to San Diego. The Dash remain in third place in the league despite being tied for first in points, so they’re hardly in danger of dropping out of the playoffs. However, Kansas City could surpass them with a win and OL Reign is only four points behind. Both of those teams have also played one less game than Houston, so they have more points to potentially earn this season as well.

Houston players celebrate Salmon’s goal against the Wave / Image courtesy USA Today

Coming up on Sunday, the Dash play the Washington Spirit. This should be a good opportunity for them to right their ship considering the poor form the Spirit have been in. With only one win on the season and their head coach newly fired, the Spirit are in a vulnerable position. If the Dash can earn all three points here and help break in Caprice Dydasco who is newly signed in a trade with Gotham, then they should be almost impossible to knock out of playoff contention by the season’s end. 

Week 15 Scoresheet 

August 19 – Kansas City Current vs. Angel City – Official Recap 

78’ Cari Roccaro, assisted by Ali Riley (1–0 ACFC)

82’ Lo’eau LaBonta, penalty (1–1)

August 20 – North Carolina Courage FC vs. Chicago Red Stars – Official Recap 

10’ Diana Ordoñez, assisted by Carson Pickett  (1–0 NCC)

64’ Fuka Nagano (2–0 NCC)

74’ Diana Ordoñez, assisted by Fuka Nagano (3–0 NCC)

88’ Rylee Baisden, assisted by Kerolin (4–0 NCC)

August 20 – San Diego Wave FC vs. Houston Dash – Official Recap 

7’ Ebony Salmon (1–0 HOU)

13’ Alex Morgan (1–1)

67’ Amirah Ali, assisted by Makenzy Doniak (2–1 SDFC)

90’ Sofia Jakobsson, assisted by Makenzy Doniak (3–1 SDFC) 

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