NWSL West Week 17 Update

Portland started off the NWSL West weekend action with a win, while OL and Angel City both gained a point with ties, and San Diego battled but lost on the road. 

By Taylor Vincent

Week 17 NWSL play this week came right off the back of the September FIFA window which ended on Tuesday, September 6th. The national team players returned from across the globe to either meet their teams on the road or at home for maybe one or two practices before game day. The Thorns kicked off western action Friday night at Orlando, winning 2–0. OL Reign was able to tie up their match against Chicago late in order to walk away with a 2–2 scoreline and a point. San Diego’s matchup at Washington had all the incredible action a nationally televised game could want, but the Spirit scored in 90+10’ to make the score 4–3 and send the Wave home without a point. Angel City wrapped up the action on Sunday, gritting out a 1–1 tie on the road at Houston. Here’s where the western teams stand after the Week 17 action.

Jaedyn Shaw shoots from inside the Spirit box. San Diego Wave FC

OL grits out a tie

There was plenty of excitement in Seattle Friday night as the sixth-ranked Chicago Red Stars came to town to challenge the fifth-ranked OL Reign. The scoring started out early, as in the 18th minute Jordyn Huitema was able to send her own deflected shot into the netting to put OL up. The goal marked Huitema’s first NWSL goal as well as her second in all competitions for the Reign. 

After going down 2–1 on a Chicago penalty kick, Megan Rapinoe found Rose Lavelle wide and the Reign were able to equalize to get a point out of the matchup and hold onto fifth place. With the assist, Rapinoe now has three straight matches with an assist for the Reign. 

Rose Lavelle cuts across the Chicago box before scoring her 80th-minute equalizer. Taylor Vincent

The Reign continued to look dangerous as the clock ticked toward 90 but were unable to find netting and the lead. Afterwards, head coach Laura Harvey spoke of the match, “We should have won the game in the first half. We had too many chances that we didn’t convert … really proud of the fact that they never gave up and gritted their way back into the game and probably deserved a little bit more.”

This upcoming week the Reign will travel to North Carolina to take on the Courage on Sunday, September 17th. OL currently sits in fifth place in the table, although they are within 3 points of both third and fourth place who both have an extra game in hand. North Carolina is in eighth place currently and will be facing Angel City midweek while the Reign have the entire week to recover and prepare. 

Portland bounces back

After two losses in WICC and another two NWSL losses in Week 16, Portland was trending in the wrong direction at the wrong time in the season. Coming off of the FIFA break, it was good to see the Thorns come back with a win. Prudently, Thorns head coach Rhian Wilkinson made the decision to not travel Canadians Janine Beckie and Christine Sinclair who were both coming off of significant minutes and long travel after matches in Australia earlier in the week. 

Morgan Weaver advances the ball up the wing. Kim Klement. USA Today

In the 86th minute, Crystal Dunn was subbed into the match, marking her return to play just three months and 20 days after giving birth to her son, Marcel, back in May. It was Dunn’s first appearance for Portland since October 17th of last year. Postgame, Dunn said to the press, “I think I visualized this moment for a really long time … I just tried to keep it simple, I’ve been training full for a while now, and coming into this moment I was just like ‘Crystal, you are a soccer player, just play soccer, play simple, and provide value in the way that you know you can.’”

Although the Portland Thorns briefly held the top of the table between their win Friday and night, and Sunday afternoon, Kansas City was able to squeak out a win on Sunday and take 1st place, dropping the Thorns into second by one mere point. Sunday’s matchup at Kansas City will be a battle for first place in the table for both teams, with the Thorns needing a win in order to regain that top spot. The Current’s form has been top notch as of late and they are currently on a 13-game unbeaten streak. Breaking the streak and retaking the lead in the race for the shield would really be the cherry on top of a win. 

Angel City grinds out a tie

After the Houston Dash dominated the first half offensively, Angel City came out for the second half with a much higher level of intensity. Simone Charley’s work rate and perseverance paid off as she was able to take advantage of a rare mistake by Houston’s goalkeeper and walk in the equalizing goal. The goal was Charley’s first regular-season goal for Angel City, not having scored since the Challenge Cup. Head coach Freya Coombe spoke of Charley’s performance, “Simone has been working incredibly hard this season and has been doing everything right. Tonight we asked her at halftime to dig really deep and continue to press, and she was rewarded for that effort.”

Simone Charley expertly avoids the Dash defender. Angel City Football Club

In a surprising turn of events, just three hours before kickoff, backup goalkeeper and defender MA Vignola was marked as unavailable for the match due to illness and left ACFC with a gameday roster of 18 with no backup goalie available. Although there was a scary collision in the 69th minute, starting goalkeeper DiDi Haracic ended up being okay and continued to play. After the match, Freya Coombe said that neither had tested positive for Covid at the time, but goalkeeper Brittany Isenhour would be flying out to join the team.

Additionally, Sunday’s match was a significant milestone for Jasmyne Spencer, as she reached 150 NWSL appearances.

Angel City’s road trip continues this week as coming off of Sunday’s matchup with Houston, the team travels immediately to Cary, North Carolina to take on the Courage Wednesday night. The match between the two had been originally slated for July 15th, but was delayed due to a Covid outbreak. North Carolina is coming off an impressive run of form including Saturday’s matchup where they decimated Racing Louisville 5–1. After that match, ACFC will fly home and prepare for the Saturday night rivalry match with the San Diego Wave at a sold-out Snapdragon Stadium.

San Diego comes back, but Washington wins in stoppage time

NWSL fans have often sworn that the craziest things happen when NWSL games in the evening are televised, and the #NWSLAfterDark chaos that seems to always ensue gives them good reason to do so. After the Saturday midday match on CBS brought that energy into the daytime hours, #NWSLAfterBrunch was coined. 

San Diego came out on the front foot, and in the 7th minute Jaedyn Shaw was able to score her second goal in her second match with the Wave. It was a combination of a perfectly placed pass from Emily van Egmond with a perfectly timed run at the far post by Shaw where she hit it on the full volley into the net to open the scoring. 

Washington turned the momentum shortly after and finished the half up 3–1. In the second half, San Diego came clawing back and was able to tie the score up in the 82nd minute. Unfortunately, some poor time management on the pitch led to a PK being called in the 9th minute of stoppage time, and the Spirit’s Ashley Hatch was able to score the latest NWSL goal to date at 90+10’ to give Washington the three points. 

After the match, head coach Casey Stoney reflected on the match, “We were by far the better team for the first 5-10 minutes, and then whether we took our foot off the gas or whether we made decisions that cost us goals, we need to manage those moments better. We need to use the ball far better and play into pressure pockets where teams can compress and win the ball back and counter.”

England veteran attacker Jodie Taylor was subbed in at the 72nd minute, her first minutes since coming on as a substitute June 19th against NJ/NY Gotham. Without a point on the road, San Diego dropped down to third place in the table. Although, additionally San Diego does have one more match played than both teams above them. The Wave will return home this weekend and finally debut at Snapdragon stadium Saturday, September 17th in front of a sold-out crowd which has already broken the record for most tickets sold for a single NWSL game and is sure to break the attendance record. They will be taking on rival Angel City, in the fourth matchup between the two this year including the Challenge Cup. 

Week 17 Scoresheet 

September 9th, Portland Thorns vs. Orlando Pride – Official Recap 

31’ Yazmeen Ryan, Assist Morgan Weaver (1–0 POR)

65’ Hina Sugita, Assist Olivia Moultrie (2–0 POR)

September 9th, OL Reign vs. Chicago Red Stars – Official Recap

18’ Jordyn Huitema (1–0 OL)

45+2’ Ella Stevens (1–1)

68’ Danielle Colaprico, Penalty (2–1 CHI)

80’ Rose Lavelle, Assist Megan Rapinoe (2–2)

September 10th, San Diego Wave vs. Washington Spirit – Official Recap 

7’ Jaedyn Shaw, Assist Emily van Egmond (1–0 SD)

11’ Tara McKeown, Assist Ashley Sanchez (1–1)

30’ Amber Brooks (2–1 WAS)

44’ Amber Brooks, Assist Sam Staab (3–1 WAS)

57’ Alex Morgan, Penalty (3–2 WAS)

82’ Alex Morgan, Assist Emily van Egmond (3–3)

90+10’ Ashley Hatch, Penalty (4–3 WAS)

September 11th, Angel City FC vs. Houston Dash – Official Recap 

43’ Maria Sánchez, Assist Natalie Jacobs (1–0 HOU)

49’ Simone Charley (1–1)

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