NWSL Central Week 19 Update

As the 2022 season reaches its climax and playoff spots are clinched, wild results rule the day. 

By Bekki Morgan

Huge collapses. Shocking wins. Week 19 brought the chaos the NWSL is so known for in buckets as some teams clinched playoff spots while some saw their seemingly solid chances starting to slip away. 

The Houston Dash Fall to OL Reign and Are Left in a Precarious Position

Last week the Houston Dash briefly ascended to the very top of the standings before being overtaken by San Diego and falling to second. After a 2–0 loss against OL Reign on Saturday night, however, they now find themselves holding onto a playoff berth by their fingernails.

This was never going to be an easy game for Houston, but to end their final home game of the season getting shut out by a team that had spent some weeks below them in the standings had to sting. As a result, they go into the final week of the regular season in fifth place with both Chicago and North Carolina capable of overcoming them. 

Dash forward Valerie Gauvin / Image courtesy the Houston Dash

Now the Dash head to Washington to take on the Spirit which, thankfully, should be a winnable game for them. Despite winning the championships last season, The Spirit have had an abysmal season and currently sit in 11th place and just a hair behind Racing Louisville. The Spirit have nothing left to play for which will make them dangerous. The last time these two teams met was just over a month ago when they battled to a 2–2 draw. That’s the minimum the Dash need to secure their first postseason match in franchise history, because if they lose and Chicago wins, they could drop all the way to 7th. 

The Chicago Red Stars Fall Hard in Portland And Out of a Playoff Berth

Luckily for Houston, the Chicago Red Stars will be going into their final match of the season handicapped after a chaotic and disastrous match against Portland on Saturday. For the second time in two games, Portland was held scoreless in the first half only to come out and score three unanswered in the second half. Last week, Racing Louisville was the victim and this week it was Chicago. 

Chicago’s Morgan Brian / Image courtesy Imagn

To add insult to injury, the Red Stars managed to get two red cards during the match. First, Bianca St-Georges decided it would be a good idea to flip double birds at the assistant referee, which left Chicago down a player before the hour mark. Next, Zoe Morse got a second red at the start of stoppage time which left it a 9-versus-11 field. While the game being played was already as good as over with a 2–0 scoreline by the time the first red card was issued, the fact that Chicago will be missing both these players in their absolute must-win final match against Angel City this Sunday could spell disaster. After all, Angel City are just as desperate to win this final match after a bruising loss to Racing Louisville last Sunday. 

Racing Louisville Takes Control of Angel City’s Fate in 3–1 Trouncing 

Racing Louisville has had a rough season. For 13 straight games they went without a win, but after getting eliminated from the playoffs, they seemed to have found a new wind and won two of their last three. 

Racing’s Jaelin Howell goes in for a slide tackle / Image courtesy USA Today Sports

On Sunday night, Racing Louisville came from behind to top Angel City in something of a surprise win. This was Angel City’s last home game and it was played in front of a sellout crowd. This was the match that would clinch a playoff spot for them. And yet, after scoring a fluke goal that took a fortuitous bounce early in the first half, they weren’t able to stop Racing from finding an equalizer just a short time later. Less than five minutes later, Racing earned a penalty that was quickly converted and put the nail in Angel City’s coffin in the 90th minute off a gorgeous strike by Emina Ekic. 

Racing has proven they’re a talented team all season even if they weren’t winning the way they arguably should be. Although they’re long out of the playoffs, they have earned some respect back in this past week by doubling their wins for the season. Now they have one last chance to earn some points, but it won’t be easy. They’ll be playing Kansas City who have been the story of the season for the NWSL. Kansas City has already clinched a spot, but Racing will be playing on home turf and hoping to send their fans—and their season—off on a high note. 

Kansas City Take Care of Washington and Look Ahead to the Postseason

After trouncing the Washington Spirit 3–0 in their final home match, Kansas City has clinched a playoff berth and a top-four finish, meaning they’ve earned a home match in the postseason. This is about as good as it gets for a team that ended last season in last place. It also means they, frankly, don’t have that much to fight for against Louisville on Saturday. Why put out all your starters if you risk injury? They’re out of realistic contention for the Shield so there really isn’t much to fight for besides pride.

Kansas City’s Hailie Mace versus Washington’s Trinity Rodman / Image courtesy Imagn

In their last meeting, Racing lost which set them on their 13-game span of plenty of draws, but zero wins. Kansas City, meanwhile, embarked on a league-best 13-game winning streak. So it’s safe to say Racing might want to get some revenge against the Current and the Current really might be fine letting them have it. It’s hard to say what kind of lineup the Current might come out with on Saturday, but it’s sure to be a fun, fast-paced match either way.

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