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Stanford in the NWSL: Chapter 8

The Daily’s Jenna Ruzekowicz breaks down recent NWSL play

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Louisville beats out Washington 2-0

In a surprising win, Louisville beat out Washington this past Friday 2-0. Getting the start for Washington were former Stanford players Kelley O’Hara ‘10, Andi Sullivan ‘18 and Tegan McGrady ‘19. Jordan DiBiasi ‘19 was available off the bench. 

Despite the loss for the Spirit, McGrady looked strong in the back. Looking forward to the inevitable loss of O’Hara for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, McGrady has become a strong leader and frequent starter among the backline. McGrady and Sullivan played the entire game, while O’Hara was pulled out in the 64th, likely a directive to limit her minutes. 

Sullivan was featured in a story by the Washington Post this past week, highlighting her personal life and recent marriage to D.C. United’s Drew Skundrich. Skundrich is a recent addition to the United squad and made his MLS debut this season. With both individuals now playing for D.C. area professional teams, Spirit fans can expect the former Cardinal to stick around.

Orlando Pride upsets the North Carolina Courage

Going into Saturday’s first match-up between Orlando and NC, most fans expected Orlando to lose. To much disbelief, the game was 2-0 Orlando up until the 89th minute, when Jessica McDonald of NC made it 1-2. Despite the efforts of the Courage, Orlando’s backline was nearly rock solid. Helping lead that backline was none other than former Cardinal Ali Riley ‘10. The New Zealand international, in her first season in the NWSL, already seems to be helping turn the Orlando ship around. In combination with former USWNT player Ali Krieger, Riley is dominating the back half. As the forward pieces for Orlando begin to click, they could easily become a team to watch out for. The Orlando twitter account posted a gif of Riley screaming “we did it” after the match. 

Off the field, Riley has provided a new energy to the Orlando squad. Riley has partnered with Just Women’s Sports to host a YouTube series titled “Off The Ball,” where she conducts interviews and has fun with her teammates.

Riley has also recently started a video series on the I AM ATHLETE channel, cooking with teammate Toni Pressley. The series is titled “Girls Gone Veg” and will feature eight episodes total.

Fans are looking at Riley as the energy that Orlando needed to kick off a successful season and destroy what some call the Orlando Curse. 

Red Stars and Gotham battle to 0-0 draw

After a tough 5-0 loss against Portland last week, Chicago fans were happy to walk away with a point from the match this past weekend. Tierna Davidson ‘20 may have also redeemed herself and the entire Chicago defense. 

Despite not scoring any goals, the Chicago Red Stars’ backline did well to protect their goal, preventing a repeat of the Portland game. Players like Davidson look more in control of the backline, not allowing Carli Lloyd or Midge Purce of Gotham to break down their defense. This was a much needed improvement after an inexcusable five goals given up in the previous match. As the leader in the back, all eyes will be on Davidson and her control of the back half to see how Chicago fares against Amy Rodriguez and Kansas City this week. 

The Cascadia rivalry is back

It was truly a weekend full of unexpected victories as OL Reign beat the Portland Thorns 2-1. The game started off with an unbelievable chip by Christine Sinclair, putting Portland ahead after only four minutes. Fans began having deja vu after the Thorns had previously beaten Chicago 5-0. Much to everyone’s surprise, the Reign put two more in the back of the net, giving them a 2-1 lead after 16 minutes. Portland however did not panic, expecting to once again see Sophia Smith ‘22 ball out. Smith however was kept quiet by OL’s defense, with only a few chances on goal. The game ended 2-1 with Smith and company unable to convert any more big plays. 

In other good news for the Reign, Sam Hiatt ‘20 was available off the bench after a long recovery from a head injury. Although Hiatt saw no minutes, Stanford fans can expect her to be back on the field soon. 

Not looking good in Houston

Jane Campbell ‘17 and the Houston Dash struggled once more this weekend, conceding late in the game against Kansas City. The stoppage time goal by Kansas City’s Taylor Leach flew past Campbell destroying Houston’s chance at taking the three points. 

Despite the disappointing loss for Houston, Campbell seemed more frustrated with conceding in general. Houston has historically been a team that prides itself on their defensive efforts and their ability to keep a clean sheet. The late goal by their opponents was likely more frustrating than the loss itself. 

In the other net, Nicole Barnhart ‘05 had an amazing game, making saves left and right to keep Kansas City in the game. Barnhart, who is filling in for typical starting keeper Abby Smith, has shown her talent in the net, proving that KC has two viable starting keepers to choose from. 

The coming week

Up next for the NWSL is a packed week of back-to-back matches and lots of traveling for many teams. 

On Wednesday, May 26, the Orlando Pride takes on the Portland Thorns, Kansas City faces Chicago and the Washington Spirit will travel to Houston. 

On Friday, May 28, the North Carolina Courage will take on Racing Louisville in what would be a huge win for either side. 

On Saturday, May 29, the Houston Dash will face the Chicago Red Stars. 

To round out the weekend, on Sunday, May 30, Gotham FC will face the Portland Thorns in a Challenge Cup final rematch. The Pride will take on Kansas City and OL Reign will try to best the Washington Spirit. 

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Jenna Ruzekowicz is a staff writer in the sports section. She is a sophomore from Syracuse, New York majoring in Computer Science. Her teams include: Portland Thorns, Arsenal and Man City. Contact her at jruzekowicz 'at' stanforddaily.com.