Independence Day weekend saw five fixtures in the NWSL that completely rocked the table. On July 2, the Chicago Red Stars defeated the Washington Spirit in a 1-0 win off an own goal by Washington’s Julia Roddar in the 33rd minute, Houston defeated the Reign 2-0 for a much-needed win and Kansas City pulled out a shocking tie against Gotham after a late equalizer.
The Portland Thorns took on Racing Louisville the following day, resulting in a 2-0 victory for the Thorns.
On July 4, the Orlando Pride picked up only their second loss of the season after conceding two goals against North Carolina. With the win over Orlando, North Carolina overtook the top stop on the table.
Chicago looks strong even without Julie Ertz and Tierna Davidson
Despite not having center back star Tierna Davidson ’19, the Red Stars looked strong this past weekend, forcing an own goal to give them a 1-0 victory. Davidson, who is playing with the USWNT for the Tokyo Olympics, has been a key leader on the back line all season. And even in her absence, Chicago was able to keep a clean sheet.
Still, Chicago has issues with consistency. One of the best parts of the NWSL is the inability to predict most games on a week-by-week basis. Unlike women’s leagues in Europe, salary caps and allocation money have kept the NWSL from concentrating their star talent into two or three teams. To add even more to the lack of predictability, Chicago is consistently inconsistent.
On a weekly basis, it appears that some players show up, while others are lost in the clouds. In some games the team dynamic clicks, while in others it does not. With the absence of Davidson and star midfielder Julie Ertz until mid-August, many worry their inconsistency will worsen.
Regardless, Chicago was able to take all three points against Washington, securing their spot just under the playoff cut at seventh.
Tegan McGrady ’19 also had a good showing, playing 80 minutes in the match. McGrady is anticipated to become a consistent starter during the Olympic period.
Jane Campbell picks up a clean sheet before heading to Tokyo
Due to a decision from USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski, Olympic alternates including Jane Campbell ’17 would be available for NWSL play during the Send Off Series. This showed a commitment from US Soccer to growing the domestic league, as well as another match under Campbell’s belt before heading to Tokyo.
On Friday evening, Houston got its second big win in a row and a huge shutout against star-studded OL Reign. Campbell played a phenomenal game and demonstrated her leadership skills on the back line.
On the side of OL Reign, it was quite a mess. It was announced just a day before the match that head coach Farid Benstiti would be resigning effective immediately, not traveling with the team to Houston. The Reign, headlined by Alana Cook ’19 and Sam Hiatt ’20, have struggled all season despite their impressive recruiting efforts. The team currently sits at ninth on the table, proving that immense talent does not travel far if they cannot find a rhythm playing together.
Lo’eau Labonta and Nicole Barnhart help lead KC to a 1-1 draw
Kansas City picked up a late draw against a strong Gotham side this weekend, surprising many. Starting in goal was Nicole Barnhart ’05, who had a few decent saves on the night and only allowed a single goal.
Lo’eau Labonta ’13 played the full 90 minutes in the midfield last weekend and is quickly becoming a strong leader on the KC side. Labonta was able to create opportunities on goal and defend against the Gotham counter.
Sophia Smith back on the pitch after a few games out
In a promising sign for fans, Sophia Smith took the pitch once more for the Portland Thorns. After being sidelined the past few matches, Smith was subbed in during the 71st minute for Simone Charley. Smith looked fit and healthy taking the field, with no major signs of a lingering injury.
Making her NWSL debut, and league history, was 15-year-old Olivia Moultrie who came on during the 83rd minute. Moultrie became the youngest player to ever compete in the NWSL.
Ali Riley and Orlando Pride fall for the second game in a row
The Orlando Pride have fallen for the second game in a row, losing 2-0 against North Carolina. Despite the strong defensive presence of Ali Riley ’10, North Carolina is a team under the mentality of “score more than your opponents.” Without the striking efforts of Alex Morgan, along with the connection between Sydney Leroux and Morgan, Orlando was left unable to compete in that style of play.
Even after an incredible PK save by Ashlyn Harris, Orlando conceded two goals. The team announced afterward their efforts to recruit and sign additional outside and center backs to the team. This will benefit the team in Riley’s absence during the Olympics.
Upcoming games this weekend
On Friday, the Orlando Pride took on Racing Louisville in an attempt to build another win streak and regain their position on the table. Unfortunately for the Pride, they were unable to establish dominance in the match and ended in a 1-1 draw.
On Saturday, the Washington Spirit will take on the North Carolina Courage in one of their hardest battles yet.
Sunday will be full of games with Portland taking on Gotham, Chicago facing Houston and the two bottom teams, OL Reign and Kansas City, trying to steal points from each other.