The Sam Kerr Show continues to roll on in the NWSL, as the Aussie star claimed the league’s Player of the Week for the fifth time this season. Round 17 also included two mid-week matches, as well as the return of USWNT players to action after missing the previous week’s games due to international duties.

 

 

Utah Royals FC v Sky Blue FC

In the first mid-week game, Sky Blue FC fell 3-0 to Utah Royals FC after an Amy Rodriguez goal and a brace by Christen Press.

Sky Blue came close to scoring in the 19th minute when Caprice Dydasco was left unmarked in open space inside Utah’s box. Dydasco fired a shot off toward the far-left post but sent it wide for a goal kick.

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Reign FC v Portland Thorns FC

In the second mid-week matchup, Reign FC shut out the NWSL’s highest scoring offence, beating bitter rivals Portland Thorns FC 1-0 in front of a home crowd of 5,865. 

Reign midfielder Rosie White‘s second half goal was her second consecutive game-winner in just three appearances since signing on with the club on July 16.

In the 60th minute, Portland midfielder Emily Sonnett slotted a ball into the box for Hayley Raso who was tearing toward the goal. Raso dribbled all the way along the end line and fired a shot from a tight angle near the right post, but Reign FC goalkeeper Casey Murphy made the save with her shoulder.

Portland, looking desperately for a goal, came close to scoring in second-half stoppage time when sub Caitlin Foord received the ball inside the box on the right side and passed it to Lindsey Horan, who sent a curling strike just past the right post.

Defender Steph Catley played the entire match with a standout defensive and offensive performance. However it was centerback Lauren Barnes who was named Player of the Match for her outstanding play. It was the 10th time this season that Barnes has finished a match without conceding a free kick.

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Washington Spirit v Chicago Red Stars

The Chicago Red Stars became the first team in the NWSL to reach nine wins this season, thanks to Yuki Nagasato’s goal in their 1-0 victory over the Washington Spirit.

No goals from Kerr in this match, but the Aussie came close in the 8th minute when she made a great run up the middle and got off a tough shot that ended up wide of the far post.

For Washington, Elise Kellond-Knight started as left back and Amy Harrison started on the front line. Both players subbed out in the second half. 

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Orlando Pride v Houston Dash

The Houston Dash picked up a crucial road victory, beating the Orlando Pride 1-0 in one of the more volatile matches in the history of the league. 

In a physical match, tempers ran high between the two teams. Things came to a boil in the 61st minute when an Orlando defender received a red card for bringing down Houston’s Kristie Mewis from behind. The penalty kick was then missed by Houston.

Houston forward Rachel Daly converted a penalty in the 87th minute for the game-winning goal.

Another incident came in the 87th minute when Houston’s Kealia Ohai was brought down inside the penalty area by an Orlando defender.  As the referee consulted with her assistant referee near the sideline, Orlando forward Marta threw Daly to the turf as the England international stood over the ball, earning the Brazilian her second yellow card of the match and sending her to the locker room.

After tempers cooled down, Daly calmly stepped up and buried the penalty in the left side of the goal with minutes remaining. 

Following the match, Houston defender Clare Polkinghorne spoke about the defensive mindset of the team – “We spoke about a couple of things. Getting a little bit of space in front of our line and sliding up a few things positionally, both in the backline and midfield. I think that worked really well for us in the second half. That made it really hard for them to get through us.”

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Alanna Kennedy started in the center back role for Orlando, moving up to midfield in the second half.

 

Portland Thorns FC v North Carolina Courage

Portland Thorns FC rallied back after allowing an early goal, creating two second-half goals to earn a 2-1 win against the North Carolina Courage in front of a home sellout crowd – 25,218 fans, the largest crowd in NWSL history.

North Carolina grabbed a 1-0 lead in the fourth minute of the match when Crystal Dunn found herself on the receiving end of a deflection and converted from close range.

Thorns FC tied the match at 1-1 in the 56th minute. Emily Sonnett won the ball outside the box with a sliding tackle, making a pass to Elizabeth Ball on the right wing who took a shot. North Carolina goalkeeper Steph Labbe came off her line to catch the ball, but it went through her hands and bounced into the back of the net, ruled an own goal by North Carolina.

Portland capitalized on another own goal when Hayley Raso (who subbed in for Caitlin Foord in the 46th minute) took a quick shot which was deflected by a North Carolina defender on the initial attempt. The ball eventually bounced off Abby Erceg and over the goal line to put Portland 2-1 up in the 82nd minute.

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Reign FC v Utah Royals FC

Utah Royals Katie Stengel, Lo’eau LaBonta, and Amy Rodriguez each scored in the 3-1 win over Reign FC.

Stengel recorded her first goal of the season and subsequently became the first player in club history to score against Reign FC.

Reign midfielder Shea Groom scored in the 41st minute. Defender Steph Catley continues to be a playmaker for Reign FC, running down the left flank, getting behind opponents, and delivering left-footed crosses to the midfield.

Utah is now within two points of the fourth and final playoff spot in the NWSL standings.

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