NWSL Wrap, R25 2019

North Carolina re-discovers the joy of six, Sam Kerr finally shares the love, while Washington and Reign play out an instant classic in the nation’s capital. All that and more in this week’s NWSL Wrap.

Orlando Pride vs Chicago Red Stars

The Red Stars travelled south to Florida looking to atone for their sins against Orlando, three weeks after the Pride’s smash-and-grab win in the Windy City, but they had to wait until the final seconds of the match to earn their 1-0 win.

Still missing attackers Alex Morgan and Marta, Orlando looked to bunker down from the kick-off, registering just 11 successful passes in the Chicago half and a single shot on target in the first 45 minutes.

Chicago were forced to play the last half-hour a player short when midfielder Katie Johnson was dismissed after a rash challenge on Kristen Edmonds earned her a second yellow card.

Johnson’s departure forced Red Stars manager Rory Dames into an immediate substitution, withdrawing midfielder Nikki Stanton in favour of Savannah McCaskill, pushing the former Sydney striker up front with Kerr and moving Yuki Nagasato in behind them as a front three.

That imbalance allowed Orlando to play much more easily around the Chicago midfield, working the ball into the wide areas only for the final touch to elude them, with the Pride failing to register a single shot on target in the second half.

At the other end, Orlando goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris was in stellar form, making seven saves in the match – five from shots inside the box – including a brilliant one-on-one to deny Matildas striker Sam Kerr the opening goal.

However it was Kerr who would have the last laugh, floating an inch-perfect cross in from the right wing for defender Casey Short to head home deep into second-half stoppage time, securing all three points for the visitors.

Matildas defender Alanna Kennedy started the game in defensive midfield for Orlando, seeing out all 97 minutes.



Portland Thorns vs North Carolina Courage

It takes a special team to roll into the Rose City and wipe the home team off the park. Unfortunately for Portland, North Carolina are precisely that, a point proved as the Courage consigned the Thorns to their worst-ever defeat: a 0-6 demolition at Providence Park.

Missing defender Emily Sonnett through suspension, Mark Parsons’ side would’ve known that the Courage posed a significant attacking threat with their attacking trio of Lynn Williams, Debinha and Crystal Dunn all capable of scoring from anywhere in the attacking half.

And that is exactly what happened, as North Carolina tore the Thorns limb-from-limb with three goals in ten minutes midway through the first half.

It was Debinha who got the party started for the Courage, sweeping her shot into the bottom corner after a sparkling passing move in the 15th minute.

Lynn Williams was next to join in seven minutes later, squeezing home Debinha’s cross from close range after Crystal Dunn hit the post with a curling drive.

Williams doubled her tally in the 23rd minute, side-footing Merritt Matthias’ cross into the net from the penalty spot as a shellshocked Thorns defence watched on.

North Carolina continued to pile on the pain in the second half, with Crystal Dunn darting in at the back post to volley home Jaelene Hinkle’s pinpoint cross from the left.

Williams completed her hattrick in the 68th minute, calmly walking onto a perfectly-weighted pass from Debinha to score with ease after the Brazilian made a driving run through a tired Portland midfield.

North Carolina completed the rout with goal number six in the closing minutes, with Debinha’s sumptuous against-the-grain lob finding Kristen Hamilton, who deftly chipped Thorns keeper Adrianna Franch from a tight angle for arguably the goal of the night.

Matildas players Ellie Carpenter and Hayley Raso played all 90 minutes for Portland, while Caitlin Foord remained an unused substitute.



Houston Dash vs Utah Royals

Houston snapped a two-game losing streak against Utah, beating the Royals 2-1 in the Lone Star State to keep their faint playoff hopes alive.

Dash winger Sofia Huerta opened the scoring in the 27th minute after a delicious backheel from Kristie Mewis found her unmarked in the box.

Huerta doubled her tally in the 62nd minute, running onto a lofted through-ball from Rachel Daly and smashing her shot in off the crossbar from a tight angle, despite Houston protesting she was offside in the lead-up.

Icelandic striker Gunnhildur Jónsdóttir pulled a goal back for the visitors in the 75th minute, burying her side-footed shot into the top corner from the edge of the box.

Utah had a chance to pry a draw from the jaws of defeat late on, but Houston keeper Jane Campbell came up big, saving a one-on-one with Christen Press to maintain her side’s one-goal advantage.


North Carolina Courage vs Orlando Pride

North Carolina continued a week to remember, dispatching the visiting Orlando Pride 6-1 in front of a club record crowd of 9,563 to extend their lead atop the NWSL ladder.

It was Lynn Williams who opened the scoring this time, volleying Kristen Hamilton’s delightful cross home at the far post in the 6th minute.

The home side doubled their lead in both unusual and spectacular fashion, as Orlando defender Kristen Edmonds volleyed Jaelene Hinkle’s deep cross into her own net – a finish that would’ve been a contender for goal of the week if it was at the other end.

The Courage finished off the first half in the best way possible, with substitute Jess McDonald pouncing on a cross in the six-yard box after Hinkle’s excellent lead-up play.

It was another substitute who would score North Carolina’s fourth goal, as Mackenzie Meehan – brought on in place of Lynn Williams only minutes before – who popped up to turn in McDonald’s cross at the back post.

Orlando pulled a goal back inside the final ten minutes of regular time through Rachel Hill, her thunderous strike beating Courage stopper Stephanie Labbé from distance.

Veteran fullback Heather O’Reilly capped off her tribute night with an absolute peach of a goal, hammering a right-footed drive inside the far post from well outside the box.

North Carolina finished the rout in second-half stoppage time through Debinha, the Brazilian attacker running onto an O’Reilly through-ball and sliding her shot into the far corner to sign off on an extraordinary week for the reigning champions.

Matildas defender Alanna Kennedy again played the full 90 minutes, collecting a yellow card in the 28th minute.



Washington Spirit vs Reign FC

The Washington Derby ended in a thrilling 2-2 draw as both teams fought to keep their playoff hopes alive in front of 17,418 fans in the District.

The Spirit took the lead midway through the first half, with Ashley Hatch scoring a stunning front-post header to turn home Mallory Pugh’s left-footed cross.

Bethany Balcer equalised for Reign just five minutes later, pouncing on a loose ball in the Washington area and piloting her shot under keeper Aubrey Bledsoe from 12 yards.

Matildas winger Chloe Logarzo put her side ahead in the 90th minute, calmly curling her shot into the far top corner after neat lead-up work from Hatch on the opposite flank.

But it was Ifeoma Onumonu who would break the Spirit’s hearts in the 92nd minute, screaming onto a Jodie Taylor through-ball late on and squeezing her low shot inside the far post to silence the home crowd.

Matildas fullback Steph Catley played all 90 minutes for Reign, while Logarzo and Amy Harrison saw 26 and six minutes off the bench respectively for Washington.