Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By MIKE McCALL
The National Women’s Soccer League saw its first blowout over the weekend, and it creates some intrigue at the top of the table.
Far removed from the draw-heavy start to the season, all three games — along with the Western New York Flash’s midweek win — resulted in three points, with Boston’s 4-1 shellacking of Chicago the most eye-catching result.
The Breakers joined the first-place Portland Thorns and FC Kansas City as Saturday’s winners, leaving those three as the deserved league leaders.
Find out who impressed and who fell flat in our recap of the weekend’s results, followed by our NWSL Power Rankings:
LEROUX HAT TRICK POWERS BOSTON ROUT
Boston and U.S. forward Sydney Leroux netted the first hat trick in league history to lead the Breakers to a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Red Stars.
Leroux put all four of her shots on goal and scored in the 26th, 74th and 84th minutes to put the game out of reach, following an opening goal by teammate Katie Schoepfer and negating another by Chicago’s Zakiya Bywaters, the No. 1 pick in the college draft.
The performance vaulted Leroux to the top of the league’s goal scoring list (she now has four), and brings the Breakers within three points of Portland with a game in hand. They’re also now tied with the Thorns for most goals scored (seven).
MORGAN, THORNS KEEP ROLLING
A record crowd of more than 5,000 turned up at the Maryland SoccerPlex, with many unsurprisingly pulling for the Thorns’ Alex Morgan, and those fans got their wish early on in Portland’s 2-1 win over the Washington Spirit.
In the 11th minute, Morgan ran onto a long ball and got tangled up with the Spirit’s Domenica Hodak way out on the corner of the penalty area, resulting in a PK that she buried low and left. Nikki Washington stretched the lead before Washington’s Diana Matheson won and converted a penalty of her own in the 86th, giving her three goals in her last three games.
That makes three straight wins for the Thorns and two straight losses for the Spirit. It’s not time for one to celebrate or the other to panic just yet, but Portland is living up to the hype while Washington needs to find a first victory.
ANOTHER CUELLAR GOAL, ANOTHER FCKC WIN
FC Kansas City forward Renae Cuellar’s bold target of leading the NWSL in scoring as a rookie is looking like a real possibility. Cuellar knocked in a Becky Sauerbrunn cross to give FCKC a 1-0 win over Seattle and notch her third goal in three games, leaving both the team and player among the league’s best.
Through a scheduling quirk, Saturday was the second meeting between these teams in seven days, with the Kansas City club coming out on top in both meetings. While FCKC is tied for second and looking like a serious contender, the Reign are tied for last place and have managed only two goals in four games.
Here’s how they stand after Week Four:
1. Portland Thorns FC (3-0-1, 10 pts) – With a trip to last-place Chicago on deck, expect the Thorns’ win streak to go to four. | (Last week: 1)
2. FC Kansas City (2-0-1, 7 pts) – Cuellar & Co. are showing no signs of slowing down, and FCKC is looking pretty sharp so far. | (2)
3. Boston Breakers (2-0-1, 7 pts) – This week’s result reinforces the belief that with Leroux and Heather O’Reilly, Boston might be able to challenge the league leaders for the title of most exciting attack — as well as for the title. | (4)
4. Western NY Flash (1-2-1, 4 pts) – The Flash got revenge over Sky Blue FC this week, and while they still aren’t at the level that was expected, they’re far from a bottom-feeder. | (6)
5. Sky Blue FC (2-1-0, 6 pts) – After suffering their first loss, Sky Blue FC has a chance to get back on track with games against Chicago and Seattle on deck. | (3)
6. Washington Spirit (0-2-2, 2 pts) – Another two-goal let-up for the Spirit, whose preseason label as a tough defensive team is not holding up. | (5)
7. Seattle Reign FC (0-3-1, 1 pt) – Locked in a race with Washington and Chicago to avoid being the last winless team. | (8)
8. Chicago Red Stars (0-2-1, 1 pt) – Splitting hairs at the bottom here, but when you let in four goals, you deserve to drop a spot. | (7)