By MIKE McCALL
After weeks and weeks of the status quo, the National Women’s Soccer League was due for a shake-up. And it got one this weekend.
The top two teams lost, the next two gained ground, and the league’s former bottom-feeder took another step in what’s looking more and more like a charge up the standings.
There are now four teams within range of first place, and while that top group of four seems to have the playoff spots well in hand, the Seattle Reign seem destined to at least make the race interesting.
Here’s a complete rundown of the weekend’s action, along with our updated Power Rankings:
LLOYD POWERS FLASH ROUT
Western New York pushed its unbeaten streak to nine games, and it did so in style with a 4-0 win over the Washington Spirit.
Carli Lloyd bagged the league’s second-ever hat trick — in 56 minutes — Brittany Taylor added the finishing touch and Abby Wambach came away with two assists, moving the Flash to within five points of the lead with two games in hand.
On the other end, the Spirit are sinking, in last place with a negative-13 goal differential and an average of two goals allowed per game — a far cry from what was expected of Washington’s talented defense.
RAPINOE SCORES, REIGN WIN AGAIN
Seattle has finally shaken the last-place bug. Thanks to three second-half goals — including Megan Rapinoe’s first in NWSL — the Reign topped the Red Stars 3-1.
With the win, Seattle jumped Washington in the standings and has now taken seven points in three games after earning just one in its first 10.
All four goals came in the second half, with Kaylyn Kyle and Jessica Fishlock giving the Reign a lead before Michelle Wenino pulled one back and Rapinoe netted in stoppage time.
The loss halted some of the momentum Chicago had built recently, though the Red Stars still sit four points clear of Seattle with a game in hand.
FCKC SHUTS OUT THORNS
It has been clear for a while that Portland wouldn’t just march to a title, but Sunday really drove the point home, as FC Kansas City notched a 2-0 win at home.
Lauren Cheney scored in the 10th minute for her league-leading eighth goal of the season, and Merritt Mathias put the game out of reach in the 71st, pulling FCKC within three points of the Thorns in the standings.
Seeing the duo of Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair get shut out has to cause some worry in Portland, as the club’s 18 goals this year rank fifth in the league.
BREAKERS GET BACK ON TRACK
Sydney Leroux scored twice, and Boston sent the league a little reminder that it isn’t a lost cause, clipping first-place Sky Blue FC 3-2 on Sunday.
The Breakers had lost four of five coming in, but goals from Leroux and Mariah Nogueira were enough to top SBFC’s stikes from Sophie Schmidt and Monica Ocampo.
Thanks to Portland’s loss, SBFC keeps its place atop the table, but the gulf beneath those top two has shrunken quickly, setting up for an intriguing finish to the season.
SBI NWSL POWER RANKINGS
Here’s how they stand after Week 11:
1. Western NY Flash (6-2-4, 22 pts) – Unbeaten in nine, and if they win their games in hand, they’ll be in first. | (Last week: 3)
2. Sky Blue FC (8-3-3, 27 pts) – It’s going to be tough to hang onto that top spot, but SBFC has shown toughness so far. | (1)
3. Portland Thorns FC (8-3-2, 26 pts) – If they’re truly head and shoulders above the rest, they’re waiting a long time to show it. | (2)
4. FC Kansas City (7-4-2, 23 pts) – Four points off the lead with two of the league’s top scorers? Keep an eye on FCKC. | (4)
5. Seattle Reign FC (2-9-2, 8 pts) – They’ll either make a miracle playoff run or spoil someone else’s. | (6)
6. Boston Breakers (4-5-3, 15 pts) – One win doesn’t fix everything, but it’s nice to see signs of life from Leroux & Co. | (7)
7. Chicago Red Stars (3-6-3, 12 pts) – Red Stars might be a step behind Seattle for the honor of late surprise team. | (5)
8. Washington Spirit (1-7-3, 6 pts) – It’ll be impressive if the Spirit can just avoid a last-place finish. | (8)
What do you think? Can FCKC or the Flash close the gap? Do Rapinoe and the Reign have a shot at the playoffs? What’s wrong with the Thorns?
Share your thoughts below.