Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By CAITLIN MURRAY
The 2014 National Women’s Soccer League season is turning out to be one of redemption as new leaders emerge and last year’s big names fade away.
Amy Rodriguez, who took last year off to start a family as players like Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux started to steal some of her U.S. National Team clout, has reemerged as a goal-scoring powerhouse. She leads the league in goals right now and has carried FC Kansas City on her back up to third place.
Meanwhile, the Seattle Reign team that did so poorly last season continues their perfect run this year, fending off the Portland Thorns, the only team that actually seemed poised to threaten the Reign’s record. But even as it was the Thorns’ own unbeaten record that was spoiled, both sides represent the top tier of the league.
Sky Blue FC, who looked so dominant for so long last year before falling in the playoff semifinals, continue to flounder and join the Houston Dash in a desperate search for goal-scorers.
Here are the SBI NWSL Power Rankings this week:
SBI NWSL Power Rankings (Week 5)
1. (Last week- 1) SEATTLE REIGN FC (6-0-0)
OUTLOOK- Seattle remains the best in the league and as good as their perfect record shows. During their clash in Portland, Hope Solo saw far more action than usual – but Portland was still shut out, bringing Seattle’s total goals conceded in six matches to just two, the lowest in the league. On the other end of the field, the Reign have scored a league high of 13 goals. They are so hard to beat because they play so well everywhere on the field and it looks like they will at the top spot for a long time.
2. (Last week- 4) FC KANSAS CITY (3-3-1)
OUTLOOK- FC Kansas City surged to third place in league standings this week after a very slow start in the league. It’s thanks in very large part to one player: Amy Rodriguez. Acquiring her in the offseason may not have appeared to be much of a power play for coach Vlatko Andonovski – after all, Rodriguez had been away from soccer for nearly a year having her first child. But that break must’ve done something for Rodriguez, who looks to be in her best club form ever, leading the league with six goals. If Rodriguez can keep it up and bring last year’s leading scorer Lauren Holiday more into the fold, FC Kansas City will stay high on the league table and SBI’s Power Rankings.
3. (Last week- 2) PORTLAND THORNS FC (2-1-2)
OUTLOOK- Portland’s unbeaten streak was finally snapped by the Seattle Reign powerhouse. But despite that, Portland looked pretty good. Seattle outplayed in controlling possession up through the midfield, but Portland was much more dangerous when it came to playing inside the box and finding opportunities on goal. That’s good news for Portland because they probably would’ve scored against any other team in the league. The Thorns continue to gel, which only makes them more dangerous each week.
4. (Last week- 5) WESTERN NEW YORK FLASH (3-1-1)
OUTLOOK- Riding back-to-back wins, even as Carli Lloyd finished out her suspension, the Flash seem to finally be finding their footing. They fended off a tough FC Kansas City team and then handed Sky Blue a harsh loss four days later. Abby Wambach remains a force in their attack, but with eight goals from five players, the Flash are bigger than just a player or two. And they should feel good about grabbing a shut out in Kelsey Wys’ first-ever pro start as goalkeeper Lydia Williams was away for national team duty.
5. (Last week- 3) WASHINGTON SPIRIT (2-4-0)
OUTLOOK- Washington looked threatening in their loss to a rising FC Kansas City team, but they are finding themselves struggling to stay threatening to the end of a match. Indeed, this Spirit side looks nothing like they did last season – at least until late in games, when they struggle to hold it together. They need to finish out games as strongly as they start them or they may find themselves missing the playoffs again.
6. (Last week- 7) CHICAGO RED STARS (2-2-1)
OUTLOOK- Defensively, Chicago is one of the best teams in the league, second only to the Reign in goals allowed. But their lack of goal-scorers is still a problem. Luckily for them, one goal in each of their games this week was enough to earn a win at home and a tie on the road. But it’s hard to feel too optimistic about a team that looks so offensively weak most of the time. Christen Press can’t arrive in Chicago soon enough.
7. (Last week- 6) SKY BLUE FC (1-3-3)
OUTLOOK- Sky Blue’s woes seem to come from all over the field. They can do OK, but when there’s a breakdown, it can happen anywhere. But a good start would be figuring out where to find some goals. They had 24 shots against Chicago, almost double the Red Stars, and still ended in a 1-1 stalemate. Without a marquee target forward, midfielder Katy Freels and forward Monica Ocampo share the team’s spot for most goals scored at two a piece. But they need to get Sophie Schmidt and Maya Hayes more involved – and relatively soon.
8. (Last week- 9) BOSTON BREAKERS (1-3-0)
OUTLOOK- The Breakers had the week off, but get to move up in the rankings because the Houston Dash successfully made the case this week for being the league’s most troubled team.
9. (Last week- 8) HOUSTON DASH (1-4-0)
OUTLOOK- The Dash just have to do better. Given the gift of an expansion draft and the second overall draft pick at the start of the season, coach Randy Waldrum picked the squad he thought he could win with. But they are struggling. Against a second-tier Chicago Red Stars side that has almost no real goal-scoring threats, the Dash were still out-shot 11-2 and lost, 1-0. The Dash need to find a way to get Kealia Ohai involved or this is going to be a very long season, even once defenders Meghan Klingenberg and Whitney Engen arrive from Europe.
What do you think of this week’s power rankings? Is there a team that should be higher? Would you rank a team lower?
Share your thoughts below.