By CASSIDY GABRIEL
While the Seattle Reign have so far defined the second season of the National Women’s Soccer League with an untarnished unbeaten streak, second-place FC Kansas City are on an eight-game undefeated run of their own. This weekend, the Reign were held to a draw by a feisty Sky Blue team while the Blues of Kansas City snagged another three points.
The win put FC Kansas City within six points of the first-place Reign — and it came at the expense of the Portland Thorns. With the surrender of six points in the past week, the Thorns have slipped into sixth place in the NWSL standings. They sit just seven points above the Houston Dash, who failed to improve their position on the table against the Washington Spirit.
The Western New York Flash have had an up-and-down season, but Carli Lloyd earned her side a precious victory at home with a second-half brace, even as Abby Wambach remains out with a knee injury.
Here’s a closer look at this week’s results:
SKY BLUE STUN THE THORNS WITH GOALS FROM FREELS
For a Portland Thorns team experiencing a month of inconsistent results, opponents have found them at their strongest and their most vulnerable in recent weeks. Luckily for Sky Blue FC, they were able to come away from the Rose City on Wednesday with a hard-fought victory.
Sky Blue recorded their third win of the season over the Thorns, 2-1, with a clever, eighth-minute chip from midfielder Katy Freels and a 65th-minute winner from Lindsi Cutshall. Goalkeeper Brittany Cameron was to credit for the retention of the tight lead, with a number of crucial saves and audacious, high-line goaltending.
After a month without a win, the New Jersey side proved to be an Achilles heel for the Portland Thorns in the teams’ third and final meeting of the season. While Portland missed the chance to improve their table position, Sky Blue moved up into seventh place.
Here are the match highlights:
LLOYD BRACE LIFTS FLASH OVER SINKING BREAKERS
Still in search of their first away victory of the season, the Boston Breakers again failed to come away from a match with any points after visiting the Western New York Flash on Friday evening.
A Carli Lloyd brace led the Flash to beat the Boston Breakers, 2-1 in their first meeting this season. In another week without veteran striker Abby Wambach, Lloyd delivered as the offensive powerhouse for the Flash while teammate Vicky Losada added additional offensive pressure with her dangerous set pieces. The Spanish international had one of the better opportunities of the match from distance with an early effort off of the crossbar, and earned her sixth assist of the season with her provision for Lloyd towards the end of the match.
The Flash dominated the Breakers, who remain in last place with the result. The Flash forced several saves from the Breakers back line, including a goal line clearance from Chelsea Stewart in the 14th minute and key blocks from goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.
Here are the highlights:
HOLIDAY LIFTS FC KANSAS CITY TO EXTEND THORNS’ LOSING STREAK
Fatigue and heavy legs after an active midweek may have played a role in the Portland Thorns’ narrow 1-0 loss to FC Kansas City on Saturday. The Thorns were held scoreless for the fourth time this season as the Blues of Kansas City added to their eight-game unbeaten streak to continue their chase to the top of the table.
Lauren Holiday met a cross from FC Kansas City’s leading scorer Amy Rodriguez in the 41st minute. After taking a heavy deflection off of a Portland defender, the ball slipped past Thorns goalkeeper Nadine Angerer, giving Kansas City a lead that they would retain for a win.
Nicole Barnhart was an unsung hero of the match, stopping several of Portland’s half-hearted opportunities despite playing the majority of the match rattled by an early collision. Barnhart entered the match on a 406-minute shutout streak and has now played over five matches without conceding a goal.
Here are the match highlights:
TAYLOR, SPIRIT EARN WIN OVER STRUGGLING DASH
After a week off to regroup, the Houston Dash emerged from a bye without answers as the Washington Spirit found their first victory in four matches.
Jodie Taylor put her side ahead in the 62nd minute with her seventh goal of the season, beating Erin McLeod off her line with a cheeky chip on a swift Spirit counterattack. Wasted chances for the Dash contributed to yet another home loss, as the Spirit retained the 1-0 for a victory.
Match highlights are not available.
CAMERON-LED SKY BLUE SHUTOUT FIRST-PLACE REIGN
For the first time this season, the Seattle Reign failed to score in a match. Unfortunately for Sky Blue FC, they weren’t able to find the net either, as both teams played to a goalless draw.
While the Reign’s star goalkeeper Hope Solo was benched, Brittany Cameron’s impressive goalkeeping for Sky Blue earned her side a shutout against the league leaders. After a month without a victory, Sky Blue escaped defeat for the second time in a week, recording another clean sheet.
The match marks the first goalless draw between NWSL sides this season, as well as the first time this year that the unbeaten Reign have been held scoreless in 2014. Aside from midfielder Katy Freels’ left-footed belter in the 86th minute, Sky Blue had difficulty creating opportunities throughout the match. The closest efforts for the Reign were sent off of the woodwork by Sydney Leroux in the 59th minute and Jess Fishlock in stoppage time.
Solo had been made available for the match following a public apology for her arrest a week prior, but head coach Laura Harvey said Solo was benched as a consequence of skipping a Reign away game as she awaited her court appearance in Seattle.
Here are the match highlights:
SBI WEEK 12 AWARDS
Player of the Week: Carli Lloyd’s second-half heroics in front of goal propelled the Western New York Flash into fourth place in the NWSL standings. Lloyd scored her side’s only goals in their victory over the Boston Breakers this weekend, scoring her fifth and sixth goals of the season. Her involvement throughout midfield and ability to find the net twice earned her three points and recognition as the Player of the Week.
Team of the Week: After an unconvincing month without winning, Sky Blue snapped their losing streak, grabbing results twice this week. The New Jersey side made a comeback in the Pacific Northwest, handing the Seattle Reign their first shutout of the season after defeating the Portland Thorns 2-1 at midweek. A hard-fought four points, and return to positive results earns them the honor of team of the week.
What did you think of Week 12? Can the Thorns regroup when they meet the Red Stars on Friday? Will Sky Blue continue their positive results?
Share your thoughts below.