North Carolina Remains Atop NWSL Leaderboard
Week 17 of the 2017 NWSL season comes to a close as the race heats up for the four playoff spots. Sky Blue FC edged Seatle Reign in a nine-goal thriller, while FC Kansas City upset the Chicago Red Stars in Illinois to close out the weekend.
Week 17 opened with a trio of midweek matches held on Wednesday. The Houston Dash edged the Boston Breakers, 3-1, at Jordan Field in Massachusetts. The visitors were led by Sarah Hagen who recorded a brace. Seattle Reign FC topped the Chicago Red Stars, 2-1, in the second Wednesday matchup with two late goals stunning the hosts. Nahomi Kawasumi’s tally in the 90th minute brought the match level, while Katlyn Johnson‘s goal in stoppage time was enough to record three points.
To close out the midweek fixtures, FC Kansas City came from behind to defeat Portland Thorns FC by a 2-1 scoreline. Yael Averbuch and Sydney Leroux recorded goals in the 65th and 69th minutes to claim three points for the home side.
To open the weekend, the Washington Spirit traveled to North Carolina to take on the league-leading Courage at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park. Ashley Hatch opened the scoring for the hosts when a low cross by Kristen Hamilton fell to the rookie due to a poor clearance by Washington. Hatch collected and sent a low, right-footed strike into the back of the net to open the second half. An own goal in the 84th minute by the Spirit gave the hosts a two-goal advantage, which held for the remainder of the match.
North Carolina (13/W-5/L-0/T) remains in first place, while Washington (4-10-4) sits at the bottom of the table.
The Orlando Pride continued its hot streak with a 2-1 road victory over the Boston Breakers. Alex Morgan put Orlando on the board in the 8th minute when she pounced on a bouncing ball in front of goal. In the 73rd minute, Morgan recorded her second goal when defender Ali Krieger caught Boston off guard and sent a ball over the backline. Morgan collected the ball at the top of the 18-yard box with her chest and lobbed it over the Boston goalkeeper.
In stoppage time, Boston’s Amanda DaCosta put her side on the scoreboard from the penalty spot. The Breakers were unable to record an equalizer during the remaining minutes.
Orlando (8-6-5) remains in fourth place, while Boston (3-9-7) sits in ninth.
Sky Blue FC and Seattle Reign FC played out a nine-goal thriller at Yurcak Field in New Jersey with Sam Kerr recording four goals to lead the hosts. Seattle took a three-goal lead heading into halftime, but heroics by the Australian international was on the agenda once again. Kerr notched her hat-trick in the 71st minute when she collected the ball near midfield and dribbled down the field towards goal. Surrounded by three defenders, Kerr struck a right-footed shot from outside the 18-yard box to record the equalizer.
Seattle responded in the 85th minute when Kiersten Dallstream finished a rebound in the penalty area. Sky Blue brought the match level once again in the first minute of stoppage time as Maya Hayes headed home a cross from Dominique Richardson. Kerr had a chance to tie the match from the penalty spot in the third minute of stoppage time, but her attempt rattled the crossbar.
Sky Blue received one more opportunity from a corner kick that saw Kerr and Hayes connect with the ball, sending it into the back of the net for the equalizer. Kerr was credited with the game-winner as she leads the NWSL with 15 goals on the season — three more than Brazilian international Marta.
Sky Blue (8-9-2) sits in sixth place, while Seattle Reign (7-6-6) is in fifth.
Portland Thorns FC topped the Houston Dash, 2-0, at Providence Park in the final Saturday matchup. Portland scored the match opener in the 14th minute when Meghan Klingenberg sent in a cross from the left sideline that met Lindsey Horan for the header. Amandine Henry scored a header three minutes into the second half with the assist credited to Nadia Nadim.
Portland (10-5-4) sits in second place, while Houston (7-10-2) is in eighth.
FC Kansas City defeated the Chicago Red Stars, 3-1, at Toyota Park in the lone Sunday matchup of Week 17. The Red Stars have lost three consecutive matches, while FCKC has won its past three.
Shea Groom set Leroux up for the opener in the 23rd minute with a through ball into the penalty area as she marched through the Chicago midfield. Groom dispossessed a Chicago defender six minutes later and found Katie Bowen for her second assist of the night. Julie Ertz put the Red Stars on the board in the 64th minute, but a skilled finish over the goalkeeper by Maegan Kelly gave FCKC a 3-1 advantage with 10 minutes remaining in the match. The hosts were unable to find the back of the net as they search for their form from the opening weeks of the season.
Chicago (8-6-5) sits in third place, while FCKC (6-8-5) is in seventh.
Header Photo Credit: Andy Mead/ISI Photos