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NWSL Weekend: Washington’s youth continues to surprise in league play

The Washington Spirit youth keeps getting better, Naho Kawasumi returned to Washington and so much more happened this past NWSL weekend!
Washington Spirit youth NWSL

Boyds, Maryland (May 21, 2019) — The Washington Spirit are a young team. Richie Burke has a few veterans on his team, but other than that, Washington is an extremely young team. With plenty of NWSL Draft picks getting minutes and starting, Washington is flipping a script.

NWSL Weekend: Washington’s youth continues to surprise in league play

The players are buying into the program, too.

Washington has changed the script from last season. Last year, the Spirit totaled only two wins. It proved to be a difficult task for Washington to dig themselves out of eighth place, barely staying above last-place Sky Blue FC.

This year, it’s different. Washington, should the season end today, would punch their ticket to the NWSL Playoffs. The Spirit currently sit in fourth place with a 3-1-1 record. Saturday’s most recent victory quietly shook the NWSL, as the Spirit defeated the Portland Thorns FC. Portland made it to the NWSL Championship match for the last two years.

The young players helped make a difference in the match. Ashley Hatch, in her second year with the Spirit, began the scoring with a goal in the 16th minute. Hatch won the Golden Boot for Washington last season. Amy Harrison, the Australian international who was recently named to Australia’s World Cup squad, assisted the goal.

After an own goal from Dagny Brynjarsdóttir in the 47th minute to kick off the second half, Caitlin Foord got the Portland Thorns within one. However, the moment of hope didn’t last long for Portland. Washington found their third goal of the night from rookie Jordan DiBiasi in the 71st minute.

Up until last weekend, Portland was undefeated in 2019.

Now, the Thorns have another match on the road before returning to Providence Park. This time, they will take on Sky Blue FC in New Jersey. Meanwhile, the Spirit will hit the road to take on the Chicago Red Stars at SeatGeek Stadium.

North Carolina narrowly notches point against Utah

The Courage aren’t having the season they had in 2018.

If the season ended today, North Carolina would miss out on the playoffs. A two-time participant in the NWSL Championship game, and winners of last year’s match, North Carolina is currently sitting in fifth place. Last year, the Courage recorded an almost perfect season. One loss to the Utah Royals FC was the only dip in the season.

This year, North Carolina has compiled a 2-3-1 record. Their first and only loss of the season came against the Chicago Red Stars on Mother’s Day.

However, North Carolina was close to experiencing another loss this past weekend. Hosting the Utah Royals FC at WakeMed Soccer Park, the Courage found a late goal from Elizabeth Eddy to narrowly snatch a point. The Courage did go 71 minutes without finding the equalizing goal.

Amy Rodriguez scored Utah’s tally in the 7th minute.

Bonus: Thoughts from Paul Riley

Paul Riley, Courage head coach, said that the second half was much better than the first half for his group.

“It was total second-half dominance, but we didn’t finish our chances again,” Riley said. “Same old, same old. I think it’s three home games out of four where we said we didn’t finish our chances. I think we’ve had more chances in this game than the Orlando game which we won pretty comfortably. We’ve got to put our chances away, but second half the effort was brilliant. I told the players if we start 1-nil down every game, we’d be really good, cause the second-half effort was brilliant.”

North Carolina has a squad full of veteran players. McCall Zerboni, Merritt Mathias and Lynn Williams missed out on the FIFA Women’s World Cup squad with the United States. Meanwhile, Katelyn Rowland is back in goal after her shoulder injury. Debinha and Abby Erceg will be leaving soon to head off with their respective national teams of Brazil and New Zealand.

The Courage will head across the United States to make their first visit to Cheney Stadium, the new home of Reign FC in Tacoma. Meanwhile, the Royals will return to the Rio Tinto Stadium to host last-place Orlando Pride.

Reign FC celebrate Naho Kawasumi’s return

Last season, Nahomi Kawasumi featured at Memorial Park in Seattle. This year, the Reign FC are an hour south of Seattle, in Tacoma, Washington.

However, the welcome back to Washington still felt like home. Kawasumi returned to her former club where she spent a total of four years. She was honored as a Reign FC legend before suiting up with her new club, Sky Blue FC.

Instead, Reign FC picked up the win.

After a goal from Raquel Rodriguez, the Costa Rican international, momentum shifted into the direction of Reign FC. On a corner kick, Julie James scored an own goal past DiDi Haracic to give the Reign a courtesy goal. Meanwhile, later in the match, Jodie Taylor found the game-winning goal.

It was a long time coming for Taylor, who attempted five total shots and registered two on goal. She also was credited for creating one chance. Taylor was able to reap the reward with her goal in the 78th minute.

After the match Reign FC manager Vlatko Andonovski said he was happy with the result his team desired.

“It was important for us to get those points,” Andonovski said. “We started very well. Everything went according to plan, we did what we were supposed to. The intensity was there; the creativity was there.”

Bonus: Andrews features as makeshift goalkeeper

Meanwhile, a rare instance occurred in second-half stoppage time. Morgan Andrews, a midfielder for the Reign FC, put on a pink pinnie and went in goal for the Reign. Her goalkeeper Michelle Betos went down and hobbled off the pitch with trainers. With all three substitutes being made, Lydia Williams couldn’t come in.

“It was a really quick decision,” Andrews said. “Vlatko had asked me and I wasn’t going to say no. I wanted to take on the responsibility and help the team out where they needed it. I just want to be a player that my team needs, whatever role that may be. At that moment, it was me going back in net, but I knew that my teammates weren’t going to allow anything dangerous to come my way. Everyone did their job, we were winning battles higher up the field. There was no dangerous moment in the last few minutes that made the decision hard.”

Sam Kerr bags a brace down in H-Town

Sam Kerr isn’t new to braces in the NWSL.

On Sunday night, Kerr scored her ninth career brace in the NWSL. Heading down south to Houston, the Chicago Red Stars picked up another three points. Currently, they lead the NWSL and sit in first place with a 3-2-1 record.

Kerr recorded her two goals in the first half of the match and early. It only took eight minutes for Kerr to find the back of the net. The Australian international followed her original goal up six minutes later with another tally. Michele Vasconcelos and Vanessa DiBernardo recorded assists, respectively.

Meanwhile, the Dash looked to build momentum with a goal from Sofia Huerta in the 26th minute. Huerta was facing off with her former club. She joined the Dash last summer in a trade.

After the match, James Clarkson, the Dash’s first-year head coach, said that his side came out slow for the first 20 minutes.

“The slowest we’ve come out the whole time I’ve been with the group,” Clarkson said. “To give a team like this a two-goal start, we dug ourselves in a really big hole. But, I think the response from the players was fantastic. They didn’t give in and we could have easily got beat four or five there after the first 20 minutes. It was a great response. Sofia (Huerta) scored a fantastic goal. I think we had a couple chances after that where we could have gotten ourselves leveled before halftime. We worked really hard during the second half. We put everything into it and unfortunately we just couldn’t find the goal.”

However, Houston still looks good in the standings. Right now, the Dash currently sit in third place with 3-1-2 record.


PHOTO: Washington Spirit midfielder Jordan DiBiasi has been a force to be reckoned with since entering the league. Photo courtesy of Rachael McKriger/Last Word on Soccer.


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