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Monday Morning Wakeup: NWSL Week 16

Abby Smith was tremendous on Saturday, but two got by her including one from Cheyna Williams (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

The Pride won two matches last week to move into 4th place while the Thorns won in Chicago to leapfrog the Red Stars into 2nd place and a potential home semifinal. Meanwhile Sky Blue continue to struggle and the Dash lost a match and Carli Lloyd. It’s the Monday Morning Wakeup.

2017 NWSL Standings
W L D GF GA PTS
North Carolina Courage 12 5 0 24 14 36
Portland Thorns FC 9 4 4 24 16 31
Chicago Red Stars 8 4 5 23 18 29
Orlando Pride 7 6 5 33 24 26
Seattle Reign FC 6 5 6 31 25 24
Sky Blue FC 7 9 2 29 37 23
Houston Dash 6 9 2 17 26 20
FC Kansas City 4 8 5 17 25 17
Boston Breakers 3 7 7 14 20 16
Washington Spirit 4 9 4 23 30 16

Results and Schedule

Tuesday

Orlando Pride 3-0 Washington Spirit
Marta (52) recap
Camila (57) att:  4,273
Morgan (64)

Thursday

FC Kansas City 0-1 North Carolina Courage
recap Williams (86)
att:  1,398

Saturday

Washington Spirit 2-2 Boston Breakers
Johnson (6) recap Leon (44)
Williams (64) att: 3,722 Leon (79)
Orlando Pride 5-0 Sky Blue FC
Morgan (4) recap
Weatherholt (43) att: 5,243
Morgan (47)
Marta (53)
Marta (58)
Chicago Red Stars 2-3 Portland Thorns FC
Press (16) recap Raso (3)
Huerta (38) att:  4,934 Sinclair (9)
Sonnett (55)

Sunday

Houston Dash 0-1 FC Kansas City
recap Groom (83)
att: 4,352
Seattle Reign
FC
1-2 North Carolina
Courage
Utsugi (40) recap Mewis (24)
att: 4,156 Mewis (74)

 

Week 17 Wednesday

Houston Dash at Boston Breakers, 7:30 p.m. EDT
Portland Thorns FC at FC Kansas City, 8:00 p.m. EDT
Seattle Reign FC at Chicago Red Stars, 8:00 p.m. EDT

Week 17 Saturday

Washington Spirit at North Carolina Courage, 3:30 p.m. EDT
Orlando Pride at Boston Breakers, 4:00 p.m. EDT
Seattle Reign FC at Sky Blue FC, 7:00 p.m. EDT
Houston Dash at Portland Thorns FC, 10:00 p.m. EDT

Week 17 Sunday

FC Kansas City at Chicago Red Stars, 6:00 p.m. EDT

What They Said

Orlando Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni

Opening Statement

“I was pleased with the performance tonight. I think it was a comprehensive win. The scoreline looks like a blowout but I was really happy with how we played. We were really tight defensively. We kept possession better and more consistently than we had been. We can still do a little better, but I felt like we kept possession and broke their pressure, we looked really dangerous. I think we had much better cohesion attacking wise, with Alex [Morgan] and Marta and Camila and Jasmyne [Spencer]. If we can keep tight defensively, I think we can create chances and score goals. The good thing today is we got ourselves in front. That’s so important. Tonight we got two quick goals in the second half that killed the game off. That kind of helped us, and the night was less stressful than normal.”

On clean sheet

“I think we are beginning to do the things we have worked on this season. The players’ discipline in defending in these last couple games has been really spot on. We haven’t been getting exposed as we were earlier in the year. I think it is just about the players staying in there and staying focused on the job when we get the ball. Over the last couple of games we have been really focused defensively and that has helped with attacking. That has helped eliminate a lot of the hair-raising situations that we have had at different times in the season.:

On team’s passing tonight

“Yeah it was good tonight because Sky Blue don’t tend to really push up and press. They tend to sit back and then try an hit you in the break. I think what we did – we talked about it and showed it and worked at it – tonight what I thought we did really well was we just keep the ball. Even though we weren’t really going anywhere at times, we kept it moving and then gaps started to open up. I think that part, the rhythm of our passing and the fact that we were patient to get ourselves in a situation where we could then break down the defense. The difference between our past performances, perhaps we were a little bit impatient with possession. Also, in general we took the right option more often than not tonight.”

On the playoff implications

“It’s very important. We talked about staying in contact, staying close. This week, we talked about the importance of this week, how we need to win games. The way we have played and the goals we’ve scored will give the players a huge amount of confidence heading into the most critical part of the season.”

On what has made the offense so potent

“That’s a good question. We are starting to get players familiar with each other and playing with each other. We’ve got some great players, and now we’ve got great players and we are looking a lot more cohesive. So when we get all of those things together we can create chances and score goals. Then you got players like Alex [Morgan], who once she gets on a roll, and she is starting to get on a roll, she will score goals. She is one of those kind of players, and Marta is as well. We have got a mix of that, making better decisions, more cohesion, and two goal scorers in goal-scoring form.”

On Marta and Alex Morgan link-up play leading to playoff push

“It’s a must do. This is one of the difficult teams when you’re bringing a new team together. It’s okay to say, ‘Let’s get this great player and that great player,’ but it takes time for players to work together and to know the timing of things and the rhythm of things. And we are beginning to see that happening, that players are now reading other players, and that:s what is making the difference. So when you get an Alex Morgan and a Marta getting on the same page, you get an unbelievable potent strike force.”

On Ashlyn Harris coming back

“I mean you kind of expect it from Ashlyn. You really don’t expect anything different. I think the first thing for me to say is that Aubrey [Bledsoe] has been fantastic for us while Ashlyn has been out. It’s really important to know how good she has been. And in a different situation Aubrey would have been done by to miss out. But obviously Ashlyn coming back is real important for us. I think what we saw tonight and the difference perhaps between a less experienced goalkeeper coming back is that she just was straight into the rhythm of the game, and that’s her experience that helps her do that as well as her ability. So I think we didn’t have any doubt about her coming back tonight and I just think she showed why she is so good. And her organizational skills take a huge amount of pressure off of us.”

On Maddy Evans’ retirement

“Perfect. Except you know missing the penalty. I was going to substitute her for missing the penalty but I let her stay on. You know sometimes we are really fortunate as we were tonight. There are times in the game when you could do what you’d love to do for players. And we were able to do that tonight with Maddy. Perfect occasion, getting on the field, being a part of it and the reception she got from the fans. I think it highlights a couple of things. It highlights what unbelievable fans we have got and how attached they are to the team. But also highlights how important Maddy Evans has been as a player and a person in this organization, because the reception tonight was just overwhelming.”

On shutting down Sam Kerr

“I thought we did an unbelievable job on Sam Kerr today. I mean she is an amazing athlete. If you look at the work she put in tonight… And even at the end she still had enough to try to run at us and cause us some problems. But what we did tonight, as I said, really well, our defensive shape stayed really good. We kept talking about keeping three players in good defensive positions and we did that for the whole night. And we were really aware and alert and apart from that a couple occasions at the end basically never let Sam get a run at us at all. So I just thought that our defense being switched on tonight was first class.”

Orlando Pride Forward Alex Morgan

On moving into playoff picture

“Moving forward, we’re playing all the right teams to continue to gain points. We’re playing teams all over the board, and so we need to pick up those points from the teams who are ahead of us and today was a perfect example of the team stepping up to do that. I think we just need to continue to play our game, and tonight we executed everything we talked about perfectly. So it’s just making sure that the execution is there because before we kind off rolled in and out of us controlling the game. We just need to look to continue to ride off this momentum from tonight.”

On chemistry with Marta

“I don’t know the stats, but I would say that we probably pass to each other the most. I probably pass to her more than anyone else on the team and vice versa. So that definitely feels good. I feel like I know exactly when she’s making a run or when she wants me to stay and not make a run. When she wants me to be in bounce for her or whatever it might be. I know which foot to play it to – obviously usually her left foot. Me as well. So I feel really good with Marta and I think you could really tell on the field. It’s continuing to build and last game we had a lot of good combinations. But this game, I feel like it was just – we were on the same page the whole game.”

On Maddy Evans’ last game

“Maddy’s retirement for sure came as a surprise. Just because it wasn’t at the end of season, but she had an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. I completely get it. I totally understand. The only bummer for us as a team, not her because she’s going on to great things. Just how great of a teammate she really was, she was just so good for the locker room. She was so positive. She’s a player that’s worked hard always. She just never gave up. She’s a player that always and still has confidence in her teammates, so selfless. So, she’s just a great teammate. I’ve been so grateful to be able to play with her these last two years. So happy that I’ve gotten to know her, and I wish her all the best, but we’re definitely gonna miss her on this team. She always brought a smile into work and it was amazing.”

Orlando Pride Goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris

On the match

“Games that get delayed in general are very tough for teams. You go, you warm up, you’re ready to play and then you have to sit for an hour, so that creates its own challenges. For us, we needed points so excuses were not an option. We had to be switched on for 90 plus minutes and it’s not easy to do. You’re playing a game that late in these conditions and it was quite wet out there. But the attacking power this team has and the ability to keep the ball and move it the way we did, I mean, Sky Blue was just having to chase for a good majority of the game and it’s exhausting. It’s a big field out there and credit to our team. We just kept moving that thing no matter how tired we were, no matter how many games we’ve had this week. The team came out and buried some unbelievable finishes and I’m really proud of them.”

On defensive progress since she was injured

“For me there hasn’t been too much change to be fair. Even when I was playing the first few weeks there were flying changes all over the pitch and just trying to find connections. This is a professional environment and if people are performing in practice they are going to play, so no one can be complacent. Tom makes that very clear. The defense tonight was great, I really didn’t have to do anything. I don’t let them breathe, to be fair. I am on them, barking at them all game and it’s probably super exhausting for them. But if I organize and do the small things in front of me I shouldn’t have any breakdowns. I don’t recall any time where they broke us down and got behind us. So that’s a credit to the backline and they knew. You know this is my first game back, they had a tough task and I was able to make sure they did their job and kept the ball off the back of the net. I was really proud of them and I think they did a great job.”

On Maddy Evans’ retirement

“I know sometimes you guys don’t know us players off the field but Maddy is a true professional and team player, everything it stands for. She cares for this team like you wouldn’t believe and she’s selfless. It’s not easy to watch from the sidelines and everyday she pulls her boots up and her socks and she gets down and she makes us better and she doesn’t complain. I have so much respect for her. It’s sad to see her go but I told her that we will keep pushing this game, the women’s game. Because we have have good players making tough decisions and that’s ‘do I make enough money to make it sustainable? Can I survive off of this?’ It’s a dream but it has to be a career. In my words to her, I’m going to keep fighting that for the next generation so people who play don’t have to make the choice she made tonight.”

Orlando Pride Midfielder Maddy Evans

On her final match

“Obviously, you can’t ask for a better result. I mean, 5-0, I could’ve made it 6-0 but *chuckles* I missed that opportunity. But 5-0 is unbelievable, I couldn’t ask for anything more. All five goals were really exciting and I think for me, actually being able to watch that happen was really fun. Today was a really emotional day. It’s been a really emotional week so leading up to today I’ve just been kind of going a little crazy but once I stepped on the field I was able to soak it in and enjoy the moment and just have some fun.”

On what teammates said to her when Jasmyne Spencer earned a penalty

“Marta sprinted and got the ball and I was like, ‘Don’t do it, Marta. Don’t do it,’ but she came running at me with the ball and she said, ‘Don’t think about it, just take it!” But actually I wanted Marta or Alex [Morgan] to take it so they can get a hat-trick. That would’ve been pretty cool but I don’t think I’ve missed a PK in my life and I just missed it right then. I thought I hit it decently but it was an amazing save. I thought she could’ve thrown me a solid and let that one go in but I had some fun with it. The wall behind the goal, that was really special. I think at that moment I was just looking at the ball and could hear my name being chanted and that was like, ‘Whoa, this is really special.’ I know I missed it and it could’ve been cool to put that away but I think it was neat that my teammates backed me in that moment anyways.”

On what she will miss the most about this team

“This is my fifth year of playing pro and sixth season of pro. This team is really special, from every player, whether it’s someone who is training on, someone who is not on contact to Alex Morgan, Marta, [Ali] Krieger, Ashlyn [Harris], all the big names. We are a really special group from the top to the bottom and I think that, obviously, you’re seeing us click right now and make a playoff push and that’s really hard to step away from but I’m going to be the biggest supporter out there. I know I have some stiff competition, we have some great supporters. But I’m just going to miss going in every day and putting in the work. I know that we’ve had some low points this season but we’ve had some fans and people who’ve stuck with us but ultimately, we have stuck together. I’m just going to miss going out to train and work very hard with these girls because we do have a really special group.”

On the future for her and the league

“Yeah, I mean at the end of the day my decision wasn’t made on one or two things. It was made on a bunch of different things. But I am 26 turning 27 and I make $16,000 a year playing in this league, and I am in the fifth year of this league. I’m thankful for everything I get here but I think that eventually we need to grow to a point where players can make some more money. And my decision was not based just on money, I promise you that. But that is something we need to continue to build for. And I think Orlando is setting the standard for what a professional team in this league needs to look like. And I am very, very thankful for that. I think that obviously it has gotten better every single year so we are looking at it on the up. Unfortunately, it just didn’t stay kind of caught up on where I needed to be. My junior year of college there wasn’t even a real pro league so I think when this league came out I knew it was a dream of mine. I think that ultimately, I want to be able to look back in 10 years that players are able to come out of college and you could be 27, 28, 29 in this league because I feel like I am still in form and I could play. But I have to look where I want to be in three years and being here unfortunately isn’t getting me there. So, going home and I have two degrees in my hand, I’m going to go home and put those to work and kind of start to build myself. But this was not an easy decision, especially in the middle of the season and I hope that everyone could understand that.”

On considering returning

“Yeah I mean it’s weird because when I was going through this whole process I was really hesitant to use the word ‘retire’ in general. I think my mom said it best and, she is right over there by the way, said, ‘you’re just changing gear, really.’ I’ve learned so much with this and I’m going to apply what I have done here and my five years of playing pro to whatever I do next. Obviously Orlando and this club and this organization and these fans it’s a dream to play here. It’s incredible. Even when say you are not getting the minutes you want or whatever you’re having a bad day. You need to look at the what we have here and it’s absolutely unbelievable and I’m so thankful for that. So it would be hard to go anywhere else after here. Yeah I’m retired but I still love playing so if there is a chance, maybe someday.”

On The Crown chanting her name in the 18th minute

“Wow, I didn’t realize that was the 18th minute, that’s pretty cool (editor’s note: the chant began when the clock struck 18:00 making it the 19th minute). And this is the 18th game of the season, I realize, which is kind of cool. When I started hearing my name, it was amazing and I kind of got a little embarrassed. It was really cool. Marta ran over to me, gave me a big hug and a kiss on the cheek and said, ‘love you,’ which is really cute. I can’t say enough about Marta, I think that everyone in the soccer world knows who Marta is, I mean unbelievable, best player in world, and she has had all these accolades. The thing about Marta is she is an unbelievable human being. She is the hardest working person I have ever worked with. If we lose the ball she is the one who is working the hardest to get it back, and she is the best player in the world. I’ve only known Marta for a few months, but I have learned so much from her not just on the field, but off the field as well. I want to thank her for that. She has made such a huge impact on me, on everyone on our team, hopefully on everyone in Orlando. She is making a really, really huge mark and is so inspiring to me. Really can’t say enough about her, I just want to thank her.”

Story Lines to Follow

Here are some story lines we’ll be during Week 17:
-How serious are injuries to Carli Lloyd and Danielle Colaprico?
-Can Sky Blue fix its defense in time to hang around the playoff race?
-Has Marta replaced Sam Kerr and Megan Rapinoe as the MVP favorite?
-Will NWSL discipline Tyler Lussi for yanking Danielle Colaprico down by the pony tail?

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