While I don’t believe it’s still been publicly announced (as of Monday afternoon), U.S. national team members heading to Olympic camp will report on July 1. Everyone knew they were reporting sometime in early July, so it’s obviously not shocking, but the date was a week earlier than some expected, reportedly including many NWSL teams who were a bit taken aback that they’ll now have to sell tickets for one more game without their biggest stars.
Because biting the hand that feeds you can be a really poor business strategy, you won’t hear any public complaints from NWSL squads, but for the league to grow, it’s probably a situation that needs to be rectified sooner than later. With 2017 and 2018 not having a major international tournament (at least on this continent) and the NWSL looking at expansion and long-term stability, it will be interesting to see whether the star players and most importantly, the USSF, will allow everyone to play an entire campaign without interruption.
But that is in the future. After Sunday (Portland at Orlando), the NWSL will scramble to make due for two months or so without its best players, which not only includes the United States players, but Canada, Brazil and Australia (as well as Amandine Henry, Abby Erceg and Katie Bowen). With most teams having 10 matches left when their stars depart, most will miss half of the rest (five) while preparing for the Olympics in July.
Sources confirm to me that #NWSL was finalized with belief players would NOT be pulled away early ahead of May FIFA date, July friendlies
— Dan Lauletta (@TheDanLauletta) June 19, 2016
The league then goes dark for the Olympics, but resumes a week after the final on August 26, and if past experience is any guide, most national team players (assuming the U.S. is in the final, of course) will not be ready to go 90 minutes and might not even be available. After that, there are only four regular-season games left.
We don’t have time to discuss at length who that helps (Seattle, Western New York) and who that harms (Orlando, Portland) in the playoff race, but it will likely play a major role in the coming couple of months. Teams that planned accordingly for this part of the season will likely do well, while others may be forced to try to hang on and survive. While that will most certainly be interesting to watch, let’s hope it’s the last time we have to do this type of thing for a few years.
It does beat the alternative, however, of having no professional league at all.
What else did we learn as we’re almost at the halfway mark of 2016 already?
Western New York 0:2 Portland
What Went Down: Although they are still unbeaten, this was a massive three points for the Thorns because who knows what they will look like in a couple of weeks, likely having to replace six starters (Megan Klingenberg missed this match after suffering a minor injury in warm-ups), seven when Amandine Henry – who came on in the second half – gets up to speed (for a week, I guess) for at least five games. For some reason, the play at Rhinos (nee: Sahlen’s) Stadium never seems to be pretty no matter who is out there, and Friday was no different. But the Thorns had enough quality to score a great goal early in the second half and survived for the win.
Christine Sinclair puts Portland up, 1-0. Allie Long with the assist. pic.twitter.com/f1NHhbTY4s
— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) June 18, 2016
It wasn’t a terrible effort from the Flash, as their speed was still dangerous, Sam Mewis again filled the stat sheet (including fouls), although subbing on newly acquired McCall Zerboni at halftime seemed to backfire as Western New York had trouble adjusting and were soon behind. The Flash host Boston Friday and will lose less than most to national team duty, so are still very much a playoff contender despite this.
Player of the Game: Tobin Heath – It gets redundant putting her here every week, but she made Elizabeth Eddy miserable for most of the contest, getting whatever she wanted down the left side, although this week, she couldn’t turn it into a finished product. She did draw a (controversial) penalty and remains the most entertaining player in the league this season.
Under the Radar: Emily Sonnett – There was some confusion last week (mostly my poor writing) on whether Sonnett is a lock for Brazil. With four alternates, she’ll surely be among them, and really should be among the 18 on the official roster as well with her form of late. The only reason she wouldn’t be is lack of experience in case something happens to Becky Sauerbrunn or Julie Johnston.
— WoSo Comps (@WoSoComps) June 18, 2016
Inside the Numbers: 37 – Number of fouls suffered this season by Tobin Heath (19) and Allie Long (18). Only Crystal Dunn comes close to those numbers at the moment in NWSL.
Up next: Western New York – vs. Boston (Fri.); Portland – vs. Chicago (Wed.)
Washington 2:0 Orlando
What Went Down: First, the fans and players were tremendous in honoring the LGBT community and all the victims of the Orlando tragedy last week. It was an awesome moment when the ball went to Ashlyn Harris in the 49th minute and the two teams stopped, along with the sell-out crowd, to stand and applaud. A great moment for all involved and the league.
— Tori Huster (@torihuster) June 19, 2016
The game itself featured few good moments for Orlando, and almost all those that did involved Harris or Alex Morgan, neither of whom will be around for July or August. It should be noted that the Pride is still only three points out of a playoff spot and has some home games coming, but they were dominated Saturday.
Francesca Ordega’s goal was probably a foul, but it was great for the Spirit to get goals from people other than Crystal Dunn, including a great first goal out of Estefania Banini. In fact, Washington controlled play throughout without a shot on goal from Dunn, so they might be able to deal without her for a while.
Player of the Game: Estefania Banini – The Spirit desperately needed someone else to step up other than Dunn, and – for this week, at least – Banini did it, a factor most of the night, even before her goal (in which she made Toni Pressley look quite silly).
— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) June 18, 2016
Under the Radar: Ashlyn Harris – The final numbers say had only five saves, but it seemed like much more as she was constantly under pressure and came up with a couple of brilliant saves.
Inside the Numbers: 9 – Number of fouls Alex Morgan has suffered this season, just fifth on Orlando. There was some talk this week of Morgan “getting beaten up too much” at the NWSL level (she did take a hard hit from Elizabeth Eddy last week), but the numbers say a little different.
Up next: Washington – vs. Sky Blue (Sat.); Orlando – vs. Houston (Thurs.)
Chicago 3:0 Boston
What Went Down: The Breakers continued both their woeful road record and equally as dreadful lack of scoring as the Red Stars cruised to three points in front of a somewhat disappointing crowd in Chicago. Sofia Huerta scored just four minutes in and that was about it, honestly. Matt Beard has talked plenty about building from the back first, which is hard to argue with, but the lack of offense has become demoralizing at this point, and the only good news is they won’t lose much of the attack to Olympic preparations, but for Kyah Simon (Engen will be a big loss in the back).
The Red Stars were in cruise control for much of the contest, but it was good to see Huerta score twice with Christen Press actually on the field, maybe ending that bizarre hex once and for all. Beard singled out Dani Colaprico for her stellar play, which was a little ironic, seeing as she was selected with a pick that Boston traded to get Stephanie McCaffrey.
Guess what team has been in first place more than any other the past two NWSL seasons? Yup #crs07. So proud of the team and happy 4 fans!
— arnim (@arnimiii) June 19, 2016
Player of the Game: Sofia Huerta – After her flurry of goals last season, she had gone pretty quiet, but with the lack of goal scoring in the league this season (down below 2 goals per game again), any multiple goal celebration outburst deserves to be celebrated. And she could be key again when the national teamers leave.
— WoSo Comps (@WoSoComps) June 19, 2016
Under the Radar: Casey Short – Short continues to have a big season for someone who was forgotten about a couple of years ago due to injuries. And her two goals match Boston’s entire output for the season.
Inside the Numbers: 30 – Percentage of Boston shots that have actually been on target this season (28-of-92), with players like Kyah Simon and Kristie Mewis well below that. On the plus side, their 28 shots on goal are still three ahead of Christen Press.
Up next: Chicago – at Portland (Wed.); Boston – at Western New York (Fri.)
Sky Blue 0:0 Seattle
What Went Down: Again, the Reign cannot find a way to score, and again, they were a little fortunate to escape with a point on the road (although they did win the shot battle, 14-11, and had a few good opportunities including Jess Fishlock hitting the crossbar from five yards out). For whatever reason, Seattle has not gotten the production out of its front three that it did last season. Laura Harvey does have reinforcements on the way, however, as Rumi Utsugi and Naho Kawasumi are ready to join in the next few weeks.
— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) June 19, 2016
Christy Holly was happy with Sky Blue’s performance, although it wasn’t a really helpful result in terms of the playoff race. Leah Galton was great again, and Holly said afterward he thought she was fine, even though it didn’t look that way when she left the field with an injury. Holly had her deployed in the midfield, which was interesting.
Player of the Game: Christie Rampone – It looks like Rampone’s international career is over, but she had a really good game on Sunday, thwarting several Seattle attacks (including a blocked shot right in front of goal) as Sky Blue was able to post the clean sheet.
Under the Radar: Leah Galton – Watching Galton and Rachel Daly, it’s a wonder that the two of them (although still young, obviously) haven’t been capped more by England. Galton showed off her speed plenty on Sunday which should be on full display going forward in the next couple of months.
— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) June 19, 2016
Inside the Numbers: 8 – Number of shots Beverly Yanez has in eight games played this season, as the Reign just haven’t been able to get last season’s double-digit goal scorer near the goal for opportunities.
Up next: Sky Blue – at Washington (Sat.); Seattle – at Kansas City (Sat.)
Houston 0:1 Kansas City
What Went Down: Somewhat improbably, defending champion FCKC is now unbeaten in three after losing to Boston last month. They have a long way to go to get back in playoff contention and were helped out by a post and crossbar in this game, but it’s still a much better place than they seemed like they might be at this point. Desiree Scott seemed to be everywhere.
Somehow Houston is scoreless in 380 minutes, hasn’t scored at all since May 7, and not at home since the season opener on April 16 when they scored three times in first 50 minutes. The Dash certainly threatened Sunday (and got Rachel Daly back), but appear to be out of the playoff race already, although their losses to the Olympics don’t seem to be as damaging as they first appeared with Carli Lloyd out and Morgan Brian struggling (of course, that’s a big reason why the team is where they are, too). There’s still hope to turn this around, but the hole as far as the playoffs are concerned appears way too deep.
Player of the Game: Becky Sauerbrunn – Her winning goal was just her third professionally, and second in NWSL, with her first coming in the 2014 opener at Washington. Her first was also a header, in the 2009 WPS opener (yes, that was a league once) in leading the Washington Freedom to victory. That goal was assisted by Sonia Bompastor, by the way. Sauerbrunn’s celebration was also wonderful.
— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) June 20, 2016
Under the Radar: Brittany Taylor – Vlatko Andonovski has decided that what’s best for the team is Taylor at right back and that has her out of position. She has had a tough time in some games this season, but was excellent on Sunday and continues to be an underrated professional player.
Inside the Numbers: 107 – Number of caps Becky Sauerbrunn has for the U.S. women’s national team and she has never scored for the USWNT.
Up next: Houston – at Orlando (Thurs.); Kansas City – vs. Seattle (Sat.)
— Blue Crew⭐️⭐️ (@kcbluecrew) June 20, 2016