Connect with us

Boston Breakers

NWSL Week In Review: No such thing as bad publicity?

“There’s no such thing as bad publicity,” is usually attributed to Phineas T. (P.T.) Barnum, a legendary showman and businessman, who could probably help the NWSL get a sponsor or two these days, and might have loved the idea of the still fledgling league staging a publicity stunt on a somewhat quiet July sports weekend where its best players were preparing for the much higher profile Olympics.

Except, sadly, there was nothing intentional about Western New York playing Seattle on Saturday night at Rochester’s Frontier Field on a pitch that would probably have been small for my U-12 team.

By now, you probably know most of the story: The Flash’s home, Rhinos Stadium was double-booked and a concert highlighted by TLC, and rather than try to play a doubleheader with the USL’s Rhinos on Sunday, they decided they might as well go down the street to baseball stadium Frontier Field. It wasn’t ideal, but the Rhinos played 10 seasons there and the U.S. women’s national team beat Russia there in 1998 (Mia Hamm’s 100th goal), so how bad can it be.

The pitch figured to be narrow, but the bigger hang-up was allegedly that part of the dirt infield would be in play, a feature that was a norm a few years back in the old days. In fact, in the 1970s and 80s, the NASL had some of the best players in the world competing on hideous first-generation artificial rugs, dirt baseball infields, and doing wacky shootouts like this after regular-season matchups finished tied. But look at that friggin’ crowd!

Anyway, when playing on a dirt infield became a potential deal breaker and playing exclusively in the outfield became an option, someone, ANYONE should have shot it down as ridiculous on its face. Even without the field lined, anyone with a basic sense of the geography of a baseball field could compute that the size of the playing surface would be ludicrous for a professional soccer game that was to count in the standings.

Play it Friday, Sunday, Monday, whatever, but don’t play it in entirely in a baseball outfield.

Yet, somewhat amazingly, no one put a stop to it and the NWSL eventually got some much-needed publicity.

Of course, if Barnum were a soccer historian, he would probably note that – while taken slightly more seriously than the NWSL – Major League Soccer had some growing pains of its own in its early days (including those ridiculous NASL-style shootouts instead of regular-season draws) and has made its way to respectability two decades later.

Despite its lingering problems – national team players missing unnecessary games, no sponsorships, lack of television exposure, refereeing (which I think is a bit overrated, at least relative to the rest of the American soccer landscape), quality of game productions online, embarrassingly low salaries for many of its players, etc. – the NWSL does not appear to be going anywhere in the near future, which should hypothetically give it time to mend some of these flaws.

But the fewer self-inflicted PR disasters like Saturday’s, the better, please.

What else did we learn in what turned out to be a big week for any teams?

{LAULETTA’s LOWDOWN: NWSL Week 12 was pure chaos}


Western New York 3:2 Seattle (recap)

What Went Down: Sadly, there was plenty going on beyond the size of the field (which was probably a little less than 58 yards wide, by the way, and the modified setup left most of the seats nowhere near the field itself). It’s easy to forget Seattle was actually up 1-0 until Haley Kopmeyer injured her ankle on what seemed the most bizarre call of the weekend. Abby Erceg put the ball in the goal, but a foul was called disallowing it. Kopmeyer tripped over a teammate, however the referee didn’t know that apparently until talking to the assistant referee. And did the whistle blow before the ball went into the open goal? Meanwhile, it took the better part of 10 minutes to get Kopmeyer off the field for some reason. What a mess.

The Reign and poor Andi Tostanoski, who came in for Kopmeyer in her NWSL debut, were buried in a barrage of not-so-long throws. Tostanoski will probably be fine eventually, but that was a brutal spot to come into. It was also a huge game. The Flash continue to cement their spot in the playoffs, while Seattle (although still just two points back of a playoff spot thanks to Chicago’s struggles) has some work to do. In the end, if Seattle can make the playoffs, this may all be forgotten, but if they miss by a point? I don’t think the NWSL wants to see that.

Player of the Game: Abby Erceg – The conditions played right into Erceg’s hands, or head, as it were, as she was dominant in the air to the tune of two goals, and even added an assist on Lynn Williams’ final tally for good measure. She has been key to Western New York’s run of late and she’ll be missed, although – barring a miraculous New Zealand run – she won’t miss quite as much time as some others (although most of August won’t see any action).

Under the Radar: Rumi Utsugi – She only played 15 minutes and the field was obviously tiny, but she did get a goal and you saw a glimpse of the quality she will bring to Seattle in the next few months. They will likely need it to make it back to the playoffs.

Inside the Numbers: 18 – Number of points the Flash have picked up at home this season (24 overall), so they will have to recreate that form on the road at some point to stay near the top of the standings, starting with a tasty return match at Seattle Saturday night.

Up next: Western New York – at Seattle (Sat.); Seattle – vs. Western New York (Sat.)

Washington 2:0 Chicago (recap)

What Went Down: Again – although the statistics tell a little different story – the Red Stars looked poor as the Spirit won fairly comfortably in the end. You could argue that Chicago’s outside backs, Arin Gilliland and Casey Short, are their best offensive right now as both forced very good saves out of Kelsey Wys, Gilliland’s header particularly looked goal bound. But their absence at the other end left holes, one of which Estefania Banini exploited for what turned out to be the winning goal.

{GORDON: Thoughts from Spirit 2-0 Red Stars}

The Red Stars now stand in a tie with Orlando for fourth with Sky Blue and Seattle lurking. They are unbeaten at home and still have five games left at Toyota Park that they will have to find a way to take advantage of.

Player of the Game: Kelsey Wys – Even among backups, Wys wasn’t particularly heralded, but in a week with its fair share of goalkeeping blunders, Wys continued her consistent and confident play while Stephanie Labbe is away. She has allowed just one goal in her three games of action.

Under the Radar: Francisca Ordega – Speaking of consistent, Ordega has put together a few good games in a row, which has helped answer the question mark beside what Washington would do for offense when Crystal Dunn wasn’t around.

Inside the Numbers: 77 – Number of fouls Washington has committed this season, lowest in the NWSL. They have been given nine yellow cards, however.

Up next: Washington – at Kansas City (Sat.); Chicago – at Orlando (Sat.)

Sky Blue 1:0 Houston (recap)

What Went Down: I guess you have to give the Dash’s defense some credit for allowing just one goal in each of their last seven games, but they have amazingly lost the last six by the same 1-0 score. Houston’s last goal came May 7, some 560 minutes of game time ago, by Chioma Obogagu, which is as remarkable as anything that’s happened this season, and they have only scored two more goals than the Boston this season.

They can’t have many complaints in this game, however. Sky Blue has played some good soccer of late and had the better chances in this one, even if it took what should be the Goal of the Week from Taylor Lytle to win it. Sky Blue now look like they might have enough offensive talent to stay in the playoff race until the end.

Player of the Game: Taylor Lytle – You see a chemistry building in the Sky Blue middle with Raquel Rodriguez, Leah Galton, Sarah Killion, Kerr, and Lytle that good teams have. They’re all young, and I’m sure Sky Blue hopes they stick around for a while. Lytle played very well even beyond the goal.

Under the Radar: Melissa Henderson – Henderson briefly retired in the offseason, and seemed pretty far down the Houston depth chart when the season started, but played well in this game, and maybe she can be the one to finally get the Dash out of this funk.

Inside the Numbers: 2 – Number of shots on goal the Dash had in this match, both by substitute Chioma Ubogagu, who only played the final 30 minutes.

Up next: Sky Blue – at Boston (Sun.); Houston – vs. Portland (Sat.)

Portland 1:2 Kansas City(recap)

What Went Down: Reports of the champs’ demise may be a little exaggerated as FCKC fully deserved the three points they got at Providence Park, even if they had to hold off a late flurry to hand the Thorns their first loss of the season. Kansas City looked a lot like their former selves, with Erika Tymrak pulling the strings and Shea Groom getting on the end of a couple of balls in the box. FCKC appears to have a find in Brianne Reed, and they’re only five points out of the playoffs, alas with many teams to jump.

Obviously, the Thorns have some room to play with, but they were exposed a bit in the middle, with Mark Parsons deciding to play Dagny Brynjarsdottir as a holding mid. Portland only has two games left until the Olympic break, including one against Houston, so I think Parsons would be happy with three out of six points and right in the hunt for the NWSL Shield.

Player of the Game: Tiffany McCarty – Shea Groom deserves plenty of credit for the two goals, but McCarty was extremely dangerous all night, eventually picking up both assists and giving Portland fits almost every time she had the ball.

Under the Radar: Erika Tymrak – The Tymrak of old was back again, and if not for Michelle Betos and a post, she could have added a couple of goals to the final tally. We’ll see if a little confidence goes a long way in the near future.

Inside the Numbers: 1 – Number of minutes played by Tiffany Weimer, who came on for the last few seconds. But it was extremely meaningful for Weimer, who has now played in every NWSL season, plus a couple in WPS, in Finland, Brazil, and a couple of other places you’ve never heard of probably.

Up next: Portland – at Houston (Sat.); Kansas City – vs. Washington (Sat.)


Orlando 2:1 Boston (recap)

What Went Down: Almost all the discussion afterward was about the foul on Brooke Elby that led to Kristen Edmonds’ equalizer, after which the Breakers lost their composure and the game. It did not look like the correct call on the replay, but Edmonds sold it well, and once the referee makes that call, he has to show Elby the second yellow. Given the Breakers’ string of bad luck (it was their 12th straight road loss, yes 0-12-0) you’d think they were owed one, but it wasn’t to be.

Still, their goal was a bit lucky on a goalkeeping error by Kaitlyn Savage just five minutes into her NWSL career. Stephanie McCaffrey, who still hasn’t scored this season, had a golden chance to put Boston up 2-0 and seal the game from 12 yards out in the 87th minute, but was denied by Savage. And somehow the Breakers, leading 1-0 with time running out, got countered by Edmonds, which led to the foul. So although the call itself was probably not correct, Boston still has some areas where it can blame itself.

Player of the Game: Kristen Edmonds – Edmonds obviously went down extremely easily to earn her now famous free kick, but scoring two goals in the final minutes (and taking a hard hit that forced her out of the game in the process) is still pretty amazing. She also had five shots and all of them on goal in a huge Pride win.

Under the Radar: Leah Fortune – It’s been a long, winding road back to the NWSL for Fortune, too, and although she played only 11 minutes, she played very well and had the assist on the game-winner.

Inside the Numbers: 0 – Number of corner kicks Orlando had in the contest.

Up next: Orlando – vs. Chicago (Sat.); Boston – vs. Sky Blue (Sun.)


Your account


More in Boston Breakers