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NWSL Saturday: Orlando triumphs in goalfest

Sky Blue FC 0, Seattle Reign FC 1

Megan Rapinoe scored the lone tally to lift the Seattle Reign FC over Sky Blue, 1-0. (photo copyright Nicole Rossi for The Equalizer)

The Seattle Reign FC defeated Sky Blue FC, 1-0, for their third win over the New Jersey-based club this season. And, for their third straight meeting between the two teams, Megan Rapinoe scored the game-winning goal.

Seattle got on the board in the 64th minute following a scoreless first half in which Sky Blue played some of their best soccer all season. Christen Westphal, pushed high into the attack on the far side from her spot at left back, was nearly dispossessed as she moved the ball centrally, but she regained possession while moving around a Sky Blue defender and moving the ball inside the 18. She connected a pass with Rapinoe near the penalty marker, and Rapinoe one-timed the ball past Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan for the lone tally on the night.

The one goal was enough for three points, and those three points were enough to put Seattle back into second place after temporarily being overtaken by the Orlando Pride following their win earlier today over Chicago.

Sky Blue, on the other hand, remain in last place in league standings and will have to wait at least another week for their first win of the season.

Sky Blue FC (0-7-1, 1 point) return to Yurcak Field next Saturday when they host the Utah Royals FC. The Seattle Reign (5-2-2, 17 points) return home to Memorial Stadium, where they will take on the Orlando Pride.

SCORING SUMMARY:

  1. Reign — Megan Rapinoe (Christen Westphal), 64

— Allison Lee

Orlando Pride 5, Chicago Red Stars 2

Orlando made Wednesday’s loss look like a distant memory from the moment the whistle blew at kickoff. In the second minute, Marta had the ball on the left flank where she was covered by Taylor Comeau who wasn’t pressuring her. She pulled in Michelle Vasconcelos as well which left open space for Poliana, who stepped onto Marta’s pass and launched a long ball to Rachel Hill. The striker took advantage of confusion from Arin Gilliland as to where the ball was and aimed for near post, where it took a crucial deflection to send Alyssa Naeher the wrong way.

Just four minutes later, Marta brought the ball down the pitch before lumping it forward for Alex Morgan. Morgan whipped a textbook header into the back of the net that Naeher had no chance of meeting. This goal moved Morgan into the elite group of those with 30-plus NWSL goals.

Often pinned back in their half, the Red Stars began to go direct, and it paid off in the 21st minute. Sam Kerr split her defenders on a breakaway and got 1v1 with Ashlyn Harris. The goalkeeper blocked her shot, but Yuki Nagasato recycled the ball back in, and this time Kerr was able to head it past Harris.

Harris and Kerr went 1v1 several times over the course of the match, splitting the difference as to who won the battles. On the other end of the pitch, Alyssa Naeher came up big in the 39th minute with not one but two crucial touches on a corner kick. The first was a one-handed punch despite being pushed back into the goal, and the second was just enough of her fingertips to push the next shot into the post and out of the net.

In the second half, Chicago reverted to their familiar 4-4-2 diamond formation, making two substitutions, and it soon paid off. In the 60th minute, Nagasato fed the ball forward to Kerr, who once again got a step on the Pride centerbacks and slotted it over Harris to tie the game.

However, it was pretty much downhill for Chicago after that. Not to be outdone, Sydney Leroux, a second half substitute who hadn’t trained the last few days due to a stomach bug, came up with a brace of her own, her first multi-goal game in the NWSL since the inaugural season. Just a minute after Kerr’s second goal, Ali Krieger sent in a beautiful teasing ball toward the far post, where Leroux met it with a diving header to take back the lead.

Two minutes after that, Krieger carried the ball up the right flank and passed to Emily Van Egmond, who found Morgan in the box. Morgan cut it across the face of goal behind Leroux, who reached it before Sarah Gorden, spun, and launched a rocket into the far upper 90 before Naeher even had a chance to react.

The Red Stars switched to a three-back in an attempt to make a late comeback, while Orlando dropped Alanna Kennedy back to eliminate space in their defense. But it was too little too late for Chicago.

Dani Weatherholt put the final nail in the coffin in the 83rd minute. After a give and go on the left side with Christine Nairn, Morgan sent in a low cross to a wide open Weatherholt inside the box. The midfielder met the ball in stride and beat Naeher at near post. This is the first time Chicago has given up five goals in one game in the NWSL.

The win pushes Orlando into second place, although Seattle could re-take it pending tonight’s game against Sky Blue. The Pride continue their road trip a week from tomorrow in Seattle. Chicago is in fifth place and travels to Washington next Saturday. The teams are expected to be without their USWNT players next weekend.

SCORING SUMMARY:

  1. Pride — Rachel Hill (unassisted), 2
  2. Pride — Alex Morgan (Marta), 6
  3. Red Stars — Sam Kerr (Yuki Nagasato), 21
  4. Red Stars — Sam Kerr (Yuki Nagasato), 60
  5. Pride — Sydney Leroux (Ali Krieger), 61
  6. Pride — Sydney Leroux (unassisted), 63
  7. Pride — Dani Weatherholt (Alex Morgan), 83

— Chelsey Bush

Continue checking back with The Equalizer as we update you on all of this weekend’s NWSL action. 

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