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NWSL Wednesday: Daly brace makes Marta see red

Laura Harvey (Photo Copyright Patricia Giobetti for The Equalizer)

Megan Rapinoe scored off a corner kick early in the second half to give Seattle Reign FC a 1-0 victory over Utah Royals FC and in the process spoiled Laura Harvey’s return to the Emerald City. Harvey coached the Reign from their inception until resigning last November. Three weeks later she took the Royals job and Wednesday was her first trip to Seattle as a visiting coach.

Harvey’s Royals controlled much of the opening half, keeping the Reign off balance with a high press that helped keep the action in the Reign half. The Royals did not earn many chances of their own though, the best one likely an Amy Rodriguez shot from the left side of the box that hit the side of the net.

The goal came off a corner that was won after a throw-in was headed awkwardly over the end line by Gunny Jonsdottir. Steph Catley trotted over for the corner and served it to the far post. Rapinoe peeled off her mark, got off a clean header, and redirected it perfectly back to the near post for her seventh goal of the season. Rapinoe celebrated by sprinting to the sideline and jumping into the arms of head coach Vlatko Andonovski.

The Reign (8-3-5, 29 pts) won for the third consecutive time and gained some breathing room in second place going four points clear of the Pride. They are in Chicago on Saturday night. The Royals (5-5-6, 21 pts) remain in sixth and have now been shutout in four of their last five matches. They’re on their way back home to play the Pride on ESPNews Saturday night. They will not have to face Marta who was sent off in the Pride’s Wednesday loss to the Dash.

GOAL SUMMARY

  1. Seattle Reign FC (Rapinoe, 54′)

– Dan Lauletta

Houston Dash 3, Orlando Pride 1

After thirteen minutes of end to end action, it began to rain heavily and the game was delayed for lightning strikes in the area. After two hours, play resumed.

Houston wasted no time getting on the board. Just minutes after Alex Morgan hit the post, Kealia Ohai intercepted a pass and slotted it forward for Rachel Daly, who had slipped in behind the backline. She charged forward, and although Ashlyn Harris did her best to close down her angle, Daly’s finish was clinical.

It was an equal opportunity half as each side pounced on the defensive errors of the other. The Dash looked for the break on transition and used their flanks heavily, with Ohai and Taylor Comeau seeing a lot of the ball. Orlando attempted to use their pace to outstrip Houston’s centerbacks, with Marta taking on Comeau and Dani Weatherholt playing a more advanced role than she often does, making late runs.

Houston got off to a strong start in the second half as well, with Daly finding her second just five minutes in. Ohai once again fed Daly from the left flank, and the Brit tried the one-time flick into the net. Harris punched it out, but her clearance didn’t go far, and Daly found success with the half volley on the rebound.

However, just three minutes later, Orlando halved Houston’s lead. Sydney Leroux headed in a recycled corner kick, and although Jane Campbell was right there at the same moment to punch it away, the forward’s header snuck inside the net.

Tom Sermanni soon made two simultaneous changes to provide more of an attacking threat, sending in Chioma Ubogagu and Rachel Hill for Carson Pickett and Poliana, respectively. The subs went into wide roles, while Alanna Kennedy dropped back to provide a three-back defensive formation. While the Pride did see the majority of the ball, as they had all game, Houston provided strong defensive work, particularly from Taylor Comeau and Amber Brooks, and were able to withstand the late-game waves of attack.

Then they got to stoppage time, and the game went off the rails. Rachel Daly thought she had a hat trick when she got on the business end of a deflection, found herself with open space, and beat Harris. However, the ball was judged to have been played to Daly, who was in an offside position, prior to the deflection, and the goal was called back. A minute later, Themi Kgatlana ran onto a long ball, beat both her defender and Harris, and sealed the deal for Houston.

Immediately afterward, Marta was given a straight red for shoving Daly in the face when the two had words after a foul. While the first red card of the season was overdue, this was not the manner or the player in which anyone saw it happening.

Houston (5-6-5) remains in seventh place and travel to Portland on Sunday. Orlando, in third place at 7-6-4, play in Utah on Saturday.

GOAL SUMMARY

  1. Houston Dash (Daly, 17′)
  2. Houston Dash (Daly, 50′)
  3. Orlando Pride (Leroux, 55′)
  4. Houston Dash (Kgatlana, 95′)

– Chelsey Bush

North Carolina Courage 2, Washington Spirit 0

The North Carolina Courage continued their march toward a second consecutive NWSL Shield with a 2-0 victory over the Washington Spirit on Wednesday night at Sahlen’s Stadium in Cary. Debinha and Jess McDonald provided the goals in what was the fourth consecutive win for the Courage. During the winning streak, which comes on the heels of the team’s only loss, the Courage have outscored opponents 13-2. The Spirit meanwhile have now played eight in a row without a win and been outscored 12-3 over the span.

The Courage went ahead in the 12th minute after their typical midfield press led to Abby Dahlkemper winning the ball for her side. McCall Zerboni then drilled a long, low, line drive pass that found Lynn Williams in stride. Williams dribbled to her left to open space for Debinha in front of goal and the Brazilian scored on her second touch.

The second goal came as the Spirit were starting to gain some second half momentum. Right at the hour mark, Esetelle Johnson made a pass into space that missed the mark and Crystal Dunn pounced on it to start the counter. Dunn fed McDonald on the right who then cut centrally around Johnson and then sent a gorgeously weighted, looping shot that curled over Aubrey Bledsoe and in.

Katelyn Rowland picked up her third shutout of the season, and the Courage’s seventh. Heather O’Reilly made her first Courage start and played 90 minutes in place of Jaelene Hinkle at left back. For the Spirit they have now been shutout six times in their last seven games.

The Courage (13-1-3, 42 pts) will head up the coast and look for the season sweep of Sky Blue FC on Saturday night in New Jersey. The Spirit (2-11-4, 10 pts) are off on the weekend and next host the Houston Dash on Saturday, July 21.

GOAL SUMMARY

  1. North Carolina Courage (Debinha 12′)
  2. North Carolina Courage (McDonald 60′)

–Dan Lauletta

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