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NWSL Saturday: Lynn Williams hat trick extends Sky Blue’s record winless streak

Utah Royals FC 1, Orlando Pride 2

As teams are wont to do after midweek games, both coaches tweaked their lineups to get fresh legs in. Orlando rolled out in a three-back formation, and Utah took advantage of the formation’s weaknesses early.

Orlando was unable to clear a corner kick and the recycled ball found its way to Rachel Corsie, who sent it forward for Amy Rodriguez. Not for the first time, the forward found her way in between the back three. Rodriguez one-timed the ball over Ashlyn Harris, who got a hand on it but not enough to change the path of the ball.

We would see that a few more times in the half, while Rachel Hill and Alex Morgan did the same on the other end. However, the majority of the match was battled in the midfield, and a battle it was. An eventual four yellow cards were issued – all to Orlando – with Gunny Jonsdottir probably escaping yellow card suspension for another week as none of her tough challenges, including two in the air that left Ali Krieger on the ground, were carded.

Near the halfway mark, Alanna Kennedy was brought down in the box by Jonsdottir, who had her arms wrapped around the Australian when she went up for a corner kick. Again, Jonsdottir avoided a card, but the penalty was given. After a lengthy period of time in which Utah players protested the call and goalkeeper Abby Smith stood over the penalty spot, Morgan stepped up and buried the kick, tying the game just before the half ended.

In the second half, as players began to tire, we saw strikers getting behind defenses more often, but a combination of last ditch defending and poor shots kept the game tied until the 52nd minute. Krieger sent a long ball forward for Kristen Edmonds, who had plenty of time and space, picked up her head to see Smith well off her line, and lobbed the ball over the keeper into the empty net. The game-winning assist marked Krieger’s 100th NWSL appearance.

In the 72nd minute, Smith came out to punch away a free kick, while at the same time Kennedy went over the back of Rachel Corsie. The resulting collision between the three sent Smith headfirst into the ground, where she stayed down for a long minute. Smith eventually walked off under her own power, although she appeared woozy, and Nicole Barnhart subbed in to finish the game in her second appearance of the year.

Trailing, Laura Harvey tweaked her formation, sending in Katie Stengel for Rodriguez and moving Christen Press central, but although Press saw more of the ball in the second half, she wasn’t able to link up with her teammates. The injury to Smith made for seven minutes of stoppage time, but although they got some looks with a few set pieces, they didn’t test Harris enough to find an equalizer.

GOAL SUMMARY

  1. Utah Royals (Rodriguez, 8′)
  2. Orlando Pride (Alex Morgan, 47′)
  3. Orlando Pride (Kristen Edmonds, 52′)

– Chelsey Bush

Chicago Red Stars 1, Seattle Reign FC 0

It was a bittersweet win for Chicago, as they picked up three points at home but saw two injuries to their players that could have lasting consequences.

The first half moved quickly with end to end action, forcing both goalkeepers to make good saves. The biggest moment of the half came around the 35th minute, when Arin Gilliland went up for an aerial ball. Steph Catley came racing in to challenge, and the two collided, with Gilliland’s neck appearing to whiplash on impact. She collapsed to the ground and stayed there even as play continued with a Chicago advantage, stopping only when Jess Fishlock was carded for shoving Sam Kerr on a breakaway. The defender was eventually put onto a backboard and stretchered off the pitch, her neck in a brace.

The second half saw another player leaving injured when Danielle Colaprico went down hard after being challenged in the air by Fishlock. Although she initially walked down the tunnel to the locker rooms, she later reappeared in the stands.

Much like the first half, both sides created opportunities but were denied by strong goalkeeping. However, in the 87th minute, that changed. Yuki Nagasato headed down a shallow goal kick from Michelle Betos, placing it perfectly in the path of Kerr. The forward accelerated out of the reach of the backline and beat Betos to the back of the net.

In the last play of the game, Betos nearly redeemed herself when she came up for a corner kick and headed it down to Jasmyne Spencer, who nearly finished at a close range but was denied by Alyssa Naeher. The keeper made the save but got caught up with Spencer’s cleat and had Julie Ertz take the last goal kick for her to finish the match.

GOAL SUMMARY

  1. Chicago Red Stars (Sam Kerr, 87′)

– Chelsey Bush

Sky Blue FC 0, North Carolina Courage 4

Lynn Williams scored a second half hat trick and the North Carolina Courage extended Sky Blue FC’s misery with a 4-0 win at Yurcak Field in New Jersey. Williams became the second visiting player in as many weeks to score a hat trick against Sky Blue, whose league-record winless streak extended to 15 games.

Sky Blue, who has not had a lead in any of their matches this season, had a couple of early chances but were unable to put one away. They paid the price at the other end when Kristen Hamilton hustled after a ball to keep it from going out of play on the end line, then crossed it far post where Abby Erceg headed it in for a 1-0 lead that stood up until the break.

Williams, the golden boot winner and MVP two years ago, took over in the second half. In the 56th minute, Debinha played a ball into the area and Hamilton tracked it down before finding Williams who was able to slip unmarked to the top of the six. Once she received the ball the finish was the easiest part.

The Courage struck again in the 72nd. Debinha fought off a defensive challenge in midfield from Carli Lloyd and delivered another gorgeous ball ahead to Williams who was alone deep on the left side. Using her speed to cut inside behind Sky Blue defenders, Williams drew Sky Blue keeper Kailen Sheridan out of her goal and then cleverly directed her effort inside the near post and away from Sheridan’s momentum.

The icing on the cake came in the 89th minute. Under pressure from the unrelenting Courage press, Erica Skroski tried to play it back to Sheridan. The pass was less than crisp and Williams sprinted in to take it away from Sheridan and maintained enough control to walk it into the goal for her first career hat trick.

The Courage (14-1-3, 45 pts) won for the fifth straight time and have outscored those opponents 17-2 since taking their only loss of the season. They are heading to Utah to face the Royals on Friday night. It was the Royals who handed the Courage their only defeat of the season. Sky Blue (0-12-3, 3 pts) return to Yurcak next Saturday to host Portland Thorns FC.

GOAL SUMMARY

  1. Courage (Abby Erceg, 15′)
  2. Courage (Lynn Williams, 56′)
  3. Courage (Lynn Williams, 72′)
  4. Courage (Lynn Williams, 89′)

– Dan Lauletta

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