Five teams are now vying for the final four playoff spots in the National Women’s Soccer League following the Orlando Pride’s loss to Racing Louisville on Saturday. The Chicago Red Stars’ 2-1 win over Kansas City gave them much-needed three points in their playoff push. Here’s what happened in the league’s three Saturday night matches:
Racing Louisville FC 3, Orlando Pride 1
The Skinny: Orlando’s 3-1 loss to Racing Louisville eliminated the Pride from playoff contention, a drastic fall for a team which started the season unbeaten in nine games and atop the NWSL table. Jodie Taylor scored three minutes into the match to give Orlando the lead, and she was lucky not to be sent off 13 minutes later for a horrendous, two-footed challenge on Yuki Nagasato (Taylor was shown a yellow card).
Ebony Salmon scored a spectacular goal on the final kick of the first half to send the teams to the break even, and Katie McClure gave the home side the lead seven minutes after halftime. Salmon was involved in that goal, too, brilliantly back-heeling the ball to put McClure in behind Pride defender Amy Turner. Nagasato iced the game with a goal in the 77th minute, finishing a cross from Salmon.
The loss was the fourth straight for Orlando, who has dropped every game since returning from the September international break. Louisville snapped a nine-game winless streak stretching over two months, including losses in their last four.
One Key Moment: Salmon’s goal changed the entire tone of the match. The Pride had a decent run of play in the first half and nearly added a second goal through Alex Morgan shortly after Taylor’s goal. Louisville’s equalizer changed the dynamics of the game.
Inside The Game: Salmon was a workhorse for racing, snapping a scoreless streak of her own to be a focal point in delivering a much-needed win for Racing. The two goals she set up were as important in that effort as her spectacular goal. Nagasato’s influence on the game was clear in her return to the starting XI, and Cece Kizer had another understated but solid game to create play in the pocket in front of Orlando’s back line.
The Pride once again have many questions to answer in an offseason preceded by disappointment. Salmon’s equalizer demanded that Orlando come out with a response in the second half, and with their backs against the wall against an opponent already eliminated from the playoffs, the Pride folded; they had no answer. McClure’s go-ahead goal early in the second half meant that the frustration simmered, and it was palpable over the final 13 minutes, with the score 3-1 in favor of Louisville and playoff hopes realistically gone.
- Orlando Pride – Jodie Taylor (Alex Morgan), 3’
- Racing Louisville FC – Ebony Salmon (Yuki Nagasato), 45+1’
- Racing Louisville FC – Katie McClure, 52’
- Racing Louisville FC – Yuki Nagasato (Ebony Salmon), 77’
— Jeff Kassouf
OL Reign 0, Washington Spirit 2
The Skinny: The visiting Spirit started off the game well, clearly having watch some of the tape from Reign’s midweek match, they engaged high pressure that the home team simply couldn’t find a way to play through. With the Reign’s attack stifled before it could being, Washington found the opener twenty minutes through Taylor Aylmer. A lofted cross from Julia Roddar found its way to the back post where Aylmer was given far too much space, but finished brilliantly on the volley, giving the keeper no chance.
OL Reign came alive more in the second half, bolstered most by the introduction of Quinn into the midfield. They did really well to control possession, calm things down, and allow their team to play the passing football they are good at. But the home team couldn’t capitalize on their majority possession and numerous chances. Nearing the sixtieth minute, Ashley Hatch would seal the win for Washington with a long distance strike, her league leading tenth of the season. It was a powerful strike from distance, but perhaps one that could’ve been saved.
Regardless, the Spirit took their two goal advantage and held onto it, almost adding another had it not been for the tremendous effort of Jess Fishlock to get back and make the goal line clearance.
The Reign continued to create, and fail to finish, chances, giving the Spirit all three points. This result moves the visitors into third place and puts OL Reign’s hopes for a home semifinal in jeopardy.
One Key Moment: A game winner in your first professional start, has to be the moment of the match.
Inside the Game: Washington continue to look like a team that could win the Championship this year. It wasn’t a great performance from OL Reign, who looked tired and somewhat out of ideas, but it was a great performance from the Spirit. They looked full of endless energy and took advantage of their chances, where their opponents continued to not put their’s away. Despite not being on the score sheet, Trinity Rodman was everywhere, constantly pressuring defenders and making huge defensive plays herself. The young team seems to have come together and found their chemistry, other teams should be afraid.
- Washington Spirit — Taylor Aylmer (Julia Roddar), 22’
- Washington Spirit — Ashley Hatch (Tara McKeown), 59’
— Bella Munson
Chicago Red Stars 2, Kansas City 1
The Skinny: Chicago jumped on Kansas City out of the game, hitting the post three times in the first 24 minutes and before scoring the opener in the 34th minute. Tierna Davidson headed Mallory Pugh’s corner-kick service back toward goal and the ball redirected off Kristen Edmonds for the own goal.
Hailie Mace answered for Kansas City three minutes later, heading in Katie Bowen’s cross off a short corner kick. Makenzy Doniak scored the game-winner five minutes into the second half, tapping in a cross from Kealia Watt to finish off a brilliant team goal which started from Chicago’s goal kick. Pugh appeared to be offside in the buildup but it was not called, seemingly because possession had changed, in the opinion of the referee.
The victory puts Chicago on 35 points, meaning the Red Stars will be in contention to host a first-round playoff game heading into the final weekend of the regular season, no matter how Sunday’s results play out.
One Key Moment: Watch this Red Stars winner over and over and over.
Inside the Game: The Red Stars jumped on Kansas City in the midfield, with Katie Johnson proving particularly dangerous in the No. 10 role. Johnson attempted two of those three shots which hit the post in the opening 24 minutes and caused fits for Kansas City’s back line. Mallory Pugh was active again, even if she didn’t appear on the scoring summary.
- Chicago Red Stars (Kristen Edmonds own goal), 34′
- Kansas City — Hailie Mace (Katie Bowen), 37′
- Chicago Red Stars — Makenzy Doniak (Kealia Watt), 50′
— Jeff Kassouf
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