The Fall Series marches on in the NWSL, with the stakes seeming to get higher with every match. Last weekend saw a slate of three games that had serious table implications up for grabs…until two of them ended in draws. Let’s break down what went down across the league.
Chicago Red Stars 1- Washington Spirit 1Embed from Getty Images
The Northeastern Pod got the action started, with a reprisal of the opening week matchup of Chicago and Washington. The Red Stars were out for revenge after a tough loss in their first meeting with the Spirit, that saw them go down to 10 players with the sending off of Savannah McCaskill.
McCaskill made no mistake in making up for suspension as she opened the scoring in the 72nd minute. Neither team’s offence hadn’t had much of anything going on up until that point. The breakthrough goal was a result of Red Stars’ workhorse, Sarah Luebbert, who struck a pass into the box. After bouncing past a few bodies, McCaskill came sliding in to put her team ahead.
It looked like Chicago would get their vengeance as they took their lead into the dying minutes. Suddenly, almost out of nowhere, Crystal Thomas got her team level. Thomas has been a thorn in the side of backlines all Series long, and proved to just be too much for Red Stars’ rookie Camryn Bigalski to keep up with. The striker flew through a seam and just as it looked like she would run out of room before she could finish, she sent the equalizer home.
OL Reign 2- Utah Royals 2
It was baptism by fire as the Reign were making their Fall Series debut against their Western rival Royals. Utah was coming off a 3-0 loss in their opener and were clearly raring to go as they opened the scoring in the ninth minute. Aminata Dinallo capitalized off of a poor attempt at a clearance from the Reign’s backline to put her team on the board for the first time in the Series.
Another defensive error by the Reign allowed the Royals to double their lead in the 22nd minute. Somehow, rookie sensation, Tziarra King, was left unmarked in the box. Fellow Royal, Brittany Ratcliffe set the play up with a long cross that King put away with a header.
The two goal lead was short lived as OL responded in the next minute. It was a cheeky goal as Stephanie Cox rolled the ball through a lane that looked to be going to Sofia Huerta. But Huerta had other plans as she let the ball slip between her legs, en route to an incoming Bethany Balcer, who was clinical in front of goal.
The fourth and final goal of the game came just four minutes later (yes, all four goals happened in less than half an hour). It was the New Zealand international, Rosie White, who put her team back on equal footing thanks to a shot from distance that just got past the outstretched hand of Melissa Lowder. The importance of the strong buildup play of Shirley Cruz and Jasmyne Spencer cannot be overstated on the goal, either.
Houston Dash 3- Orlando Pride 1Embed from Getty Images
The South Pod who closed out the week, but it was two women from the Great White North who took centre stage. Nichelle Prince and Sophie Schmidt both scored for the Dash, who got their first win of the series after claiming the Challenge Cup in the summer.
Prince opened the scoring with the help of an assist from her Canadian counterpart. A falling Schmidt managed to connect with her striker from inside her own half. The ajax, ON native made quick work of the finish by chipping it over Ashlyn Harris.
It was all even before the half, though, with the Pride putting one in during first half stoppage time. Chelsee Washington found Marisa Viggiano for the tricky finish from the top of the box.
10 minutes after the half saw Houston have a golden opportunity to take the lead from the spot. Schmidt stepped up and put a beautiful shot into the top corner. Shea Groom would add the insurance policy in the 72nd minute after some ping pong action in the box hit the post and fell onto her foot.
Don’t forget that you can stream all games live on Twitch and can also tune into the Game of the Week on CBS Sports. And come back to Unbenched every week for a roundup on the action from the last seven days.