Seven matches land on the docket this week, friends. Three on Wednesday (which I'll get wrong immediately below), and then three on Saturday and another one on Sunday. I'll see what tonight brings and update this post after I'm wrong about everything tonight. Deal?
I'd like to take this opportunity to encourage you to go to as many NWSL games as possible. There are a few fanbases out there who've lost their teams over the past couple of years, and they generally now have to travel long distances if they want to see a game.
Orlando has only managed to entice 3,104 and 4,445 to their last two home games. The earlier one was on a Wednesday, but it was a game that delivered seven combined goals against the top-of-the-table NC Courage (the Courage won 4-3). That's not going to pay the bills long term, and some people who are involved rightly have opinions on such things.
Orlando Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris was asked about attendance at Pride games this season, and in typical Ashlyn Harris fashion, she was direct (see: 🔥) in her response.— Jordan Culver (@JordanCulver) June 25, 2018
“It’s time to show some support for the women’s team.”
Story and video here: https://t.co/GVjQ3QJlZD pic.twitter.com/vAFzDzpIeO
I tend to share this opinion. Go while you can. Because nothing lasts forever.
What Happened in COG 13?
I got so much wrong last week. Oh, right, that's normal.
The slumbering sides who've been unpredictable so far this year finally showed up looking like they should, and there were some good results as a consequence. The Thorns took three goals and three points from Houston last Friday night, and they're getting healthier. Look out.
On Saturday, the NC Courage went to Seattle and reasserted their class, demolishing the Reign 4-1. Our ESPNEWS game of the week saw Orlando defeat Washington 1-0, courtesy of Alanna Kennedy's bomb Goal of the Week. The more interesting later game featured the new-look Red Stars looking far more dangerous after their mega-trade in a 2-0 win over the Utah Royals.
Red Stars rising?
That bomb tho...
Houston Dash at Orlando Pride
Wednesday at 7:30PM Eastern on Go90
Hmm, another Wednesday game for Orlando. Will they get more than 3,500 people in the seats? Houston doesn't provide the intrigue that the Courage did in May, but it's summer now, and schools should be out and it's likely to only be in the mid 140s degree range at game time, right? Comfy night out on the town?
The home side lists only Ali Krieger on the injury report, where she's questionable with the same right knee sprain that has kept her on the sidelines lately. The Pride play again at home on Saturday, so there's no need to rush Krieger if she's not quite there. For the Dash, Kyah Simon is the only injured visitor—questionable with her sprained left ankle. She's an important piece when she's healthy, but the Dash don't play again until next Saturday in Seattle.
If the Dash don't start collecting points in bunches, they're not going to be in the hunt for a playoff spot. They've only lost twice in five games, but the Pride have been solid and winning the games they should. Orlando is 2nd on the table and rising. That won't stop tonight.
Orlando Pride 3-1 Houston Dash
REALITY: Orlando Pride 1-2 Houston
Seattle Reign at Utah Royals
Wednesday at 10PM Eastern on Go90
Hmmm.... Which team will show up in Utah? The Reign side that generally is amazing or the one that laid an egg against the Spirit and the Courage? Those two performances were quite bad, and Jess Fishlock is still out tonight.
Utah was thumped pretty solidly last week themselves, and they'll still be without Kelley O'Hara. However...
Christen Press is available tonight, after her international transfer paperwork cleared earlier in the week. Whatever you think about how she handled her various transfers over the past few seasons, she's a Royal now, and it will be good to see her contribute to the league again. I'm not sure how she'll fit into the attack, but she's a plus player and knows how to score goals. I think it's enough to get past the Reign tonight.
Utah Royals 3-2 Seattle Reign
NOPE: Utah Royals 0-0 Seattle Reign
Sky Blue FC at Portland Thorns
Wednesday at 10:30PM Eastern on Go90
So, there have been some strange results in the league this year, but an injury-depleted Sky Blue side winning at Providence Park would top all of them.
Not suiting up for Sky Blue on Wednesday night: Jen Hoy, Katie Johnson, Rebekah Stott, Amandine Pierre-Louis. Ugh.
The Thorns are getting healthier, though Meg Morris' left hip issue is now confirmed to be of the season-ending variety. Midge Purce is getting closer and is now merely questionable with her USWNT camp ankle sprain. (And the people said in unison: "Thanks, Jill!")
I love an underdog, but Sky Blue hasn't shown anything so far this year that would lead me to believe they're going to be able to compete tonight. Thorns all night long.
Portland Thorns 4-1 Sky Blue FC
Wut? Portland Thorns 1-1 Sky Blue FC
North Carolina Courage at Orlando Pride
Saturday at 3:30PM Eastern on Lifetime!
We're back on Lifetime and Go90 this week, but don't get toooooo comfy on Go90...
It's likely to be a hot one in central Florida on Saturday afternoon, but the Courage are also a southern team and won't be any more impacted by the conditions than the Pride. Fans, on the other hand, might need their own cooling breaks. They're likely to see some pretty good football if they can stay in their seats.
North Carolina has been dominating everyone they see, and there's no reason to think they're going to slow down. Three Courage starters are questionable: Mewis, Dahlkemper and Hinkle. Otherwise, they're ready to go. And we may see the first appearance for the newest member of the squad, HAO.
Orlando had to fight for a 1-0 win over the Spirit on Wednesday, but they didn't look very convincing. The'll need to do a lot better to take any points from the league leaders. Unless all of the NC starters aren't playing, I see the Courage taking a narrow victory like the last time they met in May (though I'm not expecting seven goals this time).
Orlando Pride 1-2 North Carolina Courage
Sky Blue FC at Utah Royals FC
Saturday at 10PM Eastern on Go90
Oh Sky Blue. You stole a point at Portland, but still don't have a win to your name this season. Three draws and NINE losses is just not good on any level. However, there have been flashes of improvement. The PK earned in Providence Park was NOT one of those flashes. Boureille's incredibly late and sloppy kicking over of Carli Lloyd in the box was all about bad defending for the Thorns, and not too much about Sky Blue doing anything positive. But again, there's probably room for some optimism in New Jersey. It can't get much worse, right?
Utah's home draw with the Reign feels like a loss, but both sides are transitioning a bit through mid season. The Royals are transitioning due to a few personnel moves, and should quickly look stronger on attack. I expect that to be enough to get a victory against Sky Blue at home.
Utah Royals 3-1 Sky Blue FC
Portland Thorns at Seattle Reign
Saturday at 10PM Eastern on Go90
These two teams are both a tad challenged right now. There have been lots of disappointing results, but Seattle remains 3rd and Portland 4th on the table. They can both be overtaken by Chicago, Utah and possibly Houston, so there really isn't room for error.
Zero Jess Fishlockers (ha ha, remember?!?) on the pitch won't make it easy for the Reign to navigate the Thorns. Her distribution and breaking-up of counters is sorely missed, and the Reign don't look themselves without her flying around in the middle.
Tobin Heath and Midge Purce are both questionable, but I'd expect them to get at least a look as they're returning to health. Purce in particular could help outside where the Thorns haven't been as dominant since she's been missing. The lack of width bunches up the middle and leaves less room for Sinclair and Horan to orchestrate chances. That's led to some head-scratching results.
Tonight, in Seattle, I think both sides will remain frustrated.
Seattle Reign 2-2 Portland Thorns
Washington Spirit at Chicago Red Stars
Sunday at 6PM Eastern on Go90
Sunday Funday! Just not for the Spirit. Sorry Spirit fans.
Chicago has (you're going to be shocked by this) listed (no, really; prepare yourself for a stunner) their new (well, returning, really) midfielder (stop me if you've heard this before) Morgan Brian as questionable with a left groin strain. Rosie White is also questionable with her hamstring strain. But otherwise, this Red Stars unit is primed to explode.
Washington is severely depleted, and have only scored one goal in four matches in June so far. Yikes. Naeher isn't going to be generous in letting any goals go in on Sunday.
All Chicago. All day long.
Chicago Red Stars 3-1 Washington Spirit