NWSL COG 16

Ever do that thing where you're sure you did all the things you were supposed to do, but then discover that you have not, in fact, done all those things? Yeah? Well, that's apparently what happened to my super long and political preview article last week.

I shared some thoughts, made some (shockingly decent) game predictions, then neglected to share it with you. So unless you happened to visit the website without being prompted by social media, you won't have seen my plea for all of you good humans to stop tweeting and go get elected to some kind of office so that you can make an actual difference in the world. I mean, you can still tweet, but maybe ALSO get involved locally. 

I also haven't yet shared another great gallery of photos from Daniela Porcelli. That awesomeness is from a Scotland v Belarus match and you might just recognize one Little Scottish player from past NWSL greatness.

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What Happened in COG 15?

The 4th of July seems so long ago.

Last Wednesday:
Courage 4-1 Red Stars

Friday:
Thorns 4-0 Royals

Saturday:
Red Stars 3-1 Sky Blue
Pride 2-1 Spirit
Reign 3-1 Dash

This week, we'll once again have a slow roll-out of games as soon as we have injury reports.


Washington Spirit at North Carolina Courage

Wednesday at 7PM Eastern on Go90

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We haven't spent much time exploring the injury report for the Courage so far this year, because they just deal with it and pick up the slack and nothing seems to slow them down. This week, they might be facing some interesting choices. Jaelene Hinkle is out with a quad strain. Abby Erceg, Sam Mewis and McCall Zerboni are all questionable. Considering this team has to play again (in New Jersey) on Saturday, it will be interesting to see how Paul Riley manages minutes across the midfield and defense. Of course, playing Washington and Sky Blue hasn't really been a huge challenge for anyone so far this season.

Washington remains one of the losers of the injury lottery, with Franny Ordega out with a concussion and Tiff Weimer still out with a cyst in her knee joining the other regulars on the shelf. Estefania Banini is questionable with hamstring inflammation. That's actually not the worst news in the world, because a few players are NOT listed as injured (cough, Rose Lavelle, cough).

Can the Spirit shock the Courage? Not. Going. To. Happen. 

North Carolina Courage 4-1 Washington Spirit 

REALITY: Courage 2-0 Spirit


Orlando Pride at Houston Dash

Wednesday at 8:30PM Eastern on Go90

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When last these teams met, the Pride were stunned to lose 2-1 at home as the Dash put on one of their better performances. Since then, Orlando was crunched 3-0 by the Courage before grabbing a 2-1 win at the expense of the Spirit. Houston has played only once since their trip to Orlando, and it was a forgettable 3-1 loss at Seattle. 

Alex Morgan is the only Pride player on the injury report this week—she's questionable with her slightly nagging right calf strain. The Dash are 100% fit when counting players not out for the season. A hot night in Houston might be problematic, but Orlando is a better team throughout regardless of the results of their last meeting. They won't be fooled again.

Houston Dash 1-3 Orlando Pride

NOPE! Dash 3-1 Pride!, plus a straight Red Card for Marta! (The first Red Card of any kind all year in the NWSL!) Another phrase with an exclamation point at the end for impact!

Yes, the same Marta who is going to be an awesome goodwill ambassador:


Utah Royals at Seattle Reign

Wednesday at 10:30PM Eastern on Go90

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Utah took their worst thumping of the season (among other statistical superlatives I won't bore you with because they sound dumb in a league this young and for a team this new) last week with a 4-0 loss at Portland. Tonight, they'll be without Diana Matheson due to suspension from that ugly late ankle stomp on Midge Purce, and also without Becky Sauerbrunn due to left tibial stress reaction. Oh, and Kelley O'Hara is still out. That's enough to give anyone a stress reaction.

For the home side, Elizabeth Addo, Jess Fishlock and Rumi Utsugi are all questionable, but none of the regulars are unavailable tonight. 

Utah will want to put the bad memories behind them, and it's possible they're able to do so, but Seattle will give them a serious test. No Sauerbrunn on the field makes a big difference for the visitors, and I suspect it might be decisive.

Seattle Reign 2-1 Utah Royals

TRUTH: Reign 1-0 Royals


North Carolina Courage at Sky Blue FC

Saturday at 7PM Eastern on Go90

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The Courage, fresh off a Wednesday home win over the Spirit, travel to New Jersey to face the well-rested Sky Blue squad. Jessica McDonald is out on an excused absence, and Jaelene Hinkle, Sam Mewis and McCall Zerboni remain questionable with various leg ailments. The most interesting thing about that last sentence is that Zerboni is the one name that spell-check didn't flag. McCall has captured the zeitgeist and now even computers know her name. Facing Sky Blue, I wouldn't be stunned to see all three get a breather, but this team doesn't seem to care who they're facing—it's all out, all the time, with winning the only option.

Sky Blue will still be without Michaela Abam, Jen Hoy and Raquel Rodriguez, and Rebekah Stott is questionable with a back strain. Those are four people who make Sky Blue much better when they're on the field, so that's not optimal for the hosts. This match could get ugly.

Sky Blue 1-5 North Carolina Courage


Orlando Pride at Utah Royals

Saturday at 7PM Eastern on ESPNEWS (ESP NEWS!)

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Hmm. I'm torn. Orlando were (excuse the pun) royally thumped by the Dash on Wednesday, and they'll be without the services of Marta tonight due to her red card. However, they aren't missing anyone else, and they need to win to stay in the thick of the playoff hunt. How well they'll cope with the reality that they haven't had a good win against a quality opponent since they dispatched Chicago 5-2 on May 26th. Since then, they've only found success against Sky Blue and the Spirit. How good is this team, really?

Utah was in the game all night against Seattle, but Becky Sauerbrunn's absence was apparent several times. She'll miss this one too, along with Kelley O'Hara and Elise Thorsnes. One fairly difficult reality that Utah is going to need to face is that they're not getting quality play up top. Katie Stengel has 3 goals in 6 starts across 15 games (674 minutes). Two of them came in one match against Sky Blue, so it's not as if she's been a dominating force for Utah. Brittany Ratcliffe often sits on the bench, but she's collected 2 goals in 4 starts across just 9 games (just 340 minutes of play time). She's also several orders of magnitude faster than Stengel, which really helps keep attacks alive. Ratcliffe needs to get some time with the starting group, because Utah is having trouble scoring on quality opponents. 

I'm giving the edge to the home team, but both squads need to start putting together complete games or they're destined to be one and done come playoff time—if they can get in.

Utah Royals 2-1 Orlando Pride


Seattle Reign at Chicago Red Stars

Saturday at 8PM Eastern on Go90

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Hmm again. Seattle lists Elizabeth Addo and Rumi Utsugi as questionable, and they've had a pretty solid run of wins against quality teams. Chicago? They're healthy, but the've been extremely inconsistent. This one is in Chicago, and the Reign is playing on short rest and long travel after Wednesday's home win vs the Royals. Does it matter? 

I think an improving Red Stars team is strong enough to grab a point from the #2 team on the table. Draw!

Chicago Red Stars 2-2 Seattle Reign


Houston Dash at Portland Thorns

Sunday at 11PM Eastern on Go90

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Zero Andressinhas or Midge Purces will suit up on Sunday for the Thorns, but a healthy Tobin Heath and Hayley Raso has made a huge difference opening space in the middle of the field for the Thorns attack. With quality play able to get wide, opponents get stretched and picked apart. Tobin will go anywhere she sees space, and she's just as dangerous cutting in as she is darting down the sideline. Finally, the Thorns have been looking like the Thorns.

They'll be hosting a Dash squad that has defeated Orlando twice recently, and that does not lack for confidence. Janine Van Wyk is questionable, and if she can't go it might be problematic, but otherwise the Dash are healthy. Granted, they just had a crazy-lightning-delayed match on Wednesday, and then had to get to Portland, so they're bound to be a tad fatigued. Still, if Croatia can make the (BroSo) World Cup Final playing three straight extra-time knockout round matches, the Dash aren't going to make excuses about their schedule.

This could be a surprisingly tough match for the Thorns, but they haven't left themselves much room for error over their remaining schedule. Points matter, and I think they'll find a way to grab 3 on Sunday night at home.

Portland Thorns 3-2 Houston Dash