NWSL COG 24

Justice died a little bit this week. And no, I'm not talking about the jurisprudence sure to be dispensed by a certain would-be Justice being questioned about some of his not-so-mainstream views in Washington.

When a tough-as-nails badass gets sloppily fouled just one minute into a meaningless friendly and gets knocked out of her club season with a broken elbow, that's not justice. Especially when she was just about to cement a spot on her national team for the upcoming qualifying tournament and likely for next summer's FIFA Women's World Cup. She's certainly done enough in her career and during her minutes with the USWNT to show she deserves a spot going forward, but McCall Zerboni deserves better than to have to watch her North Carolina Courage teammates fight for their place in the NWSL Championship. 

When she was with the Breakers, I observed that "McCall can fly." Here's hoping she can heal too.

 McCall can fly.

McCall can fly.


What Happened in COG 23?

Tuesday:
Chicago 5-0 Sky Blue (Don't you want to play two away games in 52 hours?)


Seattle Reign at Portland Thorns

Friday at 10PM Eastern on LIFETIME (Yes, on a Friday!)

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Sorry if you've tuned in for "THE INTERNET LOVER WHO WENT WRONG," Lifetime viewers, because it's Friday night Football tonight.

Give your weary internet a break and turn on the old Cable TV for Friday's clash between the Reign and the Thorns. Seattle has won both home and away to Portland this season, though there are a few differences in both teams since then. This time, the #2 playoff seed is up for grabs. 

The Reign need a win or a draw to snag 2nd place, while the Thorns need to defeat their Cascadian rivals to finish the regular season ahead of Seattle. Those results will determine which of these two sides will host a playoff game next weekend, so the stakes are high.

After suffering non-displaced fractures of three of the transverse processes of her vertebrae (these are the wing-shaped things that stick out each side), Portland's Hayley Raso is out for the year. Katherine Reynolds is still out with her MCL repair (though she just got married, so congrats Kat!), and Meghan Klingenberg is questionable with a left adductor strain. The internationals are all back in action, and Lindsey Horan should be at full power after getting a break in Tuesday's matchup with Chile.

The Reign list Adriana Leon as out with an excused absence, and Allie Long, Megan Rapinoe and Bev Yanez all as questionable. That's a step in the right direction for all three, but they're unlikely to risk more serious injury going into the playoffs if it can be avoided.

Seattle has had Portland's number all year, but after a miserable start to the season, the Thorns have been clicking. Tonight will be close, and I think that close match favors the visitors. The Reign steal a draw and earn a home game for next weekend's playoffs.

Portland Thorns 2-2 Seattle Reign


Orlando Pride at Sky Blue FC

Saturday at 12PM Eastern on NWSL.COM and the App

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Hey! Let's have a double-header with Rutgers! That'll get fans in the stands! 

We'll find out tomorrow at lunch time, as Orlando tries to make their bleak run of play look somewhat respectable with a win to close out the season. 

There's really not much excuse for Orlando's depressing downfall. Their most impressive performance in recent memory was a 1-1 home draw to Seattle, which they promptly followed with a 2-2 home draw to SKY BLUE. Yep, just a month ago, Sky Blue nearly went to Orlando and got their first win. In their first matchup back in June (again in Orlando), it took the Pride until the 82nd minute to find a winner, while they still surrendered 2 goals to the visitors. Sky Blue has Orlando's number (It is apparently 2). So, keep Orlando out of the goal more than two times, and good things should happen.

Orlando won't have the services of Marta on Saturday (will she ever wear the Pride purple again?). Sky Blue's Stott and Freeman are out, while McKenzie Meehan is questionable. 

Sky Blue will want to win this game. They've fought and fought and fought and but for one really long extendo-extra-time, they'd have had one already. It's their last game at home. Will it be their last game at this home? Will many of these players return to this club? Best to leave everyone with a good memory. 

If rooting for Sky Blue is wrong, I don't want to be right. No player deserves a winless season.

Carli Lloyd's return sparks a goal outburst, and the NJ squad finally gets a win.

Sky Blue 3-2 Orlando Pride


Chicago Red Stars at Utah Royals

Saturday at 3:30PM Eastern on NWSL.COM and the App

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This was going to be a great game. One last tilt to determine the final playoff team. But, as luck would have it, an exhausted Sky Blue squad was able to self-immolate on Tuesday to the benefit of the Red Stars. Chicago locked up the better record and the Royals were left cursing a few missed chances from earlier in the year.

Instead, we'll have a celebration for the successful first year of the Royals as they host the likely-to-be-resting Red Stars on Saturday afternoon. Utah doesn't have any regulars on the injury report. Chicago, however, won't be able to select Vanessa DiBernardo, Christina Murillo or Casey Short. Brooke Elby is questionable. 

With a win and a Portland loss, the Red Stars would emerge as the 3rd place team at the regular season's end. That would send them to Seattle to play the Reign. A draw by the Thorns and a Chicago win would put them equal on points, but they would remain behind the Thorns due to the head-to-head results this season that favor Portland. That (or really any other outcome) will send the Red Stars to North Carolina to face the Courage.

The last time the Red Stars went to Cary, they got thumped 4-1. So, they'll do what they can to avoid that if at all possible. Though they'll obviously know based on Friday night's results if there is any chance that they can play Seattle instead of North Carolina. I think that result will dictate how much they risk on Saturday. Utah will be playing to win either way, and I think they've got the ability to avoid a season sweep to the Red Stars by winning their home closer.

Utah Royals 2-1 Chicago Red Stars


Houston Dash at North Carolina Courage 

Saturday at 7:30PM Eastern on NWSL.COM and the App

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This game is meaningless for both teams, though Vera Pau's Dash can earn their 10th win if the Courage are generous. That hasn't really been their thing this year, so no promises, Dash.

Houston won't have Henninger, Polkinghorne or Shim, and Allysha Chapman is questionable with a low back sprain (ouch, Chappy!). The big news, of course, is that McCall Zerboni will be out for the foreseeable future with her broken elbow (ouch, McCall!). Everybody else is raring to go in both directions. 

Given the way the Courage have approached their schedule, I don't expect them to rest and get ready for the playoffs. The Dash will be treated as a good test for what will need to be a slightly re-imagined midfield strategy. It's likely to be less of a test than one might think. Despite recent wins of 6-1 and 4-0, the Dash haven't been strong against quality opponents. Those wins? They came at the expense of Sky Blue and Washington, respectively. The Courage aren't Sky Blue.

The home team holds strong and pulls off a quality win to prepare for next week's return to meaningful play. Will anyone beat the Courage again this year? Don't count on it.

North Carolina Courage 3-2 Houston Dash