While the results of just two games impacted the playoff picture on the final weekend of regular season play, all the matches highlighted the best of what the NWSL and the players have brought to season 5. The term “finishing strong” was on full display on Saturday and Sunday as the teams combined to score 23 goals in what turned out to be some of the most exciting matches of the year, which was a fitting end to perhaps the best overall NWSL regular season so far. The final three games on Saturday night were decided in the 87th, 90th and 91st minutes. Here is a summary of what took place around the league this weekend.
Portland Thorns vs. Chicago Red Stars (3-1; Raso, Sykes, Nadim; Huerta)
Portland set a new NWSL record on Saturday afternoon when it won its 10th home game of the season, defeating the Chicago Red Stars 3-1 in front of a sell-out crowd of 21,144 fans at Providence Park. The loss for the Red Stars, combined with the Orlando Pride’s win later that day, meant that the Pride jumped over Chicago into third and the Red Stars finished fourth, earning a match against the top-seeded North Carolina Courage in the semifinals on Sunday, Oct. 8 at 3:30 p.m. ET. Portland will host Orlando in the NWSL’s first semifinal on Saturday, Oct. 7 at 3:30 p.m. ET. Chicago chose to rest most of its starters, including all its U.S. WNT players, but Sofia Huerta came off the bench to score her sixth goal of the season on a brilliant strike from distance to make it 2-1 in the 71st minute before Portland finished the scoring on a penalty kick in the 83rd. Christen Press also came off the bench and played the final 17 minutes.
Washington Spirit vs. Seattle Reign (2-3: Pugh (2); Fishlock (2), Crummer)
In the final game of her rookie season, Mallory Pugh scored an early brace to put the Spirit ahead 2-0 after 32 minutes, but Seattle would not go quietly, roaring back in the second half with three unanswered goals to take the three points on the road and finish the season on a high note.
Boston Breakers vs. Sky Blue FC (3-4: Dowie (2), own goal; Kerr, Tiernan, Skroski, O’Hara)
Boston got off to a good start at home before 2017 leading scorer Samantha Kerr tallied to cut the deficit to 2-1 just before halftime. Showing the form that made them one of the best come-from-behind teams in league history, Sky Blue scored twice in three minutes in the 76th and 78th to flip the score to 3-2. Boston then tied the match in the 85th minute when a SBFC’s goalkeeper Caroline Casey mishandled a cross into the net for an own goal. Like it had on several occasions this year, Sky Blue came back to finish in dramatic fashion and won it in the 87th minute with a goal from Kelley O’Hara, her fourth of the year.
The big storyline from the game was Kerr, the Australian international who put in an excellent performance at the Tournament of Nations this past summer and who lit up the NWSL all season. She set a new single-season scoring record with her 17th goal, breaking the record set by Scotland international Kim Little, formerly of the Seattle Reign, in 2014.
North Carolina Courage vs. Orlando Pride (2-3: Williams (2); Edmonds, Marta, Kennedy)
Another dramatic match took place on Saturday in North Carolina as Orlando got a game-winner from Alanna Kennedy, who smashed an incredible free kick into the upper left corner in second-half stoppage time. The Pride got on the front foot and took a 2-0 lead after 51 minutes. Lynn Williams then scored back-to-back goals for the Courage in the 62nd and 67th minute (off a penalty kick) to level things for the home side. The goals upped her season total to nine.
Just when it seemed like Orlando would leave North Carolina with a draw, Kennedy curled her shot past Courage goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland 22 seconds into stoppage time to give the three points to Orlando and leap-frog the Pride into third place. With the win, the Pride are set for a meeting with second-seed Portland Thorns on Saturday, October 7 at 3:30 p.m. ET at Providence Park.
FC Kansas City vs. Houston Dash (1-1: Kelly; Daly)
After the goal-fest in Saturday’s four games, the final game of the 2017 NWSL regular season saw FC Kansas City and Houston Dash play to a 1-1 draw to wrap up their seasons.
WNT Players in NWSL Action
Midfielder Lindsey Horan – 90 minutes (Portland Thorns FC)
Defender Ali Krieger – 90 minutes (Orlando Pride)
Forward Christen Press – 17 minutes (Chicago Red Stars)
Defender Meghan Klingenberg – 45 minutes (Portland Thorns FC)
Forward Alex Morgan – 90 minutes, ASSIST (Orlando Pride)
Goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris (capt.) – 90 minutes (Orlando Pride)
Forward Mallory Pugh – 90 minutes, GOAL (2) (Washington Spirit)
Forward Sydney Leroux – 90 minutes (FC Kansas City)
Midfielder Allie Long – 45 minutes (Portland Thorns FC)
Midfielder Tobin Heath – 45 minutes (Portland Thorns)
Defender Kelley O’Hara – 90 minutes, GOAL, ASSIST (Sky Blue FC)
Forward Lynn Williams – 76 minutes, GOAL (2) (NC Courage)
Midfielder Samantha Mewis – 23 minutes (NC Courage)
Defender Abby Dahlkemper – 90 minutes (NC Courage)
Goalkeeper Jane Campbell – 90 minutes (Houston Dash)
Defender Taylor Smith – 90 minutes (NC Courage)
Did Not Play
Midfielder Julie Ertz – Unused substitute (Chicago Red Stars)
Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher – Unused substitute (Chicago Red Stars)
Defender Casey Short – Unused substitute (Chicago Red Stars)
Midfielder Morgan Brian – Unused substitute (Chicago Red Stars)
Midfielder Megan Rapinoe – Unused substitute (Seattle Reign FC)
Defender Becky Sauerbrunn – Unused substitute (FC Kansas City)
Midfielder Rose Lavelle – Hamstring injury (Boston Breakers)
Forward Amy Rodriguez – Torn ACL; Out for the season (FC Kansas City)
Midfielder Carli Lloyd – Ankle injury (Houston Dash)