USWNT REWIND: Thorns Clinch NWSL Shield, Spirit Punch Playoff Ticket
With a 1-0 road victory over the Houston Dash on Sunday evening, Portland Thorns FC officially clinched the 2021 NWSL Supporter Shield, punctuating a jam-packed week of club action entering the October international window. Portland secured the Shield for the second time in club history and first since 2016 as Lindsey Horan scored on a screamer in the 43rd minute as Portland guaranteed its first-place finish in the league regular season table and secured the top seed in the 2021 NWSL Playoffs.
WATCH: Horan Hammers Home Goal in Houston
The three points in Houston came on the heels of a 1-1 draw against OL Reign on Wednesday night in Portland, as the teams added another chapter to the always spirited Cascadia Rivalry. The Thorns grabbed an early lead, scoring in just the third minute. However, an 86th-minute penalty kick by Megan Rapinoe – who came off the bench to play 28 minutes in her first action for club or country since late August – drew the visitors from Tacoma level with her sixth goal of the season as OL Reign extended its unbeaten streak to seven in a row.
WATCH: Rapinoe Converts Late Penalty in Cascadia Rivalry
That streak came to a close on Sunday as the Washington Spirit continued their stellar run of form with a 2-0 road victory on Saturday in Tacoma. Emily Sonnett and Kelley O’Hara played the full 90 minutes as the Spirit recorded their third consecutive win and extended their unbeaten streak to eight in a row. Washington kicked off the week with a 2-1 victory over the North Carolina Courage in a back-and-forth battle. The six points on the week coupled with other results from across the league were enough to secure the Spirit’s spot in the NWSL playoffs, joining Portland and OL Reign in the playoff field.
The Spirit currently sit third in the league table and are in strong contention to host a postseason match while OL Reign, despite the defeat, remain in second and currently in position for a first-round payoff bye.
The Chicago Red Stars currently sit fourth in the league table after a six-point week of their own. The Red Stars opened with week with a 1-0 victory over the Orlando Pride on Wednesday night, jumping out to an early lead with a brilliant strike from Kealia Watt in the sixth minute and staving off Orlando’s attempts to find an equalizer over the remaining 80+ minutes. They followed it up with a 2-1 home win over Kansas City on Saturday to make it three wins in their last four games. Chicago needs just one point from its final regular season game (Oct. 29 at Orlando Pride) to guarantee its spot in the postseason.
While most clubs have just one game remaining in the regular season, NJ/NY Gotham FC has THREE matches left to play and, mathematically, could finish as high as second in the table. Gotham moved into fifthplace in the standings on Sunday with a 3-0 road victory over North Carolina, with all three goals coming in the second half. Margaret Purce scored in the 54th and 64th minutes to push her team-leading season goal total to eight while Carli Lloyd netted her second goal in the last four games with a left-footed strike in the 67th minute to help clinch the victory for Gotham.
WATCH: Lloyd Laces One to Secure Gotham Victory
Houston currently holds the sixth and final playoff spot, by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker over North Carolina. Prior to Sunday’s narrow loss to Portland, the Dash saw their five-game unbeaten streak come to an end on Wednesday night with a 3-0 loss at Kansas City. Kansas native Adrianna Franch made two saves as she recorded her seventh clean sheet overall on the season and third since joining the KC in mid-August.
The Orlando Pride were officially eliminated from playoff contention following a 3-1 road loss to Racing Louisville on Saturday. Alex Morgan assisted Orlando’s opening goal in the third minute, but Louisville would go on to score three unanswered goals to secure the victory.
With Orlando now eliminated from playoff contention, a thrilling final stretch of the regular season awaits after the international window with four teams – Chicago, NJ/NY Gotham FC, Houston and North Carolina – vying for the three remaining playoff spots.
In the UEFA Women’s Champions League, Tobin Heath scored her first goal since signing with Arsenal in September, finding the back of the net in first-half stoppage time of the Gunners’ 4-0 win over Hoffenheim in Group C play. A longtime supporter of the club, Heath’s goal came via a well-timed strike at the back post after a header by Dutch international Vivianne Miedema was redirected back in front of goal.
WATCH: Heath Scores Her First Goal as a Gunner
(OL vs BENFICA)
Catarina Macario continued her hot streak in Olympique Lyon’s 5-0 win over Benfica in Champions League play, assisting Melvine Malard’s bicycle kick goal in the 53rd minute and adding a goal of her own from the penalty spot in the 56th as Lyon continued its strong start to Group D play.
After logging 67 minutes in Wednesday’s win over Benfica, Macario played 76 minutes in Lyon’s 5-0 league win over Montpellier on Sunday. While not credited with a goal or an assist, Macario remained active throughout the match, generating a slew of dangerous chances in the attack