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All About Positioning or Pride

At 11:45pm on this last Wednesday night, the race for the four playoff spots in the National Women’s Soccer League was over. That Wednesday night however, didn’t end on the terms that a few teams wanted it to end. But from one of the more packed weeks of NWSL play this season, teams never gave in no matter the situation. Every team played as hard as they were playing from week one, proving that while the player talent pool is growing there are no easy matches on any teams schedule. But the culminating week in the NWSL regular season won’t go to waste. While FC Kansas City, Western New York Flash, Portland Thorns FC and Sky Blue FC all have clinched playoff spots, no seeds have been determined. So this coming weekend will be quite interesting. Also after the usual recap for this week, I will be making a few changes on this column for the playoffs so keep reading to the end. Until then, lets take a look back at Week 18 of the NWSL Regular Season.

The Players

Diana Matheson: It has been a hard season for the Washington Spirit, any novice fan could tell you that just by looking at their record. But what we have seen these past few weeks is while the Spirit have been out of the playoff picture for awhile, they are not packing things in either. And fan favorite Diana Matheson was in on both goals in Washington’s two 1-0 wins. On Wednesday she worked a nice give and go with Lupita Worbis and sprung the Mexican international in for her first goal of the season. Then on Saturday evening, a vintage Matheson goal where she outpaced the Seattle defense and beat Hope Solo to the far post on a tough angle. The Canadian WNT veteran has put together a quality season, seven goals and three assists and has been the heart and soul for the Spirit this year, no matter the score she has been a hustler every time shes on the pitch.

Jackie Santacaterina: I’m not really sure what it is about Chicago and having unlikely sources scoring crucial goals in matches. A few weeks ago it was Alyssa Mautz scoring twice in a comeback tie against Portland and on Saturday evening it was Santacaterina who was responsible for the dramatics against Sky Blue. With 12 minutes left in the match, the Red Stars center back got her head on a corner kick and got it toward goal, to see a Sky Blue defender deflect it in and level the match. And after the visitors pulled ahead with only 90 seconds left in regular time, a hopeful Lydia Vandenbergh ball into the box found Santacaterina in the box and with a great back-header, she somehow got the ball in between Jill Loyden and the post for the equalizer in stoppage time. You can’t write this stuff up for Chicago this season with all their late heroics.

The Katy Freels to Monica Ocampo Show: If it wasn’t for these two players on Sky Blue, Jim Gabarra’s club would definitely not be in the position that they are in now. Ocampo bagged two goals on the night (her seventh and eighth of the season) and both came off of cheeky lob passes from Katy Freels (assists numbers five and six on the season). Ocampo has scored all eight of her goals in the last 11 games Sky Blue has played. And in those games, Sky Blue has scored a total of 14 goals in that time period, meaning Ocampo’s goals counts for a little more than half of the count. And while Sky Blue did tally their most goals in a match since June 16th, they definitely let this match go to waste in the standings by conceding late.

Tiffany Weimer: Yes, the boss of OGM gets into this week’s column, and it’s not due to her pestering of if she would crack the list at some point this season. But in a situation that she was put into on Wednesday night after seeing a teammate in Alex Morgan go down so early in the match, the 80-minute effort that Weimer put in coming off the bench was worthy to get up here. She led the team with shots that night and her goal early in the second half was one that was coming, a good finish to the far post that Boston goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher didn’t have much of a chance to stop. Plus it was fun to see the old FC Gold Pride combination with Weimer and Christine Sinclair assisting on the goal.

YouTube Comedy Gold

Throughout this season, I have been keeping tabs on how active teams have been on the social media outlets. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube. These outlets are great opportunities for teams to interact with fans on a daily basis and the more a team uses the social media outlets, especially posting videos on YouTube, can really gain some brownie points with their fan base. And with teams putting up content on YouTube, fans can see a different side of the players outside of the determination and grit these athletes put out on the field for every game. But this week, there were a couple of videos releases by the two most YouTube-active teams that were pretty hilarious. The Chicago Red Stars, in addition to their already highly-acclaimed weekly series the Ella and Erin Show, formerly Ella and Carm Show, went on a different path this week and decided to do a version of “Cash Cab” with Red Star rookies Jen Hoy, Adriana Leon and Rachel Quon. It was quite a funny video to watch and we learned during the video that Quon definitely put that Stanford degree to use (though Hoy graduated from Princeton this spring, however deferred to her “Ivy of the West” teammate for the answers) and Leon had the quote of the video about a question of American Politics that was unfair, due to the majority presence of Canadians in the car. Watch Here

And for Western New York Flash  (if you haven’t checked out their YouTube page, they have some pretty funny get-to-know profile videos for each member of the Flash), they produced a video this week highlighting the odd relationship that USWNT veteran Carli Lloyd and young Australian WNT star Sam Kerr have struck throughout the duration of the season. This video also had its funny moments and had another plea from the two-time Gold Medalist for people to drop a moniker that she doesn’t enjoy and what would be a good replacement nickname. Watch Here

 

How Wednesday Night Finished Wasn’t Right

Sitting around in a locker room and seeing Chicago’s playoff chances ending due to a lightning storm is definitely not the way that anyone wanted it. But Mother Nature wasn’t on the same page on Wednesday night. After an hour and a half rain delay and then another lightening storm that lasted into the early morning in the Washington D.C. area the game between the Washington Spirit and Chicago Red Stars was cancelled after 80 minutes, with the Spirit winning 1-0. While the Spirit did deserve the result, including winning their first match since May 16, it wasn’t the way they wanted it to end either. The Red Stars definitely felt that they could have gotten that equalizing goal, as they have been a team to leave it until late in the match before scoring crucial goals. After that rain delay subsided and before the second and final weather delay, that four minute period the Red Stars did have a few chances to level the match. Overall, it was a shame to not see that match finished and that night was another added stroke of bad luck to a Chicago side who hasn’t had much go their way this season.

Positioning Battles

Since we have all four playoff spots locked up, it’s all about positioning for playoff seeding for FC Kansas City, Western New York, Portland and Sky Blue. But after Saturday night’s results where FCKC lost to Boston, Sky Blue drew with Chicago after giving away two leads and Portland and Western New York drew, there is quite an intriguing situation we have on our hands.

This is what the standings look like at this point:

1. FC Kansas City: 38 points, +13 Goal Difference

2. Western New York Flash: 35 points, +15 Goal Difference

3. Portland Thorns FC: 35 points, +6 Goal Difference

4. Sky Blue FC: 35 points, +5 Goal Difference

So now in terms of positioning, many things can happen. The simplest would be FCKC gets minimally a draw against Chicago and wraps up the first seed and home field advantage and then the other three would play it out as it is. But if FCKC loses and any one of the bottom three wins, we could be going into tie breakers. And for the explanation on all the different tie breakers, click Here. And for the release from the league office on all potential hosting scenarios with the tiebreakers thrown in, click Here.

But the curious things about this coming weekend is that 1) all the top four teams play the bottom four teams in the final week and 2) the matches do not happen at the same time, unlike what most leagues do where they play the last round of matches all at the same time so no team can get an advantage. So with that, you have to give a lot of advantage to Portland because they play second on Saturday, after the completion of the Western New York match. Reasons being is that they will know exactly what they need to do to either keep pace with the Flash or pass them. And WNY is playing a Boston team that has their number, if it weren’t for some late dramatics the Breakers would have three wins on the Flash. Instead Boston has won three of their last four matches and are looking to finish on a high note. The lowest advantage at the start would have to go to Sky Blue, because not only do they not own any head to head tie breakers on any of the other three teams, they have struggled to score and are playing a Washington Spirit team who are looking to go out on a three match winning streak. But on the other side, they will know at least all the results of Saturday’s matches and if WNY and Portland can’t capitalize, they can sneak into second position and get a home match in the semifinals.

With all that being said, it is going to be a fun final weekend of the season, so make sure to take a few deep breaths, practice some meditation or take a nap to calm you down, and buckle in for a crazy 24 hours of matches next weekend.

Coming Up for this Column

Right, I said at the beginning of this weeks recap that I would be making a few adjustments for the playoff rounds. Instead of a weekly recap, I will be doing preview for each playoff round with the keys to each match. And then after the final match I’ll do a quick reaction then a sort of a summary of the season shortly afterwards. But also keep an eye out for the September print issue of OGM for more thoughts on season one of the NWSL.

So there will be no recap for next week but the playoff previews will start a few days before the semifinal round. PLUS I will be naming some Best XI’s of the year as well, so you will want to stay tuned for that. First up for sure will be the Best Rookie XI which will come with the semifinal preview next week.

JJ Duke

JJ Duke graduated from Rider University in New Jersey with a degree in Digital Media Studies. While his playing days may have ended back in high school, he still prides himself of being a decent shot-stopper and an all-around fanatic of the beautiful game (fervent supporter of Manchester United and the founder of a Rider supporters group, the 206 Ultras). He is the Student General Manager at 107.7 The Bronc at Rider and has contributed to various local newspaper and Web sites in the Trenton, NJ area of high school and collegiate sports including The Rider News and Fish4Scores.com. He became involved with Our Game Magazine early in 2012 when upon following OGM on Twitter, he was contacted within minutes (which caught him by surprise) by Tiffany about working with the team. After spending the summer covering the USL W-League and the WPSL-Elite league as an intern, he is looking forward to continue working with the OGM team, especially on games in the US.

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