Allocated Players Coming Alive
Week Three brought out the scoring in the national team allocated players. Through the first two weeks of the season, the players distributed to the NWSL teams by the United States, Canadian and Mexican national team combined for six goals. But this weekend’s slate alone, that total was equaled including an impressive brace by Heather O’Reilly. More importantly fans are being treated to more offensive play, something that was absent in the first two weeks of the season. Yes, those two weeks were really used for having the teams still figure out how to play with each other on the field and it was expected that there would be a lack of goals. But this weekend fans saw a precursor for what is to come this season: great offensive flow, great moments of goalkeeping and some nicely worked goals. So let’s take a look back at Week Three of the National Women’s Soccer League:
Lauren Cheney: Playing a central playmaker position on Friday night, Lauren Cheney had no problem pulling the strings in a 2-0 victory for FC Kansas City over Seattle. In a steady rain, Cheney picked out great pass after great pass and had the assists on both of the Blues goals. The first assist came in the 21st minute when Cheney hit a corner kick to the back post in a perfect position: too deep for the keeper to make a play on it but far enough away where the defender on the post couldn’t win it out of the air. KC’s Sinead Farrelly was more than happy to make the back post run and hammer it home. The second assist came in the 71st minute with a lobbed ball over the top to the speedy Renae Cuellar, who calmly slotted it past Seattle’s Michelle Betos. In a position she could thrive in for years to come, KC Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski should have no problem inserting Cheney into the number 10 role from now on.
Sky Blue’s Front Three: Jim Gabarra probably didn’t have his game plan set up as a 4-3-3, but his forwards did the job on Saturday night against Washington and frequently tormented the Spirit’s backline. Danesha Adams, Lisa De Vanna and Kelley O’Hara each had different roles but all combined to lead a powerful attack. De Vanna was used as a front-runner, latching onto any long balls down the left flank; Adams held up play in the middle and O’Hara frequented down the right flank, cutting back on her left more often than not. The three combined for 13 of the team’s 17 shots and eight of the 10 shots on goal and De Vanna had an assist on Sophie Schmidt’s goal as well (though if it wasn’t for Ashlyn Harris, she should have had at least two goals on the night as well). Overall, if these three should see a lot more time on the field in their positions they played on Saturday night, Gabarra will now have that offense to threaten backlines this entire season.
Heather O’Reilly: With the effort that HAO put in Boston’s first match two weeks ago against Washington, I felt it was only going to be a matter of time before she scored this season. And it only took about 16 minutes into the first half of their match against Western New York to get that tally. Not only did she score the equalizer, but she scored the late winner as well. The first was a shot-cross from Sydney Leroux, which at first glance it looked like a shanked shot but O’Reilly was hanging far on the right side of the box, ran onto the shot and drilled it past Adrianna Franch. Then seven minutes from time, off of a bad WNY throw, Lianne Sanderson put a great through ball in to O’Reilly down the left side, and with an on-rushing Franch, HAO went 5-hole for the winner. A hard-working winger always deserves credit, and on this night, the credit came with two goals.
The Little Things:
Danielle Foxhoven off the bench: Substitution making is always a tough decision to make for any head coach. You have to take many factors into account when replacing a player: Do you switch formation? Do you use this player to give new life to the tired legs? Is this a substitution used to eat up time? Cindy Parlow Cone had to make a decision against Chicago because the Red Stars were eliminating service to Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair. So Foxhoven replaced Angie Kerr at halftime and made an impact in the second half. She did a lot of creating behind the strikers, did a lot of pressuring of the ball high on the field and had an impact on both goals. In the 70th minute, Foxhoven and Morgan were continuing their high pressure in the Chicago defensive third and forced a turnover. Morgan went for goal but was saved by McLeod, Foxhoven was Johnny-on-the-Spot and buried the rebound into the open net. And then nine minutes from time, Foxhoven dragged all three defenders to one side, laid a ball off to Morgan who switched it to Sinclair, and the Canadian all-time leading goal scorer curled one in for the second. After all the effort she gave in the second half, Foxhoven was the right sub to use on Saturday.
Head Injury Rules: In an on-field interview with Abby Wambach at halftime during the Flash/Breakers match, we learned that the league has a rule mandating that a player has to sit out for a certain amount of days after sustaining a head injury and having to get medical clearance afterwards before playing again. This is a smart rule seen in a lot of other sports right now, especially in hockey and football, where professional leagues are taking more precautions with head-related injuries. And while it killed Wambach to be sitting out a match, especially the home opener for the Flash, it will help in the long run.
Home Teams Defending Their Turf: I know this is nit-picking a little but ideally you want to win the majority of your home games throughout a season. This weekend three of the four home teams lost and while points are at a premium early, losing points at home shouldn’t be on the agenda.
Seattle’s Early Woes: This is one of the teams that I am a little concerned about going forward. They have one point from three matches, a lack of offense up front and while their defense has been ok for the most part they aren’t getting any help. The Reign have scored twice in the three matches, both from midfielders. And really, only those two midfielders have been playing well on their roster (Jess Fishlock and Christine Nairn). The one thing that I will grant the Reign on is that they have played their first three matches on the road, which is not an easy feat. But if Seattle doesn’t get three points next weekend, the hole that was started by them has just gotten a little bigger.
Week Four Match to Watch:
Western New York Flash vs. Sky Blue FC, Wednesday May 1, 7:05pm EST, Sahlen’s Stadium
This midweek fixture actually comes at a good time for Sky Blue. We still do not know if Wambach will return in time for this match with her injury. The Flash are coming off of a tough loss against Boston, conceding late and it seems with the type of potent attack Sky Blue possesses, they could actually out-pace the Flash. The only motivation that I could see for the Flash is they lost a tough opening season match to Sky Blue down in New Jersey a couple of weeks ago. Watch out for Adriana for WNY on Wednesday, I feel that she has not had a performance up to her standards yet but is poised to break out with a couple of goals shortly.
Week Three Results:
FC Kansas City 2-0 Seattle Reign FC
Washington Spirit 1-2 Sky Blue FC
Western New York Flash 1-2 Boston Breakers
Chicago Red Stars 0-2 Portland Thorns FC
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.