Goalkeepers Union Special Edition
Week 14 of the National Women’s Soccer League was highlighted by the league’s first televised match on Fox Soccer Channel. But before we get to that bit, in a couple of matches we saw some of the best goalkeeping exhibitions in this young season. As a former goalkeeper, the union between the crazy people that stand in between the posts is a strong one. And keepers take pride in their ability to dictate the outcome of a match on their performances. So let’s first take a look at the goalkeepers who shined this week:
Adrianna Franch: AD was a ‘keeper possessed in Western New York’s match against Portland on Sunday. The statistics report that the former Oklahoma State netminder had nine saves on the match and to be honest who knows how many saves and game changing plays she had on the afternoon. It seemed that every ball that went into the Flash penalty area, she found a way to catch it. Multiple times she frustrated Tobin Heath, stymieing great goal scoring opportunities that the former PSG winger had. If it wasn’t for Franch’s effort, Portland would have won the game by a fair few goals.
Karina LeBlanc: Not to be outdone in the match, the Thorns goalkeeper (who has been featured on this column a few times already for her stellar play) had her moments as well to keep the hosts in the match against Western New York. LeBlanc had seven saves on the afternoon but none bigger than the save in the 86th minute. After the Flash drew a penalty, Abby Wambach stepped up to take the spot kick, looking for her second goal of the night. But great anticipation by the Canadian international allowed her to go full extension to her left to tip the ball away. Easily could be the biggest moment for the Thorns because with the result, Portland stays in second place and still has a match in hand on Sky Blue.
Ashley Phillips: On Saturday night, the Boston Breakers were looking to continue their momentum on Sky Blue at Yurcak Field. And with recent number one keeper Alyssa Naeher missing the match due to nasal surgery, which will put her out for a few weeks, Lisa Cole put Ashley Phillips in to face Sky Blue. Phillips started the season for Boston and did a fairly decent job but when Naeher came into the mix, she would drop back to the bench. Well Phillips took advantage of the opportunity holding Sky Blue to a 0-0 draw. Phillips made a few key early saves on Lisa De Vanna then frustrated Katy Freels twice late on with clutch stops. While Boston looked strong early, they needed Phillips to come up big late. And with those saves and getting that point, Boston is still very much alive for a playoff spot.
The Small Things
Elli Reed Getting on the Board: Ever since I watched Elli Reed play last season with the Boston Breakers in the WPSL-Elite, she has proved week in and week out that she is a hard working outside back that does all the little things but never really gets her due. After spending a season with Duisburg in the Bundesliga, she has come back with the Reign and has been pretty solid with Seattle, riding the lows and now highs with the team. But in each of the Reign’s matches this week, she delivered pin-point crosses on each of Seattle’s game-winning goals. On Wednesday she found Christine Nairn with a perfect back post ball and then a very similar result on Sunday evening, combining with Jessica McDonald for the second of her two goals of the evening. And putting in full shifts for each of those matches confirms that Laura Harvey does have a great back in Reed for the late season surge.
Chicago’s Never Say Die Attitude: It was a grind it out week for the Red Stars this past week. On Wednesday night, Chicago had to work hard for two second half goals to get past a Washington Spirit side that really looked threatening throughout the match. But the real moment that could define their season came on Sunday when the Red Stars went down two goals to FC Kansas City with only three minutes plus stoppage time. And on top of that, Taryn Hemmings went down with a knee injury and could not continue, so the Red Stars were down to ten players because Rory Dames already used his three substitutions for the match. But with determination and real quality finishing from Ella Masar (who quietly had two goals and an assist on the week) and Lori Chalupny, the Red Stars salvaged a big point and are still within striking distance of a playoff spot.
What Needs to Get Better:
Sky Blue’s Stagnant Offense: Even with the late heroics last week over Washington, something is definitely off about Sky Blue’s attacking game. They are still a quality side and one of, if not the hardest teams to break down defensively, but they haven’t gotten much going over the past few weeks and need to get on the ball again. It may also be that Lisa De Vanna wasn’t with the squad as she was with Australia and she is one of the true engines of the team. But they need to get right soon or these points that Jim Gabarra’s side is dropping will come back to haunt them.
Review of the Seattle/Washington Broadcast on Fox Soccer Channel
After a lot of debate on social media if the first match of Fox Soccer’s first broadcast of the NWSL should have been moved, the naysayers were treated to a pretty nice match between Seattle and Washington. The crew of Steve Cangialosi and Lori Walker in the booth and Heather Mitts down on the field was very solid and were very prepared for the match (for those who don’t know Steve Cangialosi, he has been the play-by-play guy for the MLS New York Red Bulls for a number of years along with calling other high profile matches, top choice for the job). The production was of par to what Fox has done over the years and what was really nice was that Starfire Stadium was really packed for the occasion. The only fault of the broadcast was probably the placement of the center camera, which was looking directly into the sun so it was hard at times to pick out players. But overall, it was a solid broadcast and I’m looking forward to their future endeavors with the NWSL this season.
Week 15 Match to Watch
Boston Breakers vs Portland Thorns FC, Sunday July 21, 4pm Local Time, Dilboy Stadium
This will be the real test for Boston if they want to prove themselves as true playoff contenders. They staked their claim with an impressive win against the Thorns in Portland last week, now they need to do it again. Plus a win and with some help, they could put themselves in a real strong position to crack the top-four for a first time in a while. For Portland, we saw how well Cindy Parlow Cone’s full roster can connect on the field. And they broke their scoring drought this past weekend. They just need to put it all together and put some pressure on Sky Blue, who have a tough challenge away to Western New York, a team who they have struggled with this season. If all pieces fall into place, the standings after next weekend could get really congested between positions one through six.
Week 14 Results
Washington Spirit 0-2 Chicago Red Stars
Seattle Reign FC 3-2 Western New York Flash
Sky Blue FC 0-0 Boston Breakers
Chicago Red Stars 3-3 FC Kansas City
Portland Thorns FC 1-1 Western New York Flash
Seattle Reign FC 2-1 Washington Spirit
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.