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Stalemate’s The Name of the Game

Not since the first week of the National Women’s Soccer League regular season that a single week’s round of fixtures produced three draws. But unlike the first week of the season, all the teams have been together for over two months and are now fighting for critical points in the playoff picture. And those draws were all hard fought results, including one equalizer in the last couple of minutes. Plus one of the bottom-dwellers of the NWSL table showed potential of improvement so with that all being said lets take a look back at Week 11 of the NWSL season.

The Players

Karina LeBlanc: For the second week in a row the Canadian international goalkeeper has graced this page as one of the top performers. And with good reason because she was one of the main reasons that the Portland Thorns were able to get out of New Jersey with a point. LeBlanc produced seven saves on the night for her sixth clean sheet of the season, keeping her level with her counterpart on the night, Brittany Cameron. Late on is where LeBlanc was forced to come up with two big saves, first to deny Katy Freels in the 90th minute and then only a minute later to parry away a Sophie Schmidt effort. Combine those saves with thwarting Lisa De Vanna throughout the night proved that LeBlanc is really on her game right now, and while you can’t say that Portland didn’t deserve to win or lose the match, but LeBlanc definitely rescued the team a point on the night.

Lauren Cheney: After putting in quite an effort on Thursday night for the USWNT against South Korea, assisting on two of Abby Wambach’s goals as well as scoring one for herself, Cheney put herself right back in the spotlight on herself on Sunday afternoon against Washington Spirit. She scored both of the goals in the match, the first one a screamer from 25 yards out in the middle of the first half. Then the second one was set up all by Merritt Mathias who served a perfect back post cross, which all Cheney had to do was bundle it into the net. Outside of her goalscoring, she was on point with her distribution and controlling the center of the field, walking all over the Washington Spirit defenders. Right now she’s sitting second on both goals (6) and assists (5) in the league but proving herself as the most productive player on the league when it comes to getting her team on the board.

Hope Solo: Not often do I include two goalkeepers in my weekly recaps, but Solo’s performance against the Western New York Flash was a memorable one, if not a match-saving one. Solo made eight saves on the night, including two great saves on McCall Zerboni, both coming off corner kicks in the middle of the second half. And the majority of those saves came after Kiersten Dallstream saw her second yellow card of the night after dragging down Abby Wambach in the box during the second half, leaving Seattle to play down a player for almost a half-hour. But without Solo controlling the box and making all of those saves, it might have been a different result.

The Nil-Nil

Through 41 matches in the first ever NWSL season, there wasn’t one nil-nil scoreline to date. Not many people thought that match 42, between Sky Blue FC and Portland Thorns FC, two of the top teams in the league, would end nil-nil. But yet that is the game of soccer, it isn’t played on paper but out on a field. Fortunately for the 3,002 fans in attendance at Yurcak Field at Rutgers University, there was plenty of action and a lot of drama, including a late flurry of shots for the home side. Yet the teams played to the scoreless draw and while there wasn’t much to separate the sides, Jim Gabarra’s Sky Blue side will be kicking themselves for not breaking through late. If it wasn’t for the above mentioned Karina LeBlanc heroics, the New Jersey side would have come home with all three points

The Little Thing

Seattle Reign’s Determination: You have to give credit to Laura Harvey’s side. It is hard to troop out week in and week out and not get positive results. After an opening week draw against Chicago, the Reign dropped nine straight matches, including being out-scored 18-3 in those matches. But on Sunday afternoon, against an in-form Western New York Flash in front of the biggest crowd at Sahlen’s Stadium, the Reign battled their way to a share of the points. Keelin Winters got the goal to give the Reign a stunning 1-0 lead at half and Kennya Cordner almost made it 2-0 after the break as she hit the post after a great Teresa Noyola through ball. despite giving up the penalty kick and playing the last half hour down a player, they were evenly matched with the Flash. Now integrating Megan Rapinoe into the mix, things might be coming together for the Reign for the second half of the season.

The Not-so-Good

Washington’s Offensive Woes: Sunday afternoon against FC Kansas City was not a day to remember for Mike Jorden’s side. They were out played for the majority of the match and didn’t really ever look to get into a rhythm. Plus the team hasn’t scored a goal in four matches, dating back to mid-May when they bagged four goals on the road against Seattle. To this point, Tiffany McCarty is the only forward to have hit the net this season and it’s now looking that the gamble of drafting three young strikers and not getting any luck in the allocation or free agent draft of getting a veteran striker is starting to hurt. While Conny Pohlers is in the team now after a great season with Wolfsburg, goals from her won’t come right away as she starts to get introduced into the system. Regardless, a playoff spot is starting to get out of reach for the Spirit, despite getting a lot of quality from Ashlyn Harris in net as well as several defenders and midfielders. There just seems to be a curse on their attackers finding the net this year and it may be a little too late to change things.

Chicago’s Lack of Concentration Late: You can’t say things are looking bad in the Chicago Red Stars camp in the month of June, in fact it’s been quite the opposite. Since 2-1 defeat away to Western New York on May 24th, the Red Stars have picked up nine points starting on June 1 with an impressive victory over Portland. And it was looking like on Thursday night that the Red Stars were about to walk away a 2-1 winners over the Flash, but a lack of concentration of marking proved to be the difference as an Alex Sahlen ball over the top was flicked over the goalkeeper by an unmarked Brittany Taylor, allowing the Flash to split the points. While getting a point against a higher ranked team is good, that win would have put Chicago in fifth place and only five points (at the time) behind FC Kansas City. But now they are still stuck on sixth place, level with Boston. You can give them a little leeway after the month they had, but for Rory Dames’ side, they need all the points they can get to keep them in shot of a playoff spot.

Week 12 Matches to Watch

FC Kansas City’s Tough  Week: at Sky Blue FC, Wednesday June 26th 7pm Local Time. vs Portland Thorns FC, Sunday June 30, 3:10pm Local Time

This is an absolute brutal road trip for the FC Kansas City Blues to make, a trip east to play the joint-leaders Sky Blue FC, only three days after playing Washington at home (this weekends match), then traveling back home to host the other joint-leader, Portland Thorns, on only three days rest. Getting any points from these matches will really be a bonus for Vlatko Andonovski’s side to keep them in the playoff race, as Western New York has an easier week, only facing Washington at home and then will have a match in hand temporarily against the Blues. So expect Andonovski’s side to try and get some momentum against Sky Blue early in this trip and then hold on for whatever they can get against Portland.

Week 11 Results

Chicago Red Stars 2-2 Western New York Flash

Sky Blue FC 0-0 Portland Thorns FC

FC Kansas City 2-0 Washington Spirit

Western New York Flash 1-1 Seattle Reign FC

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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