Toss The Hats
by JJ Duke
It’s been a running joke with one of my roommates at school for a few years now. He has an old Paul Rodriguez hat that he never wears anymore but has dubbed it his “hat-trick” hat. Reason why was when he was younger, he went to a hockey game at Madison Square Garden and wore that hat for the first time. A New York Ranger player scored a hat-trick that night but he was sitting too far away from the ice to throw it. So he dubbed the hat his “hat-trick” hat and wore it to every game that he went to since that point, hoping for a hat-trick so he could finally toss it. It’s been a few years since that night and he still has the hat and has opened the qualifications to wearing the hat for any sport where a player can score three goals in a game. Unfortunately for my roommate, he would not be anywhere close to Somerville, Mass on Saturday night where the first three-goal performance was ever recorded in NWSL history. Lets take a look back at Week Four of NWSL action:
Sydney Leroux: She can now boast the honor of scoring the first ever hat-trick in NWSL history as she beat Chicago’s Erin McLeod three times on Saturday night. The first of her three goals was the one that she did not know much about until after the match. A short corner halfway through the first half led to Heather O’Reilly whipping in a cross towards Mariah Nogueira, who headed it towards goal. The shot ricocheted off an unknown player at the time and into the net and Boston took a 2-0 lead, but we found out later the player it hit off of was Leroux, so she was credited with that goal instead of Nogueira. Her other two goals were more trademark Leroux finishes however. In the second half she pickpocketed Chicago’s Carmelina Moscato and made a 50-yard breakaway run towards goal and beat McLeod near post. Then six minutes from time, Kyah Simon fed one across to Leroux who hammered it far post, completing the hat-trick. Leroux leads the league with four goals scored on the season and this is the player that Lisa Cole wants in form this season if the Breakers want to get a playoff berth.
Ashley Phillips: One of the great performances that might have gone unnoticed this week was from the Breaker ‘keeper. While she did let in one goal on the match, she commanded the box with authority on Saturday night. Cole has been looking for a strong goalkeeper since coming on board with the Breakers in 2012. And after getting exposed at the end of the 2012 WPSL-Elite season, Cole needed to firm up the position but didn’t get the best draw with ‘keepers up through the preseason. So the team signed Phillips (who was the back-up ‘keeper with the Breakers in the 2011 WPS season) to be the early starter and after this weekend’s performance, including a couple of nice point blank saves in the second half, she might have a case for herself for the entire season.
Samantha Kerr: It was one of the more intriguing head-to-head battles on Wednesday night, as two young Australian internationals squared off on the left side of the pitch between Western New York and Sky Blue. And it was clear that Kerr had the upper hand on her Matildas teammate Caitlin Foord. Kerr made run after run down the left flank and hit some great crosses, one of which was an assist to Adriana for the first goal of the game in the first half. And then minutes later she hit a ball in a tough position, which was not cleared out by a Sky Blue defender, and Abby Wambach pounced on it for the second goal for the Flash. She has been one of the bright spots for Aaron Lines’ team this season and will continue to use her pace to bolster this side in the coming weeks.
Becky Sauerbrunn: There are not many moments when a center-back gets to go forward, but the run that Sauerbrunn made out of the back to set up the winning goal against Seattle was of highlight quality. First off, we have to mention that FC Kansas City shut out Seattle for the second week in a row, a feat that is quite amazing, and Sauerbrunn was involved heavily in keeping the ball away from Nicole Barnhart’s net. But late in the second half, Sauerbrunn had possession of the ball and acres of space to work with so she went off on a marauding run through the midfield. She worked a 1-2 with Desiree Scott, who put her through into the Seattle penalty area. Sauerbrunn then showed poise similar to a forward and slotted the ball back to Renae Cuellar, who beat Michelle Betos to her near post and eventually the goal ended up being the game winner. It was a run that might make a Top-10 plays of the season, purely because you hardly ever see runs made like that from center-backs. But Sauerbrunn executed everything perfectly on the play and got herself an assist to boot.
The Little Things:
Boston’s Gellin, Are You Gellin?: Not to completely rip off an old commercial about shoe insoles, but the point is still somewhat the same. After watching the Breakers play on Saturday night against Chicago, it was a complete team performance that had everyone clicking on the same page. There was confidence playing the ball out of the back, good speed on the flank on the wings and the strikers were finishing. Plus some good goalkeeping thrown in there as well and that is a complete effort. And even with the injury of right back Rhian Wilkinson from the Western New York match last round, which is a fairly key injury to Boston’s usual starting XI, Jo Dragotta filled in so well you would have never known she didn’t play in the last match. Boston plays their next two matches on the road, it will be interesting to see how if they carry this form on the road.
Seattle’s Debut Broadcast: As someone that is pursuing a career in broadcasting, I feel that I can pick out the small things that make a good broadcast from a bad one. And to be honest, I thought the broadcast that the Reign put on late Saturday night (for us east-coasters) was top-notch. It felt like the commentators (Tom Glasgow on play-by-play and University of Washington Head Coach Lesle Gallimore on color) have worked together for years on how they called the game. Glasgow was on-par throughout the broadcast and Gallimore brings a unique angle of having coached or coached against a majority of the players that were on the field, so she could really talk about how certain players react to situations and their strengths/weaknesses. Throw in the strong HD camera quality, you could pick out players from across the field even on the Youtube stream. And the halftime show guest interview list that included Hope Solo, Amy Rodriguez, Stephanie Cox and Joy Fawcett, there’s not much to beat that.
Jess Fishlock’s discipline: The Welsh international has been very solid on the field for the first few weeks with Seattle, perhaps one of the, if not the best player on their team. But the Reign have a lack of experience on the field and it doesn’t help that a veteran professional like Fishlock already has three yellow cards in the teams first four matches. They need to keep her on the field as much as possible and with NWSL rules stating once a player reaches five yellow cards, they will be suspended one match, they don’t want Fishlock to get to that five card mark quickly. Something needs to be done here before she picks up those cards and costs her team an appearance.
Week Five Match to Watch
Sky Blue FC vs. Seattle Reign FC, Saturday May 11, 7pm EST, Yurcak Field at Rutgers University
While this match might not be the most glamorous on paper, it holds some intriguing sub-plots. Sky Blue will be on the back end of playing two matches in four days and will more likely than not be a bit heavy legged. They host Chicago on Wednesday night and then Seattle on Saturday night, but they are catching both teams in bad form and if they could take advantage of Seattle who hasn’t gotten it right yet this season, Sky Blue might be able to get some big points despite turning around and playing shortly after their Chicago. Meanwhile for the Reign, this will be the fourth match out of five played on the road and after their battle with FC Kansas City, they will want to use the lessons learned from Saturday and try to get a positive result against Sky Blue. But if they don’t get three points, they are digging themselves a real hole in the early part of the season, a hole that might be too deep to get out of.
Week Four Results
Western New York Flash 2-1 Sky Blue FC
Boston Breakers 4-1 Chicago Red Stars
Washington Spirit 1-2 Portland Thorns FC
Seattle Reign FC 0-1 FC Kansas City
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.