Jodie Taylor to join Seattle Reign FC

NewsNovember 21

10 NWSL players named to Canada roster ahead of friendly vs. Norway

CANWNTNovember 21

NWSL announces that FC Kansas City will cease operations

NewsNovember 20

NWSL heads to Rio Tinto: Real Salt Lake enters the league for 2018

NWSL in UtahNovember 16

Real Salt Lake enters the league swinging for the fences

NWSL in UtahNovember 16

Sky Blue FC taps Denise Reddy as new head coach

NewsNovember 15

USWNT closes out 2017 with 3-1 win over Canada

Game RecapNovember 13

U.S. and Canada ready for round two in San Jose

NewsNovember 12

Canada earns draw vs. USA in Vancouver friendly

CANWNTNovember 10

USA and Canada ready for home-and-home series; 34 NWSL players on rosters

Game PreviewNovember 09

Shake-up in Seattle: Laura Harvey steps down, Vlatko Andonovski steps in as head coach

NewsNovember 07

12 NWSL players named to Canada roster for friendlies vs. USWNT

CANWNTNovember 02

22 NWSL players named to USWNT roster for friendlies vs. Canada

USWNTOctober 31

Boston Breakers sign Swedish defender/midfielder Lotta Ökvist

NewsOctober 31

Nora Holstad announces retirement

NewsOctober 30

The NWSL guide to the W-League

NWSL AbroadOctober 30

Andressinha, Bruna Benites, Francisca Ordega to play in Brazil, Spain on loan this offseason

NewsOctober 30

2018 NWSL College Draft to take place on Jan. 18 at 11 a.m. ET

NewsOctober 26

Highlights & Results: NWSL players on international duty

NewsOctober 24

No players selected off NWSL Re-Entry Wire

NewsOctober 24

NWSL teams exercise contract options

NewsOctober 24

Eight NWSL players available on the Re-Entry Wire

NewsOctober 23

Six goals for the USWNT, first cap for Zerboni in shutout win over Korea Republic

USWNTOctober 23

NWSL MVP: Sam Kerr, Sky Blue FC

NWSL AwardsOctober 20

McCall Zerboni called up to USWNT ahead of Sunday’s friendly

USWNTOctober 20

Ertz, Morgan, Rapinoe score in 3-1 USWNT win over Korea Republic

USWNTOctober 20

Defender of the Year: Abby Dahlkemper, North Carolina Courage

NWSL AwardsOctober 19

Goalkeeper of the Year: Adrianna Franch, Portland Thorns FC

NWSL AwardsOctober 18

Rookie of the Year: Ashley Hatch, North Carolina Courage

NWSL AwardsOctober 17

Thorns celebrate NWSL Championship win in style

NWSL ChampionshipOctober 17

Paul Riley voted NWSL Coach of the Year

NWSL AwardsOctober 16

Smith, Heath ruled out of upcoming USWNT friendlies

NewsOctober 16

Sonnett and Menges lead Portland to shutout win over North Carolina

NWSL ChampionshipOctober 14

Lindsey Horan named MVP as Thorns win NWSL Championship

NWSL ChampionshipOctober 14

What to Watch For: Courage vs. Thorns in the NWSL Championship

NWSL ChampionshipOctober 13

Watch: NWSL Championship Preview Press Conference

NWSL ChampionshipOctober 13

Highlights from the Thorns at Media Day

NWSL ChampionshipOctober 13

Highlights from the Courage at Media Day

NWSL ChampionshipOctober 13

State of the League with Amanda Duffy

League NewsOctober 12

2017 Best XI announced

NWSL AwardsOctober 12

Courage, Thorns to hold public training sessions on Oct. 13

NWSL ChampionshipOctober 11

Jill Ellis calls 20 NWSL players in for upcoming friendlies

USWNTOctober 11

Courage, Thorns played close games in 2017

NWSL ChampionshipOctober 11

NWSL announces Second XI selections

NWSL AwardsOctober 10

NWSL Championship tickets on sale: Courage vs. Thorns on Oct. 14

NWSL ChampionshipOctober 08

With a quiet and constant presence, Christine Sinclair once again leads Thorns to playoffs

PlayoffsOctober 06

How They Got Here: Portland Thorns FC

PlayoffsOctober 06

2017 NWSL Awards Finalists Revealed

VoteOctober 05

September Team of the Month

NWSL AwardsOctober 05

Marta named September Player of the Month

NewsOctober 04

Jodie Taylor to join Seattle Reign FC

Taylor won the Golden Boot at the Euro 2017 tournament

England forward Jodie Taylor in action at the SheBelieves Cup in 2017. (Photo credit: Brad Smith/isiphotos.com)

England forward Jodie Taylor has signed with Seattle Reign FC, the club announced Tuesday, pending receipt of her P-1 Visa and International Transfer Certificate (ITC).

Taylor won the Golden Boot at this summer’s UEFA Women’s Euro tournament, scoring five goals for England as they advanced to the semifinals. She opened the tournament with a hat trick in England’s 6-0 win over Scotland and scored the only goal in the quarterfinal win over France. She has 15 goals in 30 international appearances.

Taylor has spent the past two years with Arsenal in the FA Women’s Super League. The Reign said she is expected to play for Melbourne City in the W-League before joining Seattle in 2018. Before playing for Arsenal, Taylor spent two seasons in the NWSL. In 2014 while with the Washington Spirit, she finished third in the league with 11 goals. She scored three goals in 2015 as a member of Portland Thorns FC.

It’s the first major move for new Reign coach Vlatko Andonovski, who took over as the second coach in Seattle’s club history on November 7.

“Jodie is a world-class player who will add experience and quality to our attack,” Andonovski said in the Reign’s news release about the signing. “Throughout her career Taylor has been a consistent goal scorer for club and country, and she has demonstrated se can be a threat that demands a reaction from the competition. We’re excited to add her to the squad.”

“I am really excited to be joining Reign FC,” Taylor said in Seattle’s announcement.”I’ve spent a lot of time playing in America, and I’m really pleased to be coming to Seattle. They’re a top club that I’ve admired, and the core values of the team are quite evident from the outside.”

10 NWSL players named to Canada roster ahead of friendly vs. Norway

Canada will take on Norway on November 28

Houston Dash forward Janine Beckie in action for Canada (Brad Smith/isiphotos.com)

Coach John Herdman has named 10 NWSL players to Canada’s roster for their upcoming friendly vs. Norway. The game will take place in Marbella, Spain, on Tuesday, November 28.

Houston Dash forward Janine Beckie and Boston Breakers forward Adriana Leon, who both scored earlier this month vs. the United States, lead the way on the roster.

They are joined by Maegan Kelly (new Utah NWSL team), who earned her first two caps for Canada in those games. Kelly earned her first cap on November 9, entering as a substitute in the 71st minute and nearly scored her first international goal shortly after, but her effort hit the post. She earned her first start on November 12 in Canada’s second game vs. the United States.

Also on the roster: Stephanie Labbé (Washington Spirit), Lindsay Agnew (Washington Spirit), Allysha Chapman (Boston Breakers), Shelina Zadorsky (Washington Spirit), Desiree Scott (new Utah NWSL team), Nichelle Prince (Houston Dash) and Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns FC).

The game vs. Norway, ranked No. 14 in the world, will be Canada’s final match of 2017.

“I think Norway are genuinely one of Europe’s elite, so we are expecting to come up against a well organised, physical team, who are adopting a different style of play that is more possession based as opposed to direct and counter-attacking, so it will be a real tough match and exactly what we want to close the year out,” Herdman said in Canada’s official release.

Canada Soccer Women’s National Team Roster

GOALKEEPERS: Stephanie Labbé (Washington Spirit), Erin McLeod (FC Rosengård)

FULLBACKS: Lindsay Agnew (Washington Spirit), Allysha Chapman (Boston Breakers), Ashley Lawrence (Paris Saint German), Shannon Woeller (FF USV Jena)

CENTERBACKS: Shelina Zadorsky (Washington Spirit), Kadeisha Buchanan (Olympique Lyonnais)

MIDFIELDER/FULLBACK: Maegan Kelly (new Utah NWSL team)

MIDFIELDERS: Desiree Scott (new Utah NWSL team), Sophie Schmidt (FFC Frankfurt)

FORWARDS: Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns FC), Janine Beckie (Houston Dash), Adriana Leon (Boston Breakers), Nichelle Prince (Houston Dash), Jordyn Huitema (Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite/ Canada Soccer Regional EXCEL Super Centre), Jenna Hellstrom (FC Rosengård), Amelia Pietrangelo (FF USV Jena)

Pending availability due to NCAA action: Rebecca Quinn (Duke), Deanne Rose (University of Florida), Jessie Fleming (UCLA)

NWSL announces that FC Kansas City will cease operations

Current members of FC Kansas City roster will be transferred to new Real Salt Lake club

Game action from a 2017 home game for FC Kansas City. (Photo: Amy Kontras/isiphotos.com)

On Monday, the NWSL announced that it has re-acquired FC Kansas City LLC’s membership interest in the league. Effectively immediately, the NWSL is ceasing operations of the club.

“First, we’d like to recognize and thank Elam Baer and FC Kansas City LLC for their efforts this past year. We appreciate his commitment in helping the NWSL move forward,” said NWSL Managing Director of Operations Amanda Duffy in the official release. “As the league moves on, and as difficult as it is to share this news about FC Kansas City, we feel it is in the best interest of the league and the players at this time.

“Most importantly, we would like to acknowledge and sincerely thank all the fans and the city of Kansas City for their support of this club, the league and the sport over the past five years.”

As previously announced, the new club owned by Real Salt Lake will replace Kansas City and play its home matches at Rio Tinto Stadium. This new club will play in the 2018 season, the sixth season of the National Women’s Soccer League.

FC Kansas City’s players currently on the roster will be transferred to the new Salt Lake City club before the start of the 2018 season. In addition, Salt Lake will also receive Kansas City’s picks in the 2018 NWSL College Draft, as well as their spots in the Discovery and Waiver Tie-Breakers and Distribution Ranking Order.

Real Salt Lake’s club will also receive the No. 1 overall pick in the first round of the 2019 College Draft.

“This is the best and necessary decision for the future of the league and the players who have impressively represented NWSL and Kansas City over the past five years,” said Elam Baer, former owner of FC Kansas City, in the official release.

Over their five years in the league as one of the eight founding members, FC Kansas City earned plenty of success, including 47 wins and 27 draws across the five seasons, good enough for third most wins all-time in the NWSL.

After they hosted Portland Thorns FC in the NWSL’s inaugural match on April 13, 2013, they also made the playoffs in all three of the first three years of the league. They won back-to-back NWSL Championships in 2014 and 2015.

The Blues also picked up league awards, especially in 2013. Lauren Holiday scored 12 goals that year, leading the league, and earned the 2013 Most Valuable Player award. That inaugural year, Nicole Barnhart also won Goalkeeper of the Year, Erika Tymrak won Rookie of the Year, and Vlakto Andonovski won Coach of the Year. Becky Sauerbrunn also began her three-year reign as Defender of the Year in 2013 through 2015.

Sauerbrunn also was voted to the NWSL Best XI in all five seasons of the league. Barnhart owns the record for most shutouts in league history with 38, and forward Amy Rodriguez scored the game-winning goal in both of KC’s back-to-back championships.

“I will always be a fan of the game, the league, our players and, above all, our fans,” Baer said. “I wish the NWSL a bright future and our former FC Kansas City players continued success in their careers on and off the field.  I am sure the players will add another championship to the two they already brought to Kansas City.”

NWSL heads to Rio Tinto: Real Salt Lake enters the league for 2018

Team launched at press conference at Rio Tinto

On Thursday, the NWSL welcomed Real Salt Lake into the league for the 2018 season. Home matches will be played at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.

The National Women’s Soccer League is heading to Rio Tinto Stadium. On Thursday, the league announced that Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer will launch a new club for the 2018 season, with home matches to be played at Rio Tinto Stadium.

“We are very excited to welcome Dell Loy Hansen and Real Salt Lake into the NWSL family as the newest member of our league,” NWSL Managing Director of Operations Amanda Duffy said. “During our discussions in this process, Real Salt Lake has demonstrated their unquestionable desire and commitment to bring the highest level of professional women’s soccer to all fans of the game in Salt Lake City and Utah. Real Salt Lake will immediately be able to hit the ground running on the business side as well as provide the players with a top-notch training ground and one of the best game venues in the country.”

The club was formally announced at a press conference in Utah at 1 p.m. ET on Thursday at Rio Tinto, with Duffy, as well as Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen and Utah Governor Gary Herbert were in attendance.

While the new team is being announced today, there’s also plenty more on the way. There will be announcements on the team’s name and brand identity, tickets, broadcast options and corporate opportunities, coaching and formation over the next few days and weeks.

Real Salt Lake just finished its 13th season in Major League Soccer, and it has reached the top of the league with club’s 2009 MLS Cup win. They have over 14,000 season ticket holders. In addition to their MLS side, the organization also added a USL team in 2015, the Real Monarchs.

Real Salt Lake also just added a new world-class training facility, the Zions Bank Real Academy, which also includes a 5,000 seat stadium that hosts the USL team. The $73 million facility will open in a matter of weeks.

“Our goal is build the very best women’s sports organization in America,” Hansen said. “Only 15 days ago was I asked to look into this opportunity, and as we learned about the NWSL vision from the league office and met with A&E executives as well as U.S. Soccer about their aspirations on and off the field, we knew we not only wanted to join as quickly as possible and participate, but we believe that our current infrastructure as well as the development initiatives on the RSL horizon align perfectly. Our community is already passionate about women’s sports, and we believe that empowering and advancing the women’s game accelerates the change to build a better Utah.”

For more information on Real Salt Lake’s entry in the league, visit their website, or follow them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

You can also follow the National Women’s Soccer League on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Real Salt Lake enters the league swinging for the fences

Highlights from the RSL press conference on Thursday

Real Salt Lake GM Craig Waibel, NWSL Managing Director of Operations Amanda Duffy, and RSL Owner Dell Loy Hansen after Thursday's press conference at Rio Tinto Stadium.

On Thursday, the National Women’s Soccer League welcomed Real Salt Lake to the league, as they launch a new club to enter for the 2018 season. Home matches will be played at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.

Despite the whirlwind process by which RSL joined the league, at Thursday’s press conference in Utah, they were confident about the club they will put on the field as well as their new presence in the NWSL.

Here are just some of the highlights from Thursday’s press conference, with the full video archived below.

[More | NWSL heads to Rio Tinto: Real Salt Lake enters the league for 2018]

Dell Loy Hansen, Owner, Real Salt Lake

“We honestly are two years ahead of schedule. We really thought two years from now, we would be able to address this. And the opportunity came. It was amazing; we looked and said, ‘We really don’t have anything else to do, do we? Why don’t we go do this?'”

Gary Herbert, Governor of Utah

“We recognize having a sports franchise here helps our economy. It does a lot of things for our community. It brings us together, we’re unified, we cheer for the same team, we have a shared experience that we all build upon. We have memories that we create with our families that, again, endure way beyond the sporting event itself.”

Amanda Duffy, NWSL Managing Director of Operations

“When we look at the keys to success with any organization, we start with the ownership. Certainly welcome the quality ownership that we have in [Hansen] and the support and staff that he’s built here with RSL to make sure that this a first class operation and organization.

“We also look at the support from the community and how that’s going to get behind on how the team will be able to integrate the players into the community and gather that support, gain momentum. We’re excited about that. We certainly feel like that’s here.

“And with the venue itself. With Rio Tinto Stadium, a venue that’s state-of-the-art, one of the best in the United States. To be able to bring National Women’s Soccer League into this venue, help propel the league forward on and off the field. We couldn’t be more excited to have RSL part of NWSL going forward.”

Craig Waibel, General Manager, Real Salt Lake

“To the women that are going to don our jersey next year, March, April, January when they check in: We can’t wait to have you. We can’t wait to make you part of our family. You’re going to be treated as professionals, play in amazing stadium, train at an amazing grounds, have a locker room that’s equipped for the quality that you bring.”

Andy Carroll, Chief Business Officer, Real Salt Lake

“We’re going to launch a team in four months, which most people certainly would not take on that endeavor, but Dell Loy was just like, ‘Oh yeah, of course we will.’ We look very forward to it. Failure is not an option. This will be the most successful club. Portland can hear us coming, although they invited us in, to be fair.”


Watch the archived press conference via Real Salt Lake’s Facebook:

For more information on Real Salt Lake’s entry in the league, visit their website, or follow them on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

You can also follow the National Women’s Soccer League on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

Sky Blue FC taps Denise Reddy as new head coach

Reddy previously an assistant coach with Washington, but plenty of head coaching experience on her résumé

Denise Ready will be a little further up 95, as she will take over head coaching duties at Sky Blue FC after her time as an assistant coach with the Washington Spirit. (Photo: Jose Argueta/isiphotos.com)

Sky Blue FC has found their new head coach. On Wednesday, the club announced that New Jersey-native Denise Reddy will return to her home state to take the reins in Piscataway.

“Words cannot describe how excited and honored I am to be the Head Coach of Sky Blue FC,” Reddy said in the club’s official release. “This is where my coaching career started, and it feels great to be back in Jersey and part of such a professional organization. I am looking forward to starting this journey with such top-class players and cannot wait to get on the pitch.”

Reddy has a UEFA Pro License, and most recently served as the assistant coach of the Washington Spirit. She has previous head coaching experience in New Jersey, with USL W-League side Jersey Sky Blue in 2007. The next year, she joined the coaching staff of the Chicago Red Stars during the WPS era, before heading to Europe.

After starting as an assistant coach with Linköpings FC in Sweden in 2011, Reddy then assumed head coaching duties of that club, before moving on to B93/HIK/Skjold in Denmark for two years, then back to Sweden for another two years with Vittsjö GIK.

In her own playing days, Reddy played for 11 years in Sweden with Umeå IK and Malmö FF, including captaining Malmö for seven seasons and a UEFA Champions League semifinals appearance in 2004.

Reddy is also no stranger to Yurcak Field, home of Sky Blue FC. She played her college soccer for Rutgers University.

On Sky Blue FC’s conference call with media announcing her hire, Reddy said that the team’s roster is young and exciting, and full of quality. She promised, “I’m also looking forward to growing our fanbase with an on-field product that everyone can be proud of. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the Cloud 9 supporters group, and the work they do to build the supporting culture at the matches.”

In addition to her responsibilities as an assistant coach for the Spirit, Reddy also served as the technical director of the Spirit Academy – Baltimore Armour U.S. Soccer Girls’ Development Academy program.

“When Denise came to the Spirit, we were all aware of and supported her ambition to become a head coach in the NWSL,” said Spirit head coach and general manager Jim Gabarra, after the club announced her departure. “She has been a tremendous resource for our club the past two seasons and instrumental to our success. This is a great opportunity for her, and we wish her the best of luck with Sky Blue.”

Right now it’s too early for a lot of the finer details of what Reddy has in store for Sky Blue, from tactics to the 2018 NWSL College Draft strategy, to even her own coaching staff.  “Right now, our preparations have already begun for the 2018 season on all fronts,” Reddy said on the call. “We just had to get this announcement out, and then I’m going to start – along with the organization – put together my coaching staff.”

Tony Novo, Sky Blue’s President and GM, spoke highly of Reddy’s experience in the team’s official release. “She has been a part of the fabric that is New Jersey soccer for many years, and she also brings a coaching outlook that holds various elements from throughout the world. We feel strongly that Denise is the perfect candidate to assume leadership of Sky Blue FC, and we are very excited to see what the future holds for her.”

USWNT closes out 2017 with 3-1 win over Canada

Ertz, Morgan, Lloyd scored for the U.S.; Beckie for Canada

Carli Lloyd works the crowd after scoring in the 80th minute for an insurance goal in the win over Canada. (Photo: Brad Smith/isiphotos.com)

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The U.S. women’s national team closed out their 2017 campaign with a statement win over Canada in front of 17,960 fans. Julie Ertz scored in the first half, and despite an equalizer from Janine Beckie for Canada in the 50th minute, the U.S. immediately answered via Alex Morgan in the 56th minute. Carli Lloyd entered the match as a sub, and almost immediately bagged the insurance goal to ensure the win on American soil.

At first, Beckie’s goal in the 50th minute seemed to promise a replay of Thursday night’s draw between these two same teams – as Boston Breakers forward Adrianna Leon had scored in the 56th minute to earn a 1–1 draw in Vancouver.

“They let the U.S. impose themselves just a bit too much,” said Canada head coach John Herdman about the first half, “and some of our key players weren’t really looking to get on the ball in moments they could’ve. They all held their hands up, so that second half, them coming out was fantastic. They looked the team that they looked like in Vancouver. The equalizer, I thought that was going to turn the game.”

It only took six minutes, however, for Morgan to undo the damage. Her goal was not just her 80th career goal for the U.S. national team, but her seventh goal in seven games for the red, white and blue.

That response and the win meant the U.S. national team finished 2017 with a 12-3-1 record, and a result in eight of their last matches of the year (7-0-1). “I  definitely feel a lot better,” Sam Mewis said on Sunday night, comparing it to the general vibe after Thursday’s draw. “I think we performed better. We really came together as a group. I think we were able to move the ball a lot better.

“I give the coaching staff a lot of credit; they were really able to break down what the problem was, and I think we also did a lot of problem solving on the field. I’m really proud of the group. It feels really good to go out on a high note, and I think it’s been a really important year of growth for this team.”

And much like Mewis and her own media availability before the final match, Jill Ellis also took the much larger view of Sunday’s game into the bigger picture of the campaign for 2019.

There was one key part for Ellis: “From the last game to this game, I think we grew.”

With the process underway, the win was a sign that things are heading in the right direction, even if all the pieces aren’t firmly locked into place.

“There’s more to come,” Ellis said after the match. “We’ve got to build on this. In truth, I felt this, we’re scratching the surface of where I think this team can end up.”

Watch all four of the goals from Sunday night’s game:

The U.S. women’s national team is now off until a camp in January, but Canada still has one final match before their year is done. They’ll face Norway later this month, with the game to be played in Spain.


– U.S. Women’s National Team Match Report –

Match: U.S. Women’s National Team vs. Canada
Date: Nov. 12, 2017
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Avaya Stadium; San Jose, Calif.
Kickoff: 6 p.m. PT
Attendance: 17,960
Weather: 64 degrees, clear

Scoring Summary:      1          2          F
USA                              1          2          3                                              
CAN                              0          1          1

USA – Julie Ertz (Megan Rapinoe)                   11th minute
CAN – Janine Beckie (Nichelle Prince)              50
USA – Alex Morgan (Christen Press)                56
USA – Carli Lloyd (Alex Morgan)                       80

Lineups:
USA: 1-Alyssa Naeher; 22-Taylor Smith (14-Casey Short, 66), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (capt.), 7-Abby Dahlkemper, 5-Kelley O’Hara; 8-Julie Ertz (6-Andi Sullivan, 75), 9-Lindsey Horan, 3-Samantha Mewis (10-Carli Lloyd, 75); 23-Christen Press (12-Lynn Williams, 82), 13-Alex Morgan, 15-Megan Rapinoe
Subs not used: 24-Ashlyn Harris; 16-Emily Sonnett, 20-Allie Long
Head coach: Jill Ellis

CAN: 1-Stephanie Labbe; 2-Allysha Chapman, 4-Shelina Zadorsky, 5-Rebecca Quinn; 11-Desiree Scott (24-Ariel Young, 71), 17-Jessie Fleming, 20-Maegan Kelly (22-Lindsay Agnew, 60); 6-Deanne Rose (15-Nichelle Prince, 31), 12-Christine Sinclair (9-Jordyn Huitema, 60), 16-Janine Beckie (23-Julia Grosso, 90), 19-Adriana Leon (14-Jayde Riviere, 71)
Subs not used: 18-Sabrina D’Angelo, 21-Kailen Sheridan
Head coach: John Herdman

Stats Summary: USA / CAN
Shots: 12 / 8
Shots on Goal: 6 / 2
Saves: 1 / 4
Corner Kicks: 10 / 2
Fouls: 12 / 12
Offside: 1 / 0

Misconduct Summary:
CAN – Jayde Riviere (caution)                    79th minute

Officials:
Referee: Karen Abt (USA)
Assistant Referee 1: Felisha Mariscal (USA)
Assistant Referee 2: Deleana Quan (USA)
4th Official: Christina Unkel (USA)

Budweiser Woman of the Match: Lindsey Horan

U.S. and Canada ready for round two in San Jose

Match set for 9 p.m. ET on Sunday at Avaya Stadium

There's more NWSL on NWSL on tap, with the U.S. set to close out their 2017 campaign against Canada on Sunday. (Photo: Brad Smith/ISI Photos)

SAN JOSE, Calif. — “Canada gave us some great challenges, some that we haven’t seen in this year,” U.S. national team and Chicago Red Stars midfielder Julie Ertz told media on Saturday, ahead of the second of two friendlies between the USA and Canada on Sunday. But while some might see the 1-1 draw as a lacking performance from the U.S. national team, Ertz was only taking away positives. 

That’s what we want to learn from and take away from. They came out really intense, they came out with a plan that worked really well. It was kind of fun to take a step back and watch some film, and hopefully come out on Sunday learning from those.”

As for the person responsible for those challenges, Canada head coach John Herdman, he’s under no illusion that Sunday’s rematch at Avaya Stadium will feature some adjustments from the Americans. But ultimately, there’s only one thing he wants to see from his players: progress.

“There was some good progress, I thought the other night,” he said after Canada’s training session on Saturday. “Statistically, that’s the best performance in our history against the U.S. Outshooting them by almost double, that’s nothing Canada has ever seen before. We’ve just got to just keep that momentum going through. I think we know that the U.S. will be fired up in their home stands, and for us, just step forward.”

Herdman isn’t the only coach taking the bigger picture view out of these two friendlies. Jill Ellis spoke with media on Saturday mostly about the bigger picture, as the national team’s year comes to a close. She spoke less about the specifics of Sunday’s match, and more about this one game’s place in the team’s bigger journey to repeating as FIFA Women’s World Cup champions.

“What’s the narrative?” she asked, echoing one reporter’s question. “The narrative is you cannot live, in this period in 2017, it was about making sure we’re ready for 2019. That’s the narrative. So at times, that is not having it look perfect. It’s trying players that are maybe in a little over their head at that particular moment. It’s putting players in uncomfortable situations. So the narrative in 2017 is preparing us for 2019. And like I’ve said – yes, does that mean we’ve lost some games? Yes. And would I put that on me, at times? Yes, because I’m committed to playing these players because I believe in the process that we’re doing.”

So if things look painful from the outside – ending the year with three losses and a draw, even with the 11 wins in 2017 – that’s an acceptable part of Ellis’s process. Playing teams such as Canada is a key piece to being ready for not just the World Cup, but qualifiers in 2018 as well.

Well painful is relative, right? I mean, for me, if it’s growing pains, it should be a struggle,” Ellis said. “And without a struggle, you’re not going to learn anything about you. If we play the 28th team in the world every single match, there’s no challenge in terms of us finding out where we have to get better. So I think if you look at our players, they’re elite. And the thing about elite people, they constantly want to improve and get better. So I think if you asked our players, would they rather go out and play Canada, or would they rather go out and play the 35th team in the world, every single time they’re going to pick a top-five opponent – which Canada is – because that’s the way we hone ourselves and get better. The decisions have to be faster, they have to be on point, everything we do has to be better.

“So we’re 18 months out from our World Cup. I can assure you, we will have all those things nailed down.”


How to watch

Where: Avaya Stadium in San Jose

When: Sunday, November 12, at 9 p.m. ET

Where to Watch: FS1

Follow along on social media

Follow the NWSL on TwitterFacebook and Instagram for coverage of the two friendlies – including live, on-site coverage from Avaya Stadium for the second match of the series.

Sunday’s match is the final one for the U.S. women’s national team in 2017. As for Canada, they’ll close out their year with a friendly against Norway on November 27.

Canada earns draw vs. USA in Vancouver friendly

Boston Breakers forward Adriana Leon scored the equalizer; Morgan scored her 79th for the USWNT

Team Canada celebrates an Adriana Leon goal during Thursday night's friendly against the United States. (Photo: Brad Smith/isiphotos.com)

Alex Morgan struck first, but Adriana Leon would answer for Canada, and the U.S. women’s national team would have to settle for a 1–1 draw in front of 28,017 fans at BC Place against their northern neighbors.

Morgan scored in the 31st minute, with her sixth goal of the year for the national team and her 79th career goal for the U.S. Her six goals this year lead the USWNT.

Canada’s equalizer via Leon in the second half ensured the home crowd wouldn’t leave too disappointed. Leon subbed on in the first half for Canada in the 31st minute after Morgan’s goal, and the Breakers forward quickly made an impact.

Her goal in the 56th minute came after quite the sequence from a Canada corner kick, with Rebecca Quinn striking the crossbar, but the rebound falling right to Christine Sinclair, who lobbed it back over her shoulder. Leon was at the far post to poke it past USWNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.

FC Kansas City’s Maegan Kelly subbed on in the 71st minute for Canada, replacing Nichelle Prince. She nearly scored the go-ahead goal for Canada in the 85th minute. her FCKC teammate Desiree Scott saw Kelly had split the seam between American defenders Taylor Smith and Abby Dahlkemper, but Kelly’s shot went off the post — much to the dismay of the home crowd.

For the second game of the series, the U.S. will get their chance to close out 2017 at home. They’ll host Canada on Sunday night at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, Calif. at 9 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on FS1.


– U.S. Women’s National Team Match Report –

 

Match: U.S. Women’s National Team vs. Canada
Date: Nov. 9, 2017
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: BC Place; Vancouver, BC, Canada
Kickoff: 7 p.m. PT
Attendance: 28,017 (sellout)
Weather: Indoors

 

Scoring Summary:      1          2          F
USA                                      1           0          1                                 
CAN                                      0          1          1

USA – Alex Morgan (Casey Short)                     31st minute

CAN – Adrianna Leon (Christine Sinclair)           56th minute

Lineups:
USA: 1-Alyssa Naeher; 5-Kelley O’Hara, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (capt.), 7-Abby Dahlkemper, 14-Casey Short (22-Taylor Smith, 66); 8-Julie Ertz (6-Andi Sullivan, 74), 9-Lindsey Horan, 3-Samantha Mewis (10-Carli Lloyd, 65); 12-Lynn Williams (20-Allie Long, 87), 13-Alex Morgan, 15-Megan Rapinoe (23-Christen Press, 66)

Subs not used: 24-Ashlyn Harris, 16-Emily Sonnett

Head coach: Jill Ellis

 

CAN: 1-Stephanie Labbe; 2-Allysha Chapman, 4-Shelina Zadorsky, 5-Rebecca Quinn, 6-Deanne Rose (19-Adrianna Leon, 31), 10- Ashley Lawrence, 11-Desiree Scott, 12-Christine Sinclair (capt.), 15-Nichelle Prince (20-Maegan Kelly, 71), 16-Janine Beckie (9-Jordyn Huitema, 90), 17-Jessie Fleming

Subs not used: 18-Sabrina D’Angelo, 21-Kailen Sheridan, 14-Jayde Riviere, 22-Lindsay Agnew, 23-Julia Grosso, 24-Ariel Young

Head coach: John Herdman

 

Stats Summary: USA / CAN
Shots: 11 / 19
Shots on Goal: 4 / 8
Saves: 7 / 3
Corner Kicks: 4 / 5
Fouls: 13 / 14
Offside: 2 / 1

 

Misconduct Summary:
CAN – Janine Beckie (caution)                    59th minute

CAN – Maegan Kelly (caution)                     79th minute

 

Officials:
Referee: Marianela Araya Cruz (CRC)

Assistant Referee 1: Elizabeth Aguilar (SLV)

Assistant Referee 2: Kimberly Moreira (CRC)

4th Official: Melissa Perez (PAN)

 

Budweiser Woman of the Match: Becky Sauerbrunn

USA and Canada ready for home-and-home series; 34 NWSL players on rosters

Friendlies set for for Nov. 9 in Vancouver, Nov. 12 in San Jose

Allysha Chapman of the Boston Breakers/Canada squares off against Carli Lloyd of the Houston Dash/USA the last time these two teams met during CONCACAF Olympic qualifiers. (Photo credit: Brad Smith/ISI Photos)

The United States and Canada are set for two friendlies this week in a home-and-home series to help close out the 2017 year. First up, the U.S. women’s national team’s return to BC Place in Vancouver on Thursday night for the first time since winning the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. For their part, Canada expects a packed stadium with over 23,500 tickets sold as of last week. The second match will take place on Sunday, Nov. 12, at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, Calif.

How to watch

Where: BC Place in Vancouver

When: Thursday, November 9, at 10 p.m. ET

Where to Watch: ESPN2, UDN (Canada: TSN1)


Where: Avaya Stadium in San Jose

When: Sunday, November 12, at 9 p.m. ET

Where to Watch: FS1

What you need to know

  • The USWNT is 47-3-6 all-time against the CanWNT. The last time these two teams met was in the 2016 CONCACAF qualifying tournament for the Olympics, with the U.S. winning 2–0 over Canada thanks to goals from Tobin Heath and Lindsey Horan. Notably, Canada is currently tied with China for the team that the U.S. has faced the most in its history with 56 matched played, but this series will move Canada into the number one spot overall at 58 matches played.
  • The USWNT is 11-3-0 this year, with those three losses coming to England, France and Australia at home. Since the 1–0 loss to Australia during the Tournament of Nations, however, the team has won six in a row, outscoring their opponents 24 to 5. U.S. Soccer rightfully touts their difficult schedule for an off year in the international calendar, facing seven of the nine other top teams in the world.

[READ MORE: 22 NWSL players named to USWNT roster for friendlies vs. Canada]

  • Canada is currently ranked fifth in the world according to FIFA World Rankings, but head coach John Herdman is aiming even higher. Picking up a pair of upsets against the top-ranked Americans would provide plenty of fuel for his players, and also put France in risk of slipping out of the top four. Currently, Canada is only three points behind France, and 10 points behind No. 3-ranked England on the FIFA World Rankings.
  • Canada’s roster is a young on, with six teenagers on the roster. Herdman also has 12 NWSL players on his roster, including a first call-up for FC Kansas City’s Maegan Kelly. While U.S. head coach only missed out on selecting Crystal Dunn thanks to league play in Europe, Herdman acknowledged that those restrictions mean bigger opportunities for others. As he said in the Canada Soccer release, “With some of our core players unavailable for selection outside FIFA windows due to league play in Europe, it will also be an opportunity for some of the younger members of our core, like Rebecca Quinn, Janine Beckie, Jessie Fleming and Shelina Zadorsky, to step up and take greater leadership roles.”

[READ MORE: 12 NWSL players named to Canada roster for friendlies vs. USWNT]

Follow along on social media

Follow the NWSL on TwitterFacebook and Instagram for coverage of the two friendlies – including live, on-site coverage from Avaya Stadium for the second match of the series.

Rosters

U.S. Women’s National Team Roster by Position (Caps/Goals):

GOALKEEPERS (4): Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns FC; 0/0), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 21/0), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 2/0), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride; 14/0)

DEFENDERS (8): Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage; 11/0), Sofia Huerta (Chicago Red Stars; 3/0), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC; 102/2), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City; 133/0), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars; 17/0), Taylor Smith (NC Courage; 5/0), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC; 12/0), Chioma Ubogagu (Orlando Pride; 0/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 55/13), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 41/4), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash; 244/97), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC; 32/6), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage; 32/7), Andi Sullivan (Stanford; 5/0)

FORWARDS (5): Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC; 132/18), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 132/78), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars; 94/44), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC; 127/34), Lynn Williams (NC Courage; 13/4)

Canada Soccer Women’s National Team Roster

GOALKEEPERS: Stephanie Labbé (Washington Spirit), Sabrina D’Angelo (North Carolina Courage), Kailen Sheridan (Sky Blue FC)

FULLBACKS: Lindsay Agnew (Washington Spirit), Allysha Chapman (Boston Breakers), Jayde Riviere (Markham Soccer Club & Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite/ Canada Soccer Regional EXCEL Super Centre)

CENTERBACKS: Shelina Zadorsky (Washington Spirit), Rebecca Quinn (Duke), Ariel Young (Ottawa Fury and Canada Soccer Regional EXCEL Super Centre)

MIDFIELDER/FULLBACK: Maegan Kelly (FC Kansas City)

MIDFIELDERS: Jessie Fleming (UCLA), Julia Grosso (Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite/ Canada Soccer Regional EXCEL Super Centre), Desiree Scott (FC Kansas City)

FORWARDS: Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns FC), Janine Beckie (Houston Dash), Deanne Rose (University of Florida), Adriana Leon (Boston Breakers), Nichelle Prince (Houston Dash), Jordyn Huitema (Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite/ Canada Soccer Regional EXCEL Super Centre)

Shake-up in Seattle: Laura Harvey steps down, Vlatko Andonovski steps in as head coach

Official word from Seattle Reign FC that Andonovski is in as head coach with two-year contract

Laura Harvey and Vlatko Andonovski share a moment before a 2016 NWSL match. (Photo credit: Jane Gershovich / ISI Photos)

Seattle Reign FC announced on Tuesday that head coach and general manager Laura Harvey has resigned her position, but also immediately laid to rest any questions about the coaching vacancy by announcing they have signed Vlatko Andonovski to a two-year contract. Andonovski, who has won two championships with FC Kansas City, will also serve as the executive director of Reign Academy. Harvey will stay on with the Seattle front office through the end of the year to ensure a smooth transition for Andonovski.

“I am deeply appreciative of all Laura gave to our organization over the past five years. She is a brilliant coach, but more importantly, she is a tremendous individual – there is nobody I would have rather worked with to build the club,” Reign FC owner Bill Predmore said in the team’s official release. “Laura’s impact will be felt long after she departs, as she helped establish the enduring values that define what it means to be a part of our organization. Teresa and I will be her lifelong friends and fans, as well as her biggest advocates as she pursues her next opportunity.”

As for what’s next for Harvey, there’s no official word yet. In the release, she said, “I’m going to take a little bit of time to reflect and decide what the best next move is for me. I hope that an opportunity comes my way and I will decide if it is the right one. It’s been a tough decision to make but I feel like it’s the right one for me and for the club.” But Richard Farley of FourFourTwo USA reports that Harvey is in line to take an expanded role with U.S. Soccer.

Until Tuesday, both head coaches had been with their respective clubs since the first season of the National Women’s Soccer League.

Under Laura Harvey’s guidance, the Reign went from their dismal start in 2013 to back-to-back NWSL Shield-winning seasons in 2014 and 2015. In 2014, the Reign finished with 16 wins (a record only matched this year by the North Carolina Courage), including the NWSL’s longest unbeaten streak at 16 games. And if it weren’t for Vlatko Andonovski’s FC Kansas City side, they may have added some stars above their crest. Andonovski led FCKC to three playoff appearances and back-to-back championships in 2014 and 2015.

“We thank Vlatko for all he has done for this club and we wish him the best of luck in the future,” said FC Kansas City owner Elam Baer in the team’s official confirmation that Andonovski would not return next season.

As of Tuesday, there’s no additional word from FC Kansas City about their search for a new head coach.

Andonovski passed his thanks along to his players, front office, and the fans of FC Kansas City via The Blue Testament. “Without going into any details on the circumstances,” he wrote,“I just want to say that it will not be easy without the FCKC logo and the 2 stars on my shirt, but I will always be one of their biggest fans.”

As for the two coaches, it was nothing but mutual admiration between Harvey and Andonovski in their quotes provided to the Reign.

“For me, Vlatko was the perfect choice to build on what I’ve worked so hard to create in Seattle,” Harvey said. “I have a massive amount of respect for all he accomplished in KC, know that he will work well with Bill and the technical staff, and believe he can get the most out of our squad. I wish him the best of luck with the team and will do all I can to support him as he takes on this challenge.”

“Laura [Harvey] is one of the best coaches in the game,” Andonovski said. “I’ve always admired her and the job she’s done in Seattle. She’s someone that had a hand in changing the landscape of women’s soccer in this country. Having her endorsement in this is an honor to me. I hope I can continue her work and the unique culture she created.”

12 NWSL players named to Canada roster for friendlies vs. USWNT

Maegan Kelly earns her first call-up to Canada's women's national team

FC Kansas City's Maegan Kelly after scoring vs. the Red Stars (Photo credit: Daniel Bartel/isiphotos.com)

Canada coach John Herdman has announced the roster for the upcoming friendlies against the United States next week and it features 12 NWSL players.

FC Kansas City forward Maegan Kelly earns her first call up to Canada’s women’s national team, and could earn her first international cap in either of the games.

Kelly’s father is from Toronto, Ontario. She is listed as a midfielder/full back on Canada’s roster. Drafted in 2014, Kelly didn’t play her first minutes for the Blues until 2017. She appeared in 22 games, starting four. Her five goals were tied for second best on the team this season. Kelly’s first career NWSL goal was an 84th minute game-tying header at home vs. the Reign in June.

Canada will first host the United States at BC Place in Vancouver on November 9 (10 p.m. ET, ESPN2) and then head to San Jose’s Avaya Stadium on November 12 for the second game (9 p.m. ET, FS1).

All three goalkeepers are from the NWSL: Stephanie Labbé (Washington Spirit), Sabrina D’Angelo (North Carolina Courage) and Kailen Sheridan (Sky Blue FC).

Thorns captain Christine Sinclair, who just won an NWSL title, once again will captain the Canadian side. The world’s second all-time leading international scorer has 168 goals, just 16 behind Abby Wambach’s all-time leading 184.

Also on the roster: Lindsay Agnew (Washington Spirit), Allysha Chapman (Boston Breakers), Shelina Zadorsky (Washington Spirit), Desiree Scott (FC Kansas City), Janine Beckie (Houston Dash), Adriana Leon (Boston Breakers) and Nichelle Prince (Houston Dash).

Follow the NWSL on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for coverage of the two friendlies – including live, on-site coverage from Avaya Stadium for the second match of the series.

Canada Soccer Women’s National Team Roster

GOALKEEPERS: Stephanie Labbé (Washington Spirit), Sabrina D’Angelo (North Carolina Courage), Kailen Sheridan (Sky Blue FC)

FULLBACKS: Lindsay Agnew (Washington Spirit), Allysha Chapman (Boston Breakers), Jayde Riviere (Markham Soccer Club & Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite/ Canada Soccer Regional EXCEL Super Centre)

CENTERBACKS: Shelina Zadorsky (Washington Spirit), Rebecca Quinn (Duke), Ariel Young (Ottawa Fury and Canada Soccer Regional EXCEL Super Centre)

MIDFIELDER/FULLBACK: Maegan Kelly (FC Kansas City)

MIDFIELDERS: Jessie Fleming (UCLA), Julia Grosso (Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite/ Canada Soccer Regional EXCEL Super Centre), Desiree Scott (FC Kansas City)

FORWARDS: Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns FC), Janine Beckie (Houston Dash), Deanne Rose (University of Florida), Adriana Leon (Boston Breakers), Nichelle Prince (Houston Dash), Jordyn Huitema (Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite/ Canada Soccer Regional EXCEL Super Centre)

22 NWSL players named to USWNT roster for friendlies vs. Canada

Emily Sonnett and Adrianna Franch return to the national team, Ubogagu earns first call-up

NWSL highlights for the newest roster drop from the USWNT include Emily Sonnett and Adrianna Franch of the Portland Thorns, and a first call-up for Orlando's Chioma Ubogagu.

On Tuesday, U.S. women’s national team head coach Jill Ellis named her 23 player roster for two upcoming friendlies against Canada later this month, which features 22 players from the NWSL.

Emily Sonnett and Adrianna Franch, fresh off winning the 2017 National Women’s Soccer League Championship with Portland Thorns FC, both make their return to the national team. Sonnett has twelve caps for the USWNT, but her last was on Oct. 19, 2016 against Switzerland. Sonnett signed with W-League side Sydney FC during the NWSL offseason.

As for Franch, she was in national team camp this past January, but has yet to earn her first appearance for the USWNT. She’s coming off a stellar club season with the Thorns, keeping 11 clean sheets and she was voted the NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year.

Chioma Ubogagu got her first call-up from Ellis, and she will train as an outside back with the national team after seeing some time in that position with the Orlando Pride this season.

Finally, Portland’s Tobin Heath and North Carolina’s Taylor Smith are both back on the roster after they both missed the two Korea friendlies due to injuries.

The USWNT will square off against Canada in two friendlies to close out the 2017 calendar: first on Nov. 9 at BC Place in Vancouver (10 pm. ET on ESPN2) then on Nov. 12 at Avaya Stadium in San Jose (9 p.m. ET on FS1). Of the 23 players called into camp for the friendlies, only 18 will be rostered for each of the two games.

The Canada roster is expected later this week, and will also include plenty of NWSL talent. The Canadian women’s national team is currently ranked fifth in the world, thanks in part to winning bronze at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. The USWNT is 47-3-6 all-time against Canada.

Follow the NWSL on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for coverage of the two friendlies – including live, on-site coverage from Avaya Stadium for the second match of the series.

U.S. Women’s National Team Roster by Position (Caps/Goals):

GOALKEEPERS (4): Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns FC; 0/0), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 21/0), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 2/0), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride; 14/0)

DEFENDERS (8): Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage; 11/0), Sofia Huerta (Chicago Red Stars; 3/0), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC; 102/2), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City; 133/0), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars; 17/0), Taylor Smith (NC Courage; 5/0), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC; 12/0), Chioma Ubogagu (Orlando Pride; 0/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 55/13), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 41/4), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash; 244/97), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC; 32/6), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage; 32/7), Andi Sullivan (Stanford; 5/0)

FORWARDS (5): Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC; 132/18), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 132/78), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars; 94/44), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC; 127/34), Lynn Williams (NC Courage; 13/4)

Boston Breakers sign Swedish defender/midfielder Lotta Ökvist

Ökvist played for Sweden’s U-19 and U-17 women’s national teams

The Breakers will have Swedish international Lotta Ökvist suiting up in Boston blue next season. (Photo: Tim Bouwer/isiphotos.com)

On Tuesday, the Boston Breakers announced they have signed Swedish defender/midfielder Lotta Ökvist, pending receipt of her P-1 Visa and International Transfer Certificate (ITC), for the 2018 season.

Ökvist, 20 years old, has Damallsvenskan experience under belt already – having featured for Piteå IF, with 25 appearances during the 2016/2017 season. She also earned 11 appearances with Umea during 2016. She also played for Sweden at the international level with two of its youth teams, the U-19 and U-17 sides. She was on the Swedish U-19 team that won the UEFA U-19 Women’s Championship in 2016.

“Lotta is a very technically gifted player with a wonderful left foot,” Boston Breakers head coach Matt Beard said in the team’s official release. “She is a versatile player, who plays in defense and attack and will be a great addition to our roster.”

“I’m really excited to play in the NWSL, and I’m thankful I got the opportunity to play with the Boston Breakers,” Ökvist told the Boston Breakers. “I have a really good impression of the club, from the coach to the medical staff, the team, the whole organization, everyone seems really professional. I am a team player and a fighter. I love to win, so I will always give 100 percent for my team. I hope the fans come out and support us next season and help us reach our goal of making the playoffs.”

Nora Holstad announces retirement

The defender appeared in two games for the Courage this season

Courage defender Nora Holstad in action this season. (Photo credit: Andy Mead/isiphotos.com)

North Carolina Courage defender Nora Holstad officially announced her retirement on Monday.

Holstad signed with the Courage midseason and appeared in two games, starting the final game of the regular season. She joined the team after competing in the UEFA Women’s Euro tournament for Norway this summer.

“I want to thank the NC Courage and their loyal fans for letting me be a part of their family for the past couple of months. Thanks for giving me this experience and one last adventure before ending an amazing journey with the sport I love. The Courage organization has treated me as a part of their family from day one and my teammates have welcomed me with open hearts. I wish the club, the fans and the team all the best for the future, stay the COuRsE and keep playing and living with Courage,” Holstad said in a statement released by the Courage.

Holstad also posted a statement on Twitter, saying: “I’m ready to  leave the game that has given me more than I could have ever imagined.”

The NWSL guide to the W-League

Over 30 NWSL players will feature in the Australian season

The Westfield W-League has officially kicked off in Australia for its tenth season on Friday with big wins from Perth Glory Women and Brisbane Roar FC, and featured goals from Sam Kerr and Emily Sonnett, plus a brace from the Orlando Pride’s Rachel Hill.

And while even the W-League acknowledges the “Kerr Effect” and boost from the popularity of the Matildas after increased international success and sell-out games on home soil, long-time NWSL fans will know that the W-League’s schedule has always made it an offseason favorite for American players.

Every W-League club has at least one NWSL player on its roster, giving NWSL fans plenty of reasons to follow every match.

About the W-League

The Westfield W-League has nine clubs: Adelaide United, Brisbane Roar, Canberra United, Melbourne City, Melbourne Victory, Newcastle Jets, Perth Glory, Sydney FC and the Western Sydney Wanderers. The regular season lasts 14 rounds, followed by a postseason culminating in a grand final match.

Melbourne City has won the last two grand finals, and five Seattle Reign FC players are returning to City to defend their title, including Jess Fishlock and Lydia Williams.

You can follow the W-League on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

NWSL Players in the W-League

Nine of the 10 clubs in the NWSL are represented on W-League rosters during the offseason. Seattle leads the way with eight players heading to Australia, Portland Thorns FC has five players, and the Chicago Red Stars and Orlando Pride each have four on various W-League clubs.

Here’s the full list of every NWSL player on a W-League roster that’s been announced, by NWSL team.

Boston Breakers:

Natasha Dowie | Melbourne Victory
Amanda Frisbie | Perth Glory
Katie Stengel | Newcastle Jets

Chicago Red Stars:

Danielle Colaprico | Adelaide United
Arin Gilliland | Newcastle Jets
Alyssa Mautz | Adelaide United
Katie Naughton | Adelaide United

FC Kansas City:

Christina Gibbons | Melbourne Victory
Lo’eau Labonta | Western Sydney Wanderers

North Carolina Courage:

Makenzy Doniak | Adelaide United
Ashley Hatch | Melbourne City

Orlando Pride:

Steph Catley | Melbourne City
Rachel Hill | Perth Glory
Alanna Kennedy | Melbourne City
Toni Pressley | Canberra United

Portland Thorns FC:

Celeste Boureille | Brisbane Roar
Britt Eckerstrom | Newcastle Jets
Hayley Raso | Brisbane Roar
Emily Sonnett | Sydney FC
Ashleigh Sykes | Canberra United

Seattle Reign FC:

Lauren Barnes | Melbourne City
Larissa Crummer | Melbourne City
Jessica Fishlock | Melbourne City
Haley Kopmeyer | Canberra United
Kristen McNabb | Melbourne Victory
Carson Pickett | Brisbane Roar
Rebekah Stott | Melbourne City
Lydia Williams | Melbourne City

Sky Blue FC:

Sam Kerr | Perth Glory
Raquel Rodriguez | Perth Glory
Nikki Stanton | Perth Glory

Washington Spirit:

Tori Huster | Newcastle Jets

How to watch

There are two more games on deck for Saturday, between Melbourne Victory and Canberra United, and Newcastle Jets and Western City Wanderers before the first week of the regular season comes to a close. (Note: The W-League website also does international viewers a solid by allowing people to display match times in their own time zone.)

Fans in the U.S. and other countries outside of Australia can stream using OZ Live Sports, a new pay-per-view platform. Fans can either purchase individual game streams for $2.99 each, or subscribe to the platform on a monthly basis for $4.99 per month.

Andressinha, Bruna Benites, Francisca Ordega to play in Brazil, Spain on loan this offseason

The Dash, Spirit announced the moves last week

Houston Dash midfielder Andressinha in action this season. (Photo credit: Trask Smith/isiphotos.com)

In addition to a number of players heading to the W-League during the offseason, three NWSL players are headed elsewhere on loan this winter.

Houston Dash midfielder Andressinha and Bruna Benites will join Esporte Clube Iranduba da Amazônia in Brazil, the Dash said last week. Andressinha will be with the team through December for for their Campeonato Amazonense de Futebol Feminino campaign and Benites will remain with the team for the remainder of this year.

Also, Spirit forward Francisca Ordega will be part of Atlético Madrid in Spain. She joined the team on loan and will return to the Spirit in March, the Spirit said last week.

2018 NWSL College Draft to take place on Jan. 18 at 11 a.m. ET

The 2018 Draft will take place at the United Soccer Coaches Convention in Philadelphia

NWSL Managing Director of Operations Amanda Duffy at the 2017 NWSL College Draft. (Photo credit: Brad Smith/isiphotos.com)

The 2018 NWSL College Draft will take place on Thursday, January 18, at 11 a.m. ET at the United Soccer Coaches Convention in Philadelphia, the league announced.

The draft will open to the public and media and will be held in the CC Grand Ballroom at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. It will be live streamed with details to be announced at a later date.

2018 NWSL College Draft
United Soccer Coaches Convention
Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018
Start time: 11 a.m. ET
Room: CC Grand Ballroom

Check out the 2018 NWSL College Draft Order below. View past NWSL College Draft results


2018 NWSL College Draft Order

Round 1

1. Washington Spirit

2. Boston Breakers

3. Houston Dash

4. FC Kansas City

5. Sky Blue FC

6. Washington Spirit**

7. Chicago Red Stars**

8. Portland Thorns FC

9. Portland Thorns FC

10. North Carolina Courage

Round 2

11. Washington Spirit

12. Houston Dash

13. Chicago Red Stars

14. FC Kansas City

15. Sky Blue FC

16. Washington Spirit

17. Boston Breakers

18. Chicago Red Stars

19. Chicago Red Stars

20. North Carolina Courage

Round 3

21. Washington Spirit

22. Boston Breakers

23. Orlando Pride

24. Houston Dash*

25. Sky Blue FC

26. Washington Spirit

27. Chicago Red Stars

28. Houston Dash

29. Chicago Red Stars

30. Houston Dash

Round 4

31. Washington Spirit

32. Boston Breakers

33. Houston Dash

34. FC Kansas City

35. Sky Blue FC

36. Seattle Reign FC

37. Chicago Red Stars

38. North Carolina Courage

39. North Carolina Courage

40. North Carolina Courage

Houston Dash will receive FCKC’s highest third round draft pick in the 2018 NWSL College Draft to be set at the conclusion of the 2017 NWSL Season.

**Washington Spirit will receive Chicago Red Stars’ highest 2018 first round draft pick available on 8.21.2017 (CRS and SRFC’s natural pick) at the conclusion of the 2017 NWSL Season

Highlights & Results: NWSL players on international duty

Brynjarsdóttir scores twice in Iceland's upset of Germany

It may be the NWSL offseason, but there’s plenty of international duty for many NWSL players this week. Here’s a quick at look at the highlights and results from the latest round of international games.

October 24: Brazil 2 China 2 (2017 Yongchuan Four Nations Tournament)

Marta scored on a penalty kick for her fourth goal of the Four Nations Tournament as Brazil and China tied 2-2 in the final game. Brazil won the tournament with a 2-0-1 record. Four NWSL players were on Brazil’s roster for the tournament: Marta (Orlando Pride) and AndressinhaBruna Benites and Poliana of the Houston Dash.


October 24: Mexico 0 Korea DPR 1 (2017 Yongchuan Four Nations Tournament)

Mexico fell in their final game of the Four Nations Tournament, a 1-0 loss to Korea DPR. Reign forward Katie Johnson started for Mexico in the game.


October 24: Ireland 2 Slovakia 0 (2019 World Cup Qualifying)

Courage midfielder Denise O’Sullivan scored as Ireland won their World Cup qualifier 2-0 over Slovakia.


October 24: Wales 0 Russia 0 (2019 World Cup Qualifying)

Jess Fishlock (Reign FC) and Wales played to a 0-0 with Russia in World Cup Qualifying.


October 24: Iceland 1 Czech Republic 1 (2019 World Cup Qualifying)

Dagný Brynjarsdóttir scored as Iceland tied the Czech Republic 1-1 in their World Cup Qualifier.


October 24: Scotland 5 Albania 0 (2019 World Cup Qualifying)

Seattle Reign FC defender Rachel Corsie captained Scotland as they beat Albania to pick up another three points in World Cup Qualifying.


October 22: Japan 2 Switzerland 0 (Friendly)

Seattle Reign FC midfielder Rumi Utsugi and Japan topped Switzerland 2-0 on a friendly on Sunday.


October 22: South Africa 4 Brukina Faso (Friendly)

Dash defender Janine Van Wyk captained her side as South Africa won their friendly vs. Brukina Faso 4-0.


October 21 : Brazil 2 Korea DPR 0 (2017 Yongchuan Four Nations Tournament)

Marta scored both goals and Andressinha added an assist as Brazil won their second game of the Four Nations Tournament.


October 21: Mexico 2 China 3 (2017 Yongchuan Four Nations Tournament)

Katie Johnson started again for Mexico as they fell 3-2 to China in their second game of the Four Nations Tournament. Bianca Henninger, who was injured in the opening game, did not dress for the match.


October 20: Iceland 3 Germany 2 (2019 World Cup Qualifying)

Portland Thorns FC midfielder Dagný Brynjarsdóttir scored in the 15th and 58th as Iceland upset Germany 3-2 in a World Cup Qualifier. It’s Germany’s first World Cup qualifying loss since 1998.


October 19: Scotland 2 Belarus 1 (2019 World Cup Qualifying)

With Seattle Reign FC defender Rachel Corsie captaining the squad, Scotland won their World Cup Qualifier vs. Belarus by a score of 2-1. It’s the opening game of their road to France 2019. Match Report


October 19: Brazil 3 Mexico 0 (2017 Yongchuan Four Nations Tournament)

Orlando Pride forward Marta scored a goal and added an assist as Brazil beat Mexico 3-0 in the opening game of the Four Nations tournament in China. After Marta scored the opening goal of the game in the 54th minute, Houston Dash defender Bruna Benites headed in a Marta free kick to make it 2-0 in the 59th.

Dash goalkeeper Bianca Henninger started in goal for Mexico, but left due to injury in the 55th minute. Match report

Houston’s Poliana and Andressinha started for Brazil in the game. Seattle Reign FC forward Katie Johnson started for Mexico.


No players selected off NWSL Re-Entry Wire

The eight players are now discovery eligible

The NWSL official ball before a match. (Photo credit: Andy Mead/isiphotos.com)

The National Women’s Soccer League issued the following news release on Tuesday:

CHICAGO (Oct. 24, 2017) – The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) announced today that no players were selected off the NWSL Re-Entry Wire as part of the End of Season Process.

The following players cleared the Re-Entry Wire and are now discovery eligible (with previous team in parentheses):

McKenzie Berryhill (Orlando Pride), Jocelyn Blankenship (Orlando Pride), Kelly Conheeney (Houston Dash), Line Sigvardsen Jensen (Washington Spirit), Kendall Johnson (Portland Thorns FC), Natasha Kai (Sky Blue FC), Jordan O’Brien (Orlando Pride) and Stephanie Ochs (North Carolina Courage).

NWSL teams exercise contract options

Teams also extend contract offers to players

(Photo credit: Daniel Bartel/isiphotos.com)

On Monday, NWSL teams announced which players have had contract options exercised and which players had been extended new contract offers.

Additionally, the league announced that eight players would be available on the Re-Entry Wire as part of the End of Season Process. Full list and more info.

2018 information for Federation Players will be shared at a later date.


Boston Breakers

Contract options exercised: Abby Smith, Sammy Jo Prudhomme, Megan Oyster, Julie King, Amanda Frisbie, Rosie White, Morgan Andrews, Adriana Leon, Natasha Dowie, Ifeoma Onumonu, Margaret Purce, Hayley Dowd

Extended new contract offers: Brooke Elby, Christen Westphal, Angela Salem, Tiffany Weimer, Katie Stengel

Federation Players: Alyssa Chapman (Canada) and Rose Lavelle (United States)


Chicago Red Stars

Contract options exercised: Danielle Colaprico, Taylor Comeau, Michele Dalton, Arin Gilliland, Sarah Gorden, Summer Green, Jen Hoy, Sofia Huerta, Samantha Johnson, Lauren Kaskie, Alyssa Mautz, Stephanie McCaffrey, Yuki Nagasato, Katie Naughton.

New contract: Vanessa DiBernardo

Federation Players: Morgan Brian, Julie Ertz, Alyssa Naeher, Christen Press, Casey Short (United States)


Houston Dash

Contract options exercised: Bruna Benites, Jane Campbell, Meghan Cox, Claire Falknor, Andressinha, Kristie Mewis, Janine Van Wyk

Extended new contract offers: Poliana, Amber Brooks, Rachel Daly, Sarah Hagen, Caity Heap, Bianca Henninger, Cami Levin, Kelia Ohai, Cami Privett and Cari Roccaro

Placed on Re-Entry Wire: Kelly Conheeney

Federation Players: Janine Beckie, Nichelle Prince (Canada), Carli Lloyd (United States) 


FC Kansas City

Contract options exercised: Yael Averbuch, Christina Gibbons, Sydney Miramontez, Caroline Flynn, Mandy Laddish, Shea Groom, Maegan Kelly, Brittany Ratcliffe

Extended new contract offers: Alex Arlitt, Becca Moros, Brittany Kolmel (nee Taylor), Katie Bowen, Lo’eau LaBonta, Alexa Newfield, Erika Tymrak, Nicole Barnhart, Cat Parkhill

Federation PlayersDesiree Scott (Canada), Amy Rodriguez, Sydney Leroux, Becky Sauerbrunn (United States) 


North Carolina Courage

Contract options exercised: Abby Dahlkemper, Debinha, Elizabeth Eddy, Abby Erceg, Kristen Hamilton, Ashley Hatch, Jaelene Hinkle, Jessica McDonald, Katelyn Rowland, Taylor Smith, Darian Jenkins, Yuri Kawamura

Extended new contract offers: Makenzy Doniak, Denise O’Sullivan, Meredith Speck, Sam Witteman, McCall Zerboni

Placed on Re-Entry Wire: Stephanie Ochs

Federation PlayersSabrina D’Angelo (Canada), Samantha Mewis, Lynn Williams (United States)

Retiring: Nora Holstad


Orlando Pride

Contract options exercised: Aubrey Bledsoe, Camila, Nickolette Driesse, Kristen Edmonds, Danica Evans, Jamia Fields, Rachel Hill, Monica, Toni Pressley, Jasmyne Spencer

Extended new contract offers: Stephanie Catley, Alanna Kennedy, Chioma Ubogagu, Dani Weatherholt

Under contract: Marta

Placed on Re-Entry WireMcKenzie Berryhill, Jocelyn Blankenship, Jordan O’Brien

Federation PlayersAlex Morgan, Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger (United States)



Portland Thorns FC

Contract options exercised: Ashleigh Sykes, Tyler Lussi, Savannah Jordan, Emily Menges

Extended new contract offers: Adrianna Franch, Britt Eckerstrom, Katherine Reynolds, Celeste Boureille, Dagny Brynjarsdottir, Meg Morris, Hayley Raso, Mallory Weber

Placed on Re-Entry Wire: Kendall Johnson

Federation Players: Christine Sinclair (Canada), Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan, Allie Long, Meghan Klingenberg, Emily Sonnett (United States)

Not returning: Amandine Henry, Nadia Nadim


Seattle Reign FC

Contract options exercised: Haley Kopmeyer, Maddie Bauer, Rachel Corsie, Merritt Mathias, Kristen McNabb, Rebekah Stott, Christine Nairn, Larissa Crummer, Kiersten Dallstream, Katie Johnson, Beverly Yanez

Extended new contract offers: Lauren Barnes, Carson Pickett, Jessica Fishlock, Rumi Utsugi, Nahomi Kawasumi, Lydia Williams 

Federation PlayersMegan Rapinoe (United States), Diana Matheson (Canada)

Retiring: Elli Reed, Madalyn Schiffel


Sky Blue FC

Contract options exercised: Cassidy Benintente, Mandy Freeman, Kayla Mills and Christie Pearce; midfielders Daphne Corboz, Sarah Killion and Madison Tiernan; and forwards Sam Kerr and McKenzie Meehan.

Extended new contract offers: Caroline Casey; defenders Domi Richardson, Erin Simon and Erica Skroski; midfielders Taylor Lytle, Raquel Rodriguez, and Nikki Stanton; and forwards Leah Galton and Maya Hayes.

Placed on Re-Entry WireTasha Kai

Federation Players: Kailen Sheridan (Canada), Kelley O’Hara (United States)


Washington Spirit

Contract options exercised: Yanara Aedo, Lindsay Agnew, Cali Farquharson, Francisca Ordega, Arielle Ship, Cheyna Williams, Estefania Banini, Meggie Dougherty Howard, Tori Huster, Joanna Lohman, Morgan Proffitt, Havana Solaun, Whitney Church, Caprice Dydasco, Estelle Johnson, Alyssa Kleiner, DiDi Haracic

Extended new contract offers: Kassey Kallman, Kelsey Wys

Placed on Re-Entry WireLine Sigvardsen Jensen

Federation PlayersMallory Pugh (United States), Stephanie Labbé, Shelina Zadorsky (Canada)

Eight NWSL players available on the Re-Entry Wire

The NWSL announced the list on Monday

Spirit midfielder Line Sigvardsen Jensen in action during the 2017 season. (Photo credit: Jose Argueta/isiphotos.com)

The National Women’s Soccer League issued the following news release on Monday:

CHICAGO (Oct. 23, 2017) – The National Women’s Soccer League’s (NWSL) announced today that eight players are available on the Re-Entry Wire as part of the End of Season Process.

The complete list of players (see below) was distributed to all ten teams in advance of the release of the Re-Entry Wire today at 1 p.m. ET. Teams have until Tuesday, Oct. 24 at 1 p.m. ET to claim a player.

In the event a player is requested by more than one team, that player will be awarded to the team at the top of the Waiver Tie-Break Order. Once a team claims a player via the waiver tie-breaker, it is moved to the bottom of the order for all future waiver sessions for the remainder of the offseason.

Name | Club

In addition, the following players have indicated that they are retiring and will not be included in today’s Re-Entry Wire: Nora Holstad (North Carolina Courage), Elli Reed (Seattle Reign FC) and Madalyn Schiffel (Seattle Reign FC).

If a player decides to come out of retirement and return to the League, their rights are maintained by their most recent club.

Six goals for the USWNT, first cap for Zerboni in shutout win over Korea Republic

Mewis, Press, Ertz, Williams and Long all score for the USWNT

The United States women's national team celebrates a goal on Sunday in Cary, N.C. (Photo credit: Brad Smith/isiphotos.com)

Led by four Courage players playing in their home stadium, the United States women’s national team beat Korea Republic 6-0 on Sunday afternoon at Sahlen’s Stadium in WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.

Courage midfielder McCall Zerboni earned her first USWNT cap, entering in the 46th minute and finishing out the win. Zerboni, who has played professionally since 2009 in WPS, WPSL Elite and the NWSL, was called into camp on the senior level for the first time ever on Friday before making her debut Sunday. The 30-year-old became the oldest player to earn a first U.S. cap.

Courage midfielder Sam Mewis scored a first half brace to give the United States the early lead.

Courage forward Lynn Williams scored in the second half.

And two of the United States goals came off corner kicks by North Carolina defender Abby Dahlkemper. The 2017 NWSL Defender of the Year took over 100 corner kicks in the NWSL this season to lead the league. Dahlkemper assisted on Mewis’ first goal in just the third minute. Both of her assists in 2017 also came on Mewis goals. A Dahlkemper corner also led to yet another Julie Ertz set piece goal — the 13th of her career.

Courage players weren’t the only stars of the game as the Chicago Red Stars (Ertz and Christen Press) and Portland Thorns FC (Allie Long) all picked up goals as well. Seattle Reign FC forward Megan Rapinoe, Thorns midfielder Lindsey Horan and Orlando Pride forward Alex Morgan recorded assists.

Morgan assisted on Press’ stunner in the 35th minute.

Long’s goal was the final goal of the afternoon.

Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris and Houston Dash goalkeeper Jane Campbell each played a half to earn the clean sheet. It’s the second international appearance for Campbell, who made her debut in Houston in April of 2017.

Harris came up with a big save in the first half to keep things scoreless.

Sofia Huerta (Chicago Red Stars) earned her first start for the USWNT, playing all 90 minutes at left back.

NWSL MVP: Sam Kerr, Sky Blue FC

Kerr set an NWSL record with 17 goals in 2017

Sky Blue FC forward Sam Kerr scored an NWSL record 17 goals in 2017. (Photo credit: Robyn Walsh McNeil/isiphotos.com)

After a record-breaking season, Sky Blue FC forward Sam Kerr has been named the 2017 NWSL Most Valuable Player, the league announced Friday. The award was voted on by club officials, players, media that cover the league on consistent basis and fans.

In 22 games, Kerr scored 17 goals — besting former Seattle Reign FC midfielder Kim Little’s previous record of 16 set in 2014 — and four assists. Five of her 17 goals were game-winners, with more than a few coming in late, dramatic fashion. Her 43 career goals are the most in NWSL history.

On July 8, she became the NWSL’s all-time leading scorer — by scoring a hat trick in the final 12 minutes to lead Sky Blue FC back from down 2-0 to a 3-2 win over FC Kansas City. At the time, it was just the second time in NWSL history that a team recovered from a two goal deficit to win a game and just the eighth time in league history that a team won when trailing after 75 minutes.

On August 19, Kerr became the first player to score four goals in one game. Once again, her feat came in dramatic comeback fashion as Sky Blue recovered from a 3-0 halftime deficit, and then a 4-3 deficit in the 85th minute, to win 5-4 after Kerr scored her goal in the fourth minute of second half stoppage time. Kerr missed a potential game-winning penalty kick, only to head home the game-winner on a corner kick moments later. It’s the first time in NWSL history a team has ever won after being down by three goals.

Kerr won back-to-back Player of the Month honors in May and June and was named to the Team of the Month four times this season. She also won Player of the Week three times: for the three goal game, four goal game, and a two goals/one assist game in a 3-1 win at Portland in June.

Her 21 total points are second in league history to Little’s 23 points (16 goals, 7 assists) in 2014. Kerr also won the 2017 Golden Boot as the league’s top scorer.

Every Sam Kerr goal and assist during the 2017 season

Assist 1: May 13 vs. Houston Dash, 3-1 win | 53′ | Goal: Leah Galton

Goal 1: May 13 vs. Houston Dash, 3-1 win | 87′ | Assist: McKenzie Meehan

Goal 2: May 27 vs. Orlando Pride, 2-1 win | 43′ | Assist: Daphne Corboz

Assist 2: May 27 vs. Orlando Pride, 2-1 win | 82′ | Goal: Maya Hayes

Assist 3: June 17 vs. Portland Thorns FC, 3-1 win | 1′ | Goal: Raquel Rodriguez

Goal 3: June 17 vs. Portland Thorns FC, 3-1 win | 70′ | Assist: Maya Hayes

Goal 4: June 17 vs. Portland Thorns FC, 3-1 win | 88′ | Assist: Madison Tienan

Goal 5: June 28 vs. Orlando Pride, 2-3 loss | 46′ | Assist: Maya Hayes

Goal 6: July 1 vs. North Carolina Courage, 1-0 win | 84′ | Assist: Maya Hayes

Goal 7: July 8 vs. FC Kansas City, 3-2 win | 78′ | Assist: Kelley O’Hara

Goal 8: July 8 vs. FC Kansas City, 3-2 win | 81′ | Assist: Daphne Corboz

Goal 9: July 8 vs. FC Kansas City, 3-2 win | 90′ | Assist: Taylor Lytle

Goal 10: July 15 vs. Chicago Red Stars, 2-2 draw | 90′ | Assist: Sarah Killion

Goal 11: July 22 vs. Seattle Reign FC, 4-5 loss | 76′ | Assist: Daphne Corboz

Goal 12: Aug. 19 vs. Seattle Reign FC, 5-4 win | 48′ | Unassisted

Goal 13: Aug. 19 vs. Seattle Reign FC, 5-4 win | 68′ | Assist: Daphne Corboz

Goal 14: Aug. 19 vs. Seattle Reign FC, 5-4 win | 71′ | Assist: Sarah Killion

Goal 15: Aug. 19 vs. Seattle Reign FC, 5-4 win | 94+’ | Assist: Taylor Lytle

Goal 16: Aug. 26 vs. Boston Breakers, 1-0 win | 5′ | Assist: Nikki Stanton

Assist 4: Sept. 24 vs. North Carolina Courage, 1-1 draw | 75′ | Goal: Raquel Rodriguez

Goal 17: Sept. 30 vs. Boston Breakers, 4-3 win | 34′ | Assist: Maya Hayes

McCall Zerboni called up to USWNT ahead of Sunday’s friendly

It’s the first ever call into USWNT camp for Zerboni

Courage midfielder McCall Zerboni was named to the 2017 NWSL Best XI. (Photo credit: Andy Mead/isiphotos.com)

North Carolina Courage midfielder McCall Zerboni has been called into camp for the U.S. women’s national team ahead of Sunday’s friendly vs. the Korea Republic in Cary, N.C. Sunday’s game will take place at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park, Zerboni’s homefield with the Courage.

Zerboni joins the roster following a right hamstring injury to Spirit forward Mallory Pugh suffered on Thursday night in New Orleans. Additionally, Stanford midfielder Andi Sullivan will return to college for a game this weekend. Zerboni puts the roster number at 19 with 18 players dressing for the game.

It’s the first call into USWNT camp for Zerboni, who has played professionally since 2009, following a college career at UCLA. She was named to the 2017 Best XI this year, her fifth season in the league. She scored three goals and added an assist, starting 23 games for the Courage. She scored the first goal in Courage history in a 1-0 win over Washington on April 15.

Just a few days ago, after the Courage fell 1-0 to the Thorns in the NWSL Championship, Courage coach Paul Riley called for Zerboni to earn a call up to the national team.

“I think there was probably 10, 12 internationals on the field today. … Should be another international on the field,” he said, gesturing to Zerboni, sitting alongside him.

If Zerboni plays in the game, it could be alongside her Courage (and Best XI) midfield teammate Sam Mewis, who has started every USWNT game this year.

Zerboni has played three WPS seasons, one WPSL Elite season and five NWSL seasons. Zerboni played for youth U.S. national teams, but this is her first senior call up.

Ertz, Morgan, Rapinoe score in 3-1 USWNT win over Korea Republic

The two teams will meet again on Sunday in Cary, N.C.

Chicago Red Stars midfielder Julie Ertz celebrates her goal for the USWNT in New Orleans. (Photo credit: Brad Smith/isiphotos.com)

Chicago Red Stars midfielder Julie Ertz scored on yet another set piece for the U.S. women’s national team and the USWNT went on to win 3-1 over Korea Republic on Thursday night in New Orleans.

Ertz headed in a Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC) corner kick in the 24th minute for her 12th career international goal. All 12 have come off of set pieces.

Orlando Pride forward Alex Morgan continued her hot scoring streak for the USWNT and improved her career total to 78 international goals. It’s her fourth straight U.S. game with a goal.

After the U.S. conceded a goal at the end of the first half, Rapinoe converted a penalty kick in the 52nd minute to make it 3-1.

Washington Spirit forward Mallory Pugh was subbed out near the end of the first half with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.

Stanford’s Andi Sullivan started and played the first 45 minutes of the match, earning the fifth cap of her career.

Houston Dash forward Carli Lloyd, who missed the end of the NWSL season with an ankle injury, made her return to the field. She played the final 13 minutes of the match.

The two teams will meet again on Sunday at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.

Defender of the Year: Abby Dahlkemper, North Carolina Courage

Dahlkemper played every minute in 2017

North Carolina defender Abby Dahlkemper in action for the Courage. (Photo credit: Andy Mead/isiphotos.com)

North Carolina Courage defender Abby Dahlkemper has been named the 2017 NWSL Defender of the Year, the league announced Thursday. The award was voted on by club officials, players, media that cover the league on consistent basis and fans.

Once again, Dahlkemper played every minute of the season, one of just four field players to do so in the NWSL this year. She is the all-time leader in consecutive minutes played, an active streak.

Dahlkemper anchored a Courage backline that set a record with 12 shutouts and conceded just 22 goals (second-best in the league). The 0.92 goals against average for North Carolina is the fourth best mark in league history. She tied for the team-high with 88 clearances and only trailed midfielders Sam Mewis and McCall Zerboni in total touches for the Courage.

Dahlkemper also contributed on the offensive side of the ball with two assists as she took most of North Carolina’s set pieces. She led the league by a wide margin with 116 corner kicks taken during the regular season. North Carolina was the most efficient team on corner kicks this season, with 55.6% of their corners resulting in a shot on goal.

Her two assists came on Mewis goals, both from free kicks. Her first was on a long free kick for the first goal in North Carolina’s 3-2 comeback win over Washington that clinched the team a playoff spot. Her second came on a quick restart for the game-winning goal in a 4-0 win over Houston that clinched the NWSL Shield.

Dahlkemper is just the third player to ever win the award. FC Kansas City defender Becky Sauerbrunn won the first three before Seattle Reign FC defender Lauren Barnes won last year.

Goalkeeper of the Year: Adrianna Franch, Portland Thorns FC

Franch set an NWSL record with 11 clean sheets in the regular season

Portland Thorns FC goalkeeper Adrianna Franch recorded 11 clean sheets in 2017. (Photo credit: Craig Mitchelldyer/isiphotos.com)

In 2017, Portland Thorns FC goalkeeper Adrianna Franch set an NWSL record with 11 clean sheets in the regular season and has now been voted Goalkeeper of the Year. The award was voted on by club officials, players, media that cover the league on consistent basis and fans.

Franch and the Thorns, of course, then added one more clean sheet to their season, a 1-0 win over the North Carolina Courage in the 2017 NWSL Championship on Oct. 14.

In addition to the record number of shutouts, Franch also posted a 0.83 goals against average and made 80 saves — all while being one of six players to play all 2,160 minutes this season. The 0.83 GAA ties the NWSL record set by Seattle Reign FC set in 2014.

Franch’s 11 shutouts bested the previous record of 10 set by Nicole Barnhart in 2013. The Thorns went 9-0-2 in those games, on their way to a 14-5-5 regular season record and second-place in the NWSL standings at the end of the regular season.

She earned her first clean sheet on April 15 at home vs. the Orlando Pride, a 2-0 win in the season’s first game. Fittingly, she earned No. 11 vs. the Pride as well, a 0-0 draw in Orlando in the penultimate game of the regular season. Franch and the Thorns were the only team to shutout the league’s best offense twice this season.

Franch set a season-high with seven saves twice — at home vs. Orlando and then on the road in June vs. Sky Blue FC. Seven of her shutouts came at Providence Park as Portland posted the league’s best home record in 2017 (10-1-1).

Franch is the fifth different goalkeeper to win the award in the league’s five year history. She’s the second Thorns keeper to win, joining Michelle Betos, who won in 2015.

Rookie of the Year: Ashley Hatch, North Carolina Courage

Hatch scored seven goals and added an assist in 2017

North Carolina Courage forward Ashley Hatch scored seven goals in her rookie NWSL season. (Photo credit: Andy Mead/isiphotos.com)

After scoring seven goals in her first professional season, North Carolina Courage forward Ashley Hatch has been voted Rookie of the Year. The award was voted on by club officials, players, media that cover the league on consistent basis and fans.

Hatch was selected by the Courage as the No. 2 overall pick in the NWSL College Draft out of BYU.

The rookie finished the regular season with seven goals and one assist in 1,200 minutes. Of her 22 appearances, 13 were starts for the Courage.

Hatch scored her first professional goal in her first start on June 3. Starting in place of an injured Jessica McDonald, Hatch scored off an assist from Lynn Williams in the 67th minute against FC Kansas City. She scored in all three games for the Courage in June and was named to the NWSL Team of the Month.

Three of Hatch’s seven goals were game-winning goals, including the only one scored on June 24 in Boston, one of North Carolina’s record seven 1-0 wins in 2017. Her other two came at home vs. Seattle Reign FC and the Washington Spirit. Four of her goals came in Cary, N.C., and three on the road.

On September 24, Hatch recorded the first assist of her career and added a goal of her own as the Courage clinched the NWSL Shield with a 4-0 win over the Houston Dash. The win was North Carolina’s record-tying 16th win of the season.

She finished second on the team in scoring behind only Williams’ nine goals.

Thorns celebrate NWSL Championship win in style

Portland beat North Carolina 1-0 on Saturday for their second NWSL title

Portland Thorns FC defender Emily Sonnett and forward Hayley Raso celebrate the 2017 NWSL Championship. (Photo credit: Brad Smith/isiphotos.com)

It’s been a busy few days for the Portland Thorns. That’s what happens when you win an NWSL Championship.

Take a look at all the best moments so far.


First, the Thorns lifted the trophy at Orlando City Stadium.


On Sunday afternoon, the Thorns were welcomed back by a large crowd at the airport upon their return from Orlando.



Then, honored at the Timbers game on Sunday night.


After that, a rally at Providence Park with speeches from Christine Sinclair, Amandine Henry, Lindsey Horan, Emily Sonnett, Emily Menges, coach Mark Parsons, owner Merritt Paulson and more.


Paul Riley voted NWSL Coach of the Year

The Courage won the NWSL Shield with a 16-7-1 record in the regular season

Courage coach Paul Riley talks with North Carolina players after a game. (Photo credit: Andy Mead/isiphotos.com)

After a record-setting season for the Courage, North Carolina coach Paul Riley has been named the NWSL Coach of the Year. The award was voted on by club officials, players, media that cover the league on a consistent basis and fans.

The Courage went 16-7-1 in 2017, tying the 2014 Seattle Reign for the most wins in a single season. They also set a league record with 12 shutouts (five on the road) and finished as the second-best defense in the league, conceding just 22 goals.

North Carolina beat Chicago in the semifinals before falling to Portland in the NWSL Championship 1-0 on Saturday.

It’s the fourth straight NWSL season that the coach of the Shield winners has been named Coach of the Year.

Despite being in first place for most of the season (147 of 169 days), Riley and the team played with what they called a “junkyard dog” mentality — a scrappy, “underdog” mentality. It worked to the tune of seven 1-0 wins in the regular season (an NWSL record).

In those seven games, five of the goals came in the first half and the other two came as game-winners in the 81st minute or later. Six different goal scorers had the only goal in those games: McCall Zerboni, Debinha, Jessica McDonald, Ashley Hatch, Lynn Williams and Kristen Hamilton. Only Williams scored twice in those close games.

Riley also navigated through a summer of injuries to North Carolina’s two top offensive threats: Williams and McDonald. Hatch started her first game in place of McDonald on June 3 and scored her first pro goal. The next game for the Courage came on June 17 and was without Williams and McDonald. Hatch started alongside Hamilton, making the first start of her NWSL career in her fourth year in the league. She scored a brace in the first 13 minutes of the game — the first two goals of her professional career. Hatch also scored in the match.

Riley and many of the same players won the title last year as the Western New York Flash, but relocated to North Carolina in January as a new franchise with new ownership.

Riley joins Vlatko Adonovski, Laura Harvey (twice) and Mark Parsons as the only coaches to win NWSL Coach of the Year.

Smith, Heath ruled out of upcoming USWNT friendlies

Both players were injured in the NWSL Championship

Courage defender Taylor Smith in action. (Photo credit: Andy Mead/isiphotos.com)

U.S. Soccer announced on Monday that Courage defender Taylor Smith (shoulder) and Thorns midfielder Tobin Heath (ankle) have been ruled out of the upcoming friendlies vs. the Korea Republic. Neither player will be replaced on the roster.

Both players were injured in the NWSL Championship on Saturday, a 1-0 Portland win.

Smith was injured in the second minute after being fouled by Heath. She returned to the game, but was eventually subbed out in the 12th minute. Heath briefly left the match after being fouled by Lynn Williams in the 74th minute, but finished out the Thorns’ win.

Smith said on Twitter on Sunday that she is out for 3-4 weeks with an AC joint separation in her right shoulder.

The USWNT will play the Korea Republic on Thursday in New Orleans and Sunday in Cary, N.C.

Sonnett and Menges lead Portland to shutout win over North Carolina

The Thorns, led by Sonnett and Menges, have been the NWSL's stingiest defense over the last two years

(Center) Portland Thorns FC defenders Emily Sonnett and Emily Menges after winning the 2017 NWSL Championship. (Photo credit: Brad Smith/isiphotos.com)

By Katelyn Best

Orlando, Florida — There was plenty of offensive firepower to be found on the rosters of both sides in Saturday’s NWSL Championship matchup.

The Portland Thorns have one of the most prolific scorers ever in the women’s game in Christine Sinclair. The North Carolina Courage are known for their speedy attack, and for the athleticism of forwards like Lynn Williams, Jessica McDonald, and rookie Ashley Hatch. But these two teams also have the two top defenses in the league, and ultimately, it was defense that won the day for Portland.

“We’re proud of being a great attacking team and we didn’t get to do that much today,” said Thorns coach Mark Parsons after the match. “We’re proud to be a very good, hardworking defensive team, and it won us a championship.”

For two years, Portland’s back line has been anchored by Emily Sonnett and Emily Menges. Parsons has deployed Katherine Reynolds as the third center back for much of the season, with Meghan Klingenberg and Ashleigh Sykes flanking the trio at wingback. Menges and Klingenberg were both named to the NWSL Second Best XI earlier this week.

While Klingenberg and Reynolds have rotated in and out of lineups over those two years due to injuries, and Sykes joined the Thorns earlier this season, Sonnett and Menges played almost every minute this season together.

“It’s special,” said Menges after the match. “I think we’ve gotten to a point where we really connect as a back line… having two years under our belt is something that not many back lines get to have. We rely on each other, and we keep each other accountable, and we can predict what each other are going to do.”

“I’ve talked about building on that,” said Sonnett of the partnership. “I think getting to the final game, and pushing and getting this last win is what we’ve been working for. Hats off to everyone around me, including AD [Franch].”

Although North Carolina took 16 shots to Portland’s four, that back line held strong, and ultimately earned the Thorns another shutout—after the 11 they earned during the regular season.

“Portland is very organized,” said Williams. “They have a great defense. They played with three in the back and two wingers. One would get forward, and another would come back, so it’s like they always had four back there… I think we had a lot of great chances, but they also have a great keeper so it didn’t go our way tonight. They have a great defense, so credit to them.”

Shutting teams out is a point of pride for the Thorns, who Parsons said have “a great mentality to protect this goal and protect this team.”

“AD gave us all dryer sheets today,” said Menges. “Clean sheets. It’s something we pride ourselves on. That’s the goal of a back line in every game we go into, is a clean sheet. … We did our job.”

Although the back five stayed organized throughout most of the match, one breakdown occurred in the 82nd minute, when Jaelene Hinkle played a long ball over the back line as McDonald charged between Sonnett and Menges. McDonald managed to hold Menges off the ball, nearly getting a clear shot at the goal. Menges scrambled back around McDonald to block the shot.

“Menges’s last tackle just kind of showed who this team is,” said Thorns midfielder Lindsey Horan. “We were not going to let another goal in, and the game was not pretty whatsoever, but we came out and we kept battling, and our defending was incredible.”

“I got myself into that problem to begin with,” admitted Menges. “I need to remind people of that. But everyone had plays like that. Just because mine’s in front of goal doesn’t make it more impressive than somebody else’s, up the field.”

On top of her impressive defending, Sonnett notched the assist on the game’s only goal, scored by Horan in the 50th minute. A handball by Abby Dahlkemper earned the Thorns a free kick from near the center line, and Sonnett placed a right-footed kick to the center of the penalty area. Thorns midfielder Amandine Henry got a light touch with her head, and the ball fell to Horan, who hit it over keeper Katelyn Rowland.

“I think that’s something I’ve struggled with throughout the year,” said Sonnett of the free kick. “Just keeping it simple, hitting it to the weak side and hopefully getting a knockdown. … It ended up working out that Lindsey got on the end of it.”

Sonnett had a simple assessment of Portland’s defensive mentality: “Obviously, keeping the ball out of the net, they have a worse chance of winning.”

Lindsey Horan named MVP as Thorns win NWSL Championship

Horan scored the game’s only goal

Portland Thorns FC midfielder Lindsey Horan speaks with Dalen Cuff on the field after being named 2017 NWSL Championship MVP. (Photo credit: Jeremy Reper/isiphotos.com)

Portland Thorns FC midfielder Lindsey Horan was named the MVP of the NWSL Championship after scoring the game-winning goal in the 50th minute. 

The Thorns won 1-0 for their second NWSL title.

What to Watch For: Courage vs. Thorns in the NWSL Championship

Gameday guide for the 2017 NWSL Championship

Courage coach Paul Riley, Courage defender Abby Erceg, Thorns forward Christine Sinclair and Thorns coach Mark Parsons (Photo credit: Jeremy Reper/isiphotos.com)

North Carolina Courage vs. Portland Thorns FC

NWSL Championship

Where: Orlando City Stadium in Orlando, Florida

When: Saturday, October 14 at 4:30 p.m. ET

Tickets: Buy now

Where to Watch: Lifetime

Also available on: mylifetime.com, and the Lifetime iOS and Android apps in the United States; International viewers: NWSLSoccer.com and the NWSL  iOS and Android apps.


Going to the Game?

Important Orlando City Stadium has a clear bag policy. Get more information

Find out more about the stadium and the experience around the game by visiting NWSLChampionship.com.


Media Day Highlights

By Katelyn Best

North Carolina Courage midfielder McCall Zerboni: “I definitely feel it’s probably one of the best competitions you’re going to see in the world. These are two great squads with a lot of talent, and a lot of dynamics to them, and a lot of strengths. Both sides don’t have many weaknesses. To kind of find those weaknesses and attack them is going to be difficult. I imagine it’s going to be a low-scoring game. It’s not easy to score goals in games like this.”

Read more Courage Media Day highlights

Portland Thorns FC midfielder Tobin Heath: “The defense has been huge. I think it’s very collective, I think everyone’s on the same page. It’s almost like if one person gets beat, there’s another person, and another person, and another person. It’s a really great mentality to have. We always talk about defense winning championships. Our defense has done an amazing job, and it’s shown in our performances. It’s just a really hard group to break down.”

Read more Thorns Media Day highlights


Watch


By the Numbers:

North Carolina Courage

16-7-1, 49 points (1st place)

Lynn Williams (9 goals, 5 assists), Ashley Hatch (7 goals, 1 assist)

Katelyn Rowland (8 shutouts)

38 goals for, 22 goals against

Portland Thorns FC

14-5-5, 27 points (2nd place)

Christine Sinclair (8 goals), Nadia Nadim (6 goals, 3 assists), Hayley Raso (6 goals, 3 assists)

Adrianna Franch (11 shutouts)

37 goals for, 20 goals against


Latest News

  • How They Got Here: North Carolina Courage: Read More
  • How They Got Here: Portland Thorns FC: Read More
  • Outside the Box Scores: North Carolina Courage: Read More
  • With a quiet and constant presence, Sinclair once again leads Thorns to playoffs: Read More

The Last Times They Met

The North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns FC faced off twice in the 2017 NWSL regular season, with each team winning at home by the score of 1-0.

They’re set to meet for the third and final time this season with everything at stake in the 2017 NWSL Championship. They’ll meet on a neutral field, Orlando City Stadium in Orlando, Florida on Saturday (4:30 p.m. ET, Lifetime).

Both the Courage and Thorns ended up at the top of the table in not just points (Courage — 49, Thorns 47), but also home wins (Thorns — 10, Courage — 9) and goals allowed (Thorns — 20, Courage — 22)

It’s not surprising that both of their meetings this season were close games that went in favor of the home side each time.

Read More


Injury Report

North Carolina Courage

OUT: Liz Eddy (left hamstring strain), Darian Jenkins (D45 – left ankle dislocation/fracture), Yuri Kawamura (SEI – right knee ACL and meniscus tear)

DOUBTFUL: None

QUESTIONABLE: Debinha (left elbow dislocation)

PROBABLE: None

Portland Thorns FC

OUT: Meg Morris (D45 – left hip inflammation)

DOUBTFUL: None

QUESTIONABLE: None

PROBABLE: None

Watch: NWSL Championship Preview Press Conference

The Courage and Thorns spoke with reporters ahead of the 2017 NWSL Championship

The North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns FC met the media on Friday in advance of the 2017 NWSL Championship. (Photo credit: Jeremy Reper/isiphotos.com)

The official Preview Press Conference of the 2017 NWSL Championship, featuring the head coach and captain from the North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns FC.

  • North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley
  • North Carolina Courage defender Abby Erceg
  • Portland Thorns FC coach Mark Parsons
  • Portland Thorns FC forward Christine Sinclair

Watch now:

Highlights from the Thorns at Media Day

The Thorns and Courage will meet in the NWSL Championship on Oct. 14

Tobin Heath speaks with the media ahead of the 2017 NWSL Championship. (Photo credit: Jeremy Reper/isiphotos.com)

By Katelyn Best

Orlando, Florida — Portland Thorns FC spoke with the media ahead on Friday ahead of the NWSL Championship match against North Carolina (Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET on Lifetime). Here are some highlights from the afternoon:

On scouting North Carolina:

Emily Menges

“They’re scrappy. They’ll never let down. They’ve definitely got the passion and the athleticism and all that. They’re annoying to play against. Other than that, I think their forwards, at least defensively, we’ve watched to where we know what they bring—whether we can stop them is different. They’re fast. They’re strong. They all have eyes for goals. We know what they’re going to bring, so there are no surprises coming from them.”

Emily Sonnett

“They’re an athletic team. They do not give up. I would say going forward in transition is to their advantage, with how athletic they are up top and the people they can bring off the bench. So I’d say limiting their space behind, and if the ball does come to the front and to their midfield, then limiting the midfielders’ space, and giving appropriate pressure is going to work in our favor.”

Hayley Raso

“Yeah, obviously every game’s a challenge with them, and we know this one’s going to be the same. We just have to continue what we’ve been doing, playing our style, playing the same way. Their forward line, their back line, their whole core of defenders is really strong. So we just have to match that on the day.”

On Portland’s league-leading defense:

Tobin Heath

“The defense has been huge. I think it’s very collective, I think everyone’s on the same page. It’s almost like if one person gets beat, there’s another person, and another person, and another person. It’s a really great mentality to have. We always talk about defense winning championships. Our defense has done an amazing job, and it’s shown in our performances. It’s just a really hard group to break down.”

Menges

“I’m confident in our back line, but I’m confident in the way we’ve been defending as a team all year. It starts with our strategy up top, not letting them play out. It breaks down their team. It breaks down their momentum. It’s been the entire team’s defensive effort.”

On whether this is a chance at revenge for the Thorns (after last year’s semifinal loss to the Flash):

Sonnett

“I wouldn’t say it’s a revenge match. I think both teams are at their peak right now, and I think it’s going to be a great game. Our first game was great. Our second game was great—they went 1-0. Then we went 1-0, and I just think these two teams have a tremendous amount of quality, and it’s going to be a good one.”

Nadim

“Definitely. Last year broke my heart, the way we lost. I think we’re a great team, but on that day their tactics worked. I hope it’s not going to work this time.”

Menges

“For sure. We’re a similar team to last year, as they are, but I think we’re a better-grounded team this year. We’ve overcome more than I think we did last year.”

On watching the league change since 2013 (the last time the Thorns played in an NWSL Championship match)

Heath

“It’s cool, because the league’s evolved so much in those years. It’s changed a lot. To see those little growths, and look back on it, is special. Everyone here has contributed to that growth. It’s special to see that, and we just want to continue pushing that forward.”


Watch more highlights from Media Day as NWSL Media talked live with members of the Thorns:

Highlights from the Courage at Media Day

The Courage and Thorns will meet in the NWSL Championship on Oct. 14

Lynn Williams speaks at Media Day ahead of the 2017 NWSL Championship. (Photo credit: Jeremy Reper/isiphotos.com)

By Katelyn Best

Orlando, Florida — The North Carolina Courage spoke to the media Friday at Orlando City Stadium ahead of the NWSL Championship match against Portland Thorns FC (Saturday, Oct. 14 at 4:30 p.m. ET on Lifetime). Here are a few highlights of what they had to say:

On the chance to be the first team to win the NWSL Shield and the championship in the same year:

Jessica McDonald

“To be able to make something happen for the first time in history would be absolutely amazing. It’d be epic. I think it’d just be a great feeling to show people it’s possible to do it.”

Lynn Williams

“I think it’d be huge, but we haven’t really thought about that as a team. I think that the Shield was really cool to win, but we didn’t talk about it all season. Now that’s behind us. I think a lot of times, teams win the Shield and they think their job is done… What we really want is the Championship tomorrow. That’s what we’re focused on.”

Sizing up Portland:

McDonald

“I think we’re confident enough, just because we’ve been improving day in and day out. We’ve been improving so much as a team, and I believe everything will just come together coming into tomorrow. We know how to break them down, and they probably know how to break us down as well. It’s going to be a back-and-forth kind of thing. If we get a ball into the net first, early in the game, I think we’ll sit pretty comfortable.”

Williams

“They play a different style. They’re a very good back line, they’re very disciplined. They have a lot of key components… I think if we can get them turned and facing their goal, that’s going to be the most effective. If we play in front of them a lot, it’ll play into their game, and its going to be a lot easier for their defenders to defend. I’m confident, but at the same time, you know its going to be a hard team to beat.”

McCall Zerboni

“I definitely feel it’s probably one of the best competitions you’re going to see in the world. These are two great squads with a lot of talent, and a lot of dynamics to them, and a lot of strengths. Both sides don’t have many weaknesses. To kind of find those weaknesses and attack them is going to be difficult. I imagine it’s going to be a low-scoring game. It’s not easy to score goals in games like this.”

Abby Erceg

“I think, obviously, both teams have great defenses, I think it’s a tribute to the way we’ve done throughout the year… I think they have a lot of threats and it’s going to come down to which defense cracks first. Obviously, with Tobin Heath coming back as well, that brings another aspect to their attack that we have to look out for. They’re going to cause a lot of challenges, and it’s going to come down to whether we can concentrate for the full 90 minutes.”

On the “junkyard dogs” mentality:

Williams

“I think that last year, we had an underdog mentality because we really, truly were the underdogs. Nobody expected us to be in the playoffs, let alone win. I think this year, we do have a bigger target on our backs, and we’ve obviously been on the top of the table since the beginning of the season… At the end of the day, yes, we aren’t ‘the underdogs,’ but we still have that mentality of, we really need to work to get where we need to go. We’ve got to grind it out. We’ve got to fight for everything. Even if its not pretty.”

Elizabeth Eddy

“A big part of our identity is that mentality of being underdogs. No matter what comes at you, find a way to solve it… It’s something our team has done a great job of—building that mentality and holding true to that, despite the tables and standings.”


Watch more highlights from Media Day as NWSL Media talked live with members of the Courage:

State of the League with Amanda Duffy

Duffy spoke at length about the NWSL at the close of year five

Amanda Duffy sat down on Thursday to speak with NWSL Media about the state of the league as its fifth season wraps up this weekend. (Photo: Andy Mead/isiphotos.com)

Orlando, Florida — On Thursday, NWSL Managing Director of Operations Amanda Duffy sat down with NWSL Media’s Meg Linehan and Jacqueline Purdy to address a number of topics and to discuss the state of the National Women’s Soccer League ahead of the NWSL Championship between the North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns FC (Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET, Lifetime).

Biggest successes in 2017:

There’s a few important successes from year five. One, I think we just had a successful season five in general. I know we’re going to talk about season five being a historical year and every season that the NWSL exists after year three. It becomes just that much longer of a league, more stable of a league. So from that standpoint, just acknowledging that we’ve successfully completed a fifth season as a women’s professional league is important just to note and set that tone.

When we look at some of the attendance successes that have been here in the league, and the continued success in Portland, overall from a league perspective from an accumulative number across the season, we’re trending in a very good direction. The move and transition of ownership to North Carolina, and the launch of the North Carolina Courage, which is a historical women’s soccer brand. I think they did a wonderful job in launching and getting off the ground on very short notice. Of course, with a roster that’s very similar to last year’s Western New York Flash and then having that piece together and that continued success they’ve had on the field, and they’re back here at the Championship is an important piece to the success of this season.

I think there’s a few things that we can look at this year, but certainly with on the field and some of the records that were set, and attendance that continues to grow, a lot of our markets are key pieces that we look at.


Expectations for the 2017 NWSL Championship:

I think the really neat thing about Orlando is there’s a soccer culture here. With or without Orlando in the Championship, we always knew this was going to be a good environment, because there is a culture, there is a fan base. And as the fan base in the NWSL grows, and the support individually with our teams grows, we know that just helps the attendance and the environment at a Championship event while it’s a neutral site hosted event.

So I think when we look at the teams that are in the Championship, we’ve got the top two teams coming into it. The top two out of the regular season standings, both teams are playing well right now, which is is just going to make on the field a competitively balanced competition, an exciting competition. When a champion is named, it will truly represent the team that has comprehensively, start to finish, across the season, put together the best season in the league.

Off the field, I think we’re going to have a great attendance, anywhere from seven to ten thousand is where we’ll be. It will create a nice environment in a stadium that has a lot of neat features, a lot of cool features for the fans in that environment. The atmosphere is going to be good. I think it’s going to be a good crowd, and everyone’s excited to see this year represented.


On having players like Marta and Mallory Pugh join the NWSL, as well as Sam Kerr’s breakout season:

It took it to the next level. Having the top players globally playing in NWSL just continues to enhance and accelerate the level of play, the level of competition in NWSL. From the development of players domestically and internationally that are playing against the best, it just continues to help accelerate the development of our players. For the youth players in the United States, and those that are aspiring to play at the professional level, it just sets a great standard and such an exciting environment for a young player to really want to be a part of.


On players like Nadia Nadim and Amandine Henry leaving:

I think that’s what one of the things that we as a league will need to continue to talk about, continue to talk about, continue to grow in the off-the-field aspects of our business. They’ve certainly been — the two that you just named — two huge players that have certainly had an impact in the league and were a part of, a couple of years ago, showing that they can come into this league and they can be successful and that this is a league that globally, all players want to be a part of. We’ll continue to see that trend.

This past off-season, we more than doubled our minimum salary and made some big important increases in that piece of it. As that continues to grow, that’s going to help players want to be here and want to be a part of the NWSL. That’s going to be a key piece we continue to focus on off-the-field, but also, in the individual markets, just making sure there’s a connection with the market, that there continues to be a growth in fan bases and support at that level for those players and those clubs to thrive in their individual markets. That just helps the league overall continue to grow.


On whether the NWSL will see Designated Players or Homegrown Players, like MLS:

We’re not ready for it. There’s still some strides we have to make in other areas to really position these teams and position our ownerships to be able to take on increases, that when you talk about a Designated Player type salary or even Homegrown Player salaries that are usually different than, or at least in the MLS model, than what the minimum salary is. It impacts the overall spend. So there’s some other areas with our ownership that we really have to make sure are stable and are in the right place before we can really take on some big changes like that.

Understanding the benefit of those players in the league, we want to make those strides and we want to do it as quickly as possible. When the league was launched, the priority was, let’s do this at a pace and in a way that keeps the league around. I think that’s been done, I think that’s been executed well, which is why we’re wrapping up a season five and looking at season six. But I don’t think we’re ready to take the bigger jumps yet, to get into those type of salaries and financial requirements that increase greater spend that keep those players over here.


On players like Maddy Evans, Amanda DaCosta and Elli Reed retiring:

It’s a combination of both, but for us if you want to keep players in the league longer, more focus needs to be on the lower side right now than on the higher side, than on the upper end. If everything is growing incrementally that allows players to play an extra year, or extra couple of years, rather than these young players coming out of college and only able to do this for two or three years because they’re making $15,000, just at a certain point it doesn’t become realistic.

If we can continue to work on that and build on the lower end to get this to a threshold and a level that allows players to be able to live on a salary that they’re making while they’re still playing, think that’s certainly the goal of the league and the ownerships, and at the right time, when it makes sense to also introduce the other ancillary mechanisms that allow players to stay in at the higher level, and we feel like the league’s in that stable position as it continues to grow, then we’ll introduce it at that right time.


On the state of the markets, specifically FC Kansas City:

The spectrum of not just ownership, but environments and resources that the teams have is stark. You have Portland on one end, and you have a Sky Blue, a Kansas City, a Boston on the other. I think when you look at all of the situations, you come from a starting point of — for me at least — that we have ten owners that are committed to women’s soccer, and committed to NWSL succeeding. And it’s going to be at a certain pace for some, and certain investments at certain levels across the board, and some are going to be more capable than others.

The biggest thing for us right now is continuing to manage with the ownership that is committed in each of the markets, there are strengths and weaknesses with each of these teams and understanding the dynamics in each and what it’s going to take from a league side to continue to move those markets and those organizations forward that enable to them not just keep operating and keep in business, but find a path forward to thrive in the women’s game and women’s professional soccer. To present the best team, the best and brand, and to represent both locally and nationally the team in NWSL, that we feel like women’s professional soccer deserves, the players deserve and in a way that shows the continued growth.

But there are some challenges, there’s definitely some challenges in certain markets and the strengths and weaknesses that need attention and need to really be focused on to make those teams successful.

So we did have some challenges in Kansas City this year, it was a new ownership and new management, new general manager. There was a lot of transition and changeover of staff that made things a little bit harder, and probably the process a little bit slower than probably they expected and we would have wanted. But that’s something that’s a part of the evolution of the league and evolution of how we’re going to grow. So when we have those opportunities, it’s a matter of taking the situation by the hand and showing the way, guiding the way to meet the standards that we want to continue to grow with also.


Is that the focus for this offseason?

This was a big year. February 2nd, we announced the partnership with A+E and Lifetime and launched NWSL Media. I mean that’s eight months ago. We’ve had some personnel change over, [former NWSL commissioner] Jeff [Plush] isn’t with the league any more, just some new thinkers and new ideas and new staff, you guys, too. A lot of new people coming into a lot of new things that are all great for the league and the sport going forward. All of that happening was a big change for the teams too, a lot of new ideas and expectations coming into it. Going into this offseason, we have more of that in place and a better framework for what all of this looks like with our partnership with A+E, and with NWSL Media up and operating we can really focus in on that we need as a league and nationally, and also with the teams. What the expectations are going to be and how we really move those situations to stronger places.


Where do things stand with FC Kansas City?

It’s a priority. It’s a top priority for us right now. We’re working with that ownership right now to resolve and get that to a situation that has clarity and the right path forward for next year. It’s a market we believe in strongly. FC Kansas City has success there, on and off the field, in past years. I think it’s proven to be a great soccer market on the men’s and the women’s side. It’s a market we haven’t lost any faith in, on what the potential is there. It is a priority, and we’re continuing to work on that to give clarity and resolution on how that will look in 2018.


On future expansion:

When I got here, nine months ago, ten months ago, there were some opportunities that were being discussed that had gone back into last year and looking at 2018, and it felt like there was a little bit of a rush and push to do that just for the sake of having that. There’s some really good expansion opportunities and expansion markets and prospects that the league is talking to. We’re in a great position though, because it’s not required. We’re not in a situation where we only make it to year six if there’s expansion. It just gives us a better opportunity to really have the right conversations with the right ownership groups, so that any new ownership that comes in, any team that comes in, they’re coming in at the top. They’re coming in to enhance what we’re doing and build the league and grow the league. It’s not a situation where they can operate at the level we’re operating right now, they can help be a part of the growth and the drive to move the league forward, move the game forward.

In 2018, we don’t anticipate any expansion. But with all the prospects we’ve been working with, and talking with, they feel very good. We have very good, very positive conversations with all the ownerships that have been speculated about and mentioned in the past with future expansion, potentially as soon as 2019.


Is it difficult to have expansion in a World Cup year?

I think there’s challenges to it, but also when there’s so much attention on women’s soccer it also creates an opportunity. You might have more fans interested in seeing it, and a better opportunity to expose to people that watch in those tournament years, at those times, but wouldn’t necessarily be paying attention or following otherwise. In those years, it’s not just the diehard women’s soccer fan that’s paying attention, you have a broader audience. I think there’s benefits to coming in and starting a team during a World Cup year also.


Status of FC Barcelona, which has expressed interest in the NWSL:

It’s a group that we continue to have positive conversations with. Between the things they’re working on, they’re continuing to grow their presence in the United States at all levels. It kind of goes back to the right time and the right location for FC Barcelona and for the league, and those are the things we want to get right and we have the ability to take our time and make sure it’s done right in a way that sets them up for success. It helps across the league for the league to be successful. So it’s a good place to be in right now, and it continues to be a great conversation, and we’ll continue to identify that right location for them


Do you want to see teams in Los Angeles and New York City?

Those are markets that have existing professional soccer organizations that do very well. In LA, there are now two for the MLS teams at least, and other men’s professional teams in the surrounding area. Same goes for New York. With LAFC coming into that market, I certainly think they’re going to do everything right and everything well, and the LA Galaxy are a proven, historical team in that market too. They’re great markets, and there’s proven success for professional soccer there. We’re going to look at the markets: does it make sense regionally and geographically with the teams that we do have? And it’s going to be about having the right ownership before we go into any market that we’re going to expand in. Is the team set up for success with the right stadium, the right facilities, the right resources, financially, in a front office, that allow a training facility, that allow the women’s game to thrive and to have everything it really takes to operate at a professional level.


On the new NWSL Players’ Association:

I know they’ve been working for a couple of years now to organize themselves and to organize this Players’ Association. For them to be able to set up a situation where all the players have a clear opportunity to talk and a channel to bring information to the league, that allows the league to have a better understanding of some of the things going on, in the places that we’re not necessarily seeing or hearing things. I think to have that ability to have that information and better understand the on-the-ground stuff that’s happening, and just feedback from the players that are living this every single day. Across the board, everyone has the same end wish — or not even a wish — but to see the continued growth of the league. For everything that I have now, I want it to be better for the next person, the next set of players that come in.

With that in mind, and with everyone having that same desire for the league, and for growth and the ability to communicate to the league and us to players. I understand it, it makes sense, and it’s been good dialogue so far. It’s still very early, and it’s been an establishment process for them for getting the association set up, getting their leadership in place, their representatives from the teams. I think this will be an important offseason for them too, now that some of those sort of set up pieces, start up pieces are now behind them. What are their agenda items? What is it that they really want to talk about and focus on that will come to the league? And we’ll continue to look at and have dialogue with them.

They named the two representatives from every team, they named their executive leadership there. It’s been very much, over the course of three or four months now, what those roles and responsibilities are. A few things that they’ve brought to the league’s attention that are not bigger, broader aspects, but just sort of singular, here’s a situation, how can we handle it. We’ve started to do that on a singular basis, but this offseason they’ll spend more time in really laying out what some of the items are that they really want to talk about.


On the A+E Networks partnership, weekly games on Lifetime, and where that goes next year:

This is one of those things too, where I think this offseason is going to be important for us. With it being announced and finalized in January, announced in February, we put a lot together before the start of this season, both from on the linear side and also on the digital side with our broadcast this year.

We’ve been really pleased with our Lifetime Games of the Week. Every Saturday, we have a game of the week that we can just continue to drive fans to, and they know at the same time every week they’re going to have an opportunity to watch the NWSL. That’s been really valuable for us to have that and be able to promote that, leading up to each, Lifetime’s been really good at promoting throughout their A+E networks to drive and deliver the viewers, so we’re certainly appreciative of that. It’s invaluable to have the broadcast for this league, as it opens up so much more opportunity. We have our women’s soccer viewers that are going to know and follow, it doesn’t take a whole lot to get the information to them, they’re looking for information about the league. There are other, more casual fans, and making sure that they’re aware and they know when they can find the NWSL. What A+E also brings to the table is the other group that’s not necessarily a fan yet at all. They might have a child play, but they don’t follow the NWSL, they might not even know about the NWSL. So it just introduces the league and the players, the athletes to what I would consider a new audience on the Lifetime network. But it then gives us the opportunity for looking at sponsorships, and broadening our viewership, and a better platform — for when we talk about national sponsorships and go in that direction, it gives us a better platform to sell off of and really talk about the league and talk about the viewers.

Our average viewership this year is higher than it was last year. We’ll have 25 games on national television this year, which is more than the league’s ever had.


On Lifetime, go90 and the growth of NWSL on digital platforms:

When we think about Lifetime, go90, and the website, those are three key areas that are night and day from what we’ve had in the past. Starting with the website, new website and I’ll throw in the app on that also, but a new website with more live content than we’ve ever had before, which has just been amazing for the league. Content is what helps drive engagement, and having new fresh content for our fans to look at, and not just the written, but the videos. There’s just so much more for fans to really understand the league, that we haven’t been in position to do before. Having that, and the launch of a new website and to follow that up with all the content and all the interaction that it affords through both the website and the app, it’s an important step to getting our brand out there and making sure it’s represented in a good way and a strong way, that delivers the right message and showcases the athletes in the best way.

Coming in behind that with our digital broadcasts, previously on YouTube and also the responsibility of the teams with the production and the talent, and really just delivering the digital broadcasts. Working with Vista this year has really been a wonderful experience and they’ve been great about the quality of our broadcasts, really improving it to a level that we’re really happy with and talk about the ways that we can enhance that broadcast going forward too, just so we can give that higher quality feel and experience for someone watching. Whether that’s for someone watching through go90 or our website, which our website now allows that for our international viewers and in the cases that we needed it to, our domestic viewers as well. 

That experience, combined with the quality of the broadcasts on Lifetime — [NWSL on Lifetime executive producer] Michael Cohen has done an excellent job week in and week out with the production of the game itself, but also with the pregame show, the features, telling the stories and more stories about the players as part of those games. The stories off the field about players and personalizing it in a way that I think is really important and what the women’s soccer fans really connect with. It’s been really positive, the movement, the growth on all three of those sides has been really great. It’s been really exciting to look at those, to talk with Vista, to Lifetime, talk to Evan [Silverman, A+E Networks EVP of Global Digital Products and Platforms, who manages NWSL Media] and you guys about what more we can do, and there’s really a platform for us to do more. I think the response has been really great and the quality of it all has been really great to just, bringing it back to telling stories of the athlete, showcasing the athletes and their stories on the field and off the field and just giving them a platform too to talk about things that are important to them.


Status of potential sponsorships:

When you look at the timing of the A+E deal came together, we missed the window for 2017 in the sponsorship life-cycle. And that’s something that’s just part of the launch of NWSL Media, that’s one of the areas that’s a priority for NWSL Media to drive that opportunity and through A+E through the relationships and partnerships that the network already has, and in some aspects looking to be a beneficiary of some of those existing relationships and being able to bring that over to the women’s side. A+E’s already done that in so many ways, it just enables us and positions us to have stronger conversations with potential partnerships that make sense with the league and the brand, and really connect on a level more than just the financial part of it, that there’s a bigger connection and relationship that makes sense for them being a part of the NWSL.


On whether the USMNT missing the World Cup could impact NWSL:

It’s a very, very unfortunate situation. I don’t sit here today and — I don’t know what’s going to happen. I feel very good about where this league is, in that for five years now it’s managed itself, it’s been managed and positioned to be stable and to be successful. It comes with its bumps and challenges along the way, but it’s a model that was set up in a way for it to be successful.

So while there may be a lot of talk about systematic changes top to bottom, leadership, youth, professional, amateur, college, everything, I think if I put the shell around this league, it’s been positioned to be successful. I don’t have any question about that. I think it’s going to continue to grow, I think we’re going to continue to focus on the areas that we need to to grow, from team ownership down to resources within the organizations, to the players that keep this league a part of the conversation of being the best in the world. I certainly think the most competitive, top-to-bottom, I certainly think this league is that. So while there are a lot of things going on, a lot of talk going on in the soccer community right now, at the end of the day, MLS is in year 22. The professional game is still — relatively speaking — it’s young in the United States, and there’s a lot of growth in front of men’s and women’s soccer in the United States.

Whatever challenges there might be on the immediate horizon to look at and to work through, I don’t ever question the support and intention to work through it, to make sure we’re developing the players, we’re developing the coaches, and we’re putting the sport in the right place to be able to grow — for men’s soccer, for women’s soccer, and certainly at the professional level to continue to grow and be in the right position.

Bringing it back to here, I feel good about where this league is right now. That we’re going to be the steady piece that just continues to grow up and develop and be a part of broader sense of the soccer landscape.

2017 Best XI announced

Kerr, Marta, Mewis and Press were all named to the 2017 Best XI

Four MVP finalists headline the NWSL Best XI, announced on Thursday. Sam Kerr, MartaSam Mewis and Christen Press were all named to the roster, as well as Goalkeeper of the Year finalist Adrianna Franch. The NWSL Shield winning Courage have the most players on the team with three.

The NWSL awards are voted on by club officials, players, media that cover the league on a consistent basis and fans.

Take a closer look at the stats and more top plays from the Best XI below. If they were to gather for a match, the squad would line up in a 4-3-3 formation.

GK: Adrianna Franch, Portland Thorns FC

One of six players to play all 2,160 minutes, Adrianna Franch set a new NWSL record with 11 shutouts in a single season. The Goalkeeper of the Year finalist finished the season with the best save percentage (80%), made 80 saves and recorded a .83 goals against average as the Thorns gave up the fewest goals — allowing just 20 in 24 games.

D: Casey Short, Chicago Red Stars

Casey Short helped lead the Red Stars backline, which finished as the third best defense in the NWSL in 2017. A Defender of the Year finalist, Short also scored her first goal of the season in a 3-2 win over the Dash that clinched the Red Stars a spot in the playoffs.

D: Abby Dahlkemper, North Carolina Courage

A finalist for Defender of the Year, Abby Dahlkemper took a league-high 121 corner kicks in 2017, contributing two assists a long the way. Dahlkemper was also one of six players to play every minute of the season, helping to anchor a backline for the Courage that allowed just 22 goals this season (second-best in the league) and was the best in the league at denying shots on goal.

D: Becky Sauerbrunn, FC Kansas City

Becky Sauerbrunn finished the 2017 season second in the league in clearances with 157 and led the NWSL in blocks with 24. A Defender of the Year finalist, she also contributed on offense, scoring a goal and adding two assists. Her header goal won Goal of the Week in Week 7.

D: Ali Krieger, Orlando Pride

A Defender of the Year finalist, Ali Krieger is the third member of the 2017 Best XI to play every minute of the season. The center back contributed 99 clearances and 49 interceptions. She also tallied two assists on the season.

M: Jess Fishlock, Seattle Reign FC

Jess Fishlock won Player of the Week twice — in Week 2 and then again in Week 22 to close out the season. In 20 games, she scored seven goals and two assists for the Reign.

M: Sam Mewis, North Carolina Courage

A finalist for MVP, Sam Mewis scored six goals and added three assists as the Courage won the NWSL Shield. She was named the Week 16 Player of the Week after scoring twice in a 2-1 road win over the Reign.

M: McCall Zerboni, North Carolina Courage

McCall Zerboni scored three goals, added an assist and helped anchor the Courage midfield, starting 23 games for North Carolina. She scored the first goal in Courage history, the game-winner in their Week 1 win over the Spirit that set the tone for the season.

F: Marta, Orlando Pride

After joining the Pride in their second game of the season, Marta finished second in the league in both goals (13) and assists (6). A finalist for MVP, she created a league-high 64 chances, 17 more than her closest competitor. She closed out her first NWSL season by winning Player of the Month in September.

F: Sam Kerr, Sky Blue FC

Sam Kerr set a new league record with 17 goals in a single season, becoming the new all-time leading scorer in the process. A finalist for MVP, Kerr won Player of the Month twice (May and June). She also became the first player in league history to score two hat tricks in a season and the first to ever record a four goal game. Kerr also had four assists in 2017.

F: Christen Press, Chicago Red Stars

Christen Press scored 11 goals and four assists in 2017, including five game-winning goals for the Red Stars. She won Player of the Week in Week 6 after scoring a goal and an assist in Chicago’s 3-1 win at North Carolina.

Courage, Thorns to hold public training sessions on Oct. 13

Fans must RSVP in advance to attend

Orlando City Stadium in Orlando, Florida, is the site of the 2017 NWSL Championship. (Photo credit: Mark Thor/Orlando Pride)

The National Women’s Soccer League issued the following press release:

CHICAGO (Oct. 11, 2017) – National Women’s Soccer League fans are invited to attend the 2017 NWSL Championship public training sessions featuring the North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns FC on Friday, Oct. 13, at the Orlando City Stadium at 10 a.m. ET and 2 p.m. ET, respectively.

Admission is free and open to the public. Fans must RSVP by 5 p.m. ET on Thursday, Oct. 12.

RSVP: http://nwsl.us/2g9XYQf

Gates will open at 9:30 a.m. ET for North Carolina’s morning session and at 1:30 p.m. ET for Portland’s afternoon training. Fans attending both sessions will be asked to clear the venue between practices, but will be able to re-enter and only need to RSVP once. Fans should enter through Gate A. Limited parking is available around the stadium.

The 2017 NWSL Championship Game will feature Portland Thorns FC and the North Carolina Courage on Saturday, Oct. 14 at 4:30 p.m. ET. The match will be broadcast live on Lifetime and also be available for both live and on-demand streaming via the Lifetime app and MyLifetime.com. International fans can watch on the NWSL app and NWSLsoccer.com.

NWSL fans who travel to Orlando will have the opportunity to watch some of the brightest stars in the world of women’s soccer prepare for the biggest game of the season as Christine Sinclair, Tobin Heath and Amandine Henry get set to lead the Thorns back to the title match for the first time since Portland won the inaugural NWSL Championship in 2013.

Coach Mark Parsons and his players smashed their way to the 2017 final with a 4-1 semifinal victory over the Orlando Pride as Henry, Emily Sonnett, Hayley Raso and Sinclair all found the back of the net – while Meghan Klingenberg, Heath, Lindsey Horan and Nadia Nadim each provided an assist to help the Thorns claim their first postseason victory since 2013.

Fans will also get the chance to see 2016 NWSL MVP Lynn Williams, Samantha Mewis and McCall Zerboni train for the 2017 championship game as the group of players look for their second straight NWSL title after winning the 2016 Championship with the Western New York Flash.

Coach Paul Riley and his players put themselves in position to cap off an extremely successful first year since relocating to North Carolina with a 1-0 semifinal win against the Chicago Red Stars as Denise O’Sullivan scored the dramatic game-winning goal in the 90th minute. The Courage’s defense – led by Abby Dahlkemper, Abby Erceg, Taylor Smith and Jaelene Hinkle – allowed just one shot in the match to help goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland earn the shutout.

Tickets are on sale now for the 2017 NWSL Championship, starting as low as $20. Fans will have the opportunity to purchase seats throughout the 25,500 capacity venue, including in the North end of Orlando City Stadium – North America’s first safe-standing supporter’s section. Tickets are available online at www.NWSLchampionship.com and by phone at 1-855-ORL-CITY.

Jill Ellis calls 20 NWSL players in for upcoming friendlies

The USWNT will play the Korea Republic on Oct. 19 and Oct. 22

Portland Thorns FC midfielder Tobin Heath and North Carolina Courage defender Abby Dahlkemper in action for the U.S. women's national team. (Photo credit: Brad Smith/isiphotos.com)

Seven members of the North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns FC have been selected by U.S. women’s national team head coach Jill Ellis for next week’s upcoming friendlies vs. the Korea Republic. The games will take place Thursday, Oct. 19, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans (8 p.m. ET on FS1) and on Sunday, Oct. 22, at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. (2 p.m. ET on ESPN).

Both teams will meet on Saturday, Oct. 14, in the 2017 NWSL Championship (4:30 p.m. ET on Lifetime). Sahlen’s Stadium is the home stadium for the Courage.

North Carolina will be represented by Abby Dahlkemper, Taylor Smith, Samantha Mewis and Lynn Williams. Portland will have Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan and Allie Long on the roster.

They’re joined by 13 other NWSL players who have been called into camp, including Red Stars midfielder Sofia Huerta, who earned her first cap and first assist last month, and Dash forward Carli Lloyd, who returns after spraining her ankle last month. Ellis will choose 18 players for each game day roster. 

Also on the roster is Stanford senior Andi Sullivan. The midfielder is back in camp for the first time since tearing her ACL last year and has four caps in her international career. She has a goal and six assists in 13 college games so far this year.

U.S. Women’s National Team Roster by Position (Caps/Goals):

GOALKEEPERS (3): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 1/0), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride; 13/0), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 20/0)

DEFENDERS (7): Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage; 9/0), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 53/11), Sofia Huerta (Chicago Red Stars; 1/0), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC; 101/2), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City; 131/0), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars; 15/0), Taylor Smith (NC Courage; 5/0)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC; 132/18), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 39/4), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash; 242/97), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC; 31/5), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage; 30/5), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC; 125/33), Andi Sullivan (Stanford; 4/0)

FORWARDS (5): Crystal Dunn (Chelsea FC; 55/22), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 130/77), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars; 92/43), Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit; 28/6), Lynn Williams (NC Courage; 11/3)

Courage, Thorns played close games in 2017

Portland and North Carolina meet on Saturday in the NWSL Championship

Portland Thorns FC forward Christen Sinclair and North Carolina Courage midfielder Sam Mewis in action. (Photo credit: Craig Mitchelldyer/isiphotos.com)

The North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns FC faced off twice in the 2017 NWSL regular season, with each team winning at home by the score of 1-0.

They’re set to meet for the third and final time this season with everything at stake in the 2017 NWSL Championship. They’ll meet on a neutral field, Orlando City Stadium in Orlando, Florida on Saturday (4:30 p.m. ET, Lifetime).

Both the Courage and Thorns ended up at the top of the table in not just points (Courage — 49, Thorns 47), but also home wins (Thorns — 10, Courage — 9) and goals allowed (Thorns — 20, Courage — 22)

It’s not surprising that both of their meetings this season were close games that went in favor of the home side each time.


April 22: Courage get first home win

Full Game | Highlights | Box Score

The Courage hosted the Thorns in the second game of the season for both sides. The game was considered a rematch of last year’s semifinal between the Thorns and Western New York Flash, won 4-3 in thrilling fashion by Western New Yorkan upset of the 2016 NWSL Shield winners. The Flash went on to win the 2016 NWSL Championship.

But the Flash relocated to North Carolina in the offseason, as a new franchise in the Courage, so the April game was a fresh start and their first ever home game at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.

The match featured just five total shots on target and needed a late goal to decide the winner.

With the score still 0-0 in the 75th minute, Thorns goalkeeper Adrianna Franch stopped Sam Mewis’ penalty kick, but the Courage scored the game-winner just six minutes later. Debinha headed in a cross from Jess McDonald for her first career NWSL goal and the Courage won for the first time in North Carolina.

It was the second of an NWSL record 12 clean sheets produced by the Courage defense in 2017.


July 15: Thorns come out on top at Providence Park

Full Game | Highlights | Box Score

Portland earned one of their record-setting ten wins at home in July, 1-0 over the Courage.

Thorns forward Hayley Raso scored one of her eventual six goals in 2017, the game-winner in the 70th minute. Like the first game, the only goal came on a header, this time off an assist from Meghan Klingenberg.

Portland was able to take seven shots on goal against the North Carolina defense. The Courage, meanwhile, only took two shots on target.

The Courage had a chance to tie the game in the 90th minute, but Taylor Smith’s shot went off the crossbar and the Thorns held on to the win.

The game was the seventh of Franch’s record-setting 11 shutouts in the 2017 season.


The North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns FC will meet Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET on Lifetime in the 2017 NWSL Championship.

NWSL announces Second XI selections

The NWSL awards are voted on by club officials, players, media that cover the league on a consistent basis and fans

North Carolina Courage goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland and Portland Thorns FC midfielder Lindsey Horan were named to the 2017 NWSL Second XI. (Photo credit: isiphotos.com)

National Women’s Soccer League press release:

CHICAGO (October 10, 2017) – The National Women’s Soccer League announced Tuesday the Second XI selections for the 2017 NWSL season. The 2017 Best XI will be announced Thursday.

The four teams that reached the 2017 NWSL Playoffs made up 10 of the 11 spots on the Second XI – with Seattle Reign FC forward Megan Rapinoe the only player on the side not involved in the postseason.

Portland Thorns FC and the Chicago Red Stars lead the way with three selections each, followed by the North Carolina Courage and Orlando Pride with two apiece.

Rapinoe was one of three players – along with Chicago Red Stars players Julie Ertz and Danielle Colaprico – voted to the Second XI for the third time in their careers. In all, six players made their return to the squad as Orlando Pride players Alex Morgan and Steph Catley as well as Red Stars midfielder Sofia Huerta were honored for the second time.

Ertz and Colaprico are the only players that made the 2016 Second XI to repeat the accomplishment this year. Colaprico has now been voted to the squad in each of the last three seasons.

All five first-time selections to the Second XI are set to feature in the 2017 NWSL Championship Game on Saturday, Oct. 14 at Orlando City Stadium in Orlando, Fla. as Katelyn Rowland, Abby Erceg and the Courage will face off against Meghan Klingenberg, Emily Menges, Lindsey Horan and the Thorns for the league title. The match will be broadcast nationally at 4:30 p.m. ET live on Lifetime.

Menges was previously voted to the 2016 NWSL Best XI, while Ertz was selected to the Best XI in 2015. Ertz has now been named to the NWSL Best XI or Second XI all four years of her career.


2017 NWSL Second XI

Goalkeeper | Katelyn Rowland | North Carolina Courage | USA | 39 saves | 8 shutouts

Defender | Steph Catley | Orlando Pride | Australia | 2,032 minutes

Defender | Abby Erceg | North Carolina Courage | New Zealand | Goal, 2 assists

Defender | Meghan Klingenberg | Portland Thorns FC | USA | 6 assists

Defender | Emily Menges | Portland Thorns FC | USA | 2,063 minutes

Midfielder | Danielle Colaprico | Chicago Red Stars | USA | 1,903 minutes

Midfielder | Julie Ertz | Chicago Red Stars | USA | 4 goals, 3 assists

Midfielder | Lindsey Horan | Portland Thorns FC | USA | 4 goals, 2 assists

Midfielder | Sofia Huerta | Chicago Red Stars | USA | 6 goals, 4 assists

Forward | Alex Morgan | Orlando Pride | USA | 9 goals, 4 assists

Forward | Megan Rapinoe | Seattle Reign FC | USA | 12 goals, assist


The NWSL Second XI is comprised of the next leading vote getters at each position that did not make the Best XI. The NWSL awards are voted on by club officials, players, media that cover the league on a consistent basis and fans.

Tickets are on sale now for the 2017 NWSL Championship, starting as low as $20. Fans will have the opportunity to purchase seats throughout the 25,500 capacity venue, including in the North end of Orlando City Stadium – North America’s first safe-standing supporter’s section. Tickets are available online at www.NWSLchampionship.com and by phone at 1-855-ORL-CITY.

NWSL Championship tickets on sale: Courage vs. Thorns on Oct. 14

The 2017 NWSL Championship will take place on Oct. 14 at Orlando City Stadium

The North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns FC will meet Saturday at Orlando City Stadium in the NWSL Championship. (Photo credit: Andy Mead/isiphotos.com)

North Carolina Courage vs. Portland Thorns FC

NWSL Championship

Where: Orlando City Stadium in Orlando, Florida

When: Saturday, October 14 at 4:30 p.m. ET

Tickets: Buy now

Visit NWSLchampionship.com for more information.

Where to Watch: Lifetime

Also available on: mylifetime.com, and the Lifetime iOS and Android apps in the United States; International viewers: NWSLSoccer.com and the NWSL  iOS and Android apps

With a quiet and constant presence, Christine Sinclair once again leads Thorns to playoffs

Here are the things you need to know about Christine Sinclair

Christine Sinclair during the final regular season match for Portland Thorns FC. (Photo credit: Craig Mitchelldyer/isiphotos.com)

By Katelyn Best

PORTLAND, Ore. – “Everybody pretty much knows everything about Sinc,” says Tobin Heath, when asked about Portland Thorns FC teammate Christine Sinclair.

It’s only a half-serious answer, but on several levels, it’s true. There are the hard facts: that the 34-year-old Sinclair, in her fifth year with Portland, is the team’s leading scorer this season. That only one player in history, on either side of the gender divide, has ever scored more international goals than her. That she’s been one of the very best in the world for a very long time. Everybody knows these facts.

Then, there are the impressions you get if you spend any time following the Thorns: that she’s reluctant to talk about herself, leads by example, and is humble to a fault. That she’s the quiet, composed veteran at the dead center of the team.

All of that is true. What everybody should know, and what’s often, ironically, overlooked, is just how true it all is—that Sinclair is exactly the player and the professional her record speaks to.

This is the first thing everybody should know about Sinclair: she’s so good, and so consistent, that too often, she’s only noticed when she drops off from her usual level. While Heath is the fan favorite here (at halftime against Chicago, when the Thorns emerged to warm up, one could tell she was on the field by the sound alone), and younger players like Hayley Raso have filled highlight reels this season, Sinclair is simply there, always hard at work, always doing her job exactly as it should be done.

“Sincy is just an all-around amazing professional who does all the basics to a really world-class, high level,” says Portland head coach Mark Parsons. “Because she does the basics to a really high level, consistently, all the time, she could get us into the final third five times, she could get three shots on target, picking the right space to hit the ball because of the goalkeeper and the defenders, and not score—and Raso could break through on a dribble and hit a cross that goes in, and we’re only going to remember that.”

Parsons gives an object lesson in what he means about doing the basics to a world-class level. “Watch here,” he says, pointing to a pair of players, one hitting in crosses, the other one shooting. Training is over, there’s been a break in the rain, and the mood is light. The shooter takes a swing at a cross and it goes over the bar. “There! I’m not saying that because she missed. But she’s just trying to kick it at the goal.”

Sinclair’s mindset is different, he says. “Every repetition, every time, she’s trying to strike the ball the best way possible… What Sincy would have been doing right there is approaching and going, ‘right, the ball’s coming down, I have to keep this down low,’ and she might have missed, but she knows the right thing. It’s not flashy, but that’s where she makes us so great.”

This is the next thing everybody should know about Sinclair: on the field, the whole Thorns project largely turns around the Canadian captain, who’s been in and out of the Rose City since her days at the University of Portland (“I never left, really,” she says). That’s rarely been more tangibly true than this season, when there’s been a straight line between the Thorns’ form and her level of involvement on the field.

For the first half of the 2017 season, Parsons deployed her as a lone striker, an approach based on the assumption Heath and Nadia Nadim would be able to create out wide and serve her balls in the attacking third. But with Heath out with a back injury until mid-September, and Nadim away at the 2017 Euro for a sizable chunk of the season, adjustments had to be made.

“Sometimes as an out-and-out nine,” Sinclair says, “you get kind of isolated. You’re relying on your team to get you the ball. I think I have more to offer than just that.”

On July 15, against North Carolina, Parsons moved Sinclair into a deeper position. “It’s a role I’ve played on and off with the national team for the last couple years,” she notes. Although the change didn’t show up on the stat sheet, the difference was immediate. When she was on the ball, Courage players like Sam Mewis and McCall Zerboni would step in to pressure her, and she’d use her strength and vision to distribute into the space they’d left open.

“We weren’t getting into the final third enough,” Parsons explains. With Sinclair playing more as a number ten, she acts as the link between the midfield and speedy forwards like Raso. That link goes both ways, though. “Once we’re in wider areas, she can now break in from deep. She can play-make, and she can get still into the box and score goals.”

Against Boston on September 10, in a demonstration of that dynamic, Raso assisted Sinclair’s game-winning goal, shaking off the Boston Breakers centerbacks to lay the ball back for the captain. “She’s still up there,” says Raso. “She’s still in the forward line, she’s still in front of goal, playing alongside a lot of us and bouncing passes with me.”

The Thorns were 5-4-4 (W-L-D) before the formation change; since then, they’re 9-1-1. In short, as Sinclair’s form has gone this year, so has Portland’s.

The last thing everybody should know about Sinclair is this: her influence in Portland goes far beyond what she does on the field. She’s the team’s longtime leader in a much bigger sense than simply wearing the armband.

“What we’re trying to do as a team culture,” Parsons says, “is what Sinc is all about. Put the team first, be your best every day, and find a way to get the job done.” With Sinclair, those admonitions aren’t mere clichés, but real facets of her personality. And as one of just three remaining players from Portland’s inaugural season—the other two are Heath and Allie Long—she’s an anchor that Parsons has tried to build his version of the Thorns around.

“It’s definitely special,” Heath says of the trio. “It’s us passing on the culture to the younger players. We obviously take a lot of pride in the city and representing the city to the best of our abilities.”

It’s difficult, though, to get Sinclair to admit how important she is to the team. “I’m not,” she says, “one of those ‘rah-rah’ captains. I’m never going to be that loud one who wants to speak up in front of everyone all the time.”

“Sincy speaks only when she needs to,” says Parsons. “It’s very short and sweet, and when she does, it’s the most powerful thing anyone’s said that week or month.” He remembers a difficult multi-game road trip early in the season, when she stepped up to keep the team focused. “We’d had a rough one in Kansas [City]. We were getting a little itchy with each other. Sincy identified that we needed to come a little closer, and we were going to use this long trip on the road to do that, and she started organizing card games and things… She’s made sure we stayed on track. The players have followed that.”

If there’s anything genuinely surprising about Sinclair, it’s this: for an athlete who’s been one of the best in the world for as long as many fans can remember, she truly doesn’t seem to realize, herself, how singular she is as a player.

Parsons says he’s seen a shift in her leadership style in the last year, which Sinclair attributes to Canada manager John Herdman. When Herdman took over, she says, “he sort of made me see things I’d never seen before. Part of that was my ability to lead, and how players—I don’t know why—respect me.”

Looking forward to the semifinal, she’s equally understated. “I think we’re in a good place,” she says. “We’ve been playing pretty well. We haven’t been beaten in a long time, especially here at home. We’re peaking at the right time.”

Heath says about Sinclair what she’d never admit for herself. “This is her team,” she says. “We all kind of fall back behind her and let her lead the way.”

How They Got Here: Portland Thorns FC

Portland finished second in the regular season and will host a semifinal on October 7

Thorns midfielder Lindsey Horan won the Goal of the Week for her game-tying free kick in Week 12. (Photo credit: Wilf Thorne/isiphotos.com)

The Thorns finished the regular season with a 14-5-5 record — and the league’s best record at home: 10-1-1, becoming the first NWSL team to ever win 10 games at home. Thorns goalkeeper Adrianna Franch set a new NWSL single-season record with 11 shutouts as Portland conceded just 20 goals, best in the league.

As the Thorns prepare for their semifinal meeting with the Pride on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, Lifetime), let’s take a look back at the key games and moments that led them to the NWSL Playoffs.

April 15: Win No. 1

Thorns 2 Prideo 0

Full Game | Highlights | Box Score

The Thorns finished the regular season with 10 home wins and 11 shutouts — both high marks that began with their opening day win over the Orlando Pride. Christine Sinclair tallied the first of her eight goals and Franch made the first seven saves of her record-breaking season.


May 6: Cascadia Classic

Thorns 2 Reign 2

Full Game | Highlights | Box Score

When Portland and Seattle meet, it never disappoints.

Jess Fishlock put the Reign up in just the second minute and then equalized for the Thorns with an own goal in the first half. Seattle quickly retook the lead and the Thorns needed a late equalizer from Allie Long to earn the point at home.


May 19: Nadim leads road comeback

Breakers 2 Thorns 2

Full Game | Highlights | Box Score

On the road on a Friday night in Boston, Portland fell behind 2-0 just 48 minutes in. Nadia Nadim converted a penalty kick in the 57th minute before equalizing in the 83rd minute.

Nadim scored four of Portland’s first seven goals, carrying the load on offense for the first quarter of the season.


July 8: Horan salvages a point in Houston

Thorns 1 Dash 1

Full Game | Highlights | Box Score

On the road. Down a goal. 91st minute. Lindsey Horan.

After a rough stretch that saw the Thorns lose three times in four games, Horan stepped up for a dramatic game-tying free kick to keep Portland from a road loss.

The stunning goal was the turning point of the season for the Thorns.

Portland never looked back, losing just one time in the 11 games that followed to close out the season.


July 15: Thorns shut down the Courage

Thorns 1 Courage 0

Full Game | Highlights | Box Score

The Thorns followed the game in Houston up with a win over the Courage, who went on to win the NWSL Shield. In an impressive defensive performance, Portland shut down the North Carolina offense. Franch earned her seventh clean sheet in the win. Hayley Raso scored the game’s only goal on an assist from Meghan Klingenberg.

Klingenberg finished the regular season tied for second in the league with six assists. Courage defender Taylor Smith hit a shot off the crossbar in the game’s final minutes, and Portland walked away with all three points.


August 12: Thorns move into 2nd place

Red Stars 2 Thorns 3

Full Game | Highlights | Box Score

Portland’s hot streak continued on the road in Chicago and the Thorns moved into second place in the league with a 3-2 win over the Red Stars. It was the fourth straight win for the Thorns, who recovered to win after losing a 2-0 lead. Klingenberg earned another assist on Emily Sonnett’s game-winning goal in the 55th minute.


August 26: Raso’s brace at Memorial

Reign 1 Thorns 2

Full Game | Highlights | Box Score

Raso won Player of the Week after scoring two goals on the road in Seattle in the Thorns’ 2-1 win over their arch rivals. It was the first road win for the Thorns over the Reign since 2013 when Sinclair tallied a brace in the win.

The victory also meant that the Thorns — and not the Reign — became the first NWSL team to win 50 games. Both teams came into the match with 49 wins in their history.

The Thorns clinched a playoff spot the following week, and went on to clinch a home semifinal as well. They finished the season on a six game unbeaten streak, going 5-0-1 to end the regular season.


The Thorns will host the Orlando Pride on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET (Lifetime) in the first semifinal of the 2017 NWSL Playoffs.

2017 NWSL Awards Finalists Revealed

Visit nwslsoccer.com/fanvote to vote

The National Women’s Soccer League issued the following press release on Wednesday:

CHICAGO (Oct. 4, 2017) – The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) announced Thursday the list of finalists for Most Valuable Player, Defender of the Year, Goalkeeper of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Coach of the Year.

In the final round of voting – owners, general managers, head coaches, players, media and fans will vote from now to Oct. 6 at 5 p.m. ET to determine the individual award winners as well as the 2017 NWSL Best XI.

FAN VOTING IS NOW OPEN: nwslsoccer.com/fanvote


2017 NWSL Awards – Finalists

Coach of the Year

Rory Dames – Chicago Red Stars

With a record of 11-7-6 (39 points) in 2017, Rory Dames is the only coach to have earned 30 or more points in every one of the five NWSL seasons. With Chicago from the start of the league, Dames is also the only coach in the 2017 playoffs to have been with the team since the NWSL’s inaugural year in 2013. The Red Stars earned a third consecutive trip to the postseason in 2017 as Dames became one of three coaches to make at least three straight playoff appearances (along with Vlatko Andonovski in 2013-15 and Mark Parsons 2014-17).

Paul Riley – North Carolina Courage

After coaching the Western New York Flash to the 2016 NWSL Championship, Paul Riley embraced the challenge of leading the team through their relocation to become the North Carolina Courage. He saw those efforts rewarded with a record-tying 16 regular-season wins as the Courage went on to claim the 2017 NWSL Shield in the first season in their new home. Riley has helped to prepare players for the international stage with their respective national teams – as shown most recently by the emergence of Taylor Smith with the U.S. Women’s National Team as well as the continued growth and success of Abby Dahlkemper, Samantha Mewis, Lynn Williams, Ashley Hatch, Debinha and Denise O’Sullivan.

Tom Sermanni – Orlando Pride

In just a year, Tom Sermanni has led the team from a fledgling side that finished in ninth place in 2016 to a championship contender in 2017. Sermanni and his players catapulted six spots up the standings, finishing No. 3 overall in the team’s second year. The former U.S. Women’s National Team gaffer transformed the roster, bringing in impact players such as Marta, Ali Krieger, Alanna Kennedy, Camila, Chioma Ubogagu and Rachel Hill, while developing the chemistry with returners Alex Morgan, Ashlyn Harris and Dani Weatherholt. In 2017, the Pride offense became the most potent in the league, scoring 45 goals across 11 players, compared to 20 goals between six players the year prior.


Rookie of the Year

Jane Campbell – Houston Dash

Jane Campbell finished her rookie season with a franchise-high three clean sheets over 16 games for Houston in 2017.  Selected with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2017 NWSL College Draft, Campbell made 65 saves this season for the Dash – the most by a Houston goalkeeper since Erin McLeod made 83 stops in 2014. Campbell was nominated for NWSL Save of the Week 10 times in 16 appearances, winning once, and was a key component in Houston’s six-game unbeaten streak this summer. The Stanford product was also named to the NWSL Team of the Month for July.

Ashley Hatch – North Carolina Courage

The No. 2 overall selection in the 2017 NWSL College Draft, Ashley Hatch emerged as a key part of the attack for the North Carolina Courage – making 13 starts in 22 appearances for the NWSL Shield winners. The BYU product scored seven goals on the season and ranked second on the team in goals, just two behind 2016 NWSL Golden Boot winner Lynn Williams. Her seven tallies are tied for the most by a rookie and she also added an assist. Hatch was named to the NWSL Team of the Month for June and was nominated for Goal of the Week twice during that month.

Mallory Pugh – Washington Spirit

The youngest player in the NWSL made a major impact in her rookie season, leading the Spirit with six goals in just 16 appearances after signing with the team in May. The 19-year-old had several signature performances throughout the season, starting on June 3 against the Houston Dash when she nutmegged the goalkeeper for her first professional goal. She went on to record her first career brace July 8 against the Orlando Pride, which included a 90th minute equalizer from the penalty spot. She scored her first NWSL game-winner Sept. 10 in a dramatic second-half comeback against Sky Blue FC, and finished the season with another two-goal performance at home Sept. 30 against Seattle Reign FC.


Goalkeeper of the Year

Adrianna Franch – Portland Thorns FC

Adrianna Franch anchored a Thorns FC defense that allowed the fewest goals (20) and posted the best goal differential (+17) during the 2017 regular season as one of just two goalkeepers in the NWSL to start every match and play every minute. Franch led the league in save percentage (80 percent) and shutouts (11), setting a new NWSL single-season record for shutouts. In addition, Franch finished the regular season ranked second in the NWSL with a 0.83 goals-against average and fourth in saves (80), while also saving two penalty-kick attempts.

Alyssa Naeher – Chicago Red Stars

Alyssa Naeher helped Chicago earn its third-straight playoff appearance as she recorded six shutouts while facing the second-most shots in the league. Naeher conceded just 25 goals in 22 appearances this year for a 1.14 goals against average – the third best GAA in the league. The goalkeeper has made key saves throughout the year, earning her two NWSL Save of the Week honors (Week 5 and 14).

Katelyn Rowland – North Carolina Courage

Since claiming the starting role for the North Carolina Courage, Katelyn Rowland has posted eight shutouts to add to the team’s record-breaking 12 total shutouts in 2017. She made 16 starts for the Courage this season and boasted a 0.75 goals against average – the lowest GAA in the league among goalkeepers with at least 1,000 minutes. Her 39 saves played a big role in North Carolina putting together a plus-16 goal difference, the second-highest in the league. Rowland was recognized as a member of the NWSL Team of the Month for her play in August – when she made 14 saves and recorded three shutouts.


Defender of the Year

Steph Catley – Orlando Pride

Steph Catley continued her dominance during her second season with the Pride. The 23-year-old Australian led the Pride in total touches (1,667) but showed her attacking versatility down the flanks, leading the Pride with 75 crosses and finished second with 27 chances created. The defender totaled two assists on the season, including a pinpoint outlet on Alex Morgan’s highlight-reel goal on Aug. 8. Catley also earned Week 10 Save of the Week for a goal-line clearance against the Houston Dash. 

Abby Dahlkemper – North Carolina Courage

Abby Dahlkemper played every second of the 2017 NWSL season. It was the second consecutive year that she did not miss a minute on the field and her current streak of 5,580 consecutive minutes (62 games) is an NWSL record. Dahlkemper’s skill on set pieces makes her the Courage’s go-to for corner kicks and free kicks – as reflected by the 116 corners she’s taken in 2017. She boasts two assists as a center back and earned Team of the Month recognition in both June and July. With Dahlkemper on the Courage backline, the team posted a record 12 shutouts this season and has allowed just 22 goals against (second-lowest in the league).

Ali Krieger – Orlando Pride

The only Pride player to appear in all 2,160 minutes, Ali Krieger brought her veteran leadership and outstanding defensive skills to the Orlando Pride backline. Krieger’s addition played a major role in the transformation of the Pride defense, while her versatility contributed to much of Orlando’s success. Naturally a right back, Krieger started all but five games at the center back position. In that role, the World Cup champion led the Pride in clearances (99), interceptions (49) and successful passes (1,073). Krieger also added two assists. Krieger has now reached the NWSL playoffs each of her last four years in the league, helping the Pride to their first postseason appearance in 2017.

Becky Sauerbrunn – FC Kansas City 

Becky Sauerbrunn has been the league’s most consistent defender throughout the five-year history of the NWSL. In 2017, she led the league in blocks (24), was fourth in connected passes (1,176). Sauerbrunn was voted the NWSL Defender of the Year in each of the first three seasons of the league’s existence. She added an offensive element to her game this year with a goal and two assists in 2017.

Casey Short – Chicago Red Stars

After being named an allocated player for the U.S. Women’s National Team, Casey Short found her place in Chicago’s strong backline in just her second year in the NWSL. Short and the Red Stars defense had a goal against average of 1.25 in 2017, the third-best in the league. Short also had a goal and an assist this season as she showcased a strong offensive presence that provides a major threat for opposing teams. Short was named to three NWSL Team of the Month honors (May, June, July).


Most Valuable Player

Samantha Kerr – Sky Blue FC

The 2017 Golden Boot winner, Samantha Kerr set a new NWSL single-season scoring record with 17 goals in 22 appearances. Five of her 17 tallies were game-winning goals, to go along with four assists. She became the first player to record two hat tricks in the same season, recorded the fastest hat trick in league history as she registered three goals in 12 minutes. Kerr also became the first player in NWSL history to score four goals in a game and was named to the NWSL Team of the Month for May, June, July and August.

Marta – Orlando Pride

After being acquired as a blockbuster signing in March, Marta did not disappoint in her first NWSL season. Marta finished the 2017 season second in the league in both goals (13) and assists (6), also team highs in both categories. Four of her goals were game-winning goals and she led the league in chances created with 64. The five-time FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year teamed up with striking partner Alex Morgan five times in the latter part of the season as the Pride went on a nine-game unbeaten streak to end the year and clinch a playoff berth. Marta was named to the NWSL Team of the Month in June, July and August and won Week 16 Goal of the Week.

Samantha Mewis – North Carolina Courage

Samantha Mewis dominated the center of the field for the North Carolina Courage as her six goals – including three game-winning goals – and three assists helped power the club to the 2017 NWSL Shield. A consistent force in the middle of the park, Mewis won 64 percent of her duels and 79 percent of her tackles this season. She was named to the Team of the Month three times, making the list in April, June and August. She was also named Player of the Week for Week 16 after netting two goals against Seattle.

Christen Press – Chicago Red Stars

Regaining her role as captain, Press registered personal bests with both 11 goals and four assists in regular season. Five of her goals were game-winning goals and four of her 11 goals came from the penalty spot – tied for the most in the league. She was a constant attacking threat and one of the top shooters in the league with 85 shots (49 on goal). Press twice won the NWSL Goal of the Week (Weeks 5 and 14) and was voted the NWSL Player of the Week for Week 6.

Megan Rapinoe – Seattle Reign FC

With 12 goals and one assist in her 18 games played, Megan Rapinoe finished the 2017 NWSL season with her highest ever goal total and the third most goals in the league this year. Four of her goals were game-winning goals. Twice named NWSL Player of the Week, and the Player of the Month for July, Rapinoe scored against six of the other nine NWSL teams this year. Rapinoe’s 12 goals is the second most in a single season by a Reign FC player, and the highest goal total for a Reign FC player since the 2014 season. Rapinoe found the back of the net in five of Reign FC’s nine victories this season.

September Team of the Month

Player of the Month Marta, three members of the Thorns named to the September Best XI

(Photo credit: Craig Mitchelldyer/isiphotos.com)

Three players were named to the NWSL Team of the Month for the fourth time this season. They are led by September Player of the Month Marta, who earns Team of the Month honors for the fourth straight month. She’s joined by Courage midfielder Sam Mewis and Red Stars defender Casey Short, who have been named to the monthly best XI four times in the 2017 season.

The Thorns had the most players named to the Team of the Month with three members of their squad making the roster: goalkeeper Adrianna Franch, defender Emily Menges and forward Christine Sinclair.

The September Team of the Month was selected by the NWSL Media Association.

Take a look at the full best XI, which lines up in a 4-3-3 formation.

GK: Adrianna Franch, Portland Thorns FC

Franch recorded three shutouts as the Thorns went 3-0-1 in the final month of the season. In a 0-0 draw with the Pride, she recorded her 11th clean sheet of the season, a new NWSL record.


D: Emily Menges, Thorns FC

Menges was a key part of the Thorns backline, which earned three shutouts in September. She made 13 clearances, nine tackles, seven interceptions and three blocks down the stretch for Portland.


D: Kelley O’Hara, Sky Blue FC

Kelley O’Hara scored a game-winning goal in Sky Blue’s final regular season game, a 4-3 win over the Boston Breakers. She also added an assist and five chances created in September.


D: Becky Sauerbrunn, FC Kansas City

Sauerbrunn recorded 36 clearances in September, reaching double-digits in all three of her games. She also added seven tackles and 14 interceptions.


D: Casey Short, Chicago Red Stars

Short scored her first goal of the season on September 23, a 3-2 win over the Dash that earned the Red Stars their third straight playoff berth. Her effort earned a Goal of the Week nomination. On the defensive side of the ball, she added seven clearances, four tackles and two interceptions in three games.


M: Alanna Kennedy, Orlando Pride

Kennedy won the Week 22 Goal of the Week with a stunning stoppage time free kick that gave Orlando a 3-2 win over North Carolina and earned the Pride the No. 3 seed in the NWSL playoffs.


M: Marta, Orlando Pride

Marta finished the regular season as the September Player of the Month. She scored twice as the Pride went unbeaten for the second straight month and clinched their first ever playoff berth. She recorded 13 chances created with an 85.5% passing accuracy in the four games.


M: Sam Mewis, North Carolina Courage

In five September games for the Courage, Mewis scored once and created six scoring chances as North Carolina won the NWSL Shield. She also had 13 interceptions in the month.


F: Shea Groom, FC Kansas City

Groom scored three times and added an assist for the Blues, earning Player of the Week honors in Week 19 for her performance in a win over Sky Blue FC.


F: Christine Sinclair, Portland Thorns FC

Sinclair scored three times as the Thorns went unbeaten in the month of September and clinched a home playoff game. She won the Week 20 Goal of the Week for her score vs. the Breakers.


F: Lynn Williams, North Carolina Courage

Williams scored our times and added an assist in the final month of the season as the Courage won the NWSL Shield. Williams followed up her 2016 MVP and Golden Boot season by scoring nine times and adding five assists in 2017.


The NWSL Team of the Month is selected each month of the regular season by the NWSL Media Association, a collection of writers that cover the league on a consistent basis. For more information on the NWSL Media Association, follow them on Twitter.

Marta named September Player of the Month

Marta scored twice in September as the Pride went unbeaten

Marta scored her 13th goal of the season vs. the Courage. (Photo credit: Andy Mead/isiphotos.com)

Orlando Pride forward Marta has been named the September Player of the Month by the NWSL Media Association.

Marta scored twice for the Pride as they went unbeaten for the second consecutive month (2-0-2) and clinched their first ever playoff berth. She added 13 chances created, bringing her league-leading total to 64, according to Opta. She powered the Orlando offense by completing 85.5 percent of her passes in the four games, including three with a passing accuracy over 88%.

Her two goals moved her season total to 13, second-best in the league.

The Pride will next face Portland Thorns FC in the NWSL Playoffs on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET on Lifetime.

After a strong August, Marta picked up right where she left off, scoring her 12th goal of the season in a 4-2 win over the Boston Breakers on September 2. Her strike came in the 67th minute on an assist from Chioma Ubogagu and was the eventual game-winning goal.

She went on to create 10 of her 13 chances in September in the next two games, draws at home vs. Seattle Reign FC and Portland Thorns FC as the Pride inched closer to securing their playoff spot. One of her six chances created vs. Seattle was a backheel pass to Ubogagu while surrounded by three defenders near the penalty spot, eventually resulting in a shot on goal for the Pride.

Marta capped off her first NWSL season with an impressive display on the road vs. the Courage on September 30. She scored her 13th goal on an assist from Alex Morgan and dazzled the North Carolina crowd with the ball-handling skills the world has come to know so well — including a spin move at midfield in the 40th minute.

That’s what happens when you have the G.O.A.T. on the field,” Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris said after the game. “She’s expected to make big plays and she does it.”

Her performance in the Pride’s 3-2 win drew rave reviews from not just her teammates, but her opponents as well.

“I thought Marta was special tonight. … Put on a show for everybody,” Courage coach Paul Riley said. “She was brilliant tonight. I enjoyed actually watching her tonight, I gotta be honest. I thought she was brilliant tonight.”

It’s the first Player of the Month award for Marta, who finished second in June and third in August. It’s the second consecutive month a Pride player has won the award, following Morgan who won the honor last month.

The five-time FIFA World Player of the Year is the first Brazilian player to ever win Player of the Month in the NWSL.

The NWSL Player of the Month is selected each month of the regular season by the NWSL Media Association, a collection of writers that cover the league on a consistent basis. For more information on the NWSL Media Association, follow them on Twitter.