Gameday: USWNT vs. Korea Republic

USWNTOctober 19

Highlights & Results: NWSL players on international duty

NewsOctober 19

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

Orlando Pride extend head coach Tom Sermanni’s contract

NewsOctober 04

Jess Fishlock earns final Player of the Week honors for 2017

Week 22October 03

Camila suffers torn ACL and sprained MCL, out indefinitely

NewsOctober 03

Sam Kerr wins 2017 Golden Boot

NWSL AwardsOctober 02

NWSL Playoffs tickets on sale; Thorns vs. Pride Oct. 7, Courage vs. Red Stars Oct. 8

PlayoffsOctober 02

Semifinal Preview: Portland Thorns FC vs. Orlando Pride

PlayoffsOctober 02

Lifetime launches Pass the Ball campaign

NWSL on LifetimeSeptember 29

NWSL announces 2017 Awards schedule

NewsSeptember 27

Boston Breakers midfielder Adriana Leon voted Player of the Week

Week 21September 26

Power Rankings: Adrianna Franch, Thorns hold onto the top spot with 11th shutout of the season

Week 21September 25

All four playoff teams set as Pride clinch final spot

PlayoffsSeptember 25

Heath removed from injury report; Lavelle out

NewsSeptember 22

Reign defender Elli Reed announces retirement

NewsSeptember 22

Playoff Picture: Win and in for Red Stars, Pride

PlayoffsSeptember 22

Courage, Thorns in contention for NWSL Shield

PlayoffsSeptember 22

Carli Lloyd named finalist for The Best FIFA Women’s Player 2017

NewsSeptember 22

Outside the Box Scores: Talking about playoffs, Courage edition

PlayoffsSeptember 20

How They Got Here: North Carolina Courage

PlayoffsSeptember 20

Heath, Lavelle return; Morgan brace leads U.S. to 5-0 win vs. New Zealand

USWNTSeptember 19

Highlights & Results: NWSL players on international duty

NewsSeptember 19

USA and New Zealand square off again on Tuesday night, plus how to watch

USWNTSeptember 18

Sam Kerr named PFA Women’s Footballer of the Year

NewsSeptember 18

Ertz scores twice, Huerta debuts as USWNT tops New Zealand 3-1

USWNTSeptember 16

Sofia Huerta’s change of national association approved by FIFA

USWNTSeptember 14

Gameday: USWNT vs. Korea Republic

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

Portland Thorns FC midfielder Allie Long in training for the U.S. women's national team. (Photo credit: Brad Smith/isiphotos.com)

United States vs. Korea Republic

Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans

When: Thursday, October 19, at 8 p.m. ET

Where to Watch: FS1


Latest News

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. Read More


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)

MIDFIELDERS (7): 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)

Highlights & Results: NWSL players on international duty

Wins for Scotland and Brazil so far this week

Orlando Pride forward Marta in action for Brazil. (Photo credit: Brad Smith/isiphotos.com)

It may be the NWSL offseason, but there’s plenty of It’s international duty for many NWSL players this week. Here’s a quick at look at the highlights and results so far — plus the full schedule for each team below.

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 is also on the roster for Mexico in the tournament.


MEXICO – 2017 Yongchuan Four Nations Tournament

Roster: Bianca Henninger (Houston Dash), Katie Johnson (Seattle Reign FC)
19 October 2017: Mexico vs. Brazil
21 October 2017: Mexico vs. China
24 October 2017: Mexico vs. Korea DPR


BRAZIL – 2017 Yongchuan Four Nations Tournament

Roster: Bruna Benites (Houston Dash), Monica (Orlando Pride), Poliana (Houston Dash), Andressinha (Houston Dash), Marta (Orlando Pride)
Injured: Camila and Debinha
Oct. 19: Brazil vs. Mexico
Oct. 21: Brazil vs. Korea DPR
Oct. 24: Brazil vs. China


SCOTLAND – 2019 Women’s World Cup Qualifying

Roster: Rachel Corsie (Seattle Reign FC)
Oct. 19: vs. Belarus
Oct. 24: vs. Albania


ICELAND – 2019 Women’s World Cup Qualifying

Roster:Dagný Brynjarsdóttir (Portland Thorns FC)
Oct. 20: vs. Germany
Oct. 24: vs. Czech Republic


SOUTH AFRICA – Friendly

Roster: Janine Van Wyk (Houston Dash)
Oct. 22: vs. Burkina Faso


JAPAN – Friendly

Roster: Rumi Utsugi (Seattle Reign FC)
Oct. 22: vs. Switzerland

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.

Orlando Pride extend head coach Tom Sermanni’s contract

Sermanni has led the Pride to their first playoffs appearance this season

Thumbs up from Tom; he's staying in Orlando after news of a contract extension from the Pride. (Photo credit: Jeremy Reper/isiphotos.com)

Tom Sermanni isn’t going anywhere. On Wednesday, the Orlando Pride announced that the head coach will return to the club thanks to a new contract extension.

Sermanni is the only coach in the Orlando Pride’s two year history since joining the National Women’s Soccer League as an expansion team. After their inaugural season finished with the team at ninth on the table, 2017 has been an entirely different story. With some key roster moves – including the addition of Marta – the Pride finished this season with the third overall seed into the NWSL Playoffs and their first postseason appearance.

Sermanni’s side also wrapped up the 2017 regular season with a nine-game unbeaten streak.

In the team’s official release, Sermanni said, ““It’s exciting. I’ve had a great two years here. This gives me another opportunity to continue to build the squad; to build the culture and philosophy around the team and just to be a part of this great organization. Orlando has felt like home to me virtually from day one when I came here. It’s wonderful. There’s the stadium, there’s the people in the Club and the community as well. It’s a mix of all of those things that makes this Club unique. And having been in football for some considerable time, you don’t often get that complete environment and that’s what makes this Club very special to me.”

As for the Pride, keeping Sermanni on was the obvious decision. “Keeping Tom was a no-brainer for our Club,” Orlando City SC CEO Alex Leitão said in the release. “He is one of, if not the, most accomplished coaches in soccer. His track record speaks for itself. I can’t wait to see what Tom and the Pride do in the upcoming NWSL playoffs and beyond.”

Sermanni will get a chance to extend his season one last time on Saturday, Oct. 7 at 3:30 p.m. ET when the Pride travel to Portland to take on the Thorns in their semifinal match.

Jess Fishlock earns final Player of the Week honors for 2017

The Seattle Reign FC midfielder was involved in every goal of the 3-2 comeback win over the Spirit

Jess Fishlock scored two goals and added an assist in the Seattle Reign's statement win to close out the 2017 season. (Photo credit: Brad Smith/isiphotos.com)

Seattle Reign FC midfielder Jess Fishlock has been voted the final NWSL Player of the Week for Week 22 by the NWSL Media Association. Fishlock scored a brace and added an assist in Seattle’s 3-2 comeback win over the Washington Spirit, a huge statement win to close out their season after missing out on the postseason.

After going down 0-2 to the Spirit thanks to another stellar rookie-season performance from Mallory Pugh, Fishlock led the Reign to victory with goals in the 71st and 90th minutes. It’s only the fifth time in league history a club has come back from a two-goal deficit, and the second time in club history they’ve managed the feat.

Fishlock also assisted on the equalizer from Larissa Crummer in the 83rd minute.

All in all, it only took 19 minutes for the Reign to mount their comeback, and Fishlock’s game-winning goal in the final minute of regulation was her seventh goal of the season. She finishes up her 2017 with those seven goals as well as two assists – and this is also her second Player of the Week honor this season, after winning it back during Week 2.

Fishlock has now been named Player of the Week four times, and joins a select list of just five other players who have picked up the award that many times. Notably, that list includes her Reign teammates Megan Rapinoe and Naho Kawasumi, who have each won it four times as well.

The Seattle Reign also named Jess Fishlock their Player of the Match for her performance.

The NWSL Player of the Week is selected each week 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.

Camila suffers torn ACL and sprained MCL, out indefinitely

The Pride midfielder was injured on Saturday night in North Carolina

Orlando Pride midfielder Camila has suffered a torn ACL and sprained MCL in her right knee, the team announced Tuesday. She’ll miss the rest of the season as Orlando heads to the NWSL Playoffs on Saturday.

Camila suffered the injury in the 32nd minute of the Pride’s 3-2 win over the North Carolina Courage on Saturday night.

The midfielder appeared in all 24 games for the Pride this year, finishing the season with four goals and five assists. She won the NWSL Goal of the Week award twice.

Sam Kerr wins 2017 Golden Boot

No surprises here: Kerr scored 17 to set the single season record

Sky Blue FC forward Sam Kerr celebrates her four goal game vs. Seattle Reign FC. (Photo credit: Robyn W. McNeil/isiphotos.com)

Sam Kerr scored her 17th goal of the  season on Saturday night in Boston, claiming the single season scoring record for herself putting an exclamation point on her announcement as the winner of the 2017 Golden Boot on Monday.

The 24-year-old scored her 17 goals in 22 appearances this season, though she didn’t actually tally her first until May 13 – the fifth game of the season for Sky Blue FC. Her season also included three multiple-goal matches, in which she tallied one brace, one hat trick and a four-goal performance against Seattle Reign FC.

In addition to setting the new single-season record, Kerr also became the all-time leading scorer in the NWSL this season, setting a number of records along the way. On July 8, she scored her 35th career goal to take the lead on the all-time list. By August 19, she had scored 40 goals in that match against the Seattle Reign.

As it stands at the close of the regular season, Sam Kerr is now the all-time leading scorer with 43 career goals.

Thanks to that performance, Kerr became the first player to score two hat tricks in a single season, and she led Sky Blue FC to the first ever comeback performance in the league from a three-goal deficit for the win.

And finally, Kerr was the first player in league history to reach 50 career points, and by the close of the regular season she had surpassed that mark. As of Monday, Kerr now has 58 career points – and 21 of them came this season alone thanks to the 17 goals and four assists.

Kerr received plenty of help from her teammates, with assists coming from eight different players over the course of the season. Daphne Corboz and Maya Hayes led the squad in helping out Kerr with the final pass, at four assists each.

Some other notable facts about Kerr’s goalscoring record:

  • Kerr’s 17 goals made up 40.5% of Sky Blue’s overall scoring output this season
  • Kerr converted 31.4% of her 54 shots on goal
  • Kerr scored at a rate of a goal every 112.8 minutes of her season
  • Kerr scored against eight of the nine other teams in the league, the only team missing is the Washington Spirit
  • Kerr scored five game-winning goals
  • Kerr scored five equalizers
  • Kerr scored 13 of her goals with her right foot and 4 with her head

Every goal scored by Sam Kerr during the 2017 season

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

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

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

NWSL Playoffs tickets on sale; Thorns vs. Pride Oct. 7, Courage vs. Red Stars Oct. 8

The semifinals will take place on October 7 and 8 in Portland and North Carolina

The North Carolina Courage, Portland Thorns FC, Chicago Red Stars and Orlando Pride are headed to the playoffs.

Portland will host Orlando in the first semifinal on October 7 and North Carolina will host Chicago on October 8.

See below for the full playoff schedule, including links to buy tickets to the semifinals in North Carolina and Portland or the NWSL Championship in Orlando, Florida.


2017 NWSL Playoffs Schedule

Saturday, October 7 at 3:30 p.m. ET on Lifetime

Portland Thorns FC vs. Orlando Pride

Providence Park in Portland, Oregon

Buy Tickets


Sunday, October 8 at 3:30 p.m. ET on Lifetime

North Carolina Courage vs. Chicago Red Stars

Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina

Buy Tickets


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

NWSL Championship

Orlando City Stadium in Orlando, Florida

Buy Tickets

Semifinal Preview: Portland Thorns FC vs. Orlando Pride

The league's leading offense takes on its strongest defense in the first of two semifinal matches

Portland Thorns FC and the Orlando Pride are facing off in Providence Park in the first NWSL semifinal of the weekend. (isiphotos.com)

By Katelyn Best

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Thorns take on the Orlando Pride Saturday at 12:30, in the first of two semifinals this weekend. The winner will face the winner of Sunday’s North Carolina-Chicago matchup in the NWSL Championship on Saturday, October 14 in Orlando.

For the Thorns, the match follows a lopsided final regular-season game that saw Chicago Red Stars head coach Rory Dames rest most of his starting lineup. Portland went up 2-0 early in the first half, and although Sofia Huerta got one back for Chicago after subbing on in the second half, a Nadia Nadim penalty kick in the 82nd minute closed out the scoring, and the match ended 3-1 in the Thorns’ favor. Although a win would have kept the Red Stars in third place, meaning a repeat of this matchup in the semifinal, Portland would not have moved out of second place regardless of the outcome.

“Obviously, the points and stuff didn’t matter,” said Thorns forward Hayley Raso, who scored the game’s opening goal, after the match. “But I think we have quite a bit of momentum behind us, and that’s good for us leading into [the semifinal].”

Orlando, meanwhile, are coming off a road win against the Shield-winning North Carolina Courage. By the 51st minute, the Pride were up 2-0 on the strength of goals from Kristen Edmonds and Marta. Not long after Marta scored, Lynn Williams notched two in close succession to equalize for North Carolina. But in the first minute of stoppage time, Alanna Kennedy curled a free kick in from just outside the penalty arc to seal the win for Orlando. The result moved Orlando into third place, sending them to Portland for the semifinals.

While the result of a win this Saturday—namely, a spot in the final—is the same for both teams, the match carries a different meaning for each side. For Orlando, who finished in ninth place in their inaugural 2016 season, it’s the club’s first trip to the playoffs. Making it to the final would also mean playing in front of a home crowd. “Obviously, having the final at home is giving us that extra encouragement,” said forward Alex Morgan after last week’s game.

The Thorns, on the other hand, head into the weekend looking for redemption a year after their upset semifinal loss to Western New York last season. “It was pretty killer,” remembered Portland defender Meghan Klingenberg on a media conference call. “At the end of last season, we were playing some of our very best soccer, and we really felt going into that game we had an awesome opportunity at winning, and we worked really hard, but unfortunately it didn’t go our way.”

Both squads come into this match on a run of good form. Orlando is unbeaten in the last nine matches. “I think we just bonded together midseason,” said Morgan. “It’s been an amazing ride so far… we couldn’t be in a better spot going in the playoffs.”

Meanwhile, although Portland suffered a road loss against Kansas City on August 16, the Thorns are 9-1-1 since week 15.

Orlando’s success this season has rested largely on outstanding performances by Morgan and Marta. The pair have contributed a combined 22 goals (13 by Marta, nine by Morgan) and ten assists (six by Marta, four by Morgan) to the Pride’s league-leading offense. Morgan’s goal total is even more impressive considering she only played 13 matches for Orlando. Marta also has 64 chances created this season—the most, by a wide margin, of any player in the league.

“Obviously,” said Pride head coach Tom Sermanni on the conference call, “Marta and Alex have really gelled well together in scoring goals and making great connections. They’re playing really well.”

Sermanni was careful, however, not to discount the contributions of the rest of his roster. He also pointed to the group of new players the Pride brought in this year, including Ali Krieger, Alanna Kennedy, Camila and Rachel Hill, as contributing to the team’s improvement over their 2016 season. “You put the combination of Alex and Marta, and that, together, and that’s been the catalyst to get the results we’ve gotten and improve our performances.”

The Pride do, however, come into this match missing an important piece in Camila, who suffered an ACL tear in Orlando’s match against North Carolina. The 22-year-old Brazilian has played all over the field this season, including shifts at forward, central midfield, and outside back. She’s contributed four goals and five assists.

Portland’s strength, by contrast, is their league-leading defense. Although the Thorns finished the regular season two points behind North Carolina, they have the fewest goals allowed and best goal differential in the league. “This back line’s been the best back line,” said head coach Mark Parsons on the conference call, “for two years straight. I think it’s about time that [Klingenberg], [Emily] Sonnett, [Emily] Menges, [Katherine Reynolds], and throw [Ashleigh] Sykes in, get recognition.”

In goal, Adrianna Franch has had a tremendous season, leading the NWSL with an 80% saves-to-shots ratio. She recently broke Nicole Barnhart‘s record for most clean sheets in a season, getting her 11th shutout two weeks ago against the Pride.

Portland heads into the weekend with an almost entirely healthy roster. After spending nearly the whole season rehabbing a back injury, midfielder Tobin Heath made her home debut against Chicago last weekend.

“It’s difficult,” Heath said after the game, asked about reintegrating into the team this late in the year. “They played the whole entire season, and I wasn’t a part of that, obviously… on the field, you build that kind of thing throughout the season, so everybody else is up to speed and on that page or whatever, but I’m fortunate, because we basically have the same team as last year, so there’s not too many relationships that I haven’t already developed.”

In four all-time meetings between these two teams, the Pride have never beaten the Thorns. They did play to a scoreless draw two weeks ago in Orlando, in a game that saw the Pride get the lion’s share of chances on goal, with 14 shots to Portland’s five.

“It was a hard one for both teams,” said Parsons. Looking ahead to this weekend, he added, “Orlando is a very good attacking team, they’re well coached… It’s going to be an unbelievable matchup, a great matchup that will bring out the best in us, and I’m sure will force us to find a new level.”

“We need to make sure we’re doing our best to impose our will on the game,” said Klingenberg. “We have to play the way we want to play, control the tempo, make sure we’re pressuring them… just make the game as hard as possible for them.”

There’s only one certainty going into Saturday’s match: the home crowd at Portland’s Providence Park, which sold out last weekend and will likely be packed again for the semifinal.

“It’s always tough to play in front of their crowd,” said Kennedy on the conference call. “Final football is difficult, so I’m happy with the form that we’re in.” Kennedy, who played for Western New York last year, was also in Portland for last year’s semifinal. “I think it would be great if I could do the same thing two years in a row.”

The atmosphere can be a double-edged sword for visiting teams — both hostile and electrifying.

“I expect it to be sold out,” said Orlando goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris after last week’s game. “It’s going to be insane. I can’t wait for it, we can’t wait for it. This is what playoffs are about, this is what winning championships are about. It’s about playing the best, when all odds are against you. We’re ready for that challenge.”

Lifetime launches Pass the Ball campaign

Carli Lloyd appeared on the Today Show on Thursday

#PassTheBall and watch the NWSL Playoffs and Championship only on Lifetime.

A star-studded celebrity lineup joined Lifetime this week for a PSA in support of and in an effort to raise visibility for the National Women’s Soccer League. Julia Roberts, Ellen DeGeneres, Reese Witherspoon, Zendaya, James Corden and David Beckham joined Lifetime in the initiative, which also encourages girls to dream big, inspires change and emphasizes standing up for women’s rights.

“Join the team and pass the ball for the National Women’s Soccer League,” Roberts said in the video. “By passing the ball, you will help to get the word out about these amazing athletes, and the game they love.”

Pass the Ball is an initiative by the Lifetime Marketing team. It came together quickly as each celebrity taped why they are choosing to “Pass the Ball” – with the goal of releasing it in time to promote the NWSL Playoffs and Championship.

“I think having their voices support the NWSL and the playoffs and upcoming championship is valuable for our league. I think it’s one step that will help a conversation and help the awareness of league support overall,” NWSL Managing Director of Operations Amanda Duffy told NWSL Media this week.

On Thursday, in one of the next steps of the campaign, Houston Dash forward Carli Lloyd joined Megyn Kelly on the Today Show to discuss the initiative and taped her own “Pass the Ball” segment which will be released soon.

“It’s a great initiative and movement because it empowers so many females around the world to aspire to be something great,” Lloyd told NWSL Media while promoting Pass the Ball in New York City. “There’s no better platform than the NWSL.”

The increased exposure and awareness comes at a perfect time for the NWSL. It means new viewers will be tuning in just in time to see the North Carolina Courage, Portland Thorns FC, Chicago Red Stars and Orlando Pride battle to make it to the NWSL Championship on Saturday, October 14 at Orlando City Stadium in Florida (4:30 p.m. ET, Lifetime, Buy Tickets).

This year’s playoffs feature many of 2017’s best performers: goalscorers like Marta (12 goals, 6 assists), Christen Press (11 goals, 4 assists) and Alex Morgan (9 goals, 3 assists) — as well as top goalkeepers Adrianna Franch (11 shutouts) and Katelyn Rowland (8 shutouts).

“I know that they’ll see the strength, the ability, the talent of these women. I think anyone who watches an NWSL match – whether it’s our final regular season games, or playoffs or the championship that are all ahead of us still — they’re going to see really talented athletes competing at a high level,” Duffy said. “Some of the best athletes in the world are competing right here in the United States.”

The semifinals begin next week, with Portland hosting Chicago or Orlando on October 7 (3:30 p.m. ET, Lifetime, Buy Tickets) and North Carolina hosting Chicago/Orlando on October 8 (3:30 p.m. ET, Lifetime, Buy Tickets).

“There’s some great teams that are in the final four. Deserving,”  Lloyd said. “This is always a tight race for those top four spots. … It would’ve been great to have Houston in there because I do think that we’re a great club.”

Her prediction?

“I might go with a little bit of an underdog of Chicago. I know the Courage are doing great, but it is tough to win back-to-back. But I just want a great game. Want the players to put on a good show in front of the fans and everyone watching,” she said.

____________
Additional reporting by Meg Linehan.

NWSL announces 2017 Awards schedule

The fan vote for the end of year awards begins Oct. 4

2016 NWSL MVP and Golden Boot Lynn Williams and NWSL Managing Director of Operations Amanda Duffy. (Photo credit: Andy Mead/isiphotos.com)

The NWSL issued the following press release on Wednesday:

The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) announced today the list of 2017 NWSL Awards featuring the Golden Boot, Most Valuable Player, Defender of the Year, Goalkeeper of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year and Best XI. The 2017 NWSL Awards will be voted upon in two rounds with fans once again participating in the voting process.

In the Preliminary Round, owners, general managers, coaches, players and the media will vote on the individual awards from Sept. 28 to Oct. 2 at 5 p.m. ET to determine the top finalists. The fans will then join the voting via an online link for the Final Round from Oct. 4 to Oct. 6 at 5 p.m. ET to determine the individual award winners and Best XI.

Voting Breakdown:

Preliminary Round: Owners/GMs/Coaches (25%), Media (25%) and Players (50%)

Final Round: Fans (20%), Owners/GMs/Coaches (20%), Media (20%) and Players (40%)

All 2017 NWSL Award winners will be announced in the days leading up to and following the NWSL Championship on Saturday, Oct. 14 at 4:30 p.m. ET on Lifetime at Orlando City Stadium in Orlando, Fla. Below is the complete awards announcement schedule.

2017 NWSL Awards – Announcement Schedule:

Monday, Oct. 2: Golden Boot

Tuesday, Oct. 10: Second XI

Thursday, Oct. 12: Best XI

Monday, Oct. 16: Coach of the Year

Tuesday, Oct. 17: Rookie of the Year

Wednesday, Oct. 18: Goalkeeper of the Year

Thursday, Oct. 19: Defender of the Year

Friday, Oct. 20: MVP

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.

Boston Breakers midfielder Adriana Leon voted Player of the Week

Leon scored one goal and added an assist in the Breakers' 3-0 win

Adriana Leon scored a goal and added an assist, and earned Week 21 Player of the Week honors from the NWSL Media Association. (Photo credit: Jose Argueta for isiphotos.com)

The NWSL Media Association voted Boston Breakers midfielder Adriana Leon the Week 21 Player of the Week, thanks to her contributions in Boston’s 3-0 win over the Washington Spirit on the road.

Leon was clutch for the Breakers in their second-half offensive explosion, as she set up forward Natasha Dowie’s header in the 47th minute to open the scoring. Leon sent in a cross from the right wing, which Dowie finished off the the underside of the crossbar for what proved to be the winning goal. It was also Leon’s offensive pressure that led to the Washington Spirit own goal, as Leon was driving right down the middle to create a chance.

Finally, Leon scored her own goal of the match, and the Breakers’ third goal in eight minutes. Defender Brooke Elby sent a ball in, which came off the underside of the crossbar after a touch from a Spirit defender. Leon was making the trailing run to the back post and was in perfect position to fire it into the back of the net.

This is the second time Leon has won Player of the Week honors this year, which she previously won in Week 3 of the 2017 season after scoring a goal and two assists against Seattle Reign FC. Notably, Leon is also the only Canadian to pick up the honor so far this year as well.

Leon has scored six goals and added six assists this season, and is involved in over half of all Boston Breakers goals in 2017.

Leon helped the Breakers to their first win on the road this season, which also finally snapped their 10-game winless streak.

The NWSL Player of the Week is selected each week 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.

Power Rankings: Adrianna Franch, Thorns hold onto the top spot with 11th shutout of the season

NWSL Power Rankings presented by Cutter

Adrianna Franch earned her 11th shutout of the season against the Orlando Pride. (Photo credit: Jeremy Reper for isiphotos.com)

Adrianna Franch made two saves to help Portland Thorns FC earn a scoreless draw on the road against the Orlando Pride as the goalkeeper set a new single-season record for shutouts with her 11th clean sheet of the year.

The clean sheet was the third in a row – and fourth in the last five games – for Franch, who has played every minute of the season for the Thorns. She passed FC Kansas City goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart, who posted 10 shutouts in 2013, for the single-season record.

Meanwhile, the Red Stars and Orlando Pride both clinched playoff spots in Week 21 to complete the field for the 2017 NWSL Playoffs.

See below where each club has landed in the rankings this week.

1

PORTLAND THORNS FC
13-5-5, 44 pts

Last week: 1

Adrianna Franch made NWSL history with her 11th shutout of the year – setting a single-season record – to help the Thorns to a scoreless draw against Orlando. The 11 clean sheets for Portland are tied for most by a team in a single season.


Last week: 2

Ashley Hatch scored the sixth goal of her rookie campaign to help the Courage to a 1-1 draw against Sky Blue FC in Week 21. It was the first draw for North Carolina, who narrowly missed out on clinching the NWSL Shield. The Courage will get another shot at securing the regular season crown Wednesday against Houston.


3

CHICAGO RED STARS
11-6-6, 39 pts

Up: 1
Last week: 4

Christen Press scored her 11th of the season, while Jen Hoy and Casey Short also found the back the net to help the Red Stars back to the playoffs for the third consecutive season with a 3-2 victory over Houston.


4

ORLANDO PRIDE
10-6-7, 37 pts

Down: 1
Last week: 3

Ashlyn Harris made one save to help earn the Pride a scoreless draw against Portland Thorns FC. Thanks to Seattle’s loss on Sunday, Orlando clinched a playoff spot for the first time in club history as they look to play on their home field in the 2017 NWSL Championship.


5

FC KANSAS CITY
8-9-6, 30 pts

Up: 1
Last week: 6

Shea Groom scored her fifth of the year – to go along with six assists – as FC Kansas City registered a 1-0 road win over Seattle. Nicole Barnhart needed to make just one save behind her backline led by Becky Sauerbrunn and Yael Averbuch to become the first goalkeeper to shutout the Reign since May 2015.


6

SEATTLE REIGN FC
8-8-7, 31 pts

Down: 1
Last week: 5

The Reign fell to a 1-0 home defeat against FC Kansas City in Week 21. The result eliminated Seattle from the playoffs and snapped their NWSL record 28-game home scoring streak. Not the greatest of weeks for the Reign.


7

BOSTON BREAKERS
4-12-7, 19 pts

Up: 3
Last week: 10

Natasha Dowie scored, Adriana Leon had a goal and an assist and Abby Smith made three saves as the Breakers snapped a 10-game winless run with a 3-0 win over Washington. The result also ended a 13-match winless run on the road that was the longest active streak in the league.


8

SKY BLUE FC
9-11-3, 30 pts

Last week: 8

Raquel Rodriguez scored and Samantha Kerr had an assist as Sky Blue FC earned a 1-1 draw against North Carolina. Goalkeeper Caroline Casey also played a pivotal role with six saves to help the Jersey club snap a two-game losing streak.


9

WASHINGTON SPIRIT
5-14-4, 19 pts

Down: 2
Last week: 7

The Spirit fell to a 3-0 defeat against Boston as Washington lost for the sixth time in the last seven games. The Spirit will try to close out the 2017 season on a positive note against Seattle in Week 22.


10

HOUSTON DASH
7-13-2, 23 pts

Down: 1
Last week: 9

Amber Brooks and Rachel Daly both had a goal to snap a three-game scoreless streak for the Dash, but Houston still fell to a 3-2 defeat against Chicago. The Dash have now lost four straight and will look to end that run with two games in Week 22 against North Carolina and FC Kansas City.


All four playoff teams set as Pride clinch final spot

Orlando clinches first posteason berth after finishing in ninth place last year

The Pride are headed to the postseason for the first time. (Photo credit: Amy Kontras/isiphotos.com)

The Orlando Pride became the fourth and final team to clinch a spot in the 2017 NWSL Playoffs on Sunday night.

After their 0-0 draw with Portland Thorns FC on Saturday, they needed a loss or draw from the Reign on Sunday. FC Kansas City beat the Reign 1-0, securing Orlando the final spot in the playoffs.

It’s the first playoff berth for the Pride, who also became the first NWSL expansion team to make the playoffs. They finished in ninth place last year, their first season in the NWSL, with a 6-13-1 record. This year, they are 10-6-7 and in fourth place with one game left to play.

The Pride join the Red Stars, who locked up their spot on Saturday, as the two road teams in the playoffs. The Courage and Thorns will each host a semifinal game.

The battle for seeding continues. North Carolina and Portland are both still in contention for the NWSL Shield. And, while Chicago is in third place and Orlando is in fourth, that could change pending next weekend’s games.


2017 NWSL Playoffs Schedule

Saturday, October 7

Portland Thorns FC vs. TBD

Providence Park

3:30 p.m. ET

Lifetime


Sunday, October 8

North Carolina Courage vs. TBD

Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park

3:30 p.m. ET

Lifetime


Saturday, October 14

NWSL Championship

Orlando City Stadium

4:30 p.m. ET

Lifetime

Heath removed from injury report; Lavelle out

The Week 21 injury report

Portland Thorns FC midfielder Tobin Heath in action in 2016. (Photo credit: Craig Mitchelldyer/isiphotos.com)

The NWSL released its weekly injury report ahead of Week 21. View the full injury report.

Notable updates:

Portland Thorns FC midfielder Tobin Heath has been removed from the injury report. She has not played for the Thorns this year due to a back sprain. She made her return to the U.S. women’s national team on Tuesday.

Breakers midfielder Rose Lavelle is out with a left hamstring strain and defender Julie King is out with a left ankle sprain.

Spirit defender Whitney Church, the reigning NWSL Player of the Week, is probable with a left adductor strain.

Reign defender Elli Reed announces retirement

Reed has been with the Reign since 2013

Seattle Reign FC defender Elli Reed has been with the Reign since 2013. (Photo credit: Stephen Brashear/isiphotos.com)

Seattle Reign FC defender Elli Reed will retire at the end of the season, she and the Reign announced on Friday.

Reed has been with the Reign since their inaugural season in 2013. In her five NWSL seasons, she has appeared in 78 games and started 60. She has four assists.

“My five years with the Reign have been incredible and I will never forget them,” Reed said in a statement. “But it feels like to right time to move on and start the next chapter of my life. I am ready to settle down and focus on challenging myself and growing in new ways.”

“Elli’s been here since day one, and I can’t talk highly enough of what she’s meant to this club,” Reign head coach and general manager Laura Harvey said. “She’s a fantastic teammate, and proven that all the way through. Whether she’s played every minute, come off the bench, or not seen time she’s never changed. That’s a testament to who she is.”

Reed previously played in WPS and WPSL Elite for the Boston Breakers in 2011 and 2012.

“Elli loves everything about this club and she’s given everything to it,” said Harvey. “It’s hard to put into words what someone like that means. She’ll be remembered for all the positive things that she has done since day one, and going through all the ups and downs that this club has been through. I wish her all the best in the future.”

Playoff Picture: Win and in for Red Stars, Pride

All four playoff teams could be set this weekend

The Red Stars and Pride can clinch playoff spots this weekend. (Photo credit: Jeremy Reper/isiphotos.com)

Two teams in the playoffs. Two teams left to go. Only eleven NWSL regular season games remain. And by the end of this weekend’s games, we could know all four playoff teams. The Red Stars and Pride are win and in on Saturday — and they’d join the Courage and Thorns in the NWSL Playoffs.

If Chicago and Orlando don’t win, they have another chance to make the playoffs. The Reign will be eliminated without a win on Sunday, and the Red Stars and Pride would clinch their spots.

The Courage can also clinch the NWSL Shield this weekend, which would lock down the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the playoffs. The No. 3 and No. 4 seeds would still need another weekend to sort out.

Though both teams are tied on points, Chicago holds the third spot over Orlando because the first tiebreak in the NWSL is head-to-head and the Red Stars are 2-0-1 vs. the Pride this season.

This weekend’s playoff scenarios:

Red Stars will clinch a spot in 2017 NWSL Playoffs with:

-win vs. Dash

OR

-Reign loss or draw vs. FC Kansas City


Pride will clinch a spot in 2017 NWSL Playoffs with:

-win vs. Thorns

OR

-Reign loss or draw vs. FC Kansas City


Week 21 elimination scenarios:

Reign will be eliminated from the 2017 NWSL Playoffs with:

-loss or draw vs. FC Kansas City

OR

-Red Stars win vs. Dash AND Pride win vs. Thorns


Week 21 NWSL Shield scenarios:

Courage will clinch the 2017 NWSL Shield with:

– win vs. Sky Blue AND Thorns loss or draw vs. Pride


As we head into Week 21’s weekend games, here’s a look at where each team sits in the NWSL standings, their remaining schedule and their magic number to clinch a playoff spot.

1. NORTH CAROLINA COURAGE

15-6-0, 45 pts

Goal Differential: +13
Games Remaining: 3
Max Points Possible: 54
Clinched a spot in the NWSL Playoffs

Remaining schedule:

  • Sun., Sept. 24: at Sky Blue FC
  • Wed., Sept. 27: at Dash
  • Sat., Sept. 30: vs. Pride

2. PORTLAND THORNS FC

13-5-4, 43 pts

Goal Differential: +15
Games Remaining: 2
Max Points Possible: 49
Clinched a spot in the NWSL Playoffs

Remaining schedule:

  • Sat., Sept. 23: at Pride
  • Sat., Sept. 30: vs. Red Stars

3. CHICAGO RED STARS

10-6-6, 36 pts

Goal Differential: +4
Games Remaining: 2
Max Points Possible: 42
Magic Number: 2
Elimination Number:

Remaining schedule:

  • Sat., Sept. 23: at Dash
  • Sat., Sept. 30: at Thorns FC

4. ORLANDO PRIDE

10-6-6, 36 pts

Goal Differential: +13
Games Remaining: 2
Max Points Possible: 42
Magic Number: 2
Elimination Number:

Remaining schedule:

  • Sat., Sept. 23: vs. Thorns FC
  • Sat., Sept. 30: at Courage

5. SEATTLE REIGN FC

8-7-7, 31 pts

Goal Differential: +6
Games Remaining: 2
Max Points Possible: 37
Elimination Number: 2

Remaining schedule:

  • Sun., Sept. 24: vs. FC Kansas City
  • Sun., Sept. 30: at Spirit

6. SKY BLUE FC

9-11-2, 29 pts

Goal Differential: -10
Games Remaining: 2
Max Points Possible: 35
Eliminated from playoff contention

Remaining schedule:

  • Sun., Sept. 24: vs. Courage
  • Sat., Sept. 30: at Breakers

7. FC KANSAS CITY

7-9-6, 27 pts

Goal Differential: -3
Games Remaining: 2
Max Points Possible: 33
Eliminated from playoff contention

Remaining schedule:

  • Sun., Sept. 24: at Reign FC
  • Sun., Oct. 1: vs. Dash

8. HOUSTON DASH

7-12-2, 23 pts

Goal Differential: -11
Games Remaining: 3
Max Points Possible: 32
Eliminated from playoff contention

Remaining schedule:

  • Sat., Sept. 23: vs. Red Stars
  • Wed., Sept. 27: vs. Courage
  • Sun., Oct. 1: at FC Kansas City

9. WASHINGTON SPIRIT

5-13-4, 19 pts

Goal Differential: -14
Games Remaining: 2
Max Points Possible: 25
Eliminated from playoff contention

Remaining schedule:

  • Sat., Sept. 23: vs. Breakers
  • Sat., Sept. 30: vs. Reign FC

10. BOSTON BREAKERS

3-12-7, 16 pts

Goal Differential: -13
Games Remaining: 2
Max Points Possible: 22
Eliminated from playoff contention

Remaining schedule:

  • Sat., Sept. 23: at Spirit
  • Sat., Sept. 30: vs. Sky Blue FC

Magic Number formula*
The Magic Number for a team to clinch a playoff spot is determined by subtracting that team’s current points total from the maximum number of points possible for the fifth-place team, then adding one.

Elimination Number Formula*
The Elimination Number for a team to confirm their exclusion from the playoffs is determined by subtracting that team’s maximum number of possible points from the current number of points of the fourth-place team, then adding one.

* = The Magic Number or Elimination Number for each team does not reflect scenarios that require tiebreakers. Tiebreaker scenarios are required when a team’s Magic Number or Elimination Number is 1.

Tiebreaker Procedures

To Break a Tie in the Standings

If two or more teams are tied on points at the end of the regular season, the tie will be broken through the following steps:

Two teams

1.Head-to-head record
2.Overall goal difference
3.Overall goals scored
4.Head-to-head road record
5.Goal difference in all road games
6.Goals scored in all road games
7.Head-to-head home record
8.Goal difference in all home games
9.Goals scored in all home games
10.Coin toss

Three teams

1.Points per game against other two teams

2.Overall goal difference

3. See tiebreaker procedure for two-team scenarios
NOTE: If two teams are still tied after the third team has advanced via the tiebreaker, the tie will be broken using the two-team tiebreaker rules.

Courage, Thorns in contention for NWSL Shield

North Carolina could clinch the NWSL Shield this weekend, but Portland is still in the hunt

The North Carolina Courage are 15-6-0 through the first 21 games of the 2017 season. (Photo credit: Andy Mead/isiphotos.com)

After being in first place for most of the season, the North Carolina Courage (15-6-0, 45 points) have a chance to lock up the NWSL Shield this week. If the Courage win and the Thorns lose or draw vs. the Pride, North Carolina will claim its first ever NWSL Shield.

The Portland Thorns still have a chance to become the second team to win the NWSL Shield in back-to-back seasons, but they’ll need a win on Saturday to stay in the hunt.

In 2014, the Reign won the NWSL Shield with only two losses and a record 16 wins and 54 points. Heading into Week 21 of this season, the Courage have 15 wins and 45 points. With three games remaining, they can break the record for wins in a season and would need all nine points to tie Seattle’s 54-point mark.

Previous NWSL Shield winners:

2013: Western New York Flash (10-4-8, 38 pts)

2014: Seattle Reign FC (16-2-6, 54 pts)

2015: Seattle Reign FC (13-3-4, 43 pts)

2016: Portland Thorns FC (12-3-5, 41 pts)

The Reign repeated as Shield winners in 2015 with just three losses that season. Over a span of two years, the Reign lost just five total games. Fittingly, in 2015, the Reign lifted their trophy in the rain.

The Thorns claimed their 2016 Shield in this season’s opener on April 15.

No NWSL Shield winner has ever gone on to win the NWSL Championship. The first three winners all fell in the final and the Flash ousted the Thorns in a thrilling semifinal last season.

Carli Lloyd named finalist for The Best FIFA Women’s Player 2017

Lloyd won the award in 2015 and 2016

Houston Dash forward Carli Lloyd is one of three finalists for The Best FIFA Women’s Player 2017. (Photo credit: Wilf Thorne/isiphotos.com)

Houston Dash forward Carli Lloyd is one of three finalists for The Best FIFA Women’s Player 2017, FIFA announced Friday.

She is joined by Lieke Martens, who won the UEFA Women’s Euro 2017 tournament with the Netherlands, and Venezuela’s Deyna Castellanos.

Lloyd is the two-time reigning Best Women’s Player, previously known as the FIFA World Player of the Year, when she won for the first time in 2015.

In 2017, Lloyd returned to the Dash after spending the first half of the year with Manchester City, where she made it to the Champions League semifinals. She also won the FA Cup, scoring a goal in the final at Wembley Stadium.

Houston went on a six game unbeaten streak shortly after her return. Currently out with an ankle injury, she’s scored twice for the Dash this season, including a Goal of the Week nominee in a 2-0 win in Orlando.

The three finalists were selected from a shortlist of 10 players, compiled by a panel of six women’s soccer experts: Mia Hamm, Maia Jackman, Nadine Kessler, Jacqueline Shipanga, Sissi and Sun Wen.

Shortlist:

Lucy Bronze | England, Manchester City

Deyna Castellanos  | Venezuela, Santa Clarita Blue Heat

Pernille Harder  | Denmark,  Linkopings / VfL Wolfsburg

Sam Kerr  | Australia, Perth Glory / Sky Blue FC

Carli Lloyd | USA, Houston Dash / Manchester City

Dzsenifer Marozsan | Germany, Olympique Lyonnais

Lieke Martens  | Netherlands, FC Barcelona

Vivianne Miedema  | Netherlands, Arsenal

Wendie Renard | France, Olympique Lyonnais

Jodie Taylor  | England, Arsenal

Outside the Box Scores: Talking about playoffs, Courage edition

The stats that shaped the season for the North Carolina Courage

The North Carolina Courage have held onto the top spot on the NWSL table for most of the 2017 season. (Photo credit: Andy Mead for isiphotos.com)

Two of the the ten clubs have officially clinched not just an appearance in the National Women’s Soccer League postseason, but a home semifinal. The North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns FC are booked for the weekend of October 7 and 8, and looking to extend their season one more week. The two teams are also in the running for the NWSL Shield, awarded to the team with the best record during the regular season.

While we already took you inside the Courage’s regular season and how it earned them a playoff spot, we also wanted to dive into some of the stats that highlight the strengths (and challenges) of their season.

The record

As we noted this morning, the Courage have only dropped out of first place once this season, and that was due to a weather delay. They were the first to clinch a playoff spot, but their lead over the second place Thorns has narrowed considerably thanks to Portland’s four-game win streak.

While Portland might have the strongest fortress at home in the NWSL, the Courage are still on top of the table thanks to their performance on the road. They’re the best in the league while away, going 6-4-0 with a +1 goal differential. They’re the only team with a positive goal differential on the road in the league, even if it is a small one. (The next two teams are Chicago at a 0 GD, and Orlando at -1.)

The Courage have only played 21 games so far this season, and they won’t catch up with the rest of the playoff contenders until the final week of the season. They’ll play their rescheduled match against Houston on Wednesday, Sept. 27 in Texas, then finish their season off at home against the Orlando Pride.

And of those 21 games played, the Courage have yet to settle for a draw. This just keeps on extending the record set by the Orlando Pride during the 2016 season, in which they played 18 games without a tie.

And you get a goal! And you get a goal! Everybody gets a goal!

Last year, it was the Lynn Williams and Jessica McDonald show. They were two of the three top scorers in the league, with 11 and 10 goals, respectively. They also linked up with plenty of assists – McDonald finished tied for second in the league with seven assists, while Williams finished tied for fourth in the league with five.

This year, the North Carolina Courage have options. So while that means that Williams won’t repeat as a back-to-back Golden Boot winner, it means the team has upgraded from squeaking into the playoffs to staying on top all summer long.

In 2016 there was a huge gap in goals contributed from the rest of the squad, with Abby Dahlkemper next in line after McDonald at three goals. In 2017, Williams is still the leading scorer for the Courage at six goals. But the scoring is spread out far more evenly: McDonald has four, Sam Mewis has five, McCall Zerboni and Debinha have three.

Mostly important, rookie forward Ashley Hatch and Kristen Hamilton have stepped up while Williams and McDonald have missed time due to injuries. Hatch has scored five times, Hamilton’s added another four.

So even on September 9, when head coach Paul Riley had to switch up his starting XI thanks to Zerboni’s suspension due to yellow card accumulation, he didn’t need to worry too much. The Courage are a system team this year, and Riley’s been able to swap in and out of multiple formations instead of relying on the 4-4-2 with Williams and McDonald in front.

Oh, and they’re still leading the league on corner kicks, with a 58.2% accuracy rate for 122 taken. They’re almost a full 20 percentage points over the team in second, Portland Thorns FC at 38.4%.

Stifling defense

We’ve talked plenty about North Carolina’s defense, even in Outside the Box Scores before. As much as the Courage have benefitted from that spread-out offense, they’re also getting clutch two-way performances from their midfield and forwards. That’s a big piece of why the Courage are so successful in defense.

It starts at the very back with starting goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland, who has the highest save percentage in the league at 82%. In her 14 games so far this season, she’s only conceded eight goals while earning eight clean sheets.

Rowland has only made 37 saves in those 14 games (compare to, say, the Houston Dash’s Jane Campbell who has made 52 in 13 games), but that comes back around to the simple fact that the Courage are the best in the league at stifling shots on goal.

North Carolina has still allowed the fewest shots and shots on goal in the league. They’ve conceded the fewest goals in the league as well, with one less (18) than the second place Thorns FC (19). And the Courage have the most clean sheets in the league, with 11 of their 15 wins resulting in a clean sheet.

Compare those shots/SOG faced numbers to their closest competition and you can see why North Carolina is still in first place. Chicago has the stingiest defense next on the list, and they are still far off pace: the Courage have allowed 180 shots and 70 shots on target all season, the Red Stars 241 shots and 89 shots on target.

Back in July, Lynn Williams told us that these stats are a result of the entire team, not just the back four and Rowland. “If you watch our team, we high press. We defend from front-to-back, we don’t just rely on our defenders to defend. It starts with the front line and then with the midfielders, and I think that’s how that stat comes about. Obviously, our defenders are amazing and they throw their bodies in front of balls. I truly believe we just don’t allow people to get in that situation because we win the ball in the middle of the field a lot of the time and go from there.”

And the two players most responsible for winning balls in the midfield? McCall Zerboni and Sam Mewis, two of three key players in Cary.

The spine of the Courage

Sam Mewis, McCall Zerboni and Abby Dahlkemper are the three players most key to this North Carolina Courage season. Mewis and Dahlkemper are the only two players to have played every minute for North Carolina; Zerboni would also have played a full 1890 minutes had she not been forced to miss the game against Houston due to yellow card accumulation.

Here’s a quick look at some of their stats that show the extent of their influence down the middle of the pitch:

Sam Mewis
5 goals, 3 assists
1369 touches (1st for Courage)
1047 attempted passes (1st for Courage)
246 duels (2nd for Courage) with 65.0% win rate (1st for Courage)
29 clearances
78.1% tackle win rate

McCall Zerboni
3 goals, 1 assist
1274 touches (2nd for Courage)
827 attempted passes (3rd for Courage)
297 duels (1st for Courage) with 64.0% win rate (2nd for Courage)
22 clearances
75.4% tackle win rate

Abby Dahlkemper
1 assist
1165 touches (3rd for Courage)
845 attempted passes (2nd for Courage)
75 clearances
83.3% win rate
Only 9 fouls conceded through 21 games

The question marks

So, with all of that evidence stacked up there’s plenty to appreciate about the season the Courage are having in Cary. There are questions though, and here are the big ones: passing accuracy and their losses to the other top teams in the league.

The passing accuracy numbers probably don’t keep anyone up at night in North Carolina. That high press system typically means they just eventually force a turnover to regain possession. But there’s no getting around that the Courage are in last place in the NWSL when it comes to passing accuracy.

The Courage also have made the fewest passes in the league so far this year, with a 68.0% accuracy rating for 7558 passes. Compare that to the Orlando Pride in first place, who have completed 78.3% of their 9484 passes.

While North Carolina’s passing accuracy drops to 59.1% in the opponent’s half, here’s where these numbers take a back seat: the Courage are the best team in the league at crosses. They’ve attempted the most in the NWSL, and they have the highest success rate at 28.5%. (Compare, once again, to the Pride: in 9th place with 431 attempts and a 18.8% success rate.)

While the Courage might have answers to the questions about their passing game, the one real unknown is how they will perform against the top teams at this point in the season. They haven’t won against one of the other three teams sitting in a playoff spot since April, and five of their six losses this season come from the other top teams in the league.

Back on April 23, the Courage defeated the Thorns 1-0, then followed that up with a 3-1 win over the Pride. Since then, they lost all three matches against the Red Stars, plus an additional game against Orlando in May and Portland in July.

Ultimately, comparing those two Thorns matches from April and July shows that the Opta stats weren’t all that different – the Courage allowed more shots in July, but still held the Thorns to two shots on target. The passing accuracy numbers dropped for both teams; possession stayed largely the same in North Carolina’s favor.

The Courage did allow more the Thorns to create more chances in July, even if they didn’t result in shots on target. Back in April, they held Portland to four, in July they allowed 10. Part of that might be Portland coming into form at the right time. But if the current standings hold and North Carolina needs to face off against Orlando, the Pride’s attack is arguably the most dangerous in the league as October approaches.

The Courage’s only test against a playoff contender is their final game of the season against the Orlando Pride – a home finale that might end up a preview of their home semifinal.

North Carolina will have their chance to clinch the NWSL Shield on Sunday against Sky Blue FC this Sunday, but they need some help from Portland. It takes a Courage win in New Jersey, plus Orlando earning at least one point over the Thorns for the Courage to take home what they hope will be the first of two trophies to close out the 2017 season.

How They Got Here: North Carolina Courage

The moments that shaped the season for the Courage

The Courage have won 15 games so far this season. (Photo credit: Andy Mead/isiphotos.com)

The North Carolina Courage are 15-6-0 and in first place with 45 points heading into Week 21 when they visit Sky Blue FC on Sunday (6 p.m. ET). They’ve already booked a spot in the playoffs and will host a semifinal match on Sunday, October 8 at 3:30 p.m. ET (Lifetime).

After the first week of the season, they’ve only been out of first place once, after weather postponed their game vs. FC Kansas City in Week 14 and they fell briefly into second place behind the Red Stars. They regained first place in Week 15 and went on to become the first team to clinch a spot in the NWSL Playoffs on August 30.

While the Courage try to clinch the NWSL Shield and wait to find out their playoff opponent, let’s take a look back at the games that led North Carolina to their first-place spot.

April 15: First game, first goal, first shutout, first win

Courage 1 – Spirit 0

Full Game | Highlights | Box Score

It didn’t take long for the North Carolina Courage to get on the board in their first ever game. Midfielder McCall Zerboni scored in the 18th minute in the 1-0 win. It was also the first look at North Carolina’s stifling shutdown defense — the Courage did not allow a shot on goal in the match.

Though Spirit goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé put on a show to keep them from adding to their lead, the Courage came away with a win because of their strong defensive performance — a hallmark of their season.


April 22: First win in North Carolina

Courage 1 – Thorns 0

Full Game | Highlights | Box Score

The Courage won their first ever home game in Week 2 when they beat the Thorns 1-0, allowing just two shots on goal in the win. NWSL newcomer Debinha scored the game-winner in the 81st minute off an assist from Jess McDonald.

The Courage took hold of first place with the win and would stay in first for the next 12 weeks before a brief slip to second in July.


June 3: Hatch scores her first goal

Courage 2 – FC Kansas City 0

Full Game | Highlights | Box Score

After going 4-0-0 to start the season, the Courage hit a few bumps in the road in May, going 2-3-0. They suffered their first loss of the season on the road in Orlando before falling twice to the Red Stars over the course of the month.

June brought their national TV debut vs. FC Kansas City in the NWSL Game of the Week on Lifetime and a chance to get back on the winning track.

Zerboni scored off an always dangerous Courage corner kick. Rookie Ashley Hatch scored the first goal of her NWSL career in the first start of her career. McDonald missed the game with a strained left hamstring.

Both McDonald and reigning NWSL MVP Lynn Williams missed time with injury over the next few weeks and it was Hatch, along with Kristen Hamilton, who provided the offense for the Courage in their absence.


June 17: Hamilton and Hatch to the rescue

Courage 3 – Breakers 1

Full Game | Highlights | Box Score

The very next game was the first without both McDonald and Williams. No problem for the Courage.

Hamilton scored a brace in the first 13 minutes of the game and Hatch scored her second goal of the season. Midfield stalwarts Sam Mewis and Zerboni each assisted on one of Hamilton’s goals.


August 13: Mewis scores twice at Memorial Stadium

Courage 2 Reign 1

Full Game | Highlights | Box Score

After going 1-2-0 in July (shutout losses to Sky Blue and Portland), the Courage roared back in August, winning all five matches. Their biggest win came on the road in Seattle when Mewis scored twice to snap the Reign’s 15-game unbeaten streak at Memorial Stadium. Mewis won Player of the Week for her efforts, the first Courage player ever to win the award.

Goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland came up big vs. the Reign, making fives saves in the win. She shut down a Nahomi Kawasumi shot in the 65th before stopping a Beverly Yanez effort in the 68th.


August 30: Courage come from behind to clinch a playoff spot

Courage 3 – Spirit 2

Full Game | Highlights | Box Score

One thing the Courage had not done until the end of August — come from behind to win a game.

North Carolina conceded the first goal of the game in the eighth minute before coming back to tie the match at the end of the first half thanks to a Mewis goal. Then it was the Jess McDonald show as the forward scored twice in a five-minute span.

The Courage became the first team to clinch a spot in the NWSL Playoffs with the win.


September 9: Hamilton’s goal clinches the Courage a home playoff game

Courage 1 – Dash 0

Full Game | Highlights | Box Score

After losing their third game of the season to the Red Stars, 2-1 on September 3, the Courage had to wait another week to clinch a home playoff game.

They were without Zerboni for the game as she was suspended due to yellow card accumulation, but grinded out another 1-0 win thanks to a Hamilton goal in the 26th minute. The play started with a long throw-in by McDonald and flicked on to Hamilton by captain Abby Erceg.


The win was North Carolina’s 11th shutout of the season, tying the league record. It was also their seventh 1-0 win of the year.


The Courage visit Sky Blue FC on Sunday at 6 p.m. ET, and will host their semifinal match on Sunday, October 8 at 3:30 p.m. ET (Lifetime).

Heath, Lavelle return; Morgan brace leads U.S. to 5-0 win vs. New Zealand

Horan and Pugh each recorded a goal and an assist

Tobin Heath saw minutes with the U.S. women's national team for the first time since April. (Photo credit: Brad Smith/isiphotos.com)

Tobin Heath and Rose Lavelle returned. Alex Morgan scored twice. The United States women’s national team topped New Zealand 5-0 at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Tuesday night.

Lavelle started in front of her home crowd, making her first appearance for the USWNT since injuring her hamstring in June. The Breakers rookie midfielder returned to NWSL action on September 2. She played the first 33 minutes before being subbed out and replaced by Thorns midfielder Lindsey Horan.

Heath entered the match in the 72nd minute — her first game action since the SheBelieves Cup in March. Heath has not played for the Thorns this season, but could make her return on Saturday in Orlando vs. the Pride. The Thorns have clinched a home playoff game and still have a chance to win the NWSL Shield for the second straight year.

Morgan, the August Player of the Month with the Pride, has not slowed down in September with the USWNT. After a goal on Friday night, she came in as a second half sub on Tuesday vs. New Zealand, and scored on her first touch of the game.

She added her second in the 69th off an assist from Spirit rookie forward Mallory Pugh.

Horan got things started for the U.S. in the 35 minute, scoring on a diving header after an assist from Courage midfielder Sam Mewis.

Horan then added an assist on Pugh’s goal in the 44th minute.

Courage forward Lynn Williams added her third career international goal in the 55th minute.

Rosie White (Boston Breakers), Katie Bowen (FC Kansas City) and Rebekah Stott (Seattle Reign FC) all started for New Zealand.

FC Kansas City defender Becky Sauerbrunn was subbed out at halftime. Red Stars defender Casey Short played center back alongside Courage defender Abby Dahlkemper for the remainder of the game.

Chicago Red Stars goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher started in goal, but was not called upon to make any saves in the match.

Highlights & Results: NWSL players on international duty

Kerr, Debinha, Fishlock, Marta, Morgan, Ertz tally goals

Sky Blue FC and Australia forward Sam Kerr scored three times in two games vs. Brazil. (Photo credit: Brad Smith/isiphotos.com)

As the NWSL takes a break for international games, here’s a quick at look at the highlights and results so far, with a few games left to play. Spoiler alert: Sam Kerr scored a few times (yes, there was another backflip!) and Jess Fishlock  tallied a memorable goal.

NWSL games — and the playoff push — resume on September 23.

Thursday, September 14:

Scotland 3 Hungary 0

Seattle Reign FC’s Rachel Corsie played her first game since being named Scotland’s new captain as her side won 3-0 over Hungary.


Friday, September 15:

France 1 Chile 0

NWSL players on France roster: Amandine Henry

United States 3 New Zealand 1

Julie Ertz scored twice and Sofia Huerta made her USWNT debut in what was a strong night for the Chicago Red Stars in Colorado. Huerta also earned her first USWNT assist, setting up Pride forward Alex Morgan‘s 75th international goal. Sky Blue’s Kelley O’Hara earned her 100th cap. Read: Full Recap

NWSL players on USWNT roster:

Alyssa NaeherJane CampbellAshlyn HarrisAbby Dahlkemper, Julie ErtzKelley O’HaraBecky SauerbrunnCasey ShortTaylor Smith, Morgan BrianTobin HeathLindsey HoranRose LavelleAllie LongSamantha MewisMegan RapinoeAlex MorganChristen PressMallory PughLynn Williams, Sofia Huerta

NWSL players on New Zealand roster:

Rebekah Stott, Katie BowenRosie White


September 16

Australia 2 Brazil 1

Sky Blue FC forward Sam Kerr scored of an assist from Pride midfielder Alanna Kennedy for Australia and Courage midfielder Debinha added one of her own for Brazil in front of a sold-out crowd at Penrith Stadium.

NWSL players on Australia roster:

Steph Catley, Alanna Kennedy, Sam Kerr, Hayley Raso, Lydia Williams

NWSL players on Brazil roster:

Bruna Benites, Monica, Andressinha, Debinha, Marta (Camila was originally named to the roster, but was replaced this week)


September 17

Wales 1 Kazakhstan 0 (Women’s World Cup qualifier)

Seattle Reign FC midfielder Jess Fishlock scored the game’s only goal in the 54th minute as Wales defeated Kazakhstan in their first World Cup qualifier on the road to France 2019.

NWSL players on Wales roster: Jess Fishlock


September 18

France 3 Spain 1

Portland Thorns FC midfielder Amandine Henry assisted on the first goal of the game as France went on to win 3-1 in a friendly vs. Spain.

NWSL players on France roster: Amandine Henry

Iceland 8 Faroe Islands 0 (Women’s World Cup qualifier)

Portland Thorns FC forward Dagný Brynjarsdóttir was in the starting XI for Iceland’s opening Women’s World Cup qualifier, which they won 8-0 over Faroe Islands.

NWSL players on Iceland roster: Dagný Brynjarsdóttir


September 19

Denmark 6 Hungary 1 (Women’s World Cup qualifier)

Nadia Nadim converted a penalty kick as Denmark won their opening Women’s World Cup qualifier 6-1 over Hungary.

NWSL players on Denmark roster: Nadia Nadim

Republic of Ireland 2 Northern Ireland 0 (Women’s World Cup qualifier)

Denise O’Sullivan and Ireland won their opening Women’s World Cup qualifier, 2-0 over Northern Ireland.

NWSL players on Ireland roster: Denise O’Sullivan

Australia 3 Brazil 2

Sky Blue FC’s Sam Kerr scored twice and the Pride’s Marta tallied a goal and an assist as Australia topped Brazil 3-2 in Australia.

NWSL players on Australia roster:

Steph CatleyAlanna KennedySam KerrHayley RasoLydia Williams

NWSL players on Brazil roster:

Bruna BenitesMonicaAndressinhaDebinhaMarta (Camila was originally named to the roster, but was replaced this week)

United States 5 New Zealand 0

Tobin Heath and Rose Lavelle returned. Alex Morgan scored twice. Lindsey Horan and Mallory Pugh each added a goal and an assist. The USWNT won big in Cincinnati, 5-0 over New Zealand. Read: Game Recap

NWSL players on USWNT roster:

Alyssa NaeherJane CampbellAshlyn HarrisAbby DahlkemperJulie ErtzKelley O’HaraBecky SauerbrunnCasey ShortTaylor Smith, Morgan BrianTobin HeathLindsey HoranRose LavelleAllie LongSamantha MewisMegan RapinoeAlex MorganChristen PressMallory PughLynn WilliamsSofia Huerta

NWSL players on New Zealand roster:

Rebekah StottKatie BowenRosie White

USA and New Zealand square off again on Tuesday night, plus how to watch

The USWNT is 13-1-1 all time against the Football Ferns

Abby Dahlkemper, Kelley O'Hara and Becky Sauerbrunn have one more match against New Zealand on Tuesday. (Photo credit: Brad Smith for isiphotos.com)

Abby Dahlkemper, Kelley O’Hara and Becky Sauerbrunn return on Tuesday night to lead the United States women’s national team into the second friendly against New Zealand. The USWNT already picked up a 3-1 win over the Football Ferns last Friday night, in which Julie Ertz bagged a brace in eight minutes and Alex Morgan scored the insurance goal. Chicago Red Stars midfielder Sofia Huerta also made her debut for the USA.

The second match is in Cincinnati on September 19 at 7:30 p.m. ET, and this time it’s time for Boston Breakers midfielder Rose Lavelle‘s homecoming – providing plenty of time for Wilma Jean Wrinkles to feature on the national team’s social channels.

All ten NWSL clubs are represented on U.S. women’s national team roster selected by head coach Jill Ellis, with the Chicago Red Stars and North Carolina Courage leading the way.

As for the Football Ferns of New Zealand, three NWSL players feature on the roster for head coach Tony Readings: defender Rebekah Stott of Seattle Reign FC and midfielders Katie Bowen of FC Kansas City and Rosie White of the Boston Breakers. New Zealand will hope to follow in the footsteps of Australia in the Tournament of Nations, with a major upset over the United States in at least one of these two friendlies. The first and only time the Ferns have beaten the United States was in 1987, their first ever meeting in the history between the two teams.

How to watch

Venue: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park; Commerce City, Colorado

Date: Friday, September 15

Time: 10 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN 2

Venue: Nippert Stadium; Cincinnati, Ohio

Date: Tuesday, September 19

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

TV: FS1

Storylines

The big focus for the U.S. national team is squaring off against the top competition in the world despite the timing in the overall cycle. And while New Zealand isn’t quite the level of competition the team saw in the SheBelieves Cup or the Tournament of the Nation, the Ferns are ranked 19th in the world and first overall in Oceania. The USWNT is 13-1-1 all time against New Zealand, and have outscored them 52-6 in those matches.

Look for some more squad rotation from head coach Jill Ellis, especially with co-captain Carli Lloyd out due to her ankle sprain. While 22 players were named to the roster (23, if you include Huerta), only 18 can suit up for each of the two friendlies.

Forward Hannah Wilkinson has had the best success of late against the United States — she’s scored New Zealand’s last three goals against the USWNT. But one player to never look past is the captain of the Football Ferns, Ali Riley. Longtime fans of American women’s soccer will remember Riley from a her time with FC Gold Pride and the Western New York Flash. She won pro championships with both of those teams. Right now, she’s in Sweden lacing up for FC Rosengård, but as long as she’s scoring goals like this, she should be on the radar for Ellis and co.:

What they’re saying

Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride): It’s really fun coming into camp and just seeing some of the players that you’re used to playing against now this year. Obviously, we’ve gotten in a rhythm in Orlando, and some teams are in playoffs, some are out of playoffs, so a lot of players are in different places. It’s good to just get the group together, get two games in, and get back to our clubs to finish off the season. I think we’re making a big push now, just gearing towards that end of season. Everyone’s fitness level is high, but obviously we have been fatiguing quite a bit throughout the season. It’s really just managing all the players, and the time, and the coaches had a meeting about that so I’m sure they’ll be managing us pretty well.

Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride): New Zealand’s a quality team, I mean they have performed well in big tournaments. Last time I saw them was obviously in the Olympics, and I’m excited to play them again. There’s a couple players in the NWSL as well that will be here. It’s a team that we find ourselves facing, maybe once a year, something like that, and they always give us a good competition and a good game.

Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit): The season’s been going pretty good, I think. It’s a huge transition going from college to pro, so I think just having teammates on the national team and teammates on the Spirit have really helped me with that. I think the style of play, the level of play, it’s probably the best in the world, so it’s nice to step into that environment and be tested every single weekend.

Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC): All these teams are getting better and better, and that’s cool for us. We’re such an incredible team and have so many great players. You see around the world, everyone else is getting better. Physically and technically; it’s cool. And now we have new goals and we know that we have to improve. Moving forward, if we’re going to win that World Cup in a few years, we have to improve as well and know that all these other teams are working hard to do the same thing. Going into these games, we have to take every opportunity. It’s so important, having these few trainings and games to improve and get better and learn and then move forward.

Tony Readings, Head Coach Football Ferns: We know that it is not going to be easy. We have given them a run for their money before and they have beaten us comfortably as well. So this is an opportunity for us to see where we are at both on and off the pitch. We have things we need to establish to be a truly high performing team.

Rosters

U.S. Women’s National Team Roster by Position (caps/goals)

GOALKEEPERS (3): Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars;18/0), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 1/0), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride; 13/0)

DEFENDERS (7): Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage; 7/0), Tierna Davidson (Stanford; 0/0), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 51/9), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC; 99/2), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City; 129/0), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars; 13/0), Taylor Smith (NC Courage; 3/0)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Morgan Brian (Chicago Red Stars; 67/6), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC; 131/18), Lindsey Horan(Portland Thorns FC; 37/3), Rose Lavelle (Boston Breakers; 6/2), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC; 30/5), Samantha Mewis(NC Courage; 28/5), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC; 123/33)

FORWARDS (5): Crystal Dunn (Chelsea FC; 54/22), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 128/74), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars; 90/43), Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit; 26/5), Lynn Williams (NC Courage; 10/2)

New Zealand Women’s National Team Roster (caps/goals)

GOALKEEPERS (3):  Victoria Esson (0/0), Anna Leat (2/0), Erin Nayler (48/0)

DEFENDERS (7): Elizabeth Anton (0/0), CJ Bott (5/0), Anna Green (64/7), Meikayla Moore (20/0), Ria Percival (124/11), Ali Riley (C) (109/1), Rebekah Stott (Seattle Reign FC, 57/4)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Annalie Longo (99/9), Betsy Hassett (99/8), Katie Bowen (FC Kansas City, 45/1), Olivia Chance (4/0), Daisy Cleverley (5/2), Malia Steinmetz (0/0), Kirsty Yallop (102/12)

FORWARDS (6): Jane Barnett (0/0), Aimee Phillips (4/1), Martine Puketapu (0/0), Katie Rood (0/0), Rosie White (Boston Breakers, 88/17), Hannah Wilkinson (81/24)

Sam Kerr named PFA Women’s Footballer of the Year

Kerr previously won the award in 2013

Sam Kerr in action for the Matildas. (Photo credit: Brad Smith for isiphotos.com)

Sky Blue FC forward Sam Kerr has been recognized for her contributions to the Australian women’s national team, and was named the Professional Footballers Australia Women’s Footballer of the Year on Sunday.

Kerr’s form for club – both her W-League side Perth Glory and Sky Blue FC – and country made the decision an easy one for her peers. Australia is now ranked sixth in the world according to the latest FIFA rankings, and the Matildas are fresh off a 2-1 win over Brazil in front of a sold-out crowd on home soil.

Kerr said, “To be voted by your fellow players as the PFA footballer of the year is a huge honor. I have been fortunate to enjoy so many great experiences with the Matildas and with my clubs over the past 12 months and this just tops it off.”

This past week Kerr also gave an inside look into her professional and personal life with the Players’ Voice, including a look back at the Tournament of Nations:

My highlight from the Tournament of Nations was the US game. To beat them for the first time and get the monkey off our back was a huge relief. It was something I felt we’d deserved over the last few years. Things just hadn’t quite gone our way.

There are a lot of Australians playing in the National Women’s Soccer League in the States and everyone over there has a lot of respect for us. But the fact that we’ve beaten them now gives us a little edge. I think they’ll go in with a different mindset when we play them next time.

Kerr is also on the 10-player list for The Best FIFA Women’s Player award, along with the Houston Dash’s Carli Lloyd. The three finalists for that award from FIFA will be announced on September 22, with the ceremony held on October 23.

Ertz scores twice, Huerta debuts as USWNT tops New Zealand 3-1

Huerta earned her first USWNT assist in the game

Sofia Huerta and Alex Morgan connected on the third goal of the game for the United States women's national team on Friday night. (Photo credit: Brad Smith/isiphotos.com)

It was a pretty good night in Colorado for the Chicago Red Stars as the U.S. women’s national team beat New Zealand 3-1. Julie Ertz bagged a brace in the first half. Sofia Huerta made her first appearance as a member of the USWNT and earned her first assist in the second half.

Huerta entered as a sub in the 51st minute, just a day after her change of national association request was granted by FIFA. She previously played for Mexico at the  U-20 National Team level.

Huerta’s assist came on Orlando Pride forward Alex Morgan’s 75th international goal and the final goal of the game. Huerta, playing at right back for the USWNT, sent a cross from the right wing to Morgan in the box on the left. The reigning NWSL Player of the Month cut around her defender and hit a left-footed shot to the near post to give the U.S. a 3-1 lead.

Ertz scored twice in a span of eight minutes in the first half. Her first goal in the 16th minute put the U.S. up 1-0 and came off a corner kick that was eventually headed in Ertz’s direction by Portland Thorns FC midfielder Lindsey Horan. Ertz flicked it into the back of the net for her tenth career goal and Horan’s tenth career assist.

Ertz’s second goal came in the 24th minute after a 15 pass sequence by the United States culminated with a Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC) header that went off the post. Ertz was in the right spot for the rebound, and hammered it home to put the U.S. up 2-0.

Three NWSL players were in the starting XI for New Zealand: Rosie White (Boston Breakers), Katie Bowen (FC Kansas City) and Rebekah Stott (Seattle Reign FC).

New Zealand forward Hannah Wilkinson, who had scored the last three goals for New Zealand vs. the U.S. coming into the game, scored in the second half to pull New Zealand within a goal before Morgan reclaimed the two goal lead.

Sky Blue FC defender Kelley O’Hara wore the captain’s armband in her 100th international appearance. She captained the game alongside her Stanford teammate Ali Riley, who is New Zealand’s captain.

Colorado natives Horan and Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit) both started in front of their home fans on Friday night.

The United States and New Zealand will meet again in Boston Breakers midfielder Rose Lavelle’s hometown of Cincinnati on Tuesday night.

Sofia Huerta’s change of national association approved by FIFA

U.S. Soccer announced the approval on Thursday

Sofia Huerta in camp with the U.S. women's national soccer team ahead of a pair of friendlies against New Zealand. (Photo credit: Brad Smith for isiphotos.com)

On Thursday, U.S. Soccer confirmed that Chicago Red Stars midfielder Sofia Huerta has been approved by FIFA to play with the U.S. women’s national team. Her change of national association from Mexico to the U.S. is now complete.

Huerta represented Mexico at the U-20 National Team level, but with FIFA’s approval, will now be able to represent the United States at the senior team level. She has been with the team in camp ahead of a pair of friendlies against New Zealand on September 15 and 19. With FIFA’s approval, she may actually see game minutes thanks to officially being able for selection.

She previously trained with the USWNT during the Tournament of Nations.

Huerta was born and raised in Boise, Idaho and in her time with the Red Stars, has scored 18 goals and added nine assists.

“I want to thank U.S. Soccer for the opportunity and I sincerely appreciate the work that went into getting this change done,” Huerta said in the U.S. Soccer release. “Now it’s about working to continue to improve and trying to earn my chance to get on the field.”