Outside the Box Scores: Magic on the pitch in Piscataway
Late game dramatics, a stifling defense from the Courage and more in this week's stats
Sky Blue FC's Raquel Rodriguez and Erica Skroski celebrate Rodriguez's game-winning goal vs. FC Kansas City.
 (Photo credit: Robyn Walsh McNeil/isiphotos.com)
Sky Blue FC's Raquel Rodriguez and Erica Skroski celebrate Rodriguez's game-winning goal vs. FC Kansas City. (Photo credit: Robyn Walsh McNeil/isiphotos.com)

With additional research by Jacqueline Purdy.

There are stories to be found in statistics. From analyzing the box scores to keeping detailed spreadsheets tracking our favorite stats, we’re ready to shine a bright light for you thanks to Opta. After digging into this week’s data, here’s a look at some trends as we head into Week 13 in the National Women’s Soccer League.

Yurcak dramatics

Sky Blue FC is sitting in third place on the table and currently first place in the NWSL Power Rankings, and a big part of that is their success at home at Yurcak Field. They’re currently 4-2-0 in New Jersey, compared to their away record of 3-4-1.

But there’s some magic brewing on the pitch in Piscataway: some enchantment that keeps causing late game dramatics this season. Only one game so far this year hasn’t been decided by a goal in the last ten minutes of regulation play (a 0-2 loss to Portland Thorns FC on June 4). And of those five games with late goals, only one of those hasn’t finished in Sky Blue’s favor — that 2-3 loss to the Orlando Pride on on June 29.

This week’s win for Sky Blue over FC Kansas City was the second time in ten days for a late comeback at Yurcak. Those two games were also only the seventh and eighth times in NWSL history when a team rallied for a win after trailing for 75 minutes.

But here’s the full breakdown of all the wild finishes in New Jersey:

April 30: Sky Blue midfielder Raquel Rodriguez scores in the 83rd minute, the game-winning goal in a 1-0 win against FC Kansas City

May 20: Rodriguez scores in the 85th minute, the game-winning goal in a 2-1 win against the Houston Dash

May 27: Sky Blue FC forward Maya Hayes scores in the 82nd minute, the game-winning goal in a 2-1 win against the Orlando Pride

June 28: An away team finally gets some revenge, with Marta scoring in the 77th minute, then Rachel Hill scoring the game-winning goal in the 86th minute for a 3-2 upset for the Orlando Pride

July 9: Skye Blue FC forward Sam Kerr scores her hat trick starting in the 78th minute, then the 81st minute and 90th minute, which proved to be the game-winning goal against FC Kansas City.

Sky Blue FC gets another chance this weekend to make some magic at home, when they host the Chicago Red Stars on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. ET.

A stifling defense

As much attention as Kerr, Marta, and  Seattle Reign FC forward Megan Rapinoe — three early candidates for the 2017 MVP award — are getting, none of them are on the team that’s quietly been getting results all season: the first-place North Carolina Courage. There are plenty of reasons why the Courage have earned their nine wins this season, whether it’s success on corner kicks or the run of form from rookie forward Ashley Hatch. But they have also enjoyed defensive success this year. North Carolina’s tied for second in the league in goals allowed with 12 goals conceded along with Portland, their competition for the NWSL Game of the Week on Lifetime this Saturday. The Chicago Red Stars are still in first place with 11 goals conceded so far this season.

But where the Courage pull away away from the Red Stars is when you break down the numbers of shots faced. Through Week 12, the Courage have absolutely stifled their opponents’ attacks. They’ve faced 42 shots on target, and 111 shots total. Chicago’s not too far behind with 49 shots on target faced and 137 shots total.

Compare the Courage’s numbers this Saturday to the Reign, whom they defeated 2-0 in Cary, N.C.: North Carolina put up 29 shots but only allowed Seattle 13. They also have the largest difference for the season so far, with Seattle having conceded almost double the shots that North Carolina has, with 219 to 111. While Seattle is in the middle of the pack for goals allowed, this season they’ve allowed the most shots in the league, and the most shots on target at 75.

As for the Game of the Week on Lifetime, the Portland Thorns will certainly be looking for points at home in Providence Park — and they’ll need to work to limit North Carolina’s attack. Portland’s faced 64 shots on target (fourth in shots faced) but allowed 180 shots. It’s not just the Courage forwards that like to shoot either: midfielders McCall Zerboni, Sam Mewis and Debinha are all offensive threats.

Let’s get physical

Per Opta stats, our current leader in fouls conceded for the 2017 season is forward Francisca Ordega of the Washington Spirit. Through 12 games, she’s committed 33 fouls (with two yellow cards). Boston Breakers midfielder Rosie White isn’t too far behind her with 31 fouls but more importantly, six yellow cards so far this season.

Last season, Portland Thorns FC forward Nadia Nadim led the entire league in this stat with 35 fouls through 20 games. Through the first 12 games of last season, Nadim had only conceded 16 fouls. In 2017, there are already 17 players who have 17 or more fouls through Week 12.

Currently, Ordega can expect a whistle every 27 minutes she’s on the field; White every 30 minutes. Last season through the first 12 games, Nadim was whistled roughly every 63 minutes.

Houston Dash forward Carli Lloyd will sit out this weekend’s match at BBVA Compass Stadium against the Washington Spirit after being red carded for a high challenge in stoppage time. She’s also the player with the fastest foul conceded per minute rate, with a foul every 24 minutes in her five games played so far this season.

With the increased physicality this season, there are also players who are already nearing last season’s records for fouls won as well. In 2016, only two players won more 30 or more fouls: Orlando Pride’s Jasmyne Spencer (33 in 20 games played) and Portland Thorns FC’s Tobin Heath (30 in 14 games played).

This season, two players have already won 31 fouls. Sky Blue FC midfielder Raquel Rodriguez and Portland Thorns FC midfielder Lindsey Horan are tied as league leaders, with Thorns forward Hayley Raso not far behind with 29 fouls won.

A new streak in Boston

After Boston Breakers goalkeeper Abby Smith broke the record for most consecutive minutes without allowing a goal earlier this season, her teammate Sammy Jo Prudhomme has now already broken that new record.

Smith did not allow a goal over 254 minutes in four games — from Amy Rodriguez’s 48th minute goal for FC Kansas City on April 16 until North Carolina Courage forward Jessica McDonald netted one in the 32nd minute on May 7. In between, Smith added two clean sheets in April against Sky Blue FC and Seattle Reign FC. The Breakers won both matches.

Rookie goalkeeper Sammy Jo Prudhomme has been working on her new streak since her debut on June 24th against the North Carolina Courage. While Courage forward Ashley Hatch scored the game-winning goal in the 44th minute of that game, Prudhomme hasn’t allowed one since, as the Breakers have picked up a win and two draws in their last three games.

Prudhomme hasn’t allowed a goal in 316 minutes, and has made 16 saves through three clean sheets on June 28, July 1 and July 7. With Smith off the injury report after battling through some right quad tendinitis and available once again, there might be a big decision looming ahead of Boston Breakers Matt Beard for this weekend as the team travels to Seattle.

As Beard told broadcaster Jordan Angeli after the match this past Saturday, “[Prudhomme]’s done great in Abby’s absence. Definitely gives me food for thought with regards to them two. Obviously there’s great competition now.”

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