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Houston holds off NCC in draw; Orlando, Seattle fail to break stalemate

SANTA MONICA — With most teams heading into a short break, fans of the National Women’s Soccer League watched several teams win big this weekend.  After weeks of struggling, the Chicago Red Stars claimed their first win in weeks while Utah rallied back against Sky Blue. The Houston Dash managed to hold on against the top team in the league while Seattle and Orlando ended on a draw.

Rain won’t stop @samanthakerr20. #NWSL

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CHICAGO 2, WASHINGTON SPIRIT 0

After weeks of watching their team fail to hold on to its lead, Chicago Red Star fans rejoiced on Saturday. Chicago defeated the Washington Spirit 2-0 at Maureen Hendricks Field.

A weather delay held up the kick-off between the Spirit and Red Stars. Both teams, however, played a competitive match, shooting 11 shots each.   But it was Chicago who finished strong. In the pouring rain, Yuki Nagasato, set up outside the box for a direct free kick. The Spirit’s Kelsey Wys managed to get a hand on the shot, but with Wys grip slipped and the ball rolled toward Sam Kerr before Wys recovered from the save as Kerr crashed the goal, placing the follow-up shot into the far back corner of the net in the 25th minute. Nagasato extended Chicago’s lead, scoring in the 48th minute.

The Spirit found a couple of openings as they sought that equalizer but failed to find the back of the net throughout the night. A solid run in the 38th minute saw three shots from Washington denied by Chicago. Again in the first minute of stoppage time in the first half, Washington nearly found the back of the net. Looking for the equalizer, Havana Solaun bends one just over the upper 90 of the near post on a direct kick.

Chicago clinches three points with the win to move into a tie with Portland at 15 points with its 3-6-3 record while Washington falls to 2-2-7 on the year. The Red Stars take a week off before returning to face Portland on June 6, but the Spirit will be back in action Friday as they face off against Sky Blue.

HOUSTON 1, NORTH CAROLINA 1

If Houston found a consistency to its game, it would be a force to be reckoned with. The Dash stuck close on the hills of the North Carolina Courage en route to its 1-1 draw Sunday afternoon.

In one of their best performance of the season, Houston put up 13 shots and three corners against NCC’s eight shots and two corners. Houston attacked quickly against the top team in the league as Daly nearly slipped one in in the 8th minute. After missing her shot in the 20th minute, Keely Ohai finds redemption minutes after half time. Settling the ball along the far sideline, Ohai races a Courage defender down the line, breaking past just in time to chip in a goal and putting Houston ahead 1-0.

It took the Courage a bit longer to find the equalizer but it was worth it. Rookie Frannie Crouse scored her first career goal Sunday against the Dash. Cari Roccaro floats a cross in to the box to Crouse who looks to head the ball in. While the header dropped a foot in front of her, Crouse turned and shot straight into the upper net, putting North Carolina right back in the game.

Carolina and Houston split the match for a point each. Carolina remain unbeaten with a 9-3-0 record on the season while Houston moves to 3-5-4. Both Houston and Carolina take the week off as the USWNT prepare for its friendly against China PR on June 7.

ORLANDO 0, SEATTLE 0

While the Courage securely claimed first in the standings with 30 points, Orlando has worked for weeks to be able to steal the second place spot from Seattle. Now with the chance, the Pride settled for a stalemate against the Reign and trailing by two points in the standings.

Shot for shot, pass for pass, corner for corner, Orlando and Seattle were locked in a deadly duel. While neither found a way to get the upper hand, fans enjoyed a good show from two of the top three teams in the NWSL.

Twelve minutes into the match, Seattle threatened a couple early goals with open space while Orlando’s backline was no where to be seen. Orlando took its first attack in the 21st minute, but Sydney Leroux watches her header go wide. A solid performance from both defenses left it a quiet match. While neither offense performed amazing, it was Ashley Harris and Lydia Williams who stole the show with some great last minute saves, diving stops and slide tackles throughout the night. Seattle went 5 for 15 on the night, controlling 53 percent of the possession while Orlando went 2 for 12.

Seattle moves to a 5-3-2 record on the season while Orlando moves to 4-4-3. Both teams take a week off before returning to the pitch June 16.

Teamwork makes the dreamwork! 🤜🤛

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UTAH 2, SKY BLUE 1

Never underestimate the rookie. Despite a number of challenges heading into this season, Utah has made a name for itself during its rookie season. Utah took home its third win of the season Saturday night, defeating Sky Blue 2-1.

Utah wasted no time showing Sky Blue what it could do Saturday night. In the third minute of play, Utah’s Gunnhildur Jonsdottir broke through the defense on the sideline before crossing the ball to a crashing Diana Matheson. Matheson slid toward the post, connecting with the ball as it hit the pitch and sending it straight into the top of the net. While Sky Blue found an equalizer minutes later, the damage was done with the momentum in the Royals favor. Again in the 85th minute Jonsdottir crossed the ball, deflecting it off Sky Blue’s Mandy Freeman for an own goal and the lead.

Utah recorded a 57 shooting accuracy and claimed 55 percent of the possession and five corner kicks. Keeping it clean, the Royals only recorded three fouls on the night. Sky Blue struggled a bit more, racking up a massive 13 fouls and a yellow while only going 3 for 9 on the night. Utah moves into sixth in the standings with a 3-5-2 record while Sky Blue remains winless on the season. Sky Blue features the sole game this coming week as they face off against the Spirit, looking for its first win of the season.

Feature photo courtesy of ISI photos. In post photos and videos courtesy of NWSL and team Instagrams.