After three weeks of play, it's safe to say that some members of the Canadian 18 in the NWSL have started to make names for themselves, like Sophie Schmidt, Diana Matheson, Desiree Scott and Christine Sinclair who are starting to rise in the stature ranks on their teams, while some...let's just say had a week to forget.
It was also a good week for visiting sides, too...except for Seattle, but we'll get to the reason for that below:
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FC Kansas City 2-0 Seattle Reign
At the beginning of the season, I had pegged Lauren Sesselmann and Desiree Scott as two key pieces of the Kansas City defence -- so much so that I had even dubbed them the "Canadian Wall". After an opening weekend draw where both Scott and Sesselmann were key in keeping Christine Sinclair largely silent, they came up big once again -- while Sinead Farrelly, Lauren Cheney and Renae Cuellar were giving Seattle the business up front, the two Canadians shut down the Reign attack, largely neutralizing Kaylyn Kyle's attacks. Kyle had probably the worst game so far in her time with the Reign, getting few chances and capitalizing on none.
Maybe Seattle's missing a bit of the home cooking, but the defence that had done rather well (despite in the first two games vanished for the Reign, Emily Zurrer and the Seattle defenders were kept busy by the KC attackers, with Zurrer subbed off in the 61st minute in favour of Kiersten Dallstream. Tiffany Cameron also made her debut in the Seattle attack, brought into the attack at the 79th minute to try to salvage something for the visitors, but would register nothing on the scoresheet.
These two teams will face off again this week, but this time Seattle will be hosting. With Seattle still struggling to find their rhythm in the attack, will Cameron be handed more time? And how will the Canadian Wall hold up for the first time away from home?
Chicago Red Stars 0-2 Portland Thorns
Goal: Christine Sinclair (PDX) 81'
Karina LeBlanc (PDX)'s first NWSL shutout
Well, what do you know? Another day, another goal to the Alex Morgan-Christine Sinclair duo. Portland was expected to do well this season, and took their place at the top of the NWSL standings with a 2-0 away win in Chicago. The Thorns showed their utter dominance over the Red Stars, who looked rather ill at ease in front of about 2,500 fans. But for long stretches, it did look as though there wouldn't be any goals, both Carmelina Moscato and Erin McLeod helping Chicago keep Portland at bay for just about 70 minutes, when McLeod's save was poorly cleared by the defenders, and Danielle Foxhoven tapped home the juicy rebound.
The Red Stars tried to get aggressive, but paid the price. Morgan would find Sinclair at the top of the box after Foxhoven had corralled all the Chicago defenders towards her, and Sinclair would get her second of the season in the 81st minute. Meanwhile, Karina LeBlanc once again had a solid game, marshalling her defenders to help blunt the Red Stars' attack to earn the clean sheet.
As if things weren't bad enough for Chicago, defensive midfielder Shannon Boxx is set to have knee surgery that will rule her out for the next two months. While this will likely mean more time for Moscato, it bodes ill for the Red Stars, as German reinforcements in the backline, in the form of Inka Grings, are at least three weeks away. They are set to face Sydney Leroux in Boston next week, which could be a long day at the office for McLeod. Meanwhile, the Thorns will visit Washington to take on the Spirit.
Washington Spirit 1-2 Sky Blue FC
Goals: Diana Matheson (WAS) 35', Sophie Schmidt (SB) 48'
Finally, for the first time this season Washington had all three of their Canadians dressed. Candace Chapman was finally available to the DC side for the first time, but didn't see any action. Maybe that was one of the reasons why the Spirit defence once again struggled? Robyn Gayle was the lone Canadian again in the Washington defense, but was helpless when Coco Goodson headed home Sky Blues' opening goal off Danesha Adams' corner in the second minute. It was a bit of a gong show that led to the goal, as the Spirit defence was ravaged for over 75 minutes by the likes of Lisa De Vanna and the Sky Blue attack.
But before you think it was all one-way traffic, let Diana Matheson correct you. Matheson, who with Tiffany McCarty has been instrumental to the Spirit attack so far in the season, came up with the tying goal in the 35th minute off a low cross from Lori Lindsey. It was a thing of beauty, and for a brief shining moment...Matheson would have more goals than Christine Sinclair. Let that thought sink in for a moment.
However, that tie would be short lived, as three minutes after resumption, it would be Sophie Schmidt who would bag the winner for Sky Blues, taking a De Vanna pass and slotting it home past Ashlyn Harris. De Vanna and Schmidt would attempt to find an insurance goal, but a combination of Spirit attacks and the excellent work of Harris that kept the scoreline to 2-1.
Melanie Booth once again saw no time, but with a mid-week match against Abby Wambach and the Western New York Flash in Rochester, could we see her on the defensive line for the first time defending against Wambach and company? Meanwhile, Washington's defense will now have to regroup, and try to find ways to smother the potent Sinclair-Morgan axis that is the Portland Thorns on Saturday.
Western New York Flash 1-2 Boston Breakers
With Abby Wambach out of the Western New York lineup for precautionary reasons, Boston took its chances on the youth. Or so it would have been if they had brought on Adriana Leon to pair with Sydney Leroux! But they didn't...however, the Breakers did start the young Mexican 'keeper Cecilia Santiago, and asked Rhian Wilkinson and her defenders to try to help her out; Wilkinson and her team of defenders largely did so, even when Sam Kerr opened the scoring for the Flash in the seventh minute.
Otherwise, most of the Canadians were largely quiet in this match. With Boston on the attack, Jodi-Ann Robinson was brought on in the 73rd minute in place of Laura Heyboer to try to find a game winner, but it would be Heather O'Reilly who would win it for the visitors on a 83rd minute strike, relegating the Flash to a three-game winless streak to open the season. Adriana Leon would be brought on after O'Reilly's winner in place of Sydney Leroux, but like Tiffany Cameron, saw little action.
The Flash will have some retweaking to do, as they are still suffering from the absence of Carli Lloyd. But they will gain Wambach back for their clash with Sky Blues on Wednesday night. Meanwhile, Boston will return home to face the Red Stars on the weekend.