NWSL's Canadian Content: Week 4 Recap

Stanley Chou

A month into the first ever NWSL season, and the Canadian 18 keep making waves in the new league. Well, those that get to play, anyway. Also, we name our first Player of the Week!

It was another busy week for some of the Canadian 18, with twelve of them seeing at least some time on the field. Those who did see time played significant roles for their teams: some excellent, and some not so much. So if you didn't get to see the games live streamed, here are some of the Canadians' exploits this week:

* * *

Western New York Flash 2-1 Sky Blue FC

Goal: Sophie Schmidt (SB) 44'

Slowly but surely, Sophie Schmidt is making her way up the NWSL scoring table as she scored her second goal in two games. Unfortunately, by the time Schmidt scored off a Kelley O'Hara cross that caught Flash 'keeper Adrianna Franch out of place Abby Wamach had already scored the winning goal as Sky Blues succumbed to their first loss of the season. Schmidt has likely solidified her starting place in the New Jersey side with that goal, as she has caused much trouble for opposing defenses in the few games she has been in. Meanwhile, Mel Booth, Jodi-Ann Robinson and Bryanna McCarthy were on the bench, but were not called upon.

The Sky Blues will have little time to console themselves though, as they now head home for a midweek date against Erin McLeod and the Chicago Red Stars, followed by a Saturday match against the Seattle Reign; while the Flash will try to be the first to break the Canadian Wall of Desiree Scott and Lauren Sesselmann when they host the undefeated FC Kansas City on Saturday night.

Boston Breakers 4-1 Chicago Red Stars

"Bad day at the office" pretty much sums it up for the Red Stars this week, as the Sydney Leroux show took over Dilboy Stadium in the Breakers' first home game since the Boston Marathon bombings. The Canadian American scooped up a hat trick in the 4-1 rout. Leroux had the Red Stars backline running around, including Carmelina Moscato, who was burned by the American striker in the 74th minute en route to her second goal of the night.

But even though she gave up four goals (two of which were the result of the ball slipping from her hand) McLeod is the reason the scoreline doesn't read any worse than it is: she had six saves on the night, including two point blank shots from Maria Nogueria in the 54th minute, and Leroux in the 61st, excellently saved. As for the Chicago attack, it was completely smothered by the Breakers' defence, which played without Rhian Wilkinson who sat out with a hamstring injury. Adriana Leon was subbed in very late, but again had little to do with the game already won.

The task doesn't get any easier for McLeod, as Chicago continues their east coast road swing with a mid week date at Yurcak Field against Sophie Schmidt and Sky Blues before heading home to take on Christine Sinclair and the Portland Thorns on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Breakers will travel to DC for a weekend date with Robyn Gayle, Diana Matheson and the Washington Spirit.

Washington Spirit 1-2 Portland Thorns

Goal: Diana Matheson (WAS) PK 86'

Christine Sinclair was kept off the scoresheet this week by the Washington Spirit, but it didn't keep the Portland Thorns from taking three points in front of a sold-out Maryland SoccerPlex. While many of the young girls in the audience were chanting for America's soccer sweetheart Alex Morgan, Sinclair was once again the brains behind the operation while Karina LeBlanc turned in another solid performance in net. Diana Matheson resumed her duty as offensive generator, getting her third goal of the season off her second penalty kick in as many games, but that was all that the Spirit could generate.

Sinclair had four shots, two of which were on 'keeper Ashlyn Harris. On the other end, Karina LeBlanc was largely untroubled but when Washington did finally ramp up the pressure she dealt with it well, smothering a dangerous cross in the 85th minute when Jasmyne Spencer was wide open. But she wouldn't be able to keep Matheson out, the midfielder sending LeBlanc the wrong way on the spot kick, after Jazmyne Avant conceded it for a pull in the box.

It also led to this rather touching GIF:

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Matheson would pull double duty in getting under Morgan's collar in the first half leading to some pleasantries being exchanged between the bitter rivals. With the Spirit forwards creating little, the pressure now rests on both Matheson and Robyn Gayle, who played the full 90 minutes for the Washington defence that was kept busy all night, while Candace Chapman was again an unused sub.

The Spirit now have an even tougher defensive assignment on their hands next week, as they will host the red-hot goal scoring machine Sydney Leroux and the Boston Breakers on Saturday, while Portland continues their three-game road trip with another Canadian goalie showdown in Chi-town on Sunday.

Seattle Reign 0-1 FC Kansas City

Yellow Card: Lauren Sesselmann (KC) 58'

For the first time this NWSL season both teams started all their Canadians, and all of them played the full 90 minutes. Lauren Sesselmann and Desiree Scott once again lived up to their "Canadian Wall" moniker, helping the Kansas City defense shut down their fellow Canadians Tiffany Cameron and Kaylyn Kyle, as well as keeping Welsh international Jessica Fishlock and the rest of the Seattle offense quiet, which resulted in KC helping themselves to a second consecutive clean sheet against the Reign, with Mexican Renae Cuellar once again providing the offensive counterpoint. (If anyone has any good border jokes, this would be the place to insert them...Get it? Canadian defenders, Mexican strikers? Oh forget it...)

But it's not to say that the Reign embarrassed themselves in front of their home crowd, either: Emily Zurrer and the Seattle backs were under pressure from KC for big parts of the game, and had a on-song Becky Sauerbrunn to deal with along with Cuellar. Seattle's offense generated some chances, with Kaylyn Kyle coming closest with a shot on goal, but that was as close as either one of Seattle's Canadian forwards could muster.

Seattle's task of finding their first win of the season will continue next week, as they will try to contain Sky Blue FC's Commonwealth attack force of Australian Lisa De Vanna and fellow Canadian Sophie Schmidt. Meanwhile, KC will see if they can nick a win in Rochester against Abby Wambach and the Western New York Flash.

* * *

With four weeks now in the book, I think it's high time we started honouring the best of the best each week by naming the winner of our very first GOLDEN POUTINE AWARD (the Pooty for short.) Each week, the best Canadian performances will be nominated, and you the readers will determine the winner!

This week, I have nominated four performances: Diana Matheson, Karina LeBlanc, Sophie Schmidt and the Canadian Wall (Desiree Scott and Lauren Sesselmann) for you to vote on. You'll have until Thursday afternoon to pick your winner, which we will reveal in next week's recap!

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