NWSL Week 18 Breakdown

Orlando Pride extend winning record; Chicago Red Stars break 3-game winless streak; Portland Thorns win at Memorial Stadium for the first time; Sam Kerr ties the single-season scoring record.

NWSL Week 18 Breakdown
Orlando celebrates scoring against FC Kansas City. The Pride continue their winning streak | Photo: Amy Kontras - ISI Photos

Week 18 of the 2017 NWSL season saw the playoffs race tighten, and the Boston Breakers and the Washington Spirit have been officially eliminated from the postseason.

Here's a breakdown of Week 18.

Orlando Pride extend winning streak defeating FC Kansas City 2-1 

It was a game crucial to both teams as the race for the playoffs intensified in the league. FC Kansas City, by winning three in a row, placed themselves in position to contend for a playoff spot. The Orlando Pride were also a team with a winning streak on the line, coming to Kansas City with a 4-game unbeaten record.

In front of 2,812 at Children’s Mercy Victory Field in Kansas City, Missouri for the NWSL Game of the Week, the Pride were the first on the board after a set piece caught the Kansas City defense off guard, leaving forward Chioma Ubogagu to capitalize on a loose ball. As halftime neared, FC Kansas City pressed for the equalizer, and they had their chance in the 42nd minute when Shea Groom sent a ball into the box where Lo'eau Labonta took a one-time shot with her right foot that went into the goal. 

The second half turned physical, and in the 87th minute, Camila was fouled to give Orlando a free kick from the right wing. Marta sent the free-kick into the right post where Alex Morgan flicked the ball with the outside of her left foot into the goal for the game-winner after it deflected off goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart.  

Orlando (9-6-5, 32 points) continued their unbeaten streak and tied the Chicago Red Stars on points, but hold the number four spot due to a head-to-head record tiebreaker with the Chicago side. With the loss, FC Kansas City (6-9-5, 23 points) dropped nine points out of 4th place.

Portland Thorns win at Memorial Stadium for the first time 

The Cascadia Rivalry between the Portland Thorns and the Seattle Reign came to an end for 2017 as Portland won for the first time at Memorial Stadium, 2-1. The season record between the two clubs ends at 1-1-1 for 2017. Hayley Raso scored a brace, and the Portland Thorns became the first club to win 50 games in the NWSL. With the win, the Thorns (11-5-4, 37 points) are two points away from first-place North Carolina Courage (13-5-0, 39 points).

Willa Grefe has the full recap here.

Chicago Red Stars break 3-game winless streak

The Chicago Red Stars had lost three games in a row in a span of 8 days, and all of them at home, which was a rare occurrence after an 8-game unbeaten record at Toyota Park. Furthermore, the losses saw the Red Stars dropping in the standings. In a tight race for the top four spots, the game against the Washington Spirit was a must-win for Chicago if they wanted to remain in 3rd place.

Kristie Mewis, who had been traded to the Red Stars last week, started for her new team and scored against her old team in the 23rd minute to give Chicago the 1-0 lead. Leading up to the goal, Danielle Colaprico won the ball on a chase on the left wing, and though it appeared the ball had crossed out of bounds, no call was made. This gave Colaprico the chance to take the ball up the end line and cross it into the box to an open Mewis, who took a couple of touches before finding the opportunity for a shot.

In a game dominated by Chicago, troubled loomed in the 81st minute as Spirit forward Cheyna Williams tied the game. Christen Press fouled Caprice Dydasco, which set up a Washington free kick. Mallory Pugh soared her free kick towards the box, and Williams met it with a header towards the goal. 

Chicago needed to overcome for the lead, and Press, at her best, came through in the 87th minute. From the middle third, Julie Ertz sent a ball over the top where Press was making a run that beat her marking defender. Press went one-on-one with goalkeeper Didi Haracic and put the ball in the net for the game-winning goal, her 10th of the season. Chicago (9-6-5, 32 points) remained at third place.

Sam Kerr ties the single-season scoring record

Sam Kerr celebrates her goal against Boston | Photo: Robyn Walsh McNeil - ISI Photos
Sam Kerr celebrates her goal against Boston | Photo: Robyn Walsh McNeil - ISI Photos

Sky Blue FC welcomed the Boston Breakers to New Jersey to wrap up Week 18. It was Sam Kerr once again who scored for Sky Blue. Her goal early in the 5th minute gave Sky Blue the lead, and it would be enough to secure the Jersey side a victory. With the goal, her 16th of 2017, Kerr tied Kim Little for the most goals in an NWSL season. Little, the former Seattle midfielder, set the record in 2014.

The win gave Sky Blue the boost to 5th place with 29 points, three points behind the Pride, to keep them in contention for the playoffs. Kerr will have the month of September for a chance to become the leading single-season goalscorer.

North Carolina Courage vs Houston Dash: Postponed

Due to Hurricane Harvey that hit the gulf coast of Texas and moved into Houston and turned into a tropical storm, the NWSL postponed the game that was scheduled for Sunday night. Harvey has dropped more than 30 inches of rain in Houston, causing catastrophic flooding throughout the city.

Houston is scheduled to host Seattle on Sunday. As to whether a game will be played or not is to be determined.