Week 19 of the 2017 NWSL season saw two playoff spots clinched and left its last two still up for grabs with five teams still in contention (Chicago, Orlando, Seattle, Sky Blue FC, FC Kansas City). There were also two milestones celebrated as FC Kansas City's goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart played her 100th NWSL regular season game, and Seattle head coach and general manager Laura Harvey became the first coach to win 50 all-time regular season wins in the NWSL. Megan Rapinoe, who had surgery to repair a torn meniscus she suffered at the Tournament of Nations, and Rose Lavelle, who was sidelined in June with a hamstring injury, also returned to NWSL play, officially marking the end of their time on the injury list.
Here's a breakdown of Week 19.
North Carolina and Portland secure playoff spots
Two out of the four NWSL playoffs spots were secured this past week. On Wednesday, the North Carolina Courage became the first team to clinch a spot in the postseason after a 3-2 victory over the Washington Spirit. Additionally, with the win, the Courage is just the second team in NWSL history to win 14 regular season games. The record of 16 wins was set by the Seattle Reign FC in 2014.
The Courage have the opportunity to clinch a home playoff game still, and they are also hoping to win the Shield, the award to the team with the best regular season record.
The Portland Thorns, with their 4-0 shutout against the Washington Spirit, moved one step closer to clinching a playoff berth. That was as of Saturday because the Thorns had to wait for the result between FC Kansas City and Sky Blue on Sunday. Portland has Kansas City to thank after the Blues defeated Sky Blue FC 4-1 on Sunday evening. The Thorns became the second team this season to secure a spot in the playoffs. They, too, are in a race for a home playoff game and for the Shield, which they won in 2016.
Orlando wins 5th straight
The Orlando Pride won their fifth consecutive game after a 4-2 victory over the Boston Breakers, and they are unbeaten in six games. Saturday's win set a club record for most consecutive wins, and the Pride is now a team poised to make its first playoff appearance since their expansion in 2016.
The Breakers, whose season officially ended after being eliminated from playoff contention last week, could not stop Orlando. They gave up four goals, including Marta's 12th goal of the season. Marta is now tied for 2nd in the leading scorers' board, tied with Megan Rapinoe.
FC Kansas City shuts down Sam Kerr
The last time FC Kansas City and Sky Blue FC met in July, the Blues held a comfortable 2-0 lead at halftime. Then, with 12 minutes to go in regulation, Sam Kerr and Sky Blue put together one of the most memorable performances in the 2017 NWSL season. Kerr scored a hat-trick in those twelve minutes, leaving a Kansas City team stunned.
This time around, and with the memory of that comeback two months ago, and with the goal to keep their season alive as much as possible, FC Kansas City did not give Kerr an opportunity to score a single goal or give Kerr the chance for a comeback. Kerr was held in check for all 90 minutes. A goal for Kerr would have been a record-breaking 17th goal of the season.
Goals from Lo'eau LaBonta, a brace from Shea Groom, and a late goal from Sydney Leroux gave the Blues a 4-1 much-needed victory. With the loss, Sky Blue FC dropped from the fifth spot to sixth, leaving them six points out of 4th place.
Chicago goes 3-0 against the Courage in 2017 series
As the playoff race intensifies with teams like Orlando, Seattle, Sky Blue, even FC Kansas City, the Chicago Red Stars needed to win against 1st place North Carolina Courage. Chicago had to pull a comeback to beat the Courage, their third victory against the league-leading club this season. Lynn Williams gave the Courage the early lead, but second half goals from Yuki Nagasato and Julie Ertz gave Chicago the three points.
Hanna Roberts with the full recap here.
Seattle gets back into the playoff race
In a game moved to Frisco, Texas due to Tropical Storm Harvey that flooded much of Houston area, the Seattle Reign came into the match also needing a victory over the Dash. Merritt Mathias scored in the 50th minute for the Reign, the only goal of the game. Newly-acquired via trade, goalkeeper Lydia Williams started against her former team, and she recorded a shutout. The win boosted the Reign to fifth place after a Sky Blue loss, putting them only five points behind Orlando, whom they will face this weekend.