Photo Copyright Rachael Kriger for The Equalizer
Five teams are now vying for the final four playoff spots in the National Women’s Soccer League following the Orlando Pride’s loss to Racing Louisville on Saturday. The Chicago Red Stars’ 2-1 win over Kansas City gave them much-needed three points in their playoff push. Here’s what happened in the league’s three Saturday night matches:
Racing Louisville FC 3, Orlando Pride 1
The Skinny: Orlando’s 3-1 loss to Racing Louisville eliminated the Pride from playoff contention, a drastic fall for a team which started the season unbeaten in nine games and atop the NWSL table. Jodie Taylor scored three minutes into the match to give Orlando the lead, and she was lucky not to be sent off 13 minutes later for a horrendous, two-footed challenge on Yuki Nagasato (Taylor was shown a yellow card).
Ebony Salmon scored a spectacular goal on the final kick of the first half to send the teams to the break even, and Katie McClure gave the home side the lead seven minutes after halftime. Salmon was involved in that goal, too, brilliantly back-heeling the ball to put McClure in behind Pride defender Amy Turner. Nagasato iced the game with a goal in the 77th minute, finishing a cross from Salmon.
The loss was the fourth straight for Orlando, who has dropped every game since returning from the September international break. Louisville snapped a nine-game winless streak stretching over two months, including losses in their last four.
One Key Moment: Salmon’s goal changed the entire tone of the match. The Pride had a decent run of play in the first half and nearly added a second goal through Alex Morgan shortly after Taylor’s goal. Louisville’s equalizer changed the dynamics of the game.
Inside The Game: Salmon was a workhorse for racing, snapping a scoreless streak of her own to be a focal point in delivering a much-needed win for Racing. The two goals she set up were as important in that effort as her spectacular goal. Nagasato’s influence on the game was clear in her return to the starting XI, and Cece Kizer had another understated but solid game to create play in the pocket in front of Orlando’s back line.
The Pride once again have many questions to answer in an offseason preceded by disappointment. Salmon’s equalizer demanded that Orlando come out with a response in the second half, and with their backs against the wall against an opponent already eliminated from the playoffs, the Pride folded; they had no answer. McClure’s go-ahead goal early in the second half meant that the frustration simmered, and it was palpable over the final 13 minutes, with the score 3-1 in favor of Louisville and playoff hopes realistically gone.
- Orlando Pride – Jodie Taylor (Alex Morgan), 3’
- Racing Louisville FC – Ebony Salmon (Yuki Nagasato), 45+1’
- Racing Louisville FC – Katie McClure, 52’
- Racing Louisville FC – Yuki Nagasato (Ebony Salmon), 77’
— Jeff Kassouf
Chicago Red Stars 2, Kansas City 1
The Skinny: Chicago jumped on Kansas City out of the game, hitting the post three times in the first 24 minutes and before scoring the opener in the 34th minute. Tierna Davidson headed Mallory Pugh’s corner-kick service back toward goal and the ball redirected off Kristen Edmonds for the own goal.
Hailie Mace answered for Kansas City three minutes later, heading in Katie Bowen’s cross off a short corner kick. Makenzy Doniak scored the game-winner five minutes into the second half, tapping in a cross from Kealia Watt to finish off a brilliant team goal which started from Chicago’s goal kick. Pugh appeared to be offside in the buildup but it was not called, seemingly because possession had changed, in the opinion of the referee.
The victory puts Chicago on 35 points, meaning the Red Stars will be in contention to host a first-round playoff game heading into the final weekend of the regular season, no matter how Sunday’s results play out.
One Key Moment: Watch this Red Stars winner over and over and over.
Inside the Game: The Red Stars jumped on Kansas City in the midfield, with Katie Johnson proving particularly dangerous in the No. 10 role. Johnson attempted two of those three shots which hit the post in the opening 24 minutes and caused fits for Kansas City’s back line. Mallory Pugh was active again, even if she didn’t appear on the scoring summary.
- Chicago Red Stars (Kristen Edmonds own goal), 34′
- Kansas City — Hailie Mace (Katie Bowen), 37′
- Chicago Red Stars — Makenzy Doniak (Kealia Watt), 50′
— Jeff Kassouf