The Courage Finish 3-0 Against the Seattle Reign
The Seattle Reign have consistently been one of the hardest teams to beat this season, with just 5 losses in 18 games. Of those 5 losses, 3 of them have come at the hands of the Courage.
Last Sunday the Courage traveled to Memorial Stadium in Seattle, where the Reign were riding high on a 15 game undefeated streak dating back to last season. The Courage came out with an unusual formation after playing a mid-week game in Kansas City, and, while the defense was a bit sketchy at times, the Courage struck first with an amazing shot by Sam Mewis. Emboldened by her success in the Tournament of Nations, Mewis has been phenomenal in the last three games and her shot off the half volley was a thing of beauty that would have beaten most male keepers.
The Courage came into the game without having allowed any team to tie them after scoring first, but that streak was broken when Lindsey Elston received the ball in the corner and played a perfect ball across the six-yard box where Rumi Utsugi was waiting to finish it cleanly with the inside of her foot. The Courage defense had definitely looked unsettled, with 4 forwards playing the game that was to be expected, and the defense finally made a mistake after the ball was turned over to Seattle in the midfield. We went into halftime tied at 1-1.
The second half drug on a bit, with the Courage players looking a tough exhausted after playing 3 games in a week. Both teams had their opportunities, but the Courage struck the final blow in the 74th minute when Sam Mewis headed a long throw from Ashley Hatch into the box. The Seattle defender botched the clearance and Sam Mewis slammed the ball into the back of the net. Kopmeyer got a hand on the shot, but she could only push it as far as the post. The Courage held on to win the game 2-1, adding the Reign to the list of teams that will not beat the Courage in their inaugural season – so far the Courage have lost to just 4 of the 9 opposing teams in the league.
With that victory, the Courage also push forward to an incredible 5-3-0 record on the road. They are the only team in the NWSL with a winning record on the road, and after the games concluded on the weekend they held a 5 point lead over the second place Portland Thorns in the standings.
Wednesday Games Break for the Courage
Six NWSL teams played on Wednesday night, which provided the Portland Thorns and Chicago Red Stars an opportunity to close the gap on the Courage in the standings. The Courage will be forced to play 3 games on the road in just 7 days (@HOU, @WAS, @CHI) in a run of truly unfair scheduling from the league office – you can read about all of the teams’ mid-week games in this post.
Fortunately, karma came around to bite those teams in the ass as both the Red Stars and the Thorns failed to win their games against much weaker opponents on Wednesday. First, the Red Stars led the Seattle Reign 1-0 all the way until the 90th minute of the game. Unfortunately for Chicago – and fortunately for the Courage – the game doesn’t end quite yet and the Reign managed to score not one, but two goals before the end of the game. The Chicago players walked off the field looking absolutely shocked while Seattle celebrated a victory they, quite frankly, didn’t deserve but nonetheless earned. This vaulted Seattle into the final playoff spot above Orlando, and left them just two points short of Chicago for 3rd place. Furthermore, the Red Stars saw their hopes of earning a home game in the playoffs slipping away as the Thorns were scheduled to play FC Kansas City later in the night.
That game, too, ended in a 2-1 scoreline with FCKC pulling out an improbable win against a far-superior team in the Portland Thorns. Like Chicago, the Thorns pulled out to a 1 goal lead on a penalty and carried that lead into halftime, but they didn’t manage to keep it for as long as Chicago did. After halftime the Blues from Kansas City came out with a vengeance and caught the Thorns ladies sleeping. In the 65th minute, defender Yael Averbuch took a free kick from just outside the 18-yard box and caught keeper Adrianna Franch napping as she curled the ball near post. Just 4 minutes later, Brittany Ratcliffe sent a beautiful ball into the head of Sydney Leroux who finessed it past Franch. While Lindsey Horan nearly scored on a free kick of her own just before the game ended, the Thorns could never pull back to earn that point and they left the Courage 5 points ahead with a game in hand.
Thus, with just 7 games left in the NWSL regular season, the Courage sit 5 points ahead of their nearest contender. When you add to that the fact that all of their closest competition have just 6 games left in their respective schedules, winning 4 of those 6 will set the Courage up for a great postseason and an excellent chance at the Supporters Shield and the #1 seed. If you haven’t yet, come see one of the final 3 home games of the regular season for the Courage to get you pumped for that home playoff game our girls are destined to win.