NWSL power rankings week 9: Nailing down the details

Every NWSL team is looking like they might be playoff material despite scorelines as the competition heats up in week nine. In a league where anything is possible, here are the teams battling for our top spot this week.

There were huge matches in the NWSL this week, with a couple of ties that shifted the table slightly, but Gotham still came out on top. Chicago finally got a much-needed victory, and the Current continue to struggle to create chances even with their super team. The Reign returned to their usual selves, pulling out an epic victory. The battle for the playoff spots is heating up as teams become more comfortable building chemistry and tightening down their defense. Here’s where the power rankings shake out after week nine.

NWSL Week 9 Power Rankings: 1. NJ/NY Gotham FC

Although Gotham will be disappointed that they walked away with just a single point from their matchup against the Washington Spirit, they should be proud of their performance. They were the better side on Sunday, keeping a dominant almost sixty percent possession and denying Washington the space on the ball they needed to make chances. Their tight and controlled backline shut down the Spirit’s high press, and although they did concede a goal to end this one in a tie, there’s no denying that Gotham is getting better with each match played.

2. San Diego Wave

In an epic back-and-forth battle, the Wave tied the Portland Thorns with a last-minute 1-1 scoreline in chaotic NWSL after-dark fashion. This game was incredibly tense, with the Wave creating chances all over the box and Sheridan coming up in big moments to deny the Thorns points on the board. Looking incredibly in sync, the Wave’s defense denied the Thorns their usual high scoreline, forcing them into a draw in the last few minutes of the match. It will be interesting to see how they adjust when the World Cup comes around, but the Wave are on a roll.

3. OL Reign

As was inevitable, the Reign bounced back from their losses to come away with a decisive victory against Angel City. They dominated the field with a four-to-one scoreline and came away with twenty-eight shots, and even though only four of those found the back of the net, they could’ve ended up with a much higher scoreline if not for the efforts of Angel City’s backline. Even with less possession, the Reign made the most of their chances and finished their shots, which has been their downfall in previous matches. It’s not out of the question that this win will push them into a better place for the rest of the season.

4. Portland Thorns

Portland will be satisfied with their point on the road, as should any team that has to play against the roar of Snapdragon Stadium. This team is an undeniable force as always, and put up a very good fight against the Wave, coordinating attacks in the midfield and pressing forward. But the Wave’s defense denied them much of their usual star power attacking, with Smith and Dunn barely getting a good look on the ball. The Thorns are unlikely to dip from the top of the table anytime soon, playing in top form and looking for more goals.

5. Washington Spirit

The Spirit put up quite a fight against Gotham in the battle for the top of the table to close out week nine. They were exceptionally dangerous in moments of transition where they were able to break free some of their key players, like Ashley Sanchez and Trinity Rodman, but in the end, it wasn’t enough to get them the win. Their persistence held up for all 90-plus minutes of the match, but they had a hard time finding a way around the Gotham defense that was so well structured. They managed to get one back and equalize the match for a well-earned point.

6. Racing Louisville

Even though they lost this match two to one, Racing was on the attack for most of this one. The matchup between Lauren Milliet and Kerolin created a battle you couldn’t look away from, and Racing had several big chances in the first half to put themselves ahead. Their downfall came with not being able to finish those chances, and the Courage made them pay for that in the second half. Racing has exceptional young talent, and a drive to make things happen, but they have to maintain their cool in those big moments to get themselves more points. They did manage to get one back when Milliet served up a dime directly onto Jordan Baggett’s head. They’ll need to look at creating more chances like that if they’re going to continue to find success as the season progresses.

7. Houston Dash

The opening match of this weekend was held scoreless for almost the entire first half until Houston finally found a way past the Current’s defense after being on the front foot for the first half. They quickly sealed their victory with a second goal at the start of the second half. Both goals were a bit scrappy, with the first coming off Diana Ordonez in a moment of transition, and the second during a corner kick headed in by Ally Prisock. The Dash are still building their chemistry and this match was a great showing of how dangerous they could be.

8. North Carolina Courage

While the Courage ultimately came away with the win, it didn’t always appear that the game was going to go that way. The Courage struggled against the impressive runs of Racing and made a couple of defensive errors that Racing just failed to convert on. The magic of Kerolin pushed them to victory in this match, and an incredible curve that defied physics from Madsen did result in an equally impressive goal celebration. But they allowed Racing too much space in behind, didn’t read their runs several times and almost ended up with a tie instead of a win.

9. Angel City FC

Angel City found themselves stifled on the road, unable to keep the ball long enough to get anything productive to happen. Their passing channels were disrupted by the Reign, and they couldn’t move the ball forward to Alyssa Thompson through the midfield. They turned over the ball to the Reign in big moments, which didn’t allow them to build any momentum toward getting on the scoreboard. However, that corner-kick goal from Claire Emslie should be in history books. The Angels’ energy also significantly dipped when Jun Endo left the pitch after an injury, which is understandable, but their low energy allowed the Reign to truly run away with this one.

10. Orlando Pride

The Pride, like the rest of us, will surely be walking away trying to figure out how they didn’t manage to win this one. They were on the front foot the whole match, putting numbers forward and maintaining a heavy presence inside Chicago’s box. They walked away with a breathtaking nineteen shots, with fourteen of those being inside the box. Ultimately, Orlando suffered from being on the wrong side of the incredible saves of Alyssa Naeher and will likely find success again in the future continuing to do things exactly the way they are.

11. KC Current

The Current looked late to the ball in the first half, letting the Dash control this game and paying for it when they scored just before halftime. But it wasn’t without their own chances, because Debinha is still Debinha and her runs up the middle are incredibly dangerous and resulted in Jane Campbell having to make several saves. The same was true on the opposite end of the field, with Cassie Miller stopping the Dash with a couple of great saves. They had better energy in the second half, with the substitutes of Cooper and the return of Kristen Hamilton for the last thirty minutes, but their energy has to result in goals for them to move out of the bottom of the table.

12. Chicago Red Stars

Even though they finally managed to pull off a victory, the Red Stars are still bringing up the rear this week. They spent the majority of this game in defensive mode, preventing shots and chances rather than creating their own. This victory was a testament to the exceptional goalkeeping talent of Alyssa Naeher who broke the record for most NWSL saves in this match, and deservingly so. The Red Stars do have the rest of the season to turn this around, and nowhere to go but up.

Check out our NWSL hub page for more news, analysis, opinion and unique women’s soccer coverage. And don’t forget to follow FOR(E) on Twitter, FanSided’s home for women’s sports.


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