NWSL Notebook: Tournament Lands in Middle of Season

Cleveland, Ohio - June 5, 2016: The USWNT go up 1-0 over Japan in first half action during in an international friendly at FirstEnergy Stadium.

By TOM SLATER

imgresThe National Women’s Soccer League’s regular season will be interrupted by an international tournament for the third straight year after US Soccer announced on Wednesday the Tournament of Nations. The four-team tournament will comprise Japan, Australia, Brazil and the United States with doubleheaders in Seattle (July 27); San Diego (July 30) and Carson, Calif. (Aug. 3).

It is similar to the SheBelieves Cup and will feature four of the world’s top women’s teams in a round-robin format. In the most recent world rankings, the U.S. is No. 2, Japan is tied for sixth, Australia is eighth and Brazil is ninth. (Germany is No. 1.)

The NWSL took time off for the 2015 Women’s World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, but plans to play on during the Tournament of Nations. The league is considering allowing non-roster players to be used if clubs are short handed during the tournament.

Courage Opens 5-Point Lead

With three shutouts and four victories to open the season, the North Carolina Courage (4-0-0, 12 points) have opened a gap over the rest of the pack. Transplanted to the south after winning last year’s title as the Western New York Flash, the Courage have ridden the goalkeeping of Sabrina D’Angelo, and the scoring duo of Jessica McDonald and Lynn Williams to a quick start.

After its 1-0 victory at Boston, North Carolina is the first team in NWSL history to open the season with four straight wins. With her record 33rd goal in the NWSL, McDonald gave North Carolina the win as she moved ahead of Kim Little in career goals.

Ordega Top Player in Week 4

Spirit (1-2-1, 4) forward Francisca Ordega scored her first two goals and played a role in two others in Washington’s 4-3 win over Sky Blue (1-2-1, 4) and was named the league’s player of the week. In addition to her goals, Ordega’s hard shot forced a Sky Blue own goal.

What’s Up With Orlando?

Orlando (0-2-2, 2) was thought to have strengthened its side in the off-season with trades and then with the signing of Brazil’s Marta. But the Pride are the NWSL’s only winless team and have fallen five points behind North Carolina.

Marta has played well and scored her first NWSL goal last weekend. The Pride were 10 minutes away from beating FC Kansas City, but Erika Tymrak scored in the 84th minute.

Fans Turn Out in Northwest

Portland (2-1-1, 7) and Seattle (1-1-2, 5) battled to a 2-2 draw in front of 16,160 fans at Providence Park when the Thorns’ Allie Long scored the equalizer in the 82nd minute.

Portland leads the league in attendance, drawing an average of 15,592 through three home games. Orlando attracted more than 14,000 to its first and only home match. Only Washington (2,917) and Boston (2,307) have also played three home games.