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Doing the standings shuffle: Week 6 in NWSL

Eight teams changed spots in the standings as parity remained the name of the game this week.

Seattle Reign FC 1-1 Orlando Pride

This is a game Seattle will feel like they should have won, and it could have been their first shutout of the season if not for a momentary blunder.

With the draw, Seattle drops two spots to fourth place, and Orlando moves up one spot to 8th. Seattle travels to Houston for Saturday’s nationally televised game of the week, while Orlando visits Sky Blue.

Boston Breakers 2-2 Portland Thorns FC

Friday night saw a short-handed Portland side travel to Boston for the first in a home-and-home series. Much like when the Reign traveled east a few weeks ago, the Breakers dominated the first half of this match and looked like they were going to easily come away with the full three points after a pair of goals by Natasha Dowie and Rosie White on either side of halftime.

But soon after the second Breakers goal, the Thorns started clawing their way back into the match, eventually earning a penalty kick thanks to a Megan Oyster hand ball in the 67th minute; Nadia Nadim calmly converted the opportunity. Portland seized the momentum from that point, with Nadim earning a brace with an 83rd minute equalizer.

Despite splitting the points, both teams dropped several spots in the standings, with Portland falling to 5th and Boston plummeting to 7th. The teams meet again next Saturday evening in Portland.

Sky Blue FC 2-1 Houston Dash

In a rematch of last week’s game, Houston came out with a somewhat unconventional lineup featuring Rachel Daly on defense in an attempt to get more width in attack. However, once again it was Sky Blue who earned an early lead thanks to a penalty in the 20th minute, which Sarah Killion scored for her league-leading fifth goal. Houston equalized late in the first half after Andressinha put a strong shot off the post, but followed the shot and finished the rebound cleanly.

The teams battled back and forth through most of the second half, but Raquel Rodriguez found goal in the 85th minute after a scramble in the box following a Sky Blue free kick to earn Sky Blue all three points.

With the win, Sky Blue jumps four spots to 2nd place and Houston’s free fall continues as they drop to 9th. Sky Blue visits North Carolina on Wednesday and hosts Orlando next weekend, while Houston faces Seattle at home on Saturday.

Washington Spirit 0-1 FC Kansas City

It was FCKC midfielder Alexa Newfield who stole the show in Mallory Pugh’s much anticipated debut, scoring the lone goal of the game late in the first half. Christina Gibbons put in a cross that Sydney Leroux attempted to bicycle kick, but her miss was Newfield’s gain as the ball bounced cleanly to her for a strong shot back across goal into the far upper corner past Stephane Labbé.

Shortly after halftime, Pugh made her entrance and nearly scored on her first touch of the game, but the pass from Kristie Mewis was just beyond her reach. Mewis had a quality opportunities of her own early in the game that rocketed off the crossbar, but FC Kansas City’s defense once again held strong, and has given up the fewest goals in the league.

The Spirit remain mired in the 10th, while FCKC moves up two spots to 6th place. Next Saturday is a rematch in Kansas City.

North Carolina Courage 1-3 Chicago Red Stars

After racing out to a huge early lead in the standings, North Carolina has come plunging back to Earth with their second 3-1 loss in as many weeks. Paul Riley used an unusual lineup due to the suspension of Abby Erceg, with forward Jess McDonald starting at right back. The Red Stars capitalized with three goals in the last 15 minutes of the first half. The first came on a penalty kick by Christen Press after she was fouled in the box by Courage goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo. The second was worthy of the highlight reel, with Sofia Huerta chasing down a ball at the top of the Courage box, doing a shimmy and spin to juke defender Abby Dahlkemper, and curling a shot into the far upper 90. The final goal came just before halftime when Vanessa DiBernardo pounced on a deflection off a cross and one-timed it home.

The Courage adjusted their lineup with two subs at the half and looked much better in the second half. Jaelene Hinkle put a beautiful cross into the box in the 55th minute which Lynn Williams controlled nicely for the lone Courage goal. Red Stars keeper Alyssa Naeher had several nice saves to deny the Courage any further goals, including a quality save on a Debinha opportunity just minutes after Williams’ goal.

North Carolina holds onto first place for at least one more week, although four teams could pass them by next weekend. Chicago jumps two spots to third place.

The two teams face off again in Chicago next Saturday, but before then North Carolina hosts Sky Blue in the first Wednesday game of the season.

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