The race toward the NWSL playoffs heats up and the Wave lead the way

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, Oct. 2, 2023

There’s lots of jockeying for position in the NWSL as the playoffs loom. The San Diego Wave took over the top spot in the standings — and were the first team to clinch a spot in the playoffs — when they beat the Portland Thorns 2-0 on Saturday night on the road.

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Kyra Carusa and Alex Morgan both scored in the victory. For Morgan, it was significant because she had gone eight games without a goal. And it was Carusa’s second goal since joining the Wave in August.

Since coming back from the Women’s World Cup break, the Wave have won four of their last five matches. Their only loss was to the Kansas City Current at Snapdragon on Sept. 16 before the international break.

The Thorns can still raise the Supporters Shield with wins in their final two matches, against Gotham and Angel City. But the loss at home stings. And Portland really needs Sophia Smith to get back on the field soon.

What about the rest of the field? The playoffs start on Oct. 22, so time is running out.

Incredibly, every team is still in play. No one has been eliminated.

The Chicago Red Stars kept their slim hopes alive for a spot with a 1-0 victory over Racing Louisville on Saturday. Bianca St-Georges scored the lone goal in the match.

Kansas City is at the bottom of the standings following a 2-1 loss to the Washington Spirit on Saturday. The Current are still alive, but just barely.

Gotham was positioned to clinch a spot with a win over the Dash on Sunday, but Houston’s Michelle Alozie scored both goals in a 2-0 victory at Red Bull Arena.

Clearly, the final two weeks of the season are going to be nuts. So, here is a handy guide to tiebreakers, courtesy of the league

The teams are awarded ranking in the standings on total points.

After that, the criteria are as follows:

  1. Goal differential
  2. Most total wins (Regular Season only)
  3. Most goals scored (Regular Season only)
  4. Head-to-head results (total points accumulated)
  5. Head-to-head most goals scored
  1. Least Disciplinary Points Accumulated
    • Yellow card: 1 point
    • Indirect red card (as a result of two (2) yellow cards): 3 points
    • Direct red card: 4 points
    • Yellow card and direct red card: 5 points
      • Only one of the above point totals shall be applied to a Player in a single Game.
  2. Coin Flip (2 teams)/Drawing of lots (3+ teams)

Let’s hope we don’t get to the coin-flip stage, everyone!

Classy move, North Carolina!


Susie Rantz’s AP NWSL roundups for Saturday, and Sunday.

Jeff Kassouf wrote for ESPN on the symbiotic relationship between the USWNT and the NWSL going forward.

Just Women’s Sports’ Claire Watkins wrote about Trinity Rodman’s chance following Megan Rapinoe’s retirement.

ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle on what the USWNT players were saying about the World Cup failure and the search for the new coach.

Jenna Tonelli spoke with Lynn Williams about the path forward for The Equalizer.

U.S. Soccer is closing in on picking a new coach, from USA Today’s Nancy Armour.

Vogue in the Philippines did a cover story on their women’s national team.

Canada booked its spot in the Olympics next summer.

Bay FC announces its first coach, from Sandra Herrera at CBS Sports.

Nice profile here of Melanie Barcenas

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Five at The IX: Kyra Carusa of the San Diego Wave

Kyra Carusa is delightful. Here’s what she had to say after the Wave’s victory.

Carusa: When you come to Providence Park, it’s my first time so, it was a lot to take in, I’d say. But playing in front of big crowds and stuff, I feel like it’s something I’ve become very familiar with over the last few months. I was happy, it kind of felt very normal to be in front of it, and exciting for the league and for you know, for women’s football to have such a massive crowd and a massive game on our hands and be a part of that. But overall, I mean, coming here, three points on the road in a crucial crucial moment, good game.

Question: You got a goal and the team clinched a playoff spot, how does that feel? What does that mean for you personally?

Carusa: I mean, as a forward when the ball goes into the back of the net, and it seems to be doing that often, it’s a great feeling. You just want to keep it going. But I think the biggest thing for myself was that as a team, we were so together, we were so vocal, we were so contagious, our energy, our transitioning the way we wanted to play like you could see how locked in we were, and it was just a matter of time we were gonna get few chances and be so clinical with it. And honestly, like, you’ve gotta be big time right now, anyway, so it’s good. It’s cool to be the one to have done it.

Question: Can you talk about playing with Jaedyn Shaw?

Carusa: So, a pleasure to play the 9 when you have a player like Jaden Shaw on the ball all the time. You always want a player that will feed you the ball in, and you know where they’re moving and know that that ball is going to be quality when it comes into you. And, that is exactly what she was tonight. I mean, especially at that point when we scored, we only had a few opportunities, but as soon as Jay made that run, which we’ve been training all week. I saw the defense move back and when I pulled out, I was telling her I could not say `Cut the ball! Cut the ball!’

What a pleasure to be playing with a 10 like that, again, as a 9 you want to be playing with a player that feeds you the ball. She didn’t even have to look up. She heard me scream for that ball. So loud. Again, in front of a crowd like this that’s how in sync we are. It was a dime, I just had to stick my foot out in front of it, and bless, it went in the back of the net. And I mean, clinical, clinical, clinical. You want that kind of quality in the final third like that. It’s the NWSL, you’ve got to be that good

Question: What is it like being an international and coming in and out of the team?

Carusa:I mean I cannot thank the professionalism of our team enough. This staff has been with me every step of the way, no matter whatever country I was in in the last two weeks and kept me integrated and in the loop with everything. Casey, the coaching staff, in terms of tactical and technical stuff to keep me locked in. Which is fantastic. But yeah, it’s really difficult to go to as many time zones as you do when you’re in the international break and come back and produce at this level. But again, it’s a testament to our team, and how professional and how great they are around us because I don’t know if I would be able to be able to be out there as many minutes without without everyone in our back room.

Question: And that goal celebration.

Carusa: It got quiet real quickly. So I was telling the girls, honestly, was I offside? I think that when you’re out there playing, I have much pride and like I have so much pleasure in being able to represent San Diego as a whole. And to come into a house like this and to silence a crowd like that. I mean, you’ve got to remind them who we are, right? You’ve got to remind them who we are.

Question: What’s impressed you about the team so far?

Carusa: I would say how quickly they have accepted and integrated me as a player and as a person into the program. It’s a testament to the culture of the girls they just, the energy is contagious and they have very quickly locked on to my energy, which is great. And I think a huge thing — I’ve been a part of a lot of really successful teams and the biggest variable amongst them all is a team that’s able to take in everyone’s attributes and learn from them as much as they want to learn from themselves. This team has done that completely and I can’t thank them enough for making me feel like an important piece of the whole project.

Written by Annie Peterson