Westfield Matildas star Hayley Raso will head into this week's Tournament of Nations in a buoyant mood after playing a starring role in Portland Thorns' win over Sky Blue FC on Sunday (AEST).
Elsewhere, there was a gripping draw at the top-of-the-table which featured four Westfield Matildas, while Katrina Gorry's Utah Royals proved to be the nemesis for league-leaders North Carolina Courage again.
Here’s a wrap of the weekend’s NWSL action leading into the Tournament of Nations.
Sky Blue vs Portland Thorns FC
Hayley Raso proved to be the star of the show as Portland moved into the NWSL top four with a narrow 2-1 win over Sky Blue FC.
The Thorns set up the win inside the first seven minutes as they scored two quickfire goals, with Raso involved in both.
The Westfield Matildas attacker scored the first herself, springing the offside trap to get in behind the defence, before getting the ball back onto her right foot and rifling the ball into the corner of the net.
Then just a couple of minutes later she applied the pressure on the Sky Blue FC keeper, forcing her to scuff her clearance straight to Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic who made the home side pay for their mistake.
Sky Blue FC pulled a goal back before half-time through Imani Dorsey to set up a thrilling second half which saw both sides hit the woodwork.
But Portland held on for a vital win which has seen them leapfrog Sam Kerr's Chicago Red Stars - who didn't play this weekend - into fourth spot.
Both Raso and Westfield Matildas defender Ellie Carpenter played full games for Portland, while Caitlin Foord was an unused substitute as she waits for her first game in five months since injuring her foot in the Westfield W-League semi-final.
Orlando Pride vs Seattle Reign
The clash between second and third in the NWSL lived up to the pre-game hype, with a colossal battle between the Pride and Reign ending 1-1.
In a match that featured four Westfield Matildas, it was Alanna Kennedy and Emily van Egmond’s Pride that took the lead midway through the first half through Toni Pressley’s first goal of the campaign.
It was Brazilian star Marta – who will take on the Westfield Matildas on Friday (AEST) – who set up the goal, with her cross causing havoc in the Reign area before Chioma Ubogagu found Pressley to score.
Lydia Williams started in goal for Reign and made a couple of crucial saves to keep her side in the content, including one just before the break to deny Ubogagu with a superb reflex stop.
Seattle managed to salvage a point 20 minutes from time with Jodie Taylor getting on the end of Nahmi Kawasumi’s cross for her sixth goal of the season.
The result means there no change on the ladder, with Seattle still second on 30 points from 18 games, while the Pride are third on 29 points having played 19 games.
Kennedy played a full game for Orlando, with van Egmond coming off the bench for the last 23 minutes. For Seattle, both Williams and Steph Catley played the full 90 minutes.
Utah Royals vs North Carolina Courage
Katrina Gorry’s Royals remain the only team not to lose to runaway leaders North Carolina this season after they played out a gritty 0-0 draw on Saturday (AEST).
The Courage have lost just once all season, against Utah last month, and again struggled to break down the home side’s resolute defence.
Gorry started in midfield for the Royals and got through 64 minutes before she was substituted, in a match that was tough for the creative players in either side to shine.
While it was a good result for Utah, they have now won just one of their last seven matches to sit seven points outside the top four with six games still to play.
Washington Spirit vs Houston Dash
Westfield Matildas pair Clare Polkinghorne and Kyah Simon didn’t get the chance for one last hitout before the Tournament of Nations after Houston Dash’s clash with Washington Spirit was postponed.
A torrential downpour and lightning meant there was no play possible at Maureen Hendricks Field in Maryland, meaning the match will now be played at a later date, still to be confirmed.
Dash, currently in seventh position, are nine points outside a playoff spot with seven games to go in the regular season, with a game in hand on fourth-placed Portland Thorns.
*Teams in bold contain Westfield Matildas players
- North Carolina Courage – played 19, 46 points, +27
- Seattle Reign – played 18, 30 points, +5
- Orlando Pride – played 19, 29 points, +1
- Portland Thorns – played 18, 29 points, +7
- Chicago Red Stars – played 18, 28 points, +4
- Utah Royals – played 18, 22 points, -4
- Houston Dash – played 17, 20 points, -7
- Washington Spirit – played 17, 10 points, -13
- Sky Blue – played 16, 3 points, -20