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Walking through Week 13 of the NWSL season

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It was another unimpressive week at the top of the NWSL, hinting at some mid-week doldrums for teams preparing for the season’s home stretch. Yet some teams are dealing with those doldrums better than others. Despite failing to impress in their game, first place Sky Blue stretched their lead at the top of the league, while a FC Kansas City side missing the league’s best player closed their gap on second place Portland.

The team of the week, however, was one in the table’s bottom half, though that may not be for long. Coming into Week 13, Boston was six points out of fourth and facing two games in the Pacific Northwest. With a little help from New York’s results, Boston now controls their own playoff destiny, the four-point gap between them and their rivals mitigated by their schedule.

Let’s walk through Week 13:

Wednesday, July 3

Washington Spirit 1, FC Kansas City 1 – For the second week in a row, FC Kansas City traveled east mid-week, outplayed their opponent, but gave away two points late. This time it was the returning Diana Matheson from the spot equalizing Erika Tymrak’s early second half tally to give head coach Mark Parsons a point in his Spirit debut. While the details were encouraging for the Blues – strong performances throughout midfield; Becky Sauerbrunn and Lauren Sesselmann making their case as the league’s best center back tandem; Nicole Barnhart being her usual, steady self – a late penalty drawn by Tiffany McCarty made it all for naught.

Implications: For Washington, the point was a morale boost in the wake of Mike Jorden’s departure. For Kansas City, though, all the positives can’t detract from the fact that points missed in New Jersey and Washington hurt their chances to track down Sky Blue.

NWSL Standings

Pos. PST
Rank
Team GP Pts. +/-
1 3 Sky Blue 15 30 +10
2 7 Portland 14 26 +5
3 1 Kansas City 15 25 +7
4 2 W. New York 14 23 +9
5 6 Boston 14 19 +1
6 5 Chicago 13 15 -6
7 4 Seattle 14 9 -12
8 8 Washington 13 7 -14

Seattle Reign FC 1, Boston Breakers 1 – Seattle extend their unbeaten run to four, but this could have been more than a one-point result. Some late confusion in front of goalkeeper Hope Solo saw a ball deflect off defender Kaylyn Kyle, hovering unplayed in the six before Sydney Leroux stole an equalizer. Still, the Reign midfield was ferocious, the Jessica Fishlock, Keelin Winters, Kate Deines trio disrupting anything Boston tried to build from Mariah Noguiera forward. For a team that should be judged by progress not points, the draw was still an encouraging one.

Implications: Boston needed to make up ground on the top four, but the first game of their Cascadia road trip only saw them tread water. But given the strength of their opposition, it’s hard to deride the Breakers for “only” getting a draw in Seattle.

Thursday, July 4

Chicago Red Stars 1, Western New York Flash 0 – After a game wherethe Flash had more chances but Chicago stole the only goal, Red Stars head coach Rory Dames proclaimed goal scorer Lori Chalupny one of the league’s top five players, whether she’s in the U.S. national team or not. It was a not-so-subtle allusion to the fact nobody’s clear why Chalupny, a one-time mainstay in the national team, has never been allowed back once concussion symptoms cleared, allowing her club career to continue. Thursday’s goal will only increase the call for clarity, though given it’s a health issue, we may remain in the dark.

Implications: They’re valuable points for Chicago, who can persist in their playoff chase with an ‘anything can happen approach,’ but the Flash half of the result will likely be more important to playoff positioning. Like Kansas City, Western New York needs to maximize points against teams in the bottom half in order to give themselves the best chance for a home playoff game. There’s no shame in losing at Chicago, but it’s still a missed opportunity.

Saturday, July 6

League Leaders

Goals Assists
Sydney Leroux (BOS) 10 Lianne Sanderson (BOS) 7
Lauren Cheney (FCKC) 8 Lauren Cheney (FCKC) 5
Abby Wambach (WNY) 7 Leigh Ann Robinson (FCKC) 5
Sophie Schmidt (SBFC) 6 Heather O’Reilly (BOS) 5
5 tied at 5 3 tied at 4

Sky Blue FC 1, Washington Spirit 0 – Monica Ocampo, coming off a three-goal week, got a rare start, rewarding Jim Gabarra’s decision with the only goal in Sky Blue’s ninth win of the season. That Sky Blue couldn’t put together a more impressive performance against the league’s worst team speaks to the inconsistency they’re carried into this game. Though the standings said this was a first versus eighth matchup, the gap wasn’t that large between two largely unimpressive sides.

Implications: It’s becoming more difficult for Gabarra to justify keeping Ocampo on the bench behind Danesha Adams or Kelley O’Hara, but with his team four points clear on the rest of the league, he gets even more license to do what he wants. At the same time, each of the league’s top four needs to worry about preparing themselves for the postseason, which requires getting your team performing to its potential. That the Mexican international left the game with a shoulder injury may give Gabarra a reprieve on a tough decision.

Portland Thorns FC 0, Boston Breakers 2 – Two first half goals from Sydney Leroux vaulted the U.S. international to the top of the league’s scoring charts, her performance building on standout days from Heather O’Reilly and Alyssa Naeher for an easy win at JELD-WEN. In the first half, the Portland defense looked shakier than it had the whole season, while the attack didn’t get going until the second half, when Christine Sinclair moved into her natural forward’s role. Left scoreless again, the Thorns have only 18 goals in 14 games, a rate notably worse than the league’s top-four attacks.

Implications: Portland may have hit rock bottom. A two-goal loss at home to a team outside the playoff picture is worst-case scenario-type stuff. The beneficiary of that fall is Boston, whose four-point road trip has revitalized their playoff hopes.

Sunday, July 7

FC Kansas City 0, Western New York 0 – Although Aaran Lines saw standout winger Sam Kerr return to the lineup, the Flash were unable to take advantage of the Lauren Cheney-less Blues, left with one point and no ground gained on the team above them in the standings. For Kansas City, Erika Tymrak continues to impress, the first-year pro making a run for Rookie of the Year since winning a spot in the starting lineup. As opposed to Wednesday, however, Tymrak’s efforts never led to a break through.

Implications: Third place, Kansas City maintains their two-point lead on Western New York, although the Flash hold a match in hand. But after a one-point week, Western New York find Boston on their heels, with the rivals set to play each other two more times this season.

source:  And finally … our Player of the Week

Sydney Leroux claimed three goals for Boston, with Heather O’Reilly assisting on each score, but for a team that has had trouble defending for most of the season, the play of goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher may have been the most important part of Boston’s big week. Credited with 12 saves while conceding only one, Naeher’s numbers actually understate her contributions, her decisive play coming off her line in each second half helping preserve her team’s results.

Head coach Lisa Cole was particularly effusive after Naeher’s performance in Portland:

“I thought today was one of [Naeher’s] overall best performances I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen Alyssa since she was about 13 — maybe even younger than that. I thought she was outstanding today, not only making saves, but coming for through balls and then being good on her distribution.”

“Both Ashley (Phillips) and Alyssa have been good for us, and then they’ve had one or two little mistakes that they’ve give up soft goals. What I’ve said to them is ‘you’ve both overall been good for us,’ but we need one of them to be great … Not everyday, but sometimes we need an outstanding performance, and I thought Alyssa gave that to us today.”

Defense has been a problem all year for Boston, but the return of the Penn State grad threatens to solidify Cole’s biggest weakness. If you’re wondering if Boston’s latest surge has staying power, look to their talents in attack, the strength of their midfield, and know Naeher may be capable of papering over their holes at the back.

Aston Villa 0-6 Liverpool: Reds demolish out-of-sorts Villans in historic fashion

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 14:  Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool scores the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park on February 14, 2016 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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  • Milner, Sturridge score early
  • Villa eight points off 17th place
  • Can scores great low goal in 59th
  • Most home goals allowed by Villa in PL history

Even Kolo Toure scored!

Six different Liverpool players scored a goal as Liverpool piled misery on Aston Villa with a 6-0 win at Villa Park on Sunday.

Daniel Sturridge, James Milner, Divock Origi, Nathaniel Clyne, Emre Can and Toure scored for the Reds.

The loss is Aston Villa’s first in five at home, and stops them from moving toward 19th place Sunderland.

The Villans are seven back of the Black Cats, and Liverpool pulls into eighth. The Reds sit three points back of fifth-place Manchester United.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Sturridge’s celebratory dance was back on display, as he nodded down Coutinho’s cross to make it 1-0 in the 16th minute.

Milner’s free kick from the right slipped just over Mamadou Sakho‘s head but tricked Mark Bunn enough to give Liverpool a 2-0 lead after 25 minutes of play.

Villa was booed off the pitch at halftime after struggling to show any semblance of a comeback pulse.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Liverpool added a third on a counterattack, as Can picked up a square pass from Roberto Firmino and buried a low shot past Bunn.

Origi subbed on for Sturridge, and scored moments later. Twenty-seven seconds after the move, the Belgian buried a goal. Clyne netted a minute later to make it three goals conceded in less than seven minutes.

By the time Toure added his first goal in five years, it was clear this was an onslaught. In a year that could see Villa relegated for the first time in Premier League history, the club added another first.

VIDEO: Man City youngster’s glee at Dad’s surprising gift of tickets

Man City kid dad
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This Man City fan dad gets high marks for Valentine’s Day after he combined with mom to give a big Etihad Stadium surprise for their son.

[ WATCH: USMNT’s Fabian Johnson scores fifth for ‘Gladbach ]

The child’s reaction could even warm a United fan’s heart, as he leaps into dad’s arms after learning their Sunday morning trip to the team shop was really a date at the big game against Spurs.

Now will their club make it an even better day? Doubt it matters all that much to the kid right now!

VIDEO: Watch Arsenal fans across USA go nuts during last-gasp win

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 14:  Robert Huth and Kasper Schmeichel of Leicester City react after Danny Welbeck of Arsenal scored the winning goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Leicester City at Emirates Stadium on February 14, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
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When Danny Welbeck jumped off the bench and made his return for Arsenal after being out injured for nine months, you kind of knew the writing was on the wall.

[ MORE: 3 things learned | Player ratings

That said, heading into the 95th minute with a free kick 40-yards out, as Mesut Ozil swung in a perfect cross time stood still as Welbeck glanced a header into the far corner.

[ RELATED: Welbeck reacts to heroics | Welbeck’s goal

Pandemonium ensued at the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal had snatched a late 2-1 win over title rivals Leicester City in the most dramatic of fashions.

Wherever you watched the game, it’s likely you had a similar reaction to these guys…


This video from the Bling Pig pub in New York City sums up the bedlam well…

While up in Buffalo, NY…

The Syracuse Gooners lost the plot…

It went off in Virginia Beach…

Down in New Orleans it got a little crazy…

Up in Minneapolis/St Paul a similar scene of utter jubilation played out…

The broadcast crew picked up on some of the celebrations from players and fans postgame…

BONUS: And, because it’s awesome, this is how the guys at Telemundo called the game-winner. Sensational.

Watch Live: Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur (Lineups, Live Stream)

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City - Premier League
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The final match of a thrilling three-match Sunday morning in the Premier League is a doozy, as Man City and Spurs look to pull closer to league-leading Leicester City (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

The Foxes lost to Arsenal earlier Sunday on a last-gasp Danny Welbeck winner, and Spurs can move to within two points of the top with a win. City can move to within three points of first place.

Vincent Kompany is back in the fold for Manchester City in this pivotal match, and he’ll have his hands full with Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli amongst others in the Spurs attack.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE VIA LIVE EXTRA

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (C), Otamendi, Clichy, Fernandinho, Fernando, Toure, Sterling, Silva, Aguero. Subs: Caballero, Kolarov, Demichelis, A.Garcia, M.Garcia, Celina, Iheanacho.

Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris (c), Walker, Alderweireld, Wimmer, Rose; Dembele, Dier; Eriksen, Alli, Son; Kane. Subs: Vorm, Davies, Trippier, Carroll, Chadli, Lamela, Mason.