Thorns win, Dash and Red Stars draw: highlights
Portland beats KC, 2-1, while Houston and Chicago draw 0-0.
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The final quarter of the FA Women’s Super League season is officially underway, and what was once a four-team title race now looks to be Chelsea’s to lose.
While the Blues are only two points ahead of second-place Manchester City, there’s only so many games left for any team to close the gap.
That doesn’t mean it can’t be done. And with six gameweeks left, these are the three teams who have a shot to overtake Chelsea and become the FAWSL 2020/2021 Champions.
Manchester City are right on Chelsea’s heels with 39 points. City started off the season very poorly, dropping points in four of their first nine matches, as it seemed like Gareth Taylor was still learning how to manage his squad. City especially struggled defensively in the beginning, and they were unable to see out matches.
A resurgence during the holiday season saw them take advantage of their Manchester rivals’ poor form and leap ahead of them in the table, while the January signing of USWNT star Abby Dahlkemper helped strengthen their defensive fragilities.
They’ve now won nine league games in a row, dating back to December 6th, during which they’ve scored 33 goals and only conceded three.
While those early losses could come back to haunt them, if any team is catching Chelsea and beating them to the title, it’s Manchester City, especially given the form they’re in. The biggest game remaining on the FAWSL calendar is a clash between the two on April 25th at the Academy Stadium in Manchester. Those 90 minutes may very well decide this year’s race.
Manchester United are currently in third with 35 points. The team was not expected to compete for the title this year, having only been promoted from the Championship following the 2018/2019 season. And yet, their current standing may ring as a disappointment to the United faithful, given that they were top of the league only a few short months ago.
The importance of Christen Press and Tobin Heath signings cannot be overstated. The two USWNT stars came with a wealth of experience, but also the pressure to deliver for United.
And until the New Year, they did just that. Going into their match against Chelsea on January 17th, United were unbeaten in the league, with eight wins and two draws. Their loss to Chelsea that day started a spiral that saw them slip first from the top and then into third.
Heath’s injury alone was enough to derail the club. When you add in injuries to key players like Leah Galton, Alessia Russo, and Lauren James, it’s hard to fault United for faltering as they have.
Casey Stoney has maintained that because United is such a new team, her goal for the season isn’t to win the title but to qualify for the Champions League. That being said, the team will likely still feel disappointed that they let a real shot at the title slip away.
Arsenal are in fourth with 29 points, and even though they have played one less match than the other three teams, it’s unlikely that they’ll be crowned champions this season.
Crazier things have happened, of course, and anything may seem possible for such a star-studded squad, which counts Vivianne Miedema, Caitlin Foord, and Daniëlle van de Donk among their starting XI.
Arsenal have had one major problem this season, and it’s that they have not played well against their major competition at the top of the table. So far, Arsenal have played five matches against the three teams they are competing against for the title—Chelsea, Manchester United, and Manchester City. They’ve dropped points in all five matches.
In these matches, Arsenal have struggled to match their opponents’ intensity, a reversal of fate for a team who, under Joe Montemurro, have usually been the side pressing their opponents high up the pitch. This season, they’ve struggled to keep up the energy in the second half, allowing teams to pin them back, which has created more opportunities for them to concede and fewer for them to get the ball forward.
It’s been a problem since the beginning of the season, and yet Montemurro has been unable to find a solution.
Arsenal’s next match is against Manchester United. And while their form has picked up as of late (culminating in a 4-0 win over Birmingham City last weekend), even if they win, they’ll still be behind United in fourth.
At this point, Arsenal have a very little chance of winning the title. For them, the bigger goal has to be finishing in the top three and qualifying for the Champions League. Chelsea’s London rivals may not be a real cause for concern, but Arsenal still has every reason to try and salvage what has been a somewhat disappointing year.
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