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NWSL Power Rankings: San Diego knocks Portland out of first

(Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports)

NWSL teams are closing in on one month left to solidify a playoff spot. The fight to the finish has already intensified the level of competition, with last-minute goals, snapped unbeaten streaks and unexpected results playing out over the last two weeks.

In the third and final power rankings of August, the top six teams haven’t changed since the beginning of the month. But they’ve shuffled, a lot. Kansas City is making the biggest jump, rising from sixth to second over the course of the month. Meanwhile, the Portland Thorns fall to their lowest ranking of the year.

For the previous installment of JWS’ NWSL power rankings, click here.

12. NJ/NY Gotham FC (4-12-0) –

Five straight losses in August didn’t do Gotham any favors. Neither did the officials in their most recent game, as they failed to award Gotham a clear goal in the 12th minute and were later penalized for it by the Professional Referee Organization. Gotham would have taken a 1-0 early lead over Angel City FC if the goal had counted. Instead, they lost momentum and lost 3-1 on Sunday, a week after falling 2-1 to the Orlando Pride.

11. Racing Louisville FC (2-7-8) -2

Racing Louisville played just one game since our last power rankings, a 4-0 loss to the Chicago Red Stars on Saturday. Giving up three scores in the first 23 minutes, Louisville conceded the most goals they have all season in their worst loss of the year. They haven’t won a game in three months.

10. Washington Spirit (1-6-10) 

In the last two weeks, the Washington Spirit played just one game, a 2-2 draw with the Houston Dash that brought their number of ties this season to 10. The Spirit didn’t dominate possession or shots on goal like they have in other draws, playing for the first time after the firing of head coach Kris Ward, whose relationships with players had reportedly been deteriorating. Washington capitalized on its strengths for a short, two-minute burst in the second half, when the attacking trio took charge. Ashley Hatch scored first off a Trinity Rodman cross, and again after a free kick from Ashley Sanchez.

9. North Carolina Courage (4-7-4) +2

The Courage were busy but productive in the last two weeks, earning six points across three games to jump from last to ninth place in the NWSL standings. On Aug. 24, they shattered the Thorns’ 11-game unbeaten streak in a 3-1 win. Four days earlier, they shut out the Chicago Red Stars 4-0. In their most recent match, the Kansas City Current took the 3-2 win, but the Courage controlled 51 percent of the possession and delivered 24 crosses.

8. Orlando Pride (5-6-6) –

Before a 2-1 loss to OL Reign on Friday, the Pride hadn’t lost since the beginning of July. The week prior, they recorded an 84.7 percent passing accuracy and had eight shots on goal in a 2-1 win over Gotham FC. Neither performance was particularly strong, but based on their recent consistency, the playoffs aren’t out of the question for Orlando.

7. Angel City FC (7-5-4) –

Sitting in seventh place in the NWSL standings, Angel City remains in the running for the playoffs. A draw and a win in the last two weeks definitely helped their case. Beyond the results, Angel City would benefit from better passing — their accuracy was below 70 percent in both of those games — and more possession. Against Gotham, they had the ball just 38 percent of the time.

6. Chicago Red Stars (7-5-5) -1

The Red Stars have been a little all over the place lately. A week after losing to the Courage 4-0, they defeated Racing Louisville by the same scoreline on Saturday. The Red Stars had a hard time finding the net against the Courage, with only three of their 19 shots coming on goal. Against Louisville, they improved their possession to 54 percent with an 82 percent passing accuracy.

5. OL Reign (7-4-6) +1

In their only match since our last power rankings, OL Reign gained three points with a 2-1 win that snapped the Pride’s seven-game unbeaten streak. The Reign recorded a passing accuracy of 82 percent and outshot their opponents 15-8.

4. Portland Thorns FC (7-3-7) -3

The Thorns failed to keep their 11-game unbeaten streak alive as they fell 3-1 to the Courage last Wednesday and were outperformed in almost every area, including passing accuracy, shots, crosses, blocks and tackles. Against San Diego on Saturday, the Thorns pressed in the second half and forced the Wave to defend, but it wasn’t enough in the 2-0 loss. As a result, Portland came out of the last two weeks with zero points.

3. Houston Dash (8-5-5) -1

A loss and a draw have Houston moving down a spot in this week’s power rankings. Despite scoring just seven minutes into their match against San Diego last week and creating chances in a scrappy performance, the Dash couldn’t hold onto their lead in the 3-1 loss. A week later against the Washington Spirit, the Dash narrowly managed a 2-2 draw, scoring their second goal in stoppage time.

2. Kansas City Current (8-4-5) +1

The Current refused to let the Courage snap their 12-game unbeaten streak, now tied for the second-longest in the league. They outshot North Carolina 12-8 with nine shots on goal in the 3-2 win. In their game before that, Kansas City took control, managing 53 percent of the possession and doubling up Angel City with 16 total shots in a 1-1 draw.

1. San Diego Wave FC (9-5-4) +3

The Wave closed out their last game at Torero Stadium on Aug. 20 in front of a sold-out crowd with a 3-1 over the Dash. They proceeded to defeat the Thorns 2-0 and showcase their improved possession and defending. The two victories served as redemption from two losses at the beginning of the month and launched the team back into first place, where they’ve been for most of the season.

Jessa Braun is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.