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NWSL Plays of the Week: Megan Rapinoe displays set-piece dominance

Megan Rapinoe has re-signed with the Reign on a one-year deal. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

The race to the NWSL postseason is heating up, with only two weeks of competition remaining in the regular season.

U.S. women’s national team stars Megan Rapinoe and Mallory Pugh and recent call-up Hailie Mace all provided needed boosts for their NWSL clubs in the midst of the playoff race, in which just four points separate the top six teams.

NWSL Plays of the Week

Megan Rapinoe’s long-range stunner

OL Reign eked out a critical 2-1 victory Saturday over the North Carolina Courage, with Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle scoring the club’s two goals.

Rapinoe’s go-ahead finish came in the game’s 26th minute, with the OL Reign forward striking a long-range free kick past the Courage line and into the near post.

“Shooters shoot,” Rapinoe told reporters of her set-piece stunner, adding that she went for goal when she saw North Carolina goalkeeper Casey Murphy was slightly off her line.

The 37-year-old now has five goals and four assists through 11 matches played.

“Well, it was pretty ugly, but we got three points on the road and that’s great,” Rapinoe added. OL Reign are in fifth place in the league with 31 points, three back of the San Diego Wave at the top of the table.

Mallory Pugh’s fast break

Mallory Pugh put on a show Wednesday night, notching a brace and an assist to help the Chicago Red Stars to a 4-0 shutout over the Kansas Current.

The USWNT forward’s first goal came in the eighth minute, as she nutmegged two defenders while going on a fast break the length of the field. Dribbling around the Current keeper, Pugh finished off her stunning effort with a low shot into an open net.

Pugh stamped her name on the scoresheet again in the 60th minute, picking up the ball at midfield before beating her defender and letting off a low shot from the top of the box.

The 24-year-old capped off her dominant outing with an assist in the 72nd minute, finding Amanda Kowalski at the back post to convert a Red Stars corner kick into the team’s fourth goal of the night.

Pugh now has 10 goals and six assists through 14 matches played, putting her front and center in the NWSL’s MVP conversation.

Hailie Mace’s stoppage time rocket

Hailie Mace played hero for the Kansas City Current on Sunday night, salvaging a point for her team with a stoppage-time equalizer against the Portland Thorns.

The Current midfield lined up at the top of the box before striking a top-shelf rocket past the Thorns keeper to pull level with Portland.

Mace’s late-game banger marks her fourth goal of the NWSL regular season.

“The fight, the mentality of the group as a whole, how much they care about each other, how much they care about the people in the stands, they just want to continually drive themselves forward,” Current coach Matt Potter said after the game.

After Sunday’s draw, the Current sit third in the NWSL standings, one point back from the league-leading Wave.