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15 incredible things that happened during the NWSL’s ninth week

After a bye week, the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) came back flying, or maybe that was Raquel Rodriguez’s goal for Sky Blue FC just 25 seconds into the match. The weekend was jam-packed with the Houston Dash welcoming back Carli Lloyd to U.S. soil, Marta chipping in two goals for a dominant Orlando Pride win over Houston and Rodriguez tying the record for the fastest goal in NWSL history.

Week 9 play saw the North Carolina Courage maintain their top spot in the standings after grabbing three points against the Boston Breakers. The Pride and Sky Blue FC were the other two teams to earn three points, with FC Kansas City, Seattle Reign FC, the Chicago Red Stars and the Washington Spirit collecting one point apiece.

Here are the three most important things you need to know about every match:

Orlando Pride 4, Houston Dash 2

01. Marta works her magic.

The five-time FIFA World Player of the Year netted two beauties for the Pride on Saturday, which helped propel her team to a franchise record for goals in a match. Marta, after playing with the Brazilian national team in Sweden, didn’t actually land in Houston until Friday. The quick turnaround to kickoff didn’t seem to be much of a factor for the forward. She now has five goals this season.

02. Three late Brazilians, no problem.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Camila, Monica and Marta all faced travel delays after playing for the national team in Iceland. Camila and Monica were held up in customs in Chicago and missed their flight connection. They landed in Houston just a few hours before kickoff, and a trusting Pride head coach Tom Sermanni threw all three of them into the starting lineup. Marta went on to convert two goals, and Camila helped the Pride gain an early 1–0 lead.

03. Lloyd is back.

The Houston Dash were hoping to snap their five-game losing streak, especially with Carli Lloyd back on the roster after her brief stint overseas with FA Women’s Super League’s Manchester City Women. However, the Dash and Lloyd were unable to stop a high-scoring Pride team. The Dash have a chance to snap their now six-game losing streak against the Pride this coming weekend.

Sky Blue FC 3, Portland Thorns FC 1

01. Twenty-five seconds.

Not even a minute had passed, but that was all it took for Sky Blue FC to get on the board and later snap Portland’s six-game unbeaten streak. Australian international Sam Kerr served the ball into the box with just 20 seconds on the clock—the service later popped out to Raquel Rodriguez, who struck it to give Sky Blue an early 1–0 lead. Rodriguez’s goal ties the record for the fastest goal in NWSL history, which was previously set by Erika Tymrak in 2015.

02. Sky is the limit for Sam Kerr.

In May, Australian forward Sam Kerr was named the NWSL Player of the Month after recording two goals and two assists. And on Saturday, the Sky Blue FC player clinched two goals and an assist to lead her team to a 3–1 win. Bets are in favor of Kerr doubling up this honor if she keeps it up against the Chicago Red Stars next weekend.

03. Mark Parsons calls loss “a massive opportunity.”

Sky Blue FC must have done something right at Providence Park to end Portland’s eight-game unbeaten streak, and head coach Mark Parsons was not afraid to give Sky Blue credit for the win. Parsons told media after the game: “It’s a massive opportunity for us that I know we’re going to embrace, a massive opportunity to get ready to learn.”

[More from Excelle Sports: Portland Thorns FC’s Mark Parsons voted NWSL Coach of the Year]

North Carolina Courage 3, Boston Breakers 1

01. The NC Courage are hard to catch.

Another week and the North Carolina Courage remain at the top of the standings. This week, after a dominant 3–1 win over Boston, the Courage hold the No. 1 spot with 21 points. The Chicago Red Stars sit in second, four points behind the newest NWSL club.

02. No Lynn Williams? No Jess McDonald? That takes Courage.

The NC Courage were without star power forwards Lynn Williams and Jessica McDonald due to injuries that kept them sidelined. Williams was nursing her right ankle sprain, while McDonald was out with a left hamstring strain. The Courage were able to step up despite the absence of the dynamic duo with goals from Kristen Hamilton and Ashley Hatch.

03. Get to know: Kristen Hamilton.

If you didn’t know who NC Courage forward Kristen Hamilton is, you definitely do now after her two-goal performance on Saturday. Also worth noting: that was Hamilton’s first start for the Courage. Not a bad way for the University of Denver alum to start, huh?

FC Kansas City 2, Seattle Reign FC 2

01. Late push, Kansas City.

It looked like Seattle Reign FC were going to grab their first-ever win over Kansas City on the road, but as time ran out, Kansas City’s Yael Averbuch took a corner kick that was later headed in by Maegan Kelly in the 84th minute to secure a 2–2 tie. This was Kelly’s first goal of her NWSL career, and it gave Kansas City an important point at home.

02. Five goals for Megan Rapinoe.

Megan Rapinoe has had an impressive 2017 NWSL season so far. Her five goals in nine games played is not bad for someone who only played in five games in the 2016 season. Rapinoe scored her fifth goal in the 31st minute off an assist from forward Nahomi Kawasumi.

03. No place like home for FC Kansas City.

FC Kansas City sits in seventh place in the league standings, ahead of the Washington Spirit, Boston Breakers and Houston Dash. With a 3–3–3 record, Kansas City has yet to lose a game at home. On Saturday, the home team wasn’t going to let Seattle disrespect it on its home turf.

Chicago Red Stars 1, Washington Spirit 1

01. Spirits were high for Washington.

The Washington Spirit sit in third to last place in the league standings, but on Saturday, they had no problem keeping up with a talented second-place Chicago Red Stars team. The Spirit looked like they were going to grab their first win on the road, thanks to a 42nd minute goal from forward Francisca Ordega. But it was Christen Press’s penalty kick at the end of the game that gave the Red Stars the game-tying goal.

02. Welcome back, Caprice!

Washington Spirit defender Caprice Dydasco has been out since last year’s NWSL championship game when she sustained an ACL tear. For the past several months, she has been rehabbing her knee, and on Saturday, the UCLA alum returned to the pitch to earn her first appearance of the 2017 season. Dydasco entered the game in the second half.

[More from Excelle Sports: What really happens when you tear your ACL: Pro soccer players open up about the best way to recover]

03. Jim Gabarra is excited for his team.

The Spirit were without five starters on Saturday and were still able to come away with a point. Spirit head coach Jim Gabarra said at halftime on Lifetime: “It’s a credit to the back end of our roster, and players who are getting the opportunity to show they can do it in this league.”

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