NWSL Week Nine: A Look Ahead

AbbyWambach-SkyBlueFC(USAToday)

By MIKE McCALL

The past week has seen the National Women’s Soccer League turn into a carnival of goals.

After averaging 2.2 goals per game in April and 2.5 in May, the four games in June have led to a total of 19 goals for an average of 4.75. It’s a very small sample size aided by the absence of U.S. and Canada players last weekend, but the trend carried over into the midweek games.

Thursday night, the Thorns and FC Kansas City combined for the highest-scoring game in league history, with Alex Morgan finding the net twice alongside Courtney Wetzel and Danielle Foxhoven for a 4-3 Portland win. Lauren Cheney (two) and Erika Tymrak did the damage for FCKC.

And on Wednesday, the Flash got a stoppage time equalizer from Jodi-Ann Robinson to tie the Breakers 2-2, after a Western New York goal from Abby Wambach and another by Boston’s Sydney Leroux.

Those results brought the Thorns back into a tie for first with Sky Blue FC, although the latter has a game in hand. Those two have a 10-point lead over the third place Breakers, but Boston, the Flash and FCKC have a chance to narrow that margin this weekend.

For a closer look, here are the matchups (all times local):

SKY BLUE FC vs. WESTERN NEW YORK FLASH (Saturday, 7 pm)

SBFC can take back sole possession of the top spot with a win or draw, but they’ll have to overcome the only club that has defeated them this season.

The Flash notched a 2-1 win on May 1 that signaled a reversal of fortunes. That began a run of three wins and a draw, leaving them 11 points behind Sky Blue FC but with two games in hand.

SBFC is coming off a 5-1 drubbing of Boston, and it will be a meeting of two players tied for the league lead in scoring, as Wambach and SBFC’s Sophie Schmidt have five goals each.

CHICAGO RED STARS vs. BOSTON BREAKERS (Sunday, 3 pm)

Fresh off its first win of the year — a 2-0 victory over a depleted Portland squad — Chicago will be hoping to keep its momentum going.

But the Sydney Leroux-led Breakers are the favorites here, and they can’t afford to drop any points against a Red Stars side that has struggled mightily. After this one, five of Boston’s next seven matches are against Portland and Sky Blue FC.

That scheduling quirk brings opportunity, but it’s unlikely that the Breakers will make up much ground without beating the cellar-dwellers.

SEATTLE REIGN vs. FC KANSAS CITY (Sunday, 7 pm)

This matchup is similar to the previous one: a playoff contender goes on the road to face a bottom-feeder. But Seattle has a few bright spots on the horizon.

Goalkeeper Hope Solo is back from her wrist injury and is expected to play, and coming off an unlucky 1-0 loss to the rival Thorns, the Reign might be righting the ship a bit. And Megan Rapinoe will join the roster on June 14 (though she won’t play until later in the month due to U.S. duties).

With all that said, FCKC are still the favorites here, locked into what’s shaping up to be a three-way battle for the final two playoff spots with Boston and Western New York. Renae Cuellar did all the heavy lifting early in the year for Kansas City, but Lauren Cheney has now matched her four-goal total (with three assists), giving FCKC plenty of firepower to work with.

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Who are your picks? Does Sky Blue FC go back out in front? Can Chicago or Seattle pull an upset? Is the league due for some lower-scoring affairs?

Share your thoughts below.

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