Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By MIKE McCALL
For weeks, the National Women’s Soccer League played chase behind Sky Blue FC and the Portland Thorns. Now, those two and the rest of the league are looking up at FC Kansas City.
After taking over first place last week, FCKC widened its lead atop the table to four points, while the weekend’s other two results kept a pair of fading playoff hopes alive.
For a closer look, here’s a complete rundown along with our updated Power Rankings.
BREAKERS CRUSH SPIRIT
The Breakers still have a fighting chance of snatching a playoff spot, and the Spirit played the role of punching bag in a 5-2 Boston win on Saturday.
Surprisingly, those seven goals came from seven different scorers — none named Sydney Leroux. Lianne Sanderson, Mariah Nogueira, Heather O’Reilly, Cat Whitehill and Rhian Wilkinson did the damage for the visitors, while Diana Matheson and Conny Pohlers responded for Washington.
That result leaves the Breakers four points behind fourth-place Western New York, which still has a game in hand. With two of their remaining four games against the Flash, Boston still has a shot.
RED STARS’ COMEBACK KEEPS HOPES ALIVE
Down by two goals with 20 minutes to play in Portland, it looked like Chicago’s afternoon (and possibly postseason chances) were done for. But Alyssa Mautz scored in the 75th minute and Julianne Sitch scored in the 86th to rescue a 3-3 draw in front of 12,534 fans at JELD-WEN Field.
That was Mautz’s second goal since subbing on in the first half, helping negate two goals from Christine Sinclair and another by Meleana Shim. Tobin Heath tallied two assists and Alex Morgan added one for the Thorns.
That makes two dramatic, two-goal comebacks in three weeks for the Red Stars, but the problem is that they were draws. Tied with Boston four points behind the Flash, Chicago needs wins, not ties, to make the playoffs.
Meanwhile, Portland is still in a good spot, four points behind FCKC with two games in hand, but not looking much like the dominant force that was expected.
FCKC STRETCHES LEAD
Give FC Kansas City coach Vlatko Andonovski credit: trading away talented goal-scorer Renae Cuellar was a risky move, but it has paid off with top form, and now, a healthy lead in first place.
Courtney Jones subbed on in the 74th minute and scored in the 76th to give FCKC a 1-0 win over Sky Blue FC, opening up a four-point cushion in first place.
That’s now three wins in a row and nine games unbeaten for Kansas City, while Sky Blue has won just once in their last seven.
SBI NWSL POWER RANKINGS
Here’s how they stand:
1. FC Kansas City (10-4-5, 35 pts) – Top team in the league, no doubt about it. | (Last week: 1)
2. Western NY Flash (7-4-6, 27 pts) – Coming off a bye, it should be a free three points against the Spirit on Wednesday. | (2)
3. Portland Thorns FC (9-4-4, 31 pts) – Win out, and first place is theirs. But based on form, that doesn’t seem likely. | (3)
4. Boston Breakers (6-7-5, 23 pts) – Those two Flash clashes will make or break Boston’s season. | (6)
5. Chicago Red Stars (6-7-5, 23 pts) – Another wild comeback, but the wildest of all would be making the playoffs. | (5)
6. Seattle Reign FC (5-10-3, 18 pts) – Can only hope to play the role of spoiler now. Chicago is next. | (4)
7. Sky Blue FC (9-5-4, 31 pts) – Struggling and stalling — the top-four team you’d most want to face right now. | (7)
8. Washington Spirit (1-12-4, 7 pts) – Unfortunately, it’s the same story every week for Washington. | (8)
What do you think? Will FCKC run away with the regular-season title? Can Portland catch them? Will SBFC snap out of it?
Share your thoughts below.