NWSL Week 18: A Look Ahead

Christie Rampone

By MIKE McCALL

In terms of suspense, Wednesday was a bit of a disaster for the National Women’s Soccer League.

Western New York’s win over Seattle, coupled with Washington’s weather-shortened victory over Chicago, clinched playoff berths for the top four teams with two games remaining. And worse for the league, it may have lost its biggest star for at least part of the postseason after Portland forward Alex Morgan suffered a mild MCL sprain of her left knee.

So what’s left to play for? Here’s a closer look at the matchups (all times local).

CHICAGO RED STARS vs. SKY BLUE FC (Saturday, 6 pm)

For a team that has repeatedly pulled off late comebacks, Wednesday’s lightning-plagued loss to Washington was a real heartbreaker for the Red Stars (7-8-5).

The match was called off after 81 minutes, snapping Washington’s 13-game winless streak and dooming Chicago’s slim hopes for a playoff spot. Now they come up against Sky Blue FC (10-6-4), which has been a long way from top form.

The Red Stars showed a lot of heart this season, so expect a tough game from them. On the other side, SBFC really needs to build some momentum.

BOSTON BREAKERS vs. FC KANSAS CITY (Saturday, 6 pm)

Lost in Wednesday’s drama was the fact that Boston (7-7-6) converted a must-win situation against Portland. Still, the Flash’s win meant the end of the road for the Breakers.

While they’re out of the picture, their opponent, FCKC (11-4-5), is cruising on a four-game win streak with a four-point lead atop the league table. The club looks to have it all figured out right now, so these next two matches are about staying healthy and in sync.

WASHINGTON SPIRIT vs. SEATTLE REIGN FC (Saturday, 7 pm)

The win on Wednesday showed that despite its immense struggles, Washington (2-14-4) has not thrown in the towel. But it doesn’t matter where the towels are, neither of these teams has anything to play for besides pride, as Seattle (5-12-3) is also long gone from the playoff race.

WESTERN NEW YORK FLASH vs. PORTLAND THORNS (Saturday, 7:35 pm, Fox Soccer)

Sitting in a three-way tie for second with SBFC, the Flash (9-4-7) and Thorns (10-6-4) are battling to either catch FCKC (a longshot) or at least secure a home playoff game.

This would have been the clash of the titans in the NWSL if not for FCKC’s rise, and Morgan’s injury certainly puts a damper on things.

WNY is the team in better form — especially after that injury — and looks like the top challenger to Kansas City.

Who are your picks? Does this weekend matter? Can the Thorns win without Morgan? Does FCKC keep rolling?

Share your thoughts below.

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