Photo by Jane G. Photography/Seattle Reign FC
By SARAH HALLETT
With the Seattle Reign FC and FC Kansas City holding a firm grasp on the top two-playoff positions, a little over a month remains for the rest of the league to claim the other two spots. This week is crucial as four teams came into it within one point of each other and all those teams play this weekend.
The Western New York Flash and the Washington Spirit sit in third and fourth place respectively, but their matchup on Saturday night may easily reverse those roles. Both teams have the ability to put up a bunch of goals and the better defense may be the deciding factor in this match.
With the Chicago Red Stars sitting on the cusp of breaking into playoff positions, the seemingly unstoppable Seattle Reign FC could be a tough road bump this weekend. The Red Stars will need to lean heavily on their defense if they want to beat the team that has racked up the most goals thus far this season. On the other end of the field, Chicago will need Christen Press to continue her good form if they expect to compete against the offensive weapons that the Reign have at their disposal.
Here is a look at this weekend’s NWSL fixtures:
BOSTON BREAKERS at HOUSTON DASH (Friday at 9 p.m. ET – watch live)
Nahomi Kawasumi spoiled a spirited Breakers game last Sunday when she scored a brace for the Seattle Reign FC and handed Boston their eleventh loss of the season. The Breakers, despite their record, have had flashes of brilliance and have the opportunity to rebound against the Houston Dash on Friday night.
The Dash won the lone meeting between the two teams back in April and will host the Breakers, who are in the middle of a grueling seven game road trip. The Dash on the other hand are enjoying a lengthy home stay, though they have little to show for it as their last win was nearly a month ago.
Houston is in desperate need of some offensive energy and made a trade this past week that may provide that much needed boost. The Dash picked up forward Melissa Henderson in a trade with FC Kansas City. Henderson should adapt quickly as she played collegiately under coach Randy Waldrum at the University of Notre Dame. Henderson is expected to be available on Friday night.
WASHINGTON SPIRIT at WESTERN NEW YORK FLASH (Saturday at 7 p.m. ET – watch live)
The Western New York Flash begin a three game home stand this weekend with a match against the Washington Spirit. The Flash are coming off one of their best games of the year with a 4-1 win against the Houston Dash last Saturday, which lifted the team into third place.
The Flash have played steady since losing Abby Wambach at the end of May to a knee injury. With no timetable for her return, the team will continue to rely heavily on the offensive talents of Carli Lloyd and Sam Kerr.
The Spirit have developed a knack for late game heroics and managed to draw with the Boston Breakers on Wednesday night, thanks to a goal in the 90th minute. However if the Spirit want to make the playoffs, they need to find ways to win games against the upper tier teams and not count on the luck of late goals to sneak them into the post season.
SEATTLE REIGN FC at CHICAGO RED STARS (Saturday at 8 p.m. ET – watch live)
The Chicago Red Stars have the tough task of facing the league leading Seattle Reign FC twice in the next nine days. The Reign FC have strung together an incredible 13-0-3 season and produced another come from behind win last weekend to preserve their undefeated status. The playoffs are a lock for the northwest team and the next month is simply an opportunity for coach Laura Harvey to continue to fine tune the best team in the league.
The Red Stars still have a lot of work to do if they want to make the playoffs, though the return of veteran midfielder Shannon Boxx on Wednesday night was a welcome sight. Boxx’s talent in the midfield may be the catalyst that can push the Red Stars back into the form that carried them to five wins in the month of May.
FC KANSAS CITY at PORTLAND THORNS FC (Sunday at 7 p.m. ET – watch live)
Lost in the shadow of the spectacular season that the Seattle Reign FC are having- is the impressive run that FC Kansas City has also put together. Though they only have four losses on the year, one of those came at the hands of the Portland Thorns FC at the beginning of the season in Portland.
The Blues squared up the series a few weeks ago with a 1-0 win over the Thorns FC at home and will look for their eighth win in a row on Sunday night in Portland. However the team may be without Lauren Holiday, who was hospitalized for dehydration midweek.
Meanwhile, the Thorns FC clearly have one of the most talented rosters in the league. Yet the defending champs have struggled with consistency and need to start stringing together some wins if they want to make the playoffs. A win on Sunday night would be big for this team and would show coach Paul Riley that his often inconsistent team, is capable of making the playoffs.
What do you think of Week 14′s matchups? Do you see the Dash topping the Breakers again? Excited for FC Kansas City vs. Thorns FC? Do you see WNY Flash overcoming the loss of Abby Wambach.
Share your thoughts below.