NWSL Week 16: A Look Ahead

Christine Sinclair

Photo by ISIPhotos.com

By SARAH HALLETT

Seattle Reign FC secured the first playoff spot last weekend and now as less than a month remains of the season, the pressure heats up for the last three remaining spots.

Portland Thorns FC were forced to travel east on Wednesday night and were able to salvage a draw against the Washington Spirit.  It leaves the Thorns FC sitting in third place with thirty points as they now face the tough task of traveling to Seattle for their game against the Reign on Sunday.

The Western New York Flash have listed Abby Wambach as questionable for their match tomorrow night. The veteran forward has missed nearly two months since injuring her left knee at the end of May. While Wambach may not be quite one hundred percent, the Flash who are currently in sixth place may need to call upon their veteran forward to ensure a win against the Boston Breakers on Friday night.

Meanwhile FC Kansas City is looking to bounce back from a bit of a slump that they have found themselves in over the past few weeks. They will take on Sky Blue FC this weekend looking to regain the top form that they have played with for most of the season.

Here’s a closer look at this week’s National Women’s Soccer League fixtures:

Boston Breakers at Western New York Flash (Friday at 7:30pm ET-watch live)

The Western New York Flash have one of the easiest remaining schedules as they are looking to clinch one of the last three-playoff spots. With five games remaining for the Flash on the season, they will face the Boston Breakers twice in the next month, the first game being on Friday night at home.

The Breakers are coming off of a spirited game against the Portland Thorns FC last Sunday. Though they lost 6-3, their energy in the first forty-five minutes should be encouraging to a team that sits 3-13-2 and most likely will finish in last place in the league.

The two teams have only met once so far this season, a 2-1 victory for the Flash on June 27. The Flash cannot afford to draw with the Breakers as they need the full three points if they are going to make a serious run at the playoffs.

Houston Dash at Chicago Red Stars (Saturday at 2:00pm ET-watch live)

The Chicago Red Stars head into their weekend match with the Houston Dash with an opportunity to leap-frog the Washington Spirit in the standings, if they can earn the full three points at home on Saturday afternoon.

While Chicago has relied heavily on their defense this season, they will need to put more pressure on their offense if they expect to be a part of the playoffs. Apart from their 1-0 win over Seattle Reign FC a few weeks ago, the month of July has featured four draws for the team.

The Houston Dash on the other hand will look to continue to play the role of spoiler, as their inaugural season unfortunately won’t include the playoffs. This is a good young team though that has a bright future under coach Randy Waldrum. He will continue to push them to play hard for the next month in hopes that their efforts will pay off next season.

Sky Blue FC at FC Kansas City (Sunday at 6:00pm ET-watch live)

There may not be a more inconsistent team in the NWSL than Sky Blue FC. They played a brilliant match against the Washington Spirit last Sunday, putting up four goals against one of the best keepers in the league in Ashlyn Harris. Yet the team has struggled to put together a string of consistent games and will face one of the best teams in the league when they travel to take on FC Kansas City on Sunday.

FC Kansas City handed Sky Blue FC a 5-0 loss when they met nearly two weeks ago in New Jersey.  The Blues currently are sitting in second place with thirty-four points, though their past couple games have fallen below their high standards.

A disastrous loss to the Thorns a few weeks ago and then a draw against the Flash has left them with some work to do to seal a playoff spot. Expect the Blues to come out firing on Sunday and remind the league that they expect to be a strong contender for the championship.

Portland Thorns FC at Seattle Reign FC (Sunday at 7:00pm ET-watch live)

The Portland Thorns are starting to peak at the right time. A few months ago the team hardly resembled a championship squad, but now thanks to an almost healthy roster they are winning some big games. Granted they have had more draws than wins this past month, but the Thorns haven’t dropped a point since June.

After a 1-1 draw against the Washington Spirit on Wednesday night, the Thorns will travel to Seattle in what should be a good litmus test for the third place club. Seattle has had the luxury of the week off and also has already booked their ticket to the post season. However, don’t expect Laura Harvey’s team to coast through the next month. The Reign still have work to do if they want to win a title at the end of August. Expect Seattle to continue to play hard and make it difficult for their west coast neighbor on Sunday. 

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