Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By SARAH HALLETT
The final week of the regular season in the National Women’s Soccer League is at hand and promises to be an exciting and dramatic finish to the year.
The action kicked off on Wednesday night as the playoff dreams of the Western New York Flash came tumbling to an end after a 3-2 loss to Sky Blue FC. Nadia Nadim has re-energized the New Jersey club and pulled them into contention in the final weeks of the season. Although the playoffs are still a long shot, the team is playing with passion and fervor that may squeeze them into that final fourth playoff spot.
The Chicago Red Stars currently hold that coveted fourth playoff spot after bumping the Portland Thorns FC into fifth place this week. A 2-0 win over the Boston Breakers on Wednesday night has put the Red Stars in position to make the playoffs, if they can win this weekend.
The Washington Spirit and the Thorns FC will also be fighting for one of the last two playoff spots this weekend. The road is much easier for the third place Spirit, but the Thorns FC may have a little bit of magic left in their pursuit to repeat as champions.
Here is a closer look at this week’s fixtures in the National Women’s Soccer League:
SKY BLUE FC at WASHINGTON SPIRIT (Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET – watch live)
Nadia Nadim has only been on loan to Sky Blue FC for a little over a month, but has revitalized the team in the short span. Seven goals in six games has lit a fire under Sky Blue FC and thanks to their win on Wednesday night against the Flash, has kept the team in contention for the playoffs.
Sky Blue FC will take on the Washington Spirit on Saturday night, a club also battling for the postseason. The Spirit currently sit in third place with thirty-five points. If the Spirit win on Saturday night, then they can punch their own ticket to the playoffs. A loss would leave matters in the hands of Chicago and Portland. If the Spirit cannot muster a win on Saturday night, they would need both teams to lose in order to not be overtaken by points.
Sky Blue FC needs a lot to happen in order to make the playoffs, but it starts with winning their game on Saturday night. They will end their regular season in a make up game on Wednesday night against the Houston Dash.
WESTERN NEW YORK FLASH at CHICAGO RED STARS (Saturday at 8 p.m. ET – watch live)
The Western New York Flash ended a historic run on Wednesday night when they lost to Sky Blue FC. The Flash will miss out on the playoffs for the first time in their club history. The team must now travel to Chicago to take on the Red Stars this weekend, a team that is hoping to clinch their own playoff spot on Saturday night.
The formula is pretty simple for the Red Stars: win and they’re in. A draw or a loss will give new hope to the Portland Thorns FC as well as Sky Blue FC. Chicago has the luxury of wrapping up their season on their home turf, a benefit to a team that has struggled with injuries this year and almost played their way out of contention the past month. After their midweek win over the Boston Breakers, expect this team to take care of business against the Flash.
SEATTLE REIGN FC at PORTLAND THORNS FC (Sunday at 5 p.m. ET- watch live)
The final match of the regular season for these two clubs has big implications for the Portland Thorns FC. It will be hard to tell how serious the Reign FC plan to take this game on Sunday afternoon. With the semifinals only a week away, Coach Laura Harvey will no doubt be resting some of her star players. A few will also be headed to represent the U. S. Women’s National Team in a midweek friendly, making the case for Harvey to utilize even more of her second string players.
For Portland this game is a must win. After dropping a road game against the Boston Breakers last week, they now are on the outside looking in of the playoff picture. Currently sitting in fifth place, the team is one point behind the Chicago Red Stars and two points behind the Washington Spirit. If both of those teams win on Saturday, there will be nothing that Portland can do to overtake them. However a draw or a loss by either team will open the door and make this a must watch game.
HOUSTON DASH at BOSTON BREAKERS (Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET- watch live)
There may be no playoff implications riding on this match, but there will be plenty of pride on the line as the two worst teams in the league battle to avoid that last place spot.
One of the best games in the league last weekend featured the Breakers and their talented young goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. Boston has a bright future with Naeher in the box, who has the talent to possibly be the future heir to Hope Solo when she retires from national team duty.