By MIKE McCALL
After a few weeks of largely unsurprising results, the National Women’s Soccer League got a little dose of unpredictability on Thursday night, setting things up for an interesting weekend.
The biggest shock came in Portland, where the first-place and previously-unbeaten Thorns lost, 1-0, to Sky Blue FC, locking the two into a tie atop the league standings. A few hours north, the Washington Spirit unleashed an impressive performance of their own in a 4-2 victory over the Seattle Reign — their first victory and an offensive explosion from a club that had scored just five goals in its previous five games.
And so the league will head into this weekend with two teams tied for first, followed by a cluster of four teams and the two stragglers in Chicago and Seattle.
For a look at what to expect this weekend, here are the matchups (all times local):
FC KANSAS CITY vs. BOSTON BREAKERS (Saturday, 7:35 pm)
Now that the Thorns have lost, the Breakers (2-0-2) are the only undefeated team left. In fact, while they’re currently five points adrift of the leaders, they also have two games in hand and could make up some big ground.
FC Kansas City (2-1-1) is in the same boat points-wise, and these two will be going at it in a crucial early season test of who’s ready to make a push for the league lead.
Not far removed from her headline-making hat trick, Boston forward Sydney Leroux will go up against another proven scorer in FCKC’s Renae Cuellar, and this one has the makings of one of the season’s best games so far.
PORTLAND THORNS vs. WASHINGTON SPIRIT (Sunday, 2 pm)
Which was the aberration on Thursday: Portland’s loss or Washington’s offensive outburst? We’ll find out Sunday at JELD-WEN field, where the Thorns (4-1-1) will look to get back on track in a big way.
For the Spirit (1-2-3), the question is whether their four-goal output was the product of an attack coming together or a weak opponent in Seattle. They’ll take it regardless of the reason, but one troubling development was giving up two goals to the Reign, who had been shut out in their previous three games.
The Thorns are the favorites, but the Spirit still have the talent to challenge for a playoff spot, and this could be a big statement game for the capital club.
SEATTLE REIGN vs. SKY BLUE FC (Sunday, 6 pm)
Okay, Sky Blue FC, you have our attention.
Winning in Portland is a big deal, and SBFC (4-1-1) can no longer be overlooked as a fluke-y team on a hot start to the year. This team showed it deserves to be viewed as a contender, and the next step in solidifying that role is winning the easy ones.
Which brings us to the Reign (0-5-1). Seattle has five-straight losses without many signs of life, making it hard not to pick visiting SBFC here.
Who are your picks? Does Portland get back on track? Who wins the FCKC-Boston showdown? And does Seattle have a prayer of breaking its losing streak?
Share your thoughts below.