Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By SARAH HALLETT
Heading into the eighth week of the National Women’s Soccer League season, Seattle’s reign at the top is looking more vulnerable than it has all year.
The second-place Chicago Red Stars sent a strong message to the league-leading Seattle Reign FC with their fifth win in a row on Wednesday night. Seattle’s double digit lead in the standings has shrunk to only four, putting more pressure on the league-leaders when they visit Sky Blue FC this Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Western New York Flash find themselves needing a win — and quickly. Winless their past three games, the Flash are looking to rebound against the lowly Houston Dash. It’s not panic time yet for the Flash, but they don’t want to fall further down the table.
The Boston Breakers are looking to ride the momentum of their midweek win against the Portland Thorns and put together back-to-back wins for the first time this season. They will face a strong opponent as the Washington Spirit have won two of their last three games.
Here’s a closer look at this weekend’s NWSL fixtures:
HOUSTON DASH at WESTERN NEW YORK FLASH (Saturday at 7pm ET – watch live)
The Western New York Flash will be looking to rebound when they return home to host the Houston Dash after a disappointing two-game swing on the west coast. It’s a short visit home for the Flash who are looking to pick up three points before beginning a long three-game road trip.
It is the first meeting for the two teams and the Dash will be challenged on the defensive front, especially against Abby Wambach and Carli Lloyd. The Flash will also have crafty Australian midfielder Sam Kerr back from her national team duties.
However, the Flash have only scored more than two goals in one game this season — their season-opener. If Houston can find a way to limit the Flash offense and string together a few goals of their own, they may have a chance to spoil Western New York’s homecoming.
SEATTLE REIGN FC at SKY BLUE FC (Sunday at 6pm ET – watch live)
Sky Blue FC may not appear to be a huge threat with a 2-4-4 record, but they did manage to win a tough game in Portland only a week ago. Seattle needs to limit the speed of Monica Ocampo and contain Kelley O’Hara, who has scored twice in the last three games.
Scottish midfielder Kim Little has led Seattle’s offense, but forward Sydney Leroux is due for a breakout game. She has only contributed one goal for Seattle in 2014, but she is capable of scoring quickly and often once she gets rolling. Sky Blue FC may have one of the best goalkeepers in the league in Jill Loyden, but she will need to play her best against the Reign to hold off the league’s most potent offense.
WASHINGTON SPIRIT at BOSTON BREAKERS (Sunday at 6:30pm ET – watch live)
The Boston Breakers, mired in a horrendous season to date, may have found their spark with a 4-1 win over the Portland Thorns on Wednesday night. The question is whether that match was a fluke or a turning point.
Coach Tom Durkin shook up his Breakers lineup against the Thorns and it will be interesting to see if he follows that game plan again on Sunday. He sat a handful of starters in favor of his younger bench — and they responded overwhelmingly well. Notable was the hat trick by forward Jazmine Reeves, who took full advantage of her fourth start of the season.
On the other side, offense for the Washington Spirit is starting to hit their stride, producing three goals in each of the last three games. The weakness for the Spirit is they tend to have defensive breakdowns right after they score.
Scheduling could be a factor, too. Washington is beginning a four-game road trip and has struggled to win away from home. However, a win in Boston would propel them to third place in the league, which may be just the motivation that the Spirit need against the Breakers.
What do you think of this weekend’s NWSL slate? Which matchup are you looking forward to the most? Can the Breakers ride their last win and continue up the league table? Can Sky Blue FC and O’Hara keep up their newfound attacking prowess against the league’s best team?
Share your thoughts below.