By LEOPOLDO PONCE
With every team at least three games into the season, rosters are about to get a bit of a shakeup. NWSL sides will be without the services of U.S. Women’s National Team players for the first time this week, as the Americans have convened in Southern California to begin their final preparations for the summer’s Women’s World Cup.
While league-leading Portland Thorns FC comes off of a bye, the Houston Dash are set to take the week off. The Dash could probably benefit from the break, as the club has been winless in its previous three outings.
Meanwhile, the reigning NWSL Player of the Week, Becky Edwards, will look to lead the Western New York Flash to their second victory of the season, while the likes of the Chicago Red Stars and FC Kansas City look to extend their winning streaks to three games.
Here’s a look at this week’s upcoming NWSL matches:
FC KANSAS CITY at WESTERN NEW YORK FLASH (Friday, 7:00pm ET – watch live)
After starting their seasons with two losses, both teams are coming off of victories and will want to stick to on their winning ways.
Despite missing three of their more talented players – Heather O’Reilly, Amy Rodriguez, and Lauren Holiday – FC Kansas City managed a win against the Dash on goals from Shea Groom and Elizabeth Bogus.
The Flash’s offense picked up some steam last weekend as well, netting three goals in a victory against the Breakers.
With both teams now finding some momentum in attack, this game may be decided by which team stands pat in defense. If that’s the case, the Flash may be in a bit of trouble, as it sports the second-worst defense in the league with seven goals allowed through three games.
BOSTON BREAKERS at CHICAGO RED STARS (Saturday, 5:00pm ET – watch live)
So far this season, these two teams on completely different paths. The Red Stars are currently the hottest team in the league and are tied on points atop the league standings, with only goal differential separating them from Thorns FC and first place.
The Breakers, however, are currently the worst team in the league. After losing 3-1 to the struggling Flash, the club seems to be in a downward spiral.
The biggest difference between the clubs this season has been in defense. The Red Stars enter the match with the second-best defense in the league, while the Breakers have leaked more goals than any other side.
While the Breakers may have the league’s worst defense, they have been clicking in attack. The Breakers have only scored one fewer goal than the Red Stars and if they want any chance of halting the hottest team in the league, they’ll need to score early and often. It should also help that the Red Stars will be missing four national team players – Lori Chalupny, Julie Johnston, Christen Press, and Shannon Boxx – while the Breakers will only be missing Alyssa Naeher.
SEATTLE REIGN FC at SKY BLUE FC (Saturday, 7:00pm ET – watch live)
Reign FC is coming off an impressive performance from two very dynamic players, Kim Little and Merrit Mathias. That duo combined to play a part in each of the Reign’s three goals against the Spirit.
After going undefeated in their first two games, Sky Blue FC has gone on a two-game losing streak. During those opening four matches, the club has struggled to produce goals, finding the net just three times – the worst mark in the league.
Though Sky Blue FC may be able to find a goal against a leaky Reign defense that has allowed six goals in four games, they may well struggle to keep up the scoring pace against the best offense in the league.
WASHINGTON SPIRIT at PORTLAND THORNS FC (Saturday, 10:00pm ET – watch live)
After resting during a bye week, the league-leadering Portland Thorns FC return to action against the Washington Spirit. While Thorns FC have yet to taste defeat, the Spirit are coming off of a tough 3-1 loss to the Reign.
The Spirit’s most recent loss was certainly its worst of the young season, as the side never really looked like much of a threat. But the fact remains that, on the whole, the Spirit have been among the most dangerous teams in the league this season, so the loss to the Reign may just be written off as a bad day.
Considering that both of these sides have scored seven times – the second-best mark in NWSL – during the first few weeks, this match certainly has the potential to be a wide-open affair and produce plenty of goals.