NWSL Week 14 Preview: Playoff races tighten for teams

nwsl preview week 14

by TOM SLATER

The biggest game in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Week 14 fixtures involves our own Sky Blue FC. But there are a few other games with playoff implications as the league steams ahead toward the Olympic break.

There a four matches in Week 14 — all on Saturday. Portland and Boston do not play.

Let’s take a look.

Saturday, July 23

Orlando Pride (6-7-0, 18 points) at Seattle Reign (4-4-5, 13 points): Both teams are on the edge of the playoffs, one spot behind Sky Blue FC. This is a golden chance for the winner to keep pace as July is coming to a close.

Seattle drew with Western New York Flash last weekend, 1-1. Manon Melis scored in the third minute and then Seattle held on for dear life. The Flash threw everything on the attack for most of the match but could only come up with the equalizer and the draw.

Seattle has lost only once in seven matches but their 2-1-4 record keeps them four points out of the playoff spot.

Kim Little will be looking to come out of a goal-scoring slump of sorts, not having hit the back of the net in the last seven games. The Reign has looked better with the return of Japan international Nahomi Kawasumi, who scored twice in her return several weeks ago.

Orlando hopes to be road warriors with four of their next five matches away from home. So far, things haven’t been generous to the Pride away from home. The expansion side has won just once as the visitors in their inaugural season with a 1-5-0 road record and the second-worst road offense in the league (0.33 goals per away game).

Coach Tom Sermanni’s team will also be looking to snap out of a run that has seen Orlando win just twice in their last seven matches overall – with the Pride suffering a 1-0 loss at the hands of the Chicago Red Stars in Week 13.

Houston Dash (3-7-1, 10 points) at Chicago Red Stars (6-4-3, 21 points): The Dash snapped out of their six-game scoreless streak with vengeance by blanking the league-leading Portland, 3-0. Captain Kalia Ohai had a goal and assist to lead the way as Amber Brooks and Rachel Daly also found the back of the net.

Saturday’s game is the second and final meeting between the two teams this season. The Dash won the first encounter 3-1 with Daly, midfielder Carli Lloyd and forward Janine Beckie all scoring to overcome a Christen Press goal for Chicago on the opening day of the season.

Houston has yet to win on the road against the Red Stars but have managed to come away with two draws from three previous trips to Chicago. Houston has a 1-5 road record this year.

Chicago also comes into the contest holding onto a two-point lead over Sky Blue FC for the fourth and final playoff spot. Despite their recent troubles, Chicago has enjoyed a reasonable amount of success at home this season. The Red Stars have the third-best record in front of their own fans this year (2.20 points per home game) – and with a 3-0-2 record at Toyota Park, Chicago is the only team in the league not to have been beaten at home.

The Red Stars will be counting on Sofia Huerta and her fellow attackers to help get things going for the Red Stars, who have suffered shutouts in three of their last four matches. Indeed, Chicago has scored fewer than two goals in 11 of 13 matches so far this season – the second most in the league.

FC Kansas City(3-6-4, 13 points) at Western New York (8-4-1, 25 points): The Flash are one point away from first place but could have been sitting at the top of the NWSL table with a little luck against Seattle last weekend.

Jess McDonald’s goal gave the Flash the draw and had many chances to pull ahead but could not connect on the game-winner.  The goal was the fourth in four games – to go along with four assists as well during that stretch – for the Western New York forward.

McDonald enters the match Saturday second in the league with six goals – one behind teammate Lynn Williams – and tied with college teammate and Portland Thorns FC midfielder Tobin Heath for first in assists with five.

While the tie didn’t help them climb into first, it did help the Flash extend their four-game unbeaten streak. The game Saturday wraps up a stretch that will have seen Western New York play eight of nine contests at home, including a seven-match home stand during which the Flash went 6-1-0.

FC Kansas City, the two-time defending NWSL champions, comes into the contest trying to rebound from a 3-2 loss at the hands of the Washington Spirit in Week 13. Shea Groom and midfielder Frances Silva both scored in the second half for the Blues, but it was not enough to overcome Washington.

The goal for Groom was her third in the last two games and fifth overall on the season – third most in the league.


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