NWSL Week 15: Last weekend before Olympic break provides interesting matches

week 15 nwsl preview

by TOM SLATER

After this weekend, two-thirds of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) will be complete. With a nearly month-long break to follow for the Olympics, all four playoff spots are still up for grabs.

This weekend, some interesting matchups will take place that will again have an effect.

Saturday, July 30

FC Kansas City (4-6-4, 16 points) at Chicago Red Stars)(6-4-4, 22 points): This is the first of three matches between these two sides in the final quarter of the season.

The Blues are two-time defending NWSL champs but appear to be a long shot to return to the playoff. Even so, they are one of the hottest teams in the league. Goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart let the team to a 1-0 win over the Western New York Flash and was named the Player of the Week for her efforts.

Shea Groom scored the goal and will again be counted on to score for FC Kansas City. Groom has four goals in the last three games and is tied for second in the league lead with six.

Chicago has won just once in its last five matches after a home draw with Houston last weekend. Midfielder Danielle Colaprico scored her first goal of the season in the third minute from a well-worked corner routine with Vanessa DiBernardo, while goalkeeper Michele Dalton made two saves in the draw.

Western New York Flash (8-5-1, 25 points)  at Houston Dash (3-7-2, 11 points): The Flash are looking to rebound after their 1-0 loss to FC Kansas City despite having a 14-3 advantage in shots.

Western New York will look to rebound against a Houston Dash team that has ended a six-game streak of 1-0 losses with a win and draw in their last two matches. Rachel Daly and Kealia Ohai have developed into a potent scoring due with Daly getting the game-tying goal against Chicago last weekend.

The Flash have been playing high-scoring games at home and tight affairs on the road. This match begins five of six matches away from Rochester for Western New York.

Seattle Reign (5-4-5, 19 points) at Portland Thorns FC (7-2-5, 26 points) : Seattle hopes it can use last week’s 5-2 win over Orlando to vault back into the playoff race. The Reign sit only two points out of fourth place and hope that the offensive combo of Jess Fishlock and Kim Little can keep the momentum swinging in their favor.

Little scored her record-high 30th goal in last week’s victory with three other Reign players hitting the back of the net.

Portland will be looking to shake off the rust after enjoying a bye in Week 14.

The Thorns held onto the top spot in the NWSL standings despite not playing thanks to the Washington Spirit and Western New York Flash both losing in Week 14.

Portland has traditionally performed better on longer rest with a 5-3-3 record in games after nine or more days off, which is good news for Mark Parsons’ team – who has lost their last two games after starting the season with a 12-game unbeaten streak.

The Thorns will be looking to avoid defeat in three straight games for the third time in club history.

Sunday, July 31

Orlando Pride (6-8-0, 18 points) at Boston Breakers (1-11-1, 4 points): This is the last NWSL game before the Olympic break. Orlando is coming off a 5-2 loss to Seattle while Boston had a bye week last weekend.

It was the second straight loss for the Pride, who are 2-6-0 in their last eight games. However, Orlando still finds itself  only four points out of the fourth and final playoff spot with six games to play and have posted a 4-2-0 record so far this season against teams remaining on their schedule – including a 1-0 victory over Boston in the previous meeting between the clubs this year.

Kristen Edmonds and Jasmyne Spencer are the Pride’s biggest offensive weapons, both with goals in last week’s match.