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NWSL opening weekend matchups preview

Renae Cuellar and FC Kansas City host Portland Thorns FC in Saturday's opener. (Photo Copyright Thad Bell for |

It’s finally here: the inaugural kickoff of the National Women’s Soccer League. The buildup to this day has come quickly; the league was only officially announced five months ago. But anticipation is high and all eight teams are in action, including a marquee matchup on Saturday night.

You won’t be able to throw money down on FC Kansas City vs. Portland Thorns FC at Unibet (the league isn’t that big yet), you can go here to get details of how to watch all four opening weekend games and you can check out all eight of our team-by-team previews here.

Portland Thorns FC at FC Kansas City

Saturday, 8:35pm EDT

Shawnee Mission North High School Stadium

Series:  First meeting

Quick Look:  The two teams most expect to battle it out for first place will christen the league in the first competitive match of any kind for both teams.  The forward duo of Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan are reunited in Portland two years after joining forces in Western New York.  The hosts will unveil their balanced squad and begin their efforts to displace the Thorns both on and off the field.

Tactical Short:  Becky Edwards is poised to catch the eye of national team coach Tom Sermanni.  Look for her to sit on top of the Thorns back line and attempt to control the midfield from her deep position.


Seattle Reign FC at Chicago Red Stars

Sunday, 6pm EDT

Benedictine University Sports Complex

Series:  First meeting

Quick Look:  The teams that hooked up for the first and heretofore only NWSL trade open the season in Chicago.  It is the first match for the brand new Reign and the Red Stars’ first match in the top flight since 2010.  The traded player, Keelin Winters, will suit up for the Reign against the team she was allocated to but never trained with.  Both teams will be making do without significant pieces.  Reign goalkeeper Hope Solo is still recovering from wrist surgery – Michelle Betos is the likely starter.  For the Red Stars, defender Amy LePeilbet is lost for the season after knee surgery.

Tactical Short:  The great unknown in Chicago is how Leslie Osborne and Shannon Boxx will shape up in midfield.  And there is still a chance that Boxx, fresh off the plane from Europe, will sit this one out.


Western New York Flash at Sky Blue FC

Sunday, 6pm EDT

Yurcak Field

Series:  First NWSL meeting (Flash led WPS series, 3-0-1)

Quick Look:  The two surviving WPS championship clubs open up anew at Yurcak Field.  The Flash spent their year off from the top flight fielding a WPSL Elite team and winning that league’s championship.  Sky Blue meanwhile took the year off.  The Flash dominated Sky Blue in their one year going head-to-head in WPS so the hosts will be looking to turn the tables for their first NWSL match.

Tactical Short:  Sky Blue coach Jim Gabarra sent his male assistants into the mix at training this week in an effort to emulate Abby Wambach.  Sky Blue has a bunch of big, young defenders while Wambach remains one of the most dangerous aerial threats in the world.


Washington Spirit at Boston Breakers

Sunday, 6:30 pm EDT

Dilboy Stadium

Series:  First meeting

Quick Look:  Washington and Boston are no strangers to soccer meetings.  The Breakers matched up with the old Washington Freedom in both WUSA and WPS including the 2003 WUSA semifinal that went to the Freedom on penalties.  The Spirit moved up from the W-League (as D.C. United Women) to play in NWSL but have taken some hits for a young roster without much proven scoring punch.  On the other side the Breakers were slow to react after being allocated a teenage goalkeeper and will likely start recent pickup Ashley Phillips.

Tactical Short:  The Breakers backline is a bit long in the tooth and they’ll get their first look at a young, energetic group of Spirit forwards.  The Breakers will need players like Kia McNeill and Cat Whitehill to keep things zipped up in front of their keeper.


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