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NWSL Week 4 weekend preview: Reign come home

Jessica Fishlock, Seattle Reign FC
Jessica Fishlock, Seattle Reign FC

Welsh midfielder Jessica Fishlock has stood out for Seattle Reign FC, but can she help deliver the first league victory? (Copyright Patricia Giobetti | http://www.printroom.com/pro/psgiobetti)

It’s Week 4 in the National Women’s Soccer League and Saturday features three matches after the Western New York Flash beat Sky Blue FC 2-1 on Wednesday to kick off the week early.

Saturday, FC Kansas City travels to Seattle to take on Reign FC. It’s a rematch of last week, when Kansas City prevailed 2-0 at home.

Elsewhere, Chicago starts a brutal stretch the includes four of five games on the road (at Boston, Sky Blue FC, Western New York and Portland) and the one home game is against Thorns FC. The Red Stars might need something out of Saturday’s result in Boston, where the Breakers play for the first time since the Boston Marathon bombings. They will wear and sell these Boston Strong bracelets and they’ll be wearing Boston Strong Nike warmup shirts that they will sign and auction off in support of The One Fund Boston, Inc.

Chicago Red Stars (0-1-1, 1 pt.) at Boston Breakers (1-0-1, 4 pts.)
Saturday, 6 p.m. EDT
Dilboy Stadium, Somerville, Mass.
Series:  First meeting (3-3-1 in WPS)

Quick Look:  The Breakers will play their first home match since the Boston Marathon bombings that held the city captive for a week.  The subsequent lockdown of the city forced the team to abandon a trip to Kansas City after which they went to Rochester and emerged with a 2-1 victory over the Flash.  The Red Stars have been on a similar schedule having drawn and lost their first two matches, both at home.

Tactical Short:  Erin McLeod had an excellent match for the Red Stars against the Thorns, most on due to the Thorns relentless attack.  The Breakers appear willing to mix it up and down and pitch which they may be able to do more effectively with the Red Stars at the start of a four-to-six week window without the services of Shannon Boxx.

Portland Thorns FC (2-0-1, 7 pts.) at Washington Spirit (0-1-2, 2 pts.)
Saturday, 7 p.m. EDT
Maryland SoccerPlex, Boyds, Md.
Series:  First meeting

Quick Look:  In the first tangible evidence that the Thorns will be draw outside Portland, the Spirit announced that the game will  be a sellout (4,500-plus).  That said it will be the third home match for the Spirit who have yet to win.  The Thorns have the reverse profile.  They remain undefeated heading into their third away match of the young campaign.

Tactical Short:  Diana Matheson—goals aside—has been the best Spirit player this season and the key to this match might be Matheson’s ability to hold possession and create quality chances off her touches.  The Thorns’ high pressure has made them extremely difficult to create against.

FC Kansas City (1-0-1, 4 pts.) at Seattle Reign FC (0-2-1, 1 pt.)
Saturday, 11 p.m. EDT
Starfire Stadium, Tukwila, Wash.
Series:  First meeting

Quick Look:  The Reign will finally play their home opener, making them the last NWSL team to do so.  The opening road trip did not go so well with only a single point to show for thus far.  They unveiled Jessica Fishlock as one of the young, energetic midfielders in the world, but her ball-winning has been too much of the conversation in the absence of goals or even quality chances.  Kansas City has done little wrong and the early look of things has them with the best rear seven in NWSL.

Tactical Short:  Reign FC coach Laura Harvey said the team needs to stop conceding silly goals and that all five goals scored on them this season have been preventable.  One way to tighten up the defensive effort is to hold more possession, a difficult task with Jen Buczkowski and Desiree Scott thwarting many attacks before they get to the Blues back line.  The onus will be on Fishlock and whoever Harvey deploys up top to unlock the blue wall defense.

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