It’s Week 7 in NWSL and we’re headlong into the second quarter of the season. On the docket this weekend is the second edition of the Pacific Northwest Derby, and first in Seattle, plus a battle between Sky Blue FC and FC Kansas City, two of the three NWSL sides to have dropped only five points to date.
Here is a closer look:
Chicago Red Stars (0-3-2) at Western New York Flash (2-2-1)
Friday, 7:05 p.m. EDT
Series: First meeting
Quick Look: Although it is their first meeting as top flight clubs this is a rematch of sorts from last summer’s WPSL Elite championship match won by the Flash on the strength of a 96th minute equalizer and a penalty kick shootout. Both coaches, the venue, and some players are the same, but the fortunes of the clubs have been divergent over the last 10 months. The Red Stars are winless in NWSL and will be without Leslie Osborne (knee) for this one and possibly Erin McLeod (hand). The Flash have won two straight after a tough start and their injured midfielder Carli Loyd is just getting back in action. The Red Stars welcomed Sonja Fuss and Inka Grings from Germany this week but the pair did not travel to Rochester.
Tactical Short: Loyd has had a dozen days off since the Flash last played, which could allow her to start. If she does it will leave whoever starts in Osborne’s place—Jackie Santacaterina? Michelle Wenino?—squarely in the crosshairs. Meanwhile newly minted Canadian international Rachel Quon will be under the gun trying to deal with the Flash’s outstanding flank play out of midfield.
Washington Spirit (1-3-3) at Boston Breakers (2-1-2)
Saturday, 7 p.m. EDT
Series: Tied, 0-0-2
Quick Look: The Spirit and Breakers meet for the third time this season trying to break the stalemate after 1-1 draws in the first two. The match two weeks ago at the SoccerPlex was one of the more entertaining of the season with both teams putting forth stretches of gorgeous soccer and Lori Lindsey connecting on one of the most aesthetically pleasing goals we have seen. This time the Breakers will be looking to bounce back from a loss for the first time and the Spirit will be looking to get Ashlyn Harris back in goal after missing last Sunday for a knee injury. The Breakers are expected to announce Alyssa Naeher as their new goalkeeper signing but she will not be available for this one.
Tactical Short: The Spirit’s right-sided combination of Ali Krieger and Diana Matheson is one of the league’s best and that’s where they can take their advantage on the Breakers. Boston left back Julie King was beaten on numerous occasions two weeks ago and could require help in defending. In turn that could open up more room for Lindsey to do her thing in the middle of the park.
Sky Blue FC (5-1-1) FC Kansas City (3-1-1)
Saturday, 8:35 p.m. EDT
Verizon Wireless Field
Series: First meeting
Quick Look: Two of three teams to have dropped a league-low five points and the only clubs to take points off the third member of that group (the Thorns) do battle in Kansas. Sky Blue is rolling with three consecutive victories, all shutouts, while FC Kansas City overcame the absence of Becky Sauerbrunn last weekend to deal the Breakers their first loss of the campaign. The Blues will look to get Sauerbrunn back in the lineup to play next to Lauren Sesselmann, also expected to be available after exiting early against the Breakers.
Tactical Short: The midfield battle should be entertaining with Canadians Sophie Schmidt and Desiree Scott matching up and Sky Blue in search of a way to contain Lauren Cheney. But this one could come down to Christie Rampone’s ability to match strides with Renae Cuellar and if she can, Kansas City’s ability to send other players forward in what has heretofore been a fairly strict 4-2-3-1.
Portland Thorns FC (5-1-1) at Seattle Reign FC (0-6-1)
Saturday, 10 p.m. EDT
Series: Thorns lead, 1-0-0
Quick Look: There is one simple truth ahead of the second meeting between the league’s Pacific Northwest sisters: It is desperation time for the Reign. They have lost six in a row and have rarely looked capable of beating a quality NWSL side in the process. When the final whistle blows on this one their season will be more than one-third complete. To get off the schneid they’ll have to overcome injuries to Elli Reed and Kate Deines plus the loss of Jenny Ruiz to a suspension for being red carded last weekend against Sky Blue.
Tactical Short: The best bet for the Reign is for Canadians Emily Zurrer and Kaylyn Kyle to form the center back pairing. Both will need stark improvements over recent weeks if they have any hope of keeping Alex Morgan, Christine Sinclair & friends off the scoreboard.
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