Seattle Reign FC reports to Verizon Wireless Field on Saturday night tied for the longest active unbeaten streak (6 games) in the National Women’s Soccer league. And yet they are still in seventh place, nine points removed from a playoff spot.
But it’s third place FC Kansas City looking to buck a small but disturbing trend on Saturday. That’s a precarious position for a team sharing that feat of six games unbeaten, but late-game disappointments have added an asterisk to Kansas City’s run.
The Blues have twice blown two-goal leads in the 85th minute or later over the past month, valuable and costly four points that would have seen FC Kansas City (7-4-5, 26 pts.) move into a tie with Sky Blue FC (9-3-4, 31 pts.) for the league lead had all other results held (since one of the blown leads was against Sky Blue FC).
[MORE: Kansas City’s late collapse vs. Sky Blue FC | And vs. Chicago]
“One thing we definitely need to change and work on is the psychological aspect,” FC Kansas City coach Vlatko Andonovski told The Equalizer after Sunday’s 3-3 draw with Chicago. “Finishing, being focused and concentrated all the way through so you don’t have any letdowns late in the game.”
Andonovski remained positive on his team’s outlook for the final stretch of the regular season, as he should. With Lauren Holiday (nee Cheney) conducting the attack, Erika Tymrak developing into an up-and-coming midfielder and a back six as good as any in the league, Kansas City is a legitimate title contender.
But the once clear divide in the table has become a bit of a mash-up with Boston, Chicago and, to some extent, Seattle, sneaking up on the Top 4. That tightening trend that will continue if Seattle can come away with a result on Saturday night.
“They are a good team and this is a big game, so we are aware of that,” Andonovski said of Seattle. “We are going to be ready to play against them just like we are playing against the best team in the league.”
With Seattle on a six-game winning streak and playing like one of the better teams in the league over the last three weeks, chatter over how realistic a playoff spot could be has gained some traction.
Some sort of 2009 Sky Blue-esk run would be a spectacular story, but the possibilities remain bleak. Seattle (4-9-3, 15 pts.) cannot obtain more than 33 points, assuming they win out (a tall task for any team). Here’s the full scenario broken down from the NWSL.
Saturday’s match against Kansas City is the first of two major ‘six-point’ games, with the other being an August 7 visit to Rochester, N.Y. to take on the Flash, currently in fourth place. Kansas City and Western New York currently hold the last two playoff spots, so beating them also holds back those teams, which exactly the help that Seattle needs.
Where can the Reign take solace?
Three of their final six games are against Chicago (twice) and the last-place Washington Spirit, three very winnable games. Assuming maximum points there (a major assumption against an on-again, off-again Chicago team), Seattle still must find ways to win or at least draw in matches against Kansas City, Western New York and the season finale at home against Portland Thorns FC.
If that August 17 date vs. Portland arrives and the Reign have a shot to sneak into the playoffs, it could be one of the greatest in-season turnarounds imaginable (remember, this team started 0-9-2), eclipsing even an ’09 Sky Blue team that really wasn’t even very good until the playoffs.
Still, the task remains monumental, and a Kansas City win on Saturday would put a major dent on the hopes of Laura Harvey’s squad.
You make the call: Does Seattle really have what it takes to get back into the playoff mix?
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