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NWSL Mid-Week 17 preview

Sixteen weeks down, three to go.  No one has clinched a playoff berth and only one team, the Spirit, have been mathematically eliminated.  Wednesday will kick off Week 17 and wrap up July and the midweek action includes a huge match between two sides fighting for second place despite recent struggles.

Here is a look at the midweek action in NWSL Week 17:

Washington Spirit (1-12-4) at Western New York Flash (7-4-6)
Wednesday, 7:05 pm EDT
Sahlen’s Stadium
Series:  Flash lead, 2-0-1

Quick Look:  The Flash have a match in hand on the two teams chasing them for 4th, and on two of the three teams they are chasing.  So while they appear to be the outlier in the battle for regular season honors the Flash sit in a decent spot with some favorable scheduling ahead.  It is cliché to say the task is difficult because no one ever wants to be the team that loses to the side riding an 11-match losing streak.  For those scoring at home that is one game more since the coaching change than before.  Both teams will have fresh players available.  Adriana returns for the Flash after missing six weeks with Spain and Marisa Abegg should be available for the Spirit after signing earlier Wednesday.

Tactical Short:  The Spirit back line is a mess of injured bodies and attackers playing out of position.  Ali Krieger has been upgraded to questionable with Robyn Gayle, but Candace Chapman is out four days after taking an early injury against the Breakers.  Does a patchwork group of defenders stand any chance of containing Abby Wambach? It will take a yeoman effort in midfield to keep the Flash from beating on the Spirit’s back four.

Sky Blue FC (9-5-4) at Portland Thorns FC (9-4-4)
Wednesday, 10:30 pm EDT
JELD-WEN Field
Series:  Sky Blue lead, 1-0-1

Quick Look:  The battle for 2nd place is also a match between two teams trying to find their best footing heading into the final month.  The Thorns could not hold a 3-1 lead at home with less than 20 minutes to play against the Red Stars on Sunday, the 3-3 draw dropping them to 1-2-3 over their last six.  Sky Blue has been blanked in three straight and are 1-3-3 in their last seven.  Interestingly both streaks date to the scoreless draw the teams played at Yurcak Field on June 22.

Tactical Short:  In two meetings Sky Blue has dwarfed Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan on their way to shutting out the Thorns twice.  Injuries have told the Sky Blue story of late though.  With Caitlin Foord out and rookie Lindsi Lisonbee-Cutchall slated to start at right back again that could be the area the Thorns mark to do their most ambitious attacking.  But a formful Sky Blue midfield is capable of denying service to Morgan, Sinclair, and friends.

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