The final midweek matches of the season will bring everyone to 20 games out of 22 for the season and for the second time the four playoff teams could be set by day’s end. Of note Sky Blue do not play but get into the playoffs if the Red Stars do not win. Here is a look at the midweek action in NWSL Week 17:
Portland Thorns FC (10-5-4) at Boston Breakers (6-7-6)
Wednesday, 7 pm EDT
Series: tied, 1-1-0
Quick Look: The last time they met may have been the fulcrum point in both seasons. Meleana Shim’s late goal snapped a four-match winless streak for the Thorns and sent the Breakers to the ledge on which Lisa Cole lost her job. The Thorns need a point to get into the playoffs, and are also in Wednseday if the Red Stars conceded a point. To host a semifinal they’ll have to either outpoint Sky Blue to the finish or maintain their edge in goal difference—currently +2. The Breakers are out if they lose and can be eliminated even with a win.
Tactical Short: Look for the Breakers to play a single holding midfielder again and utilize a bit more width than usual. That should not only serve the Breakers well, but it could foul up the Thorns who have done their best work in the center of the park. The Thorns have also gone seven straight without a defensive clean sheet and will be hard pressed to get one in Boston if they are unable to prevent flank service into Sydney Leroux.
Seattle Reign FC (5-11-3) at Western New York Flash (8-4-7)
Wednesday, 7:05 pm EDT
Series: Reign lead, 1-0-1
Quick Look: The Reign return to the site where they began turning their season around on June 23. They were 0-9-1 before surviving much of the second half with 10 women to earn a draw which began a run that has them 5-2-2 since. But this is their first time on the field since being officially eliminated from the playoffs. The Flash meanwhile are trying to book their invitation which they can do with a win and a non-win by the Red Stars.
Tactical Short: The Reign waited through the first half of the season for Megan Rapinoe to join them and since she has the left side has been a problem for opponents to defend. With Alex Sahlen set to miss her second straight match due to a foot strain the Flash will have to figure out how to contain Rapinoe who can beat them both with her shot and her cross.
Chicago Red Stars (7-7-5) at Washington Spirit (1-14-4
Wednesday, 7:30 pm EDT
Series: Red Stars lead, 2-0-0
Quick Look: The Red Stars keep taking haymakers but here they are with a fighting chance of stealing a playoff spot with less than two weeks to go in the season. Sure they’ll need the Flash to do no better than 1-1-1 over three home matches, but they are in with a chance. On the other side is a Spirit side that was near the bottom before injuries crushed them and that has a final stretch of three games at the SoccerPlex in an effort to move off their total of a single victory.
Tactical Short: Their last meeting was no treat to watch and this one may not be any better with Lori Chalupny still out for the Red Stars. The Spirit played Sky Blue close for a half on the weekend before spending much of the second back on their heels. That certainly won’t work against the Red Stars who will not stop pushing until the final whistle.
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