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NWSL Week 19 Saturday Preview

Hope Solo_Seattle Reign vs. Portland Thorns
Hope Solo_Seattle Reign vs. Portland Thorns

Hope Solo and the Reign will be trying to turn the tables on the Thorns and secure their first clean sheet of the season. (Photo copyright Mike Russell | mikerussellfoto.com)

Four games to go and while the playoff spots are booked, none of the positions are spoken for.  Saturday the Flash can secure a home playoff date while the Reign are in search of their first shutout of the season.  Here is a closer look at the Week 19 Saturday action in NWSL:

Boston Breakers (8-7-6) at Western New York Flash (9-4-8)
Saturday, 8 pm EDT (FOX Soccer, note time change)
Sahlen’s Stadium
Series:  Breakers lead, 1-0-2

Quick Look:  The Flash enter their final match knowing that a win will assure them of hosting a semifinal match at Sahlen’s Stadium in a week’s time (barring the Thorns erasing a gap of nine in terms of goal difference.)  They have lost only one time at home this season but that was to the Breakers in the home opener.  The teams drew both games in Boston with the Flash rallying late each time.  The Flash—looking for their fourth straight title while playing in four different leagues—can finish first if they win and FC Kansas City loses Sunday and can still finish 2nd and host a playoff game with a loss or draw and some help.  The Breakers won’t be going to the playoffs but they can send interim coach Cat Whitehill out undefeated.  They are 2-0-1 since Whitehill replaced Lisa Cole.

Tactical Short:  The Flash will not have Alex Sahlen again which could benefit the Breakers’ use of Heather O’Reilly on the outside.  They have also played with more width since Whitehill took over and tweaked the shape.  With nothing to gain in terms of the playoffs the Breakers are free to force service to Sydney Leroux who trails Lauren Holiday by a goal (12-11) for the golden boot award.  The Flash’s Abby Wambach is two back (10).

Seattle Reign FC (5-13-3) at Portland Thorns FC (10-6-5)
Saturday, 11 pm EDT
Starfire Stadium
Series:  Thorns lead, 3-0-0

Quick Look:  If the Flash win then the only way for the Thorns to get a home playoff match will be to win this one by enough to overcome a nine-goal difference on the Flash.  In other words, they’ll be on the road.  If the Flash get tripped up the Thorns will be looking to pour it on a bit since Sky Blue can pass them by overcoming a much more manageable one-goal difference.  If they outpoint Sky Blue and the Flash or just the Flash while maintaining goal difference on Sky Blue, they will bring playoff soccer to JELD-WEN Field.  The Reign—who have announced the match as a sellout—will be trying to get their first result against their Pacific Northwest rivals but have suddenly dropped three straight after a summer surge.  Last time the Thorns visited Starfire they stole a 1-0 victory on a penalty call that the Professional Referee Organization later ruled was a mistake.

Tactical Short:  The Thorns’ attack did not look great without Alex Morgan last week, something they will want to rectify in the event Morgan is unavailable or limited come playoff time.  A less than perfect Thorns’ offense would boost the Reign’s chances of earning an elusive shutout.  They are the only NWSL team without one.

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