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Team-by-team breakdown: 2014 NWSL schedule

Kealia Ohai and the Dash will host Portland Thorns FC in their first-ever NWSL match on April 12. (Photo by Meg Linehan for The Equalizer)

The 2014 NWSL schedule was finally released on Friday.  As expected the season opens Saturday, April 12 and runs through Sunday, August 17 after which there will be two weekends of playoffs.  Of the 108 total matches, 34 of them (31 percent) are on midweek evenings (not including the Memorial Day match in Washington.)  That is up slightly from last season when 20 of 88 matches (23 percent) were scheduled for midweek evenings (not including the July 4 afternoon match in Chicago or the rescheduled match in Kansas City.)

[FULL 2014 NWSL schedule announced]

Following is a team-by-team look at the 2014 schedule courtesy of The Equalizer team.

Boston Breakers

The Breakers will start their season in the shadow of the Space Needle at Memorial Stadium against Seattle Reign FC on April 13. Their home opener, a week later on April 20, is against the Houston Dash. Notably, the game takes place Easter Sunday and during Marathon weekend, which could affect sales positively or prove to be a tough sell for what promises to be an emotional time for the city of Boston. The Breakers will play 14 weekend games and 10 weeknight games; all home games at Harvard Stadium will be on Sunday nights if they are not midweek. The breakdown is: 12 Sunday night games, 2 Saturday games, 5 Wednesday games, 2 Thursday games, 3 Friday games.

The Breakers will have a brutal scheduling challenge in the middle of their season. From June 22 to July 25, they will go on a 7 game away stretch, and will not play once at home in Harvard in the month of July. While scheduling conflicts with the University appear to be at the root of the problem, this is sure to take a physical toll on the players. The seven games are against Sky Blue FC June 22, a first trip to Western New York on June 27, then July starts in Washington, to Seattle by July 6, Houston on July 11, back to the Pacific Northwest to face the Thorns on July 20, and finishing with a second appearance at Sahlen’s July 25.

The Breakers will only face Seattle one at home, on a Thursday night on June 19 for the return of forward Sydney Leroux. Portland only makes one trip out to Boston as well, again on a weeknight; a tough hit for ticket sales.

[More:  Full Breakers schedule]

Chicago Red Stars

The Red Stars will play early and late at home and will also enjoy a fan friendly yet challenging three-match home stand in July.  For starters though, it is Red Stars fans that will be forced to wait out Week 1 on the sidelines before the club opens play April 19 against the Flash.  That match is expected to be played at an alternate venue with details to be announced Monday.  The Benedictine opener is a week later against the Spirit.

The Red Stars’ July schedule is mouthwatering in the sense that the Thorns are in twice in eight days, July 9 and 17, with a visit from the Reign sandwiched in between on July 12.  Those games are bookended by away matches in Portland on July 4 and Seattle on July 20.  That means the Red Stars will play the Cascadian teams five times over a 17-day window.  The July 4 match by the way, is the end of a three-match road stretch that includes Western New York and FC Kansas City.

The Red Stars also have a scheduling quirk that will see them play in Boston twice in four days, May 15 and 18.  And should they need to make up points late in the season they will have a chance to do so at home as they season concludes with visits from FC Kansas City, Boston and Western New York.

The Red Stars do not have a Pacific Northwest swing on their schedule.

[More:  Full Red Stars schedule]

FC Kansas City

The first thing jumping out about the Blues schedule is that they don’t play Week 19.  Since nearly half the league will play twice that week FC Kansas City could spend a lot of time sweating after their schedule concludes August 9 in Chicago.

After opening at home against Sky Blue FC, FCKC ventures away to play Washington followed by Portland in an April 26 rematch of the league’s first ever match and first ever playoff match, both in Kansas City a year ago.

The Blues will get their first look at the Dash on May 3 in Houston.  And the first of three Midwest Melee matches with the Red Stars is April 30 in Kansas City (the third, also in Kansas City, is June 21.)

FC Kansas City will not play the Thorns and Reign on the same trip this season.

[More:  Full Kansas City schedule]

Houston Dash

The Dash will debut with a splash when they play their first NWSL match at home against the champion Thorns on the evening of April 12.  It will be a battle between the two MLS-backed league clubs and should be a well-attended opener at BBVA Compass.

FC Kansas City, the nearest team to the Dash geographically, will be in Houston for the first time May 3 and again June 14.  The Dash will play in Kansas City on May 18

Dash fans will have their loyalties put to the test starting June 11 when the club plays six out of seven in Houston ending June 28.

There will be a Cascadia trip through Portland (August 3) and Seattle (August 6.)

[More:  Full Dash schedule]

Portland Thorns FC

One of the big stories of the NWSL schedule reveal is Portland traveling opening weekend to take on the newest team in the league, the Houston Dash, on opening day April 12. After a second away game at Sky Blue, Portland will welcome reigning NWSL champs back to JELD-WEN when FC Kansas City comes to town on April 26. The two teams last played in JELD-WEN in a disappointing match for the Thorns that lost them home-field advantage in the play-offs, so look for this game to have some real meaning for the Rose City Riveters and fans.

There’s no long away stretch for Portland, but they will face a particularly nasty travel combo starting July 9 of back-and-forth home and away action that could easily prove just as troublesome. First, they head to Chicago, then return home on the 13th to take on FCKC. They they go back to Chicago July 17th, and the turnaround time is even worse for their next home match against Boston on July 20. It doesn’t end there: they head to the East Coast to take on DC July 23, and finally head back to Portland on July 27th to host Seattle.

Portland has a similar midweek/weekend breakdown to Seattle, with 16 weekend games (9 on Saturdays, 7 on Sundays) and 8 weeknight games (6 on Wednesdays, and one apiece on Thursday and Friday).

[More:  Full Thorns schedule]

Seattle Reign

Seattle will get to show off their new home, Memorial Stadium, during the opening weekend of NWSL action when they host the Breakers on April 13. Their season actually starts with a three-game home stand, with the Spirit and the Dash visiting after Boston. For Seattle, there are no huge away stretches that could cause problems. April 30 starts a three-game away trip to New Jersey and DC, and concludes it with the first face-off against Pacific Northwest neighbors Portland Thorns FC on May 10.

The rivalry between Portland and Seattle promises to be much stronger in 2014, and the teams will meet three times this season. Seattle will host on July 27, and the biggest match-up will certainly be the final weekend of the regular season, when JELD-WEN will welcome (or unwelcome as the case may be), Laura Harvey and co. on August 17. Look for this to certainly be televised and a league showcase, especially if both teams live up to their potential.

Seattle will play 16 of its matches on the weekends (7 Saturday games, 9 Sunday games), and 8 matches midweek (7 Wednesday games and 1 Thursday game). Prepare to stay up late, East Coast.

[More:  Full Reign schedule]

Sky Blue FC

Sky Blue FC were handed a tough schedule on multiple fronts.  Their midweek night matches were frontloaded with three occurring before the end of May, meaning school will still be in session.  That includes an awkward stretch where they will host the Red Stars on Wednesday, May 7, and then not play at home again until Wednesday, May 28, when they host the Red Stars again.  The May 7 match will have the added challenge of being the night before the U.S.-Canada friendly.

Competitively it gets tough at the end with a daunting stretch of road matches in Houston, Western New York, and Washington after bidding adieu to the home fans on Thursday, July 31 against Abby Wambach and the Flash.

If all goes well, momentum will build off the home opener, April 19 against the popular Portland Thorns FC.  Sky Blue and Portland played three entertaining matches in 2013 including a well-played, scoreless draw at Yurcak Field.

The 2013 schedule featured a good mix of Saturday and Sunday matches, but this season there will be no Saturday matches after May 3.  Everything thereafter will be during the week or on Sunday evening.

Sky Blue makes their Pacific Northwest trip on June 25 (Portland) and 28 (Seattle.)  They swept the swing in 2013.

[More:  Full Sky Blue schedule]

Washington Spirit

Last season the Spirit were saddled with a 20-day rest period between games, a period from which they never fully recovered.  No such breaks this season as the Spirit are one of two teams (Thorns are the other) to play at least one match all 19 weeks.  As a result they host only four midweek matches, three in July, and do not play midweek in August.

The new-look Spirit will debut at home against the Flash on April 13 and follow that up six days later at home to FC Kansas City.  They have a three-match home stand in May culminating with a Memorial Day afternoon tilt with the Dash.

A tough road stretch follow starting June 1 in Boston and ending June 15 in Portland.

The Spirit to not play have a Seattle-Portland trip.

[More:  Full Spirit schedule]

Western New York Flash

In what looks like a trend for the coldest market in NWSL the Flash will be the last team to open at home, but when they do it will be a doozy.  The Thorns will be the first team to visit Sahlen’s Stadium on Saturday, May 3.  The Thorns were the last team to play at Western New York when they beat the Flash 2-0 in last year’s final.  The Flash play only twice in the two weeks leading into the home opener.  They open April 13 in Washington and are at Chicago six days later.

Last season the Flash had a grueling stretch of eight road matches out of 10.  This season they will play a stretch of seven of eight in Rochester, beginning June 18 against the Red Stars and concluding July 25 against the Breakers.  The only away match during that time is July 5 in Houston.  The home opener also kicks off a stretch of three at home in eight days.  The Wednesday match against FC Kansas City is the eve of U.S.-Canada followed by a visit from Sky Blue on Sunday, May 11.

The Pacific Northwest swing is May 21 (Portland) and 25 (Seattle).  The Flash were 0-1-1 on their continuous trip west in 2013.

[More:  Full Flash schedule]

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