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NWSL mid-Week 4 Preview: Midwest rivals collide

Jen Hoy ruined FC Kansas City's shot at a trophy last season. (Photo Courtesy Chicago Red Stars)

Seattle Reign FC (3-0-0) at Sky Blue FC (0-1-2)
Yurcak Field
Wednesday, 7 p.m. EDT
Series: Sky Blue lead, 2-0-0

The Reign hit the road for the first time after authoring an impressive start to the season with three wins at home, during which they outscored opponents 8-1 and did not concede in the run of play.  Sky Blue dominated both meetings last season, but this is a new Reign team and most of what happened last season should be tossed out the window.  Injuries could be a factor.  Megan Rapinoe did not make the trip East with the Reign and Sky Blue’s Christie Rampone has been limited to one start and one second-half appearance off the bench.  Sky Blue lists their captain as probable.  Weather could also be a factor.  Heavy rain is expected in the area throughout the evening.

What to watch for:  The Reign midfield.  It’s a beautiful thing to watch.  So far Keelin Winters and Jess Fishlock have been controlling games by winning balls and finding Kim Little and others in higher positions.  That is an area of the field that has been troublesome for Sky Blue and their thin corps of forwards.  They’ll need to take advantage of what chances they get.  The Reign also defend every inch of turf with outstanding spacing and support runs.  Whoever lands in the holding spot for Sky Blue will have her hands full and the outside backs can expect a busy night as well.

Chicago Red Stars (1-1-0) at FC Kansas City (0-2-1)
Verizon Wireless Field at Durwood Stadium
Wednesday, 8 p.m. EDT
Series: Red Stars lead, 2-1-1

The Midwest Melee returns for a second season after ending with a bang in 2013.  In the final act of the regular season, Jen Hoy scored in the 92nd minute to beat the Blues and cost them the regular season championship.  Fast forward and Kansas City is at the other end of the table having been outscored 6-2 in consecutive road losses in Washington and Portland.  The Red Stars, meanwhile, are trying to be more technical and less direct.  So far the results have been mixed.  They have yet to score in the run of play while beating last year’s regular season champs and losing to the bottom dwellers.  Not as much rain is forecast in Kansas City as in New Jersey, but temperatures could dip into the low 40s.

What to watch for:  The 2013 FC Kansas City club struggled to protect leads and close out matches, and visions of those lost points no doubt seeped in when they were on the front foot in Portland only to allow two late goals in a 3-1 loss.  The Red Stars will be a good test.  They play to the final whistle as well as any team in NWSL, and their rookie tandem of Vanessa DiBernardo and Julie Johnston are a handful on set pieces.  Both teams can be effective in the counterattack so midfield possession could wind up being the key to getting a result.

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