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NWSL mid-week 9 preview: KC-WNY look to steady ships

Washington Spirit (5-4-1) at Chicago Red Stars (6-2-1)
Benedictine University Sports Complex
Wednesday, 8 pm EDT
Series: tied, 2-2-0 (Spirit, 1-0-0 in 2014)

The two hottest teams this side of Seattle meet with the Spirit looking to move into 2nd place and the Red Stars trying to solidify themselves as the biggest threat to the Reign. The Spirit have not lost in their last four, the Red Stars in six, the last five of which have been victories. Last time they met it was a cold, windy night in Chicago and the Spirit prevailed 1-0. This time the story is the group of new Red Stars, notably Christen Press who will be eligible for selection for the first time in NWSL. They could also use New Zealand defender Emily Erceg and possibly Emily Van Egmond who as of midday Wednesday was still awaiting final clearance.

What to watch for: Both clubs are evolving and far better than they were when the Spirit won 1-0 in Chicago in April. Notably, forwards Jen Hoy and Jodie Taylor have evolved into weekly goal-scoring threats. The Red Stars like to play Hoy over the top and the Spirit like to playoff Christine Nairn and spread the ball wide. If Robyn Gayle can’t go again—she is listed as probable—it likely pulls Crystal Dunn out of midfield again to play left back.

Western New York Flash (3-4-2) at FC Kansas City (4-4-3)
Durwood Stadium
Wednesday, 8 pm EDT
Series: Flash lead 2-0-1 (1-0-0 in 2014)

Amazingly this match takes a backseat standings wise to the Spirit and Red Stars. It may actually be more important though with a pair of last year’s playoff clubs looking to avoid slipping farther down the table. Currently Kansas City are in better form and also rested for the first time in a while having been off none days after playing nine times over 30 days. The Flash, who are unlikely to have Abby Wambach (knee) available, are winless in their last four and playing their worst soccer since joining NWSL. Amy LePieilbet, who has not played since 2012, is probable for Kansas City for the first time this season.

What to watch for: This fascinating contrast in styles has been tilted towards the Flash through three matchups. The Blues will be looking to keep enough possession so as to force the Flash back on their heels and prevent them from countering and being able to play over the top. Central players Angela Salem and Brittany Taylor have been off form of late and Taylor has a thumb injury that may keep her from this one. That could help swing the balance of power to a rested KC side.


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