NWSL returns from its brief World Cup break with the Thorns hosting FC Kansas City on Friday night followed by three more matches over the weekend. Here is a look:
FC Kansas City (3-4-1) at Portland Thorns FC (2-3-3)
10:00 pm EDT, Providence Park
Series: tied, 3-3-1 (plus 1-1-0 in playoffs)
Points of Interest: This will be the first time two former NWSL champions square off against each other and the first such match in women’s soccer since the Carolina Courage played the San Jose CyberRays in 2003. Neither of those teams made the WUSA playoffs in 2003 and these two struggled leading into the World Cup break in 2015. The Thorns won their first two before their current, club-record, six-match unbeaten streak. FC Kansas City have not found their offense without Lauren Holiday and Amy Rodriguez. Time will tell if Thorns coach Paul Riley used the time off to refine his 3-6-1 or to come up with an alternative.
Washington Spirit (4-3-2) at Chicago Red Stars (4-1-3)
8:00 pm EDT, Benedictine University Sports Complex
Series: Spirit lead, 4-2-0
Points of Interest: This will be the first meeting between these teams since last summer’s epic when a Yael Averbuch blasted the match-winner in stoppage time just after Ashlyn Harris made a point blank save on Christen Press. None of those players will be around for this match, but instead of being a playoff bubble battle, this one is for first place in the league, currently a one-point edge for the Red Stars. This is also the start of the post-World Cup portion of the calendar as the Spirit have Nigerian forward Francisca Ordega available for selection.
Western New York Flash (3-3-1) at Houston Dash (2-2-4)
8:30 pm EDT, BBVA Compass Stadium
Series: Dash lead, 2-1-0
Points of Interest: The Dash went to the break riding a team-record four match unbeaten streak while the Flash handed the Red Stars their first loss of the season to reach .500 for the first time this season. Yes both teams are on the rise. The Dash have nearly achieved their goal of treading water until the end of the World Cup, and they handled the Flash well during their mostly forgettable expansion season. The Flash are quick – can the Dash back line hang with Lynn Williams & friends?
Seattle Reign FC (3-2-2) at Boston Breakers (3-3-2)
4:00 pm EDT, Soldiers Field
Series: Reign lead, 4-0-1
Points of Interest: The Breakers have made a good start to their Soldiers Field existence with three wins and a draw while generally overhauling their back line through the budding pairing of Kassey Kallman and Julie King in central defense. The Reign figure to offer the most significant challenge yet particularly with what figures to be an edge in midfield. The Reign though, have not played well outside Seattle with two losses and a draw.
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