NWSL has declared this Welcome Back Weekend presented by Coppertone as the fledgling league looks to capitalize on the women’s soccer buzz sweeping the nation over the last week. Here is a look at the three matches, none of which are in conflict with each other in terms of timing.
Portland Thorns FC (3-3-4) at Sky Blue FC (1-6-4)
7:00 pm EDT, Yurcak Field
Series: Sky Blue lead, 3-2-2
Points of Interest: It looked like Sky Blue were about to break their long winless streak last Friday in Portland then then Cami Levin gave away a penalty and got sent off. Just like that a 1-0 Sky Blue lead turned into a 2-1 Thorns’ win. Eight days later they will do it again and Sky Blue are now 10 point out of a playoff spot with nine matches to go. Australian Sam Kerr was expected to get paperwork cleared on Friday and be available for the first time this season, but they will have to replace Levin at left back. The Thorns are not exactly rolling either and are still without several key players including suspended McCall Zerboni plus Christine Sinclair, still away from the team following Canada’s World Cup exit.
Western New York Flash (4-4-2) at Seattle Reign FC (5-2-3)
10:00 pm EDT, Memorial Stadium
Series: Reign lead, 4-1-3
Points of Interest: The Flash were somehow held to a draw last week against the Reign, but that they were able to dominate the match shows how far they have come since being run off Memorial Stadium 4-1 on opening weekend. The task to beat the Shield holders for the first time since 2013 gets more difficult at Memorial Stadium where the Reign have never lost. The Flash are loaded with team speed and can use the wide areas of the park which if the Reign have a weakness in their current state, that might be it. If this is the end of the line for Haley Kopmeyer as the Reign’s starting keeper it has been a glorious run—since the start of 2014 Kopmeyer is 7-0-4 and has allowed one or zero goals in 10 of those 11 starts.
Chicago Red Stars (5-1-3) at Houston Dash (3-3-4)
8:30 pm EDT, BBVA Compass Stadium
Series: Red Stars lead, 2-0-2
Points of Interest: This has turned into the choice match of the weekend with top Canadian players back for both sides, the first-place side in the house (at least at the start of the weekend), and a crowd that could swell to twice the prior club high for the Dash (8,097). The soccer should not be bad either. The first place Red Stars love to swarm opponents in midfield and earned a hard-fought, come-from-behind draw on their last visit to Houston. The Dash are rounding into form and Kealia Ohai is one of the most exciting young players in the league.
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