Following one of the most uncomfortable weeks the NWSL has seen, four matches will play out this weekend, at least two in front of sellout crowds, but with few firm answers about the players whose World Cup win has helped drive ticket sales. We know that three players—Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, and Sydney Leroux—are injured, and that neither the Spirit nor Reign will have their United States national team players available for their showdown at the SoccerPlex. As of midweek, Sky Blue are expecting Christie Rampone and Kelley O’Hara to be in Rochester and Skylar Rolstad reported via Twitter late Friday that the FC Kansas City quartet should be ready for Monday night.
World Cup players or not, the season is now firmly into its second half. Three points separate the bottom playoff teams from the top chaser, and things can change quickly with every team getting at least a partial facelift with the return of players from the World Cup. Here is a look at this week’s matches:
Seattle Reign FC (6-2-3) at Washington Spirit (5-4-2)
7:00 pm EDT, Maryland SoccerPlex
Series: Reign lead, 4-2-1 (plus Reign, 1-0-0 in playoffs)
Points of Interest: The Reign handled the Spirit 3-1 at Memorial Stadium on May 2 and have not lost since. The Spirit can claw to within a point of a top two position with a win, but a loss will allow the cavalry to close in. The Reign will be without Kendall Fletcher, who is out with a concussion. It will be only the second game Fletcher has missed since joining the Reign and only the fourth time she will not play 90 minutes. Look for Elli Reed to slide back to right fullback with Rachel Corsie having taken the center back position. With Hope Solo out, Haley Kopmeyer will have a chance to equal Solo’s team and league record of 13 consecutive decisions without a loss. Kopmeyer is 8-0-4 over the last two seasons.
Boston Breakers (3-6-2) at Chicago Red Stars (6-1-3)
8:00 pm EDT, Benedictine University Sports Complex
Series: Red Stars lead, 5-1-0
Points of Interest: The Breakers are close to letting the season slip away after three straight home losses and a return to conceding two or more goals per game. After a 2-0-2 stretch during which they were scored on two times, they Breakers have given up eight during the three-game skid. Seeing the Red Stars may not be their tonic either as it has not been a favorable matchup over the years. And while defense is what ails them the Breakers should be buoyed by the presence of Kyah Simon who should be available following the World Cup and a short vacation. The Red Stars meanwhile, will play in front of a sold out crowd having only lost one time this seasion.
Sky Blue FC (2-6-4) at Western New York Flash (4-5-2)
3:00 pm EDT, Sahlen’s Stadium
Series: Flash lead, 4-3-0 (plus Flash, 1-0-0 in playoffs)
Points of Interest: Sky Blue finally snapped a 10-match winless streak but are still riding a gaudy run of a dozen games without scoring more than a single goal. Former Flash players Samantha Kerr should help—her goal on her club debut helped end the winless streak—and Sky Blue could have Kelley O’Hara in the lineup for this one. Likewise the Flash could have Whitney Engen back which will create a logjam at center back and likely push either Brittany Taylor to right back or Abby Dahlkemper up into midfield. The young Flash team is coming along and are lightning quick up top, something that could be an issue for Sky Blue’s back four.
Houston Dash (3-4-4) at FC Kansas City (5-5-2)
8:00 pm EDT, Swope Soccer Village
Series: Kansas City lead, 3-0-1
Points of Interest: FC Kansas City look to have emerged from their offensive slog and although their hottest goal scorer Shea Groom has a broken foot, Lauren Holiday, Amy Rodriguez, and Heather O’Reilly are expected back for this one. So is Becky Sauerbrunn which will only make a good defense even better. If this is the night the Dash get Carli Lloyd and Morgan Brian back in their midfield, they too should be a new side, but Randy Waldrum also has issues to iron out in back if the Dash are going to vault into contention.
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