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NWSL week 21 preview: Regular-season wraps

The final three games of the NWSL regular season are upon us. One is a rematch of a past final, and the other two have playoff implications. Here is a look:

Friday

Portland Thorns FC (6-8-5) at Western New York Flash (5-9-5)
7:00 pm EDT, Sahlen’s Stadium
Watch: Youtube
Series: Thorns lead, 3-1-3 (plus Thorns, 1-0 in playoffs)

Points of Interest: Two years and four days after meeting on the same field for the NWSL Championship the Thorns and Flash will play out the string having both been eliminated from this season’s playoffs. The Thorns will just be looking for healthy bodies with a loaded injury report that now includes Nadine Angerer whose club career is now over. The Flash have struggled at home, notably a three-match stretch that saw them lead Sky Blue 3-1 in the first game but finish the stretch 0-2-1. Their season never recovered from that. Losing will guarantee them eighth but it won’t matter on draft day since the Reign own their 1st round pick in 2016.

Saturday

Seattle Reign FC (12-3-4, 40 pts) at Washington Spirit (8-5-6)
7:00 pm EDT, Maryland SoccerPlex
Watch: Youtube
Series: Reign lead, 4-3-1 (plus Reign, 1-0-0 in playoffs)

Points of Interest: This game is the decider. When it is over the playoff matchups will be set. If the Spirit lose or draw it means they will play the Reign again next weekend in Seattle while FC Kansas City will go to Chicago. If the Spirit win, Kansas City will go to Seattle, and the Spirit will play the Red Stars with the site to be determined by Sunday’s Red Stars match. Last time they played the Spirit rolled to a 3-0 win that was by far the Reign’s worst performance of the last two seasons. The Reign dug in when they needed it last weekend to preserve their undefeated mark at Memorial Stadium. We’ll see how they fare on the road against a team that will want the three points to keep hope alive to host a semifinal.

Sunday

Houston Dash (6-8-5) at Chicago Red Stars (8-3-8)
5:00 pm EDT, Toyota Park
Watch: Youtube
Series: Red Stars lead, 3-0-2

Points of Interest: This will be the Red Stars’ third match at Toyota Park but first time as a standalone match. They are 2-0 at the home of the Fire, and if they win this one it will mean another match at Toyota Park, the NWSL semifinal. Of course if the Spirit lose or draw on Saturday, the home semi for the Red Stars will already be assured and this match will have an entirely different feel. That said the Red Stars only won once in August so they will be looking to find some consistent form ahead of what will be their playoff debut. And the Dash have been outspoken about wanting to finish fifth, something they can assure themselves by beating the Red Stars for the first time. That said, a Thorns loss on Friday will do the trick to lock up fifth for the Dash.

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