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Week 1 Preview: Pride kick off; can Dash solve Press?

For the Dash to beat the Red Stars for the first time, they'll have to solve Christen Press. (Copyright Patricia Giobetti | http://www.printroom.com/pro/psgiobetti)

For the Dash to beat the Red Stars for the first time, they’ll have to solve Christen Press. (Copyright Patricia Giobetti | http://www.printroom.com/pro/psgiobetti)

The fourth and most anticipated season of NWSL soccer kicks off this weekend. Here is a quick look at all five matches including links to watch live.

Saturday

Boston Breakers (–) at Washington Spirit (–)

7pm EDT, Maryland SoccerPlex
All-Time Series: Breakers lead, 4-1-4
Watch on YouTube

What to watch for: New coaches for both sides with Jim Gabarra back at the SoccerPlex to lead the Spirit and Matt Beard over from England to take over the Breakers. The similarities stop there. Gabarra is a veteran of all 10 seasons of women’s pro soccer in the states and takes over a roster primed to challenge for trophies. Beard, 38, began reconstructing a Breakers roster that finished bottom in 2015 and is hoping to set the club on an upward trajectory. For the Spirit, Crystal Dunn will begin what she hopes will be a reasonable encore to last year’s MVP season and will have Katie Stengel as a new running mate up top. The Breakers unveil new keeper Libby Stout and new attacking midfielder Louise Schillgard.

Chicago Red Stars (–) at Houston Dash (–)

8:30 pm EDT, BBVA Compass Stadium
All-Time Series: Red Stars lead, 3-0-3
Watch on YouTube

What to watch for: The Dash made loads of improvement in the offseason but still may have some work to do in the back. Facing Christen Press right out of the chute may be a good way to test the waters, but it could also be a recipe for trouble. Press’s remarkable 2015 season—she scored 10 goals in 11 games—was overshadowed by its brevity and by the steady excellence of Crystal Dunn. But there has yet to be an NWSL defense that has figured out how to slow down Press. On the other side the Dash will be trying to work in new attacking personalities Rachel Daly, Janine Beckie, and Chioma Ubogagu.

Western New York Flash (–) at FC Kansas City (–)

8:30 pm EDT, Children’s Mercy Park
All-Time Series: Kansas City lead, 3-2-3
Watch on YouTube

What to watch for: FC Kansas City begins their quest for a third consecutive title at Children’s Mercy Park. This year’ defense figures to be different from last year with a slew of new faces and what looks like a dearth of goal scoring in the lineup. They will though, welcome Desire Scott back into the midfield after a two-year stint at Notts County. The Flash will be trying to use their speed to run the Blues ragged in their first match under new coach Paul Riley.

Sunday

Sky Blue FC (–) at Seattle Reign FC (–)

7pm EDT, Memorial Stadium
All-Time Series: Reign lead, 3-2-3
Watch on YouTube

What to watch for: An understated story ahead of this season is the Reign’s unbeaten mark at Memorial Stadium. Since taking up residence under the Space Needle in 2014, Laura Harvey’s side is 18-0-6 at Memorial including a pair of playoff wins. It also includes a dramatic, 1-1 draw against Sky Blue in last season’s regular season home finale in which Jess Fishlock hit the 90th minute equalizer in the pouring rain to salvage the streak. The Reign look loaded for another title run this season while Sky Blue are loaded with question marks and won’t have Sam Kerr for this one as she continues to recover from offseason foot surgery.

Orlando Pride (–) at Portland Thorns FC (–)

10pm, Providence Park
All-Time Series: first meeting
Watch on YouTube

What to watch for: The most anticipated match of the weekend pits the league’s newest club visiting its most visible club. And they are already intertwined. In a deal mostly worked out before the Pride were even official, the Thorns agreed to a blockbuster trade that sent Alex Morgan to the newest club. Morgan appears to be healthy and ready to shoulder the goal scoring load for the Pride. As for the Thorns, they lost Morgan but gained a lot including Lindsay Horan and Adrianna Franch, both acquired via trades with the Pride. Christine Sinclair is doubtful with an Achilles injury but the Thorns should unveil Nadia Nadim for her first match with the club.

note: Sometimes live links have to be adjusted close to or during matches. Fans are advised to follow each home side on Twitter for the latest updates.

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