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Week 4 Preview: Battle of unbeatens at the Plex

Mark Parsons's return to Washington is just one of several juicy story lines for Saturday night's top-of-the-table clash (Photo Copyright Erica McCaulley for The Equalizer)

Mark Parsons’s return to Washington is just one of several juicy story lines for Saturday night’s top-of-the-table clash (Photo Copyright Erica McCaulley for The Equalizer)

The season is young, but there are two undefeated NWSL teams and they will match up Saturday night in a showdown at the Maryland SoccerPlex. Here is a look.


Portland Thorns FC (2-0-1) at Washington Spirit (3-0-0)
7pm EDT, Maryland SoccerPlex
All-Time Series: Thorns lead, 4-1-3
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What to watch for: This will be the first time in the young history of NWSL that undefeated teams will meet this late in the season. This will be the toughest test for either with the two combining to be 5-0-0 against last season’s non-playoff sides plus the Thorns’ draw against a depleted FC Kansas City side that went down to 10 players early in the second half. The Thorns got by in Boston with Katherine Reynolds on the back line instead of injured Kat Williamson. The Spirit will be an entirely different scenario with Crystal Dunn sharing the wealth by way of an assist in all three matches and Diana Matheson in sharp finishing form. The Thorns will be looking to find Tobin Heath wide to try and exploit the left back slot, the only real weakness on the Washington back line. It is way too early to decide anything but early-season bragging rights are definitely on the line.

Chicago Red Stars (2-1-0) at Boston Breakers (0-3-0)
7:00 pm EDT, Jordan Field
All-Time Series: Red Stars lead, 6-1-1
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What to watch for: The Breakers have played three matches without scoring a goal. The Red Stars have been air tight in their last two including a sparkling defensive performance last weekend against the Pride without Julie Johnson. So how do the Breakers reverse the patterns? Johnston is listed as probable and it won’t get any easier if she’s in there. Last week the Breakers were much better moving the ball out of the back. The next step is finding their forwards in dangerous spots. They will also have to deal with Christen Press who has a dozen goals in her last 14 league matches.

Western New York Flash (1-2-0) at Sky Blue FC (1-1-1)
7pm EDT, Yurcak Field
All-Time Series: Flash lead, 5-3-1 (plus 1-0-0 in playoffs)
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What to watch for: The Flash bossed much of the second half in Washington last weekend but could not finish the deal with a goal and thus enter Week 4 having not scored from open play all season. They could get a boost this weekend from Jeon ga-Eul, who is healthy and ready to play for the first time. They will also have the pace advantage especially if Jaelene Hinkle is back to full form after looking a bit slowed last week in the wake of missing a match for a fractured toe. Both teams will be looking to push the issue on the left side. Hinkle loves to play high and her opposite number is the solid but inexperienced rookie Erin Simon. The Flash could put Adriana Leon on that side to overcrowd it. At the other end Sky Blue had trouble getting Kelley O’Hara the ball last week in Houston but if they can do it here she has a matchup edge on Elizabeth Eddy.

Houston Dash (1-1-1) at FC Kansas City (0-2-1)
8:30 pm EDT, Swope Soccer Village
All-Time Series: Kansas City lead, 3-1-2
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What to watch for: If we have learned anything about FC Kansas City through three weeks it is that they still play about the same way they always have, and that they really miss Lauren Holiday and Amy Rodriguez. They will get Shea Groom back from suspension this week and she has the potential to give the Dash backline fist with her energy and creativity. Look for the Blues to play wide through Heather O’Reilly who will look for Groom—precisely the way their lone goal of the season happened. The Dash were dominant between the 18s against Sky Blue last week but could not finish and wound up in a scoreless draw. Their ability to win the midfield and be creative has been proven, but without Carli Lloyd they will need someone to figure out a way to score important goals.


Orlando Pride (1-2-0) at Seattle Reign FC (2-1-0)
5pm, Camping World Stadium (renamed from Citrus Bowl)
All-Time Series: first meeting
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What to watch for: The Reign have still yet to look their trophy-winning best but two straight wins seems to have the opening day loss to Sky Blue in the rearview mirror. In the Pride they will find an organized side still trying to find their best attacking selves. Moving Lianne Sanderson into the first team last weekend was supposed to be a boost but a stingy Red Stars defense offered little. With Jess Fishlock recovering from a broken leg, Kim Little widened her role last week playing box to box in a scintillating, two-way effort. If the Pride are going to win this one they’ll be looking to contain Little on at least one end of the field.

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