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Week 5 preview: Midwest Melee, Cascadia Derby on tap

The Cascadia Derby returns Saturday night when the Reign host the Thorns at Memorial Stadium. (Photo Copyright Patricia Giobetti for The Equalizer)

The Cascadia Derby returns Saturday night when the Reign host the Thorns at Memorial Stadium. (Photo Copyright Patricia Giobetti for The Equalizer)

Week 5 and we have some twists and turns to the season. We won’t see Tobin Heath this week after she was booked twice last weekend in Washington. We will see Jen Buczkowski as usual, but this will be the last time as she will retire following Friday night’s match. And already some teams are in danger of slipping out of touch with the leaders.


Boston Breakers (0-4-0) at Sky Blue FC (1-2-1)
7pm EDT, Yurcak Field
All-Time Series: Sky Blue lead, 4-2-3
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What to watch for: There are myriad troubling numbers for the Breakers heading into this one. Four straight losses—all by shutout—to open the season are both league records, and five straight whitewashings dating to last season tied one. Then there is the road record. It’s 4-23-7 in NWSL and the Breakers are 0-11-2 outside Boston since winning in Western New York on July 25, 2014. The good news is they were very good last week against the Red Stars, earning a penalty (put off the post by Kristie Mewis) and having three balls cleared off the line. Matt Beard wants to see his side play quicker from back to front, and that starts with Libby Stout, now the unquestioned number one at keeper with Abby Smith down for the season. Sky Blue has yet to secure a point at home even after leading into the 70th minute last week and are now the only NWSL team with an aggregate winning record away and losing record at home.

Chicago Red Stars (3-1-0) at FC Kansas City (0-3-1)
8:30 pm EDT, Swope Soccer Village
All-Time Series: Red Stars lead, 4-3-2 (Kansas City, 1-0-0 in playoffs)
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What to watch for: An era ends here for FC Kansas City when Jen Buczkowski plays her final match. The Blues are hoping for a different sort of change though in the form of a victory after taking just a single point from their first four contests. Pre-season worries about a lack of goal scoring have proved accurate with little to no bite in the attacking third. And the Red Stars have been stout defensively with three straight clean sheets and a superlative outside back tandem of Arin Gilliand and Casey Short. Short could spend a bunch of time staring at Heather O’Reilly, a matchup which could be pivotal in determining the outcome. The Red Stars are not exactly scoring in bunches either with Christen Press connecting on three of their four. Expecting some KC lineup changes which could center around struggling midfielder Erika Tymrak.


Houston Dash (2-1-1) at Washington Spirit (3-0-1)
7pm EDT, Maryland SoccerPlex
All-Time Series: Spirit lead, 4-1-1
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What to watch for: The Spirit dropped their first points of the season last weekend but remained undefeated and atop the table following an intense, scoreless draw with the Thorns. Now they host the Dash in a battle of the league’s two deepest sides. That means both coaches will have some flexibility with lineups and substitutions. The Spirit finally pulled Diana Matheson back to midfield last week and though she did not score, proved her usual effective self. They also have Crystal Dunn back on the right side and she will be a handful for Dash left back Allysha Chapman who did not play last time the Dash went to the SoccerPlex and conceded a first half hat trick to Dunn. If there is a weak spot on the Dash it is in back where Chapman and the others could be in for a long night if their midfield us unable to wrest control of the match.

Western New York Flash (2-2-0) at Orlando Pride (2-2-0)
7:30 pm EDT, Camping World Stadium
All-Time Series: first meeting
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What to watch for: Both teams were expected to be mid-table and the split results agree with those prognostications. The Pride though, exit a solid win over the Reign in which their defense was superb and they beat the Shield holders with a series of well-orchestrated long balls. As for the Flash they finally scored in the run of play—even if it was a busted play—to beat Sky Blue FC last week and get back to even for the season. But they are not having much luck getting their strikers in strong scoring positions and that task won’t get any easier in Orlando. The big pitch should help the Flash exploit their speed though.

Portland Thorns FC (2-0-2) at Seattle Reign FC (2-2-0)
10pm, Memorial Stadium
All-Time Series: Thorns lead, 5-4-0
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What to watch for: The Cascadia Derby renews with intriguing storylines surrounding both clubs. The Reign looked lost last weekend in a shockingly dull, 2-0 loss in Orlando and may be feeling the pinch of playing without injured Megan Rapinoe and Jess Fishlock plus retired Stephanie Cox. The Thorns survived a great battle in Washington last weekend (0-0) but Tobin Heath did not. Her temper got the better of her and she was sent off for a second yellow card after spiking the ball following a foul call. A majority of the Thorns attack has run through Heath this season so they will need a new formula especially with their forwards struggling. They will get Christine Sinclair back from an Achilles injury though how long and how effectively she will play is anyone’s guess. The Thorns lead the head-to-head 5-4-0, but four of those wins came in 2013.

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