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Week 6 Preview: Thorns, Spirit in return match

Tobin Heath (white) and Ali Krieger battle during the 0-0 draw between the Thorns and Spirit two weeks ago (photo copyright EriMacPhoto for The Equalizer)

Tobin Heath (white) and Ali Krieger battle during the 0-0 draw between the Thorns and Spirit two weeks ago (photo copyright EriMacPhoto for The Equalizer)

The fourth NWSL season is one-quarter of the way over already and there is one question on everyone’s mind — why can’t anyone in this league score goals? Here is a quick look at the weekend action with many anecdotes about goal droughts and shutout streaks.


Orlando Pride (3-2-0) at Houston Dash (2-2-1)
8:30 pm EDT, BBVA Compass Stadium
All-Time Series: Pride lead, 1-0-0
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What to watch for: The first return match of the season will see the Dash try to exact a measure of revenge against the Pride who rolled them 3-1 in front of the largest crowd in NWSL history four weekends ago. The dash were lackluster in Washington last weekend where they failed to keep the ball enough to be effective. That could be a problem again against a Pride side that has proven to be very well organized and disciplined as well as being extremely solid in the back. The Dash have looked best this season when either Morgan Brian or Amber Brooks has been off the field so lineup choices for Randy Waldrum will be interesting.


Sky Blue FC (2-2-1) at Western New York Flash (2-3-0)
7pm EDT, Sahlen’s Stadium
All-Time Series: Flash lead, 6-3-1 (plus 1-0-0 playoffs)
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What to watch for: The Flash are back in Rochester after opening the season with four of their first five away from home. When they played Sky Blue two weeks ago they were inferior for the first hour before settling in and rallying to win it. They will have to make do this week without Abby Erceg after she was sent off in Orlando last weekend. Sky Blue has held steady despite a lack of attacking prowess, but second round pick Leah Galton is finished with her studies and has joined the team. The Hofstra product was impressive in preseason.

Washington Spirit (4-0-1) at Portland Thorns FC (2-0-3)
10pm EDT, Providence Park
All-Time Series: Spirit lead, Spirit lead, 4-1-4
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What to watch for: When the final whistle blew on the scoreless draw two weeks ago was there an NWSL fan anywhere who did not immediately look ahead to the replay in Portland? Despite the absence of goals that match had pretty much everything else and sets up a mouthwatering, late Saturday tilt in the Rose city. The Thorns desperately missed Tobin Heath (sent off in Washington) in a 1-1 draw at Seattle last week. She returns this week to bolster the attack and presumably renew acquaintances with Spirit center back Megan Oyster. The pair drew yellow cards on each other at the SoccerPlex, the one on Heath (for reacting to being called for a foul after losing the ball to Oyster) being her second and the end of her evening. Last time these teams met in Portland they played to a wild, 3-3 draw. This one should be worth your time.


FC Kansas City (0-3-2) at Boston Breakers (0-5-0)
6:30 pm EDT, Jordan Field
All-Time Series: FC Kansas City lead, 7-2-0
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What to watch for: Who would have though the Week 6 matchup between NWSL’s most and least successful franchises would be a dogfight to stay off the bottom of the table? The holders still have yet to win and the five-game drought equals their club record. More concerning is their lack of scoring–only one goal in the run of play and one penalty (they have also missed two penalties.) It just has not worked out getting the ball ahead to Shea Groom. And for the first time ever, Vlatko Andonovski will make a lineup without Jen Buczkowski who retired this week after starting the club’s first 71 regular season matches and five playoff contests. The scoring woes can’t match the Breakers’ though. Matt Beard’s NWSL welcome has been a five match losing streak during which his team has not scored a goal. Dating to last season they have been blanked a league-record six straight and have lost eight in a row, one off the league record (2013 Seattle Reign FC.) They will also break the Spirit’s record of 543 minutes without scoring set in 2013. The good news? The Spirit broke their scoreless drought against FC Kansas City.

Chicago Red Stars (3-1-1) at Seattle Reign FC (2-2-1)
7pm, Memorial Stadium
All-Time Series: tied, 3-3-3
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What to watch for: The co-match of the week. The Red Stars have established themselves as a staunch defensive unit with four consecutive shutouts following a hiccup in their opener. But can they score? And can they score when the ball is not at the feet of Christen Press? The Reign have had an ordinary start to the season and another injury was added on when Manon Melis broke her tibia in the opening minutes against the Thorns last week. She will be out four to six weeks. They still have Kim Little though and the prospect of her going up against Danielle Colaprico in the midfield is enough to make this match a must watch. It also figures to be the pivotal, individual matchup of the afternoon.

note: streams are subject to change up to the last minute; please consult for the most up-to-date information


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