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Week 12 preview: Thorns looking to extend unbeaten run

Kat Williamson

Kat Williamson

Kat Williamson is on the mend and could play for the Thorns for the first time since April. (Photo Copyright Patricia Giobetti for The Equalizer)

Week 12 features a full slate of matches including pivotal clashes between the Reign and Flash as well as the Spirit and Red Stars. Meanwhile the Thorns will look to remain undefeated and the Breakers and Dash will be trying to find their attacking shoes.

Here is a closer look:

Saturday

Seattle Reign FC (4-3-4) at Western New York Flash (7-4-0)
7:00 pm EDT, Frontier Field
All-Time Series: Reign lead, 5-1-3
Watch on YouTube

What to watch for: Soccer returns to Frontier Field for the conclusion of a seven-match home stretch for the Flash. When it began on May 21 the Flash were 2-3-0 and struggling to score goals. They are 5-1-0 in the stretch to this point on the homestand and are averaging better than three goals a game even with their loss coming by shutout. The forward like of Makenzy Doniak, Jess McDonald, and Lynn Williams is now in the discussion for best in the league and is entirely unencumbered by Olympic camps. Standing in their way will be a Reign defense that has posted a league record five consecutive shutouts. The issue for the Flash will be in back where they will need an answer at center back as well as holding mid against a Reign side that has struggled offensively but did get two goals last weekend in Nahomi Kawasumi’s first game at the club since the 2014 NWSL Championship.

Chicago Red Stars (5-3-3) at Washington Spirit (6-2-2)
7:00 pm EDT, Maryland SoccerPlex
All-Time Series: Spirit lead, 5-2-1
Watch on YouTube

What to watch for: The Red Stars tore it up during World Cup absences last summer but have looked spotty in two matches this season without their U.S. internationals. Now they are on the road against their bogey team, and one that showed off its considerable death in a 2-0 victory over FC Kansas City last weekend. The Red Stars have not defeated the Spirit since 2013. If they are going to do it this weekend it will require a strong performance from midfield to get Sofia Huerta and Jen Hoy in top scoring position. They will also have to move the ball effectively out of the back against energetic Spirit forward Estafania Banini and Francisca Ordega.

Houston Dash (2-6-1) at Sky Blue FC (3-4-4)
7:00 pm EDT, Yurcak Field
All-Time Series: Sky Blue lead, 3-1-3
Watch on YouTube

What to watch for: The Dash are back in action after an extended break following their painful, 1-0 loss in Orlando more than two weeks ago. It was the club’s fifth straight loss by the same score and they are now on the cusp of some dubious league records for scoring futility. What baffles is that even with Olympic absences they will still sport players like Rachel Daly, Denise O’Sullivan, Kealia Ohai, and Chioma Ubogaagu and yet they have been unable to score since May 7. Sky Blue can be stingy in back though goalkeeper Caroline Stanley will be out for a few weeks thanks to the injury she suffered last weekend in Portland. Back to the Dash, they seem to be a bit better when Amber Brooks is in the midfield and she figures to be a regular starter at least until Morgan Brian and Andressa get back. Both outside backs are gone though which sounds like an open invitation for Leah Galton to attack the left flank in search of Sam Kerr–who has two more matches with Sky Blue before joining Australia.

FC Kansas City (2-5-4) at Portland Thorns FC (7-0-5)
10:30 pm EDT, Providence Park
All-Time Series: Kansas City lead, 4-3-3 (plus 1-1-0 in playoffs)
Watch on YouTube

What to watch for: FC Kansas City’s trips to Portland have a tendency to be memorable. None left a more indelible mark than last year’s stoppage time equalizer by Thorns’ keeper Michelle Betos, but there was also a 7-1 Thorns rout in 2014, a 4-3 Thorns win in 2013, and a 3-2 FC Kansas City win in 2013 that triggered Danielle Foxhoven’s media rant that may or may not have turned the Thorns’ season around. So what is in store this time? With the Thorns down so many key pieces and FC Kansas City in a perpetual struggle to score, expect a tactical battle and a match that could turn on the slightest of defensive miscues. The edge probably goes to the Thorns who sport the two most dangerous players on the field, Dagny Brynjarsdottir and Nadia Nadim, and who could have the services of Kat Williamson for the first time since injuring her knee last time these teams met.

Sunday

Boston Breakers (1-9-1) at Orlando Pride (5-6-0)
5:00 pm EDT, Camping World Stadium
All-Time Series: first meeting
Watch on YouTube

What to watch for: Still licking their wounds from losing at home for the first time the Pride prepare to host the offensively inept Breakers with a depleted back line brought on by Olympic call-ups. The question is whether or not the Breakers—who have scored three times in 11 games, two of those on set pieces—can find enough attack to take advantage. If they can get into positive scoring positions, the opposition will be new Pride keeper Kaitlyn Savage. The Australian W-League’s Goalkeeper of the Year played her college soccer at Florida International University and was signed by the Pride this week.

note: streams are subject to change up to the last minute; you are advised to consult nwslsoccer.com for the most up-to-date information

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