By MIKE McCALL
This weekend’s National Women’s Soccer League action is a bit like going to a friend’s house for dinner, only to find the fridge, oven, stove, table and silverware had been annexed by the United States and Canada.
That’s essentially what those two national teams have done to the NWSL ahead of their friendly on Sunday in Toronto. Together, they called up 14 players from the four NWSL teams that will take the field on Saturday, leaving the cupboard somewhat bare.
With the entire league model based around players from the U.S., Canada and Mexico, a week like this was bound to happen. Teams are calling up reserve players to plug the holes, and while it would be fair to question why the NWSL didn’t just take the week off, this does set up for some unpredictable results.
Both first-place squads will play Saturday without their stars, meaning anything could happen atop the table.
For a closer look, here are the matchups (all times local):
PORTLAND THORNS vs. CHICAGO RED STARS (Saturday, 2:00 pm)
The Thorns are tied for first and playing at home against the next-to-last-place Red Stars. Done deal, right? Nope.
Portland will be without a quartet of crucial players thanks to Sunday’s U.S.-Canada game, losing top scorers Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair (four goals each), as well as defender Rachel Buehler and goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc.
The Red Stars didn’t escape unscathed either, as the Canadian trio of goalkeeper Erin McLeod and defenders Carmelina Moscato and Rachel Quon (who previously played for the U.S.) will be out as well, but you have to figure this is still their best chance to snatch a win at JELD-WEN Field.
This will also be an interesting test of the Thorns fan base. Their three home crowds this year have been 16,479, 11,055 and 12,474, setting a gold standard for women’s soccer. But how many will show up without the stars around?
SKY BLUE FC vs. BOSTON BREAKERS (Saturday, 7 pm)
This one has been robbed of top goal-scorers too, with league-leader Sophie Schmidt (five goals) snatched away from SBFC by Canada, and Americans Sydney Leroux (four goals) and Heather O’Reilly (three) gone from Boston.
The Breakers are also without defender Rhian Wilkinson, while Sky Blue FC lost goalkeeper Jill Loyden and defenders Kelley O’Hara and Christie Rampone.
Given that all four teams are all missing crucial pieces on both defense and the attack, these games will be an interesting test of their depth — if perhaps not an accurate representation of their strength.
Who are your picks? Which depleted first-place side will weather the storm better? Does anyone score this weekend? Can the NWSL attract fans without its stars? Which dinner-themed household item would Alex Morgan be?
Share your thoughts below.