By MIKE McCALL
Two midweek games, two major implications to the remainder of the National Women’s Soccer League schedule.
First, a 3-0 stomping of Boston by FC Kansas City on Wednesday gave FCKC sole possession of first place and may have knocked the Breakers out of the playoff race. Then, Seattle’s 4-1 win over Chicago on Thursday put a damper on the Red Stars’ postseason hopes.
With five games to go, Chicago, Boston and Seattle are five, seven and nine points out of a playoff spot, making it more and more likely that the top four of FCKC, Sky Blue FC, Portland and Western New York will hold steady.
With that said, all three matches this weekend still hold meaning, whether through first-place implications or a chance to keep fading playoff hopes alive. Here’s a closer look at the matchups (all times local).
WASHINGTON SPIRIT vs. BOSTON BREAKERS (Saturday, 7 pm)
The Breakers (5-7-5) need wins, and this is one they have to have. Washington (1-11-4) has taken a grand total of one point since May, and if Boston still hopes to finish in the top four, this is an all-but-free three points up for grabs.
On the plus side for the Breakers, two of their final four games are against the fourth-place Flash — although the other two are also against likely playoff teams in Portland and FCKC.
PORTLAND THORNS vs. CHICAGO RED STARS (Sunday, 4 pm)
The Thorns (9-4-3) still aren’t on a hot streak, but last week’s win over Boston was a step in the right direction. Portland’s attack has been surprisingly average, but with the league’s top defense and tons of offensive talent, the club will naturally enter the playoffs as a favorite.
But will that be justified? Based on recent results, no. And Chicago (6-7-4) won’t be a pushover, still aiming to pull a shocker and have a shot at the league title.
The stakes are obvious for the Red Stars, if perhaps less so for Portland. But the time is coming where the Thorns will have to back up the hype with on-field performance, and they can’t afford to wait much longer to flip the switch.
SKY BLUE FC vs. FC KANSAS CITY (Sunday, 6 pm)
The battle for first place is on. FCKC (9-4-5) holds the top spot by a point, but longtime leaders SBFC (9-4-4) have a game in hand.
Kansas City has yet to beat Sky Blue FC this season, and doing it now would make yet another big statement down the stretch of the season. Coming off an impressive dismantling of Boston, they’ll have all the momentum, while SBFC’s last time out yielded a 3-0 loss to the Flash.
Who are your picks? Who takes first place? Can Chicago and Boston stay in the race? Is it fair to call Portland overrated?
Share your thoughts below.