By SARAH HALLETT
The second half of the National Women’s Soccer League kicks off this week and teams will be pressed with many of their top stars away. Squads are juggling their rosters, as multiple players will miss games this week to fulfill their national team duties.
Top-ranked Seattle enjoys a bye this week, allowing a few other teams to try chip away at their lead. FC Kansas City currently sits eight points behind in second place and will visit the on-fire Houston Dash on Saturday.
The Chicago Red Stars will look to bounce back from their worst week of the season when they host Sky Blue FC. The Portland Thorns are dire need of points after dropping into sixth place last week and will hope to bounce back from their worst performance ever when they play the Washington Spirit Sunday.
Here’s a closer look at this weekend’s NWSL fixtures:
FC KANSAS CITY at HOUSTON DASH (Saturday at 9pm ET - watch live)
Don’t look now, but the Houston Dash are on a three-game winning streak. The expansion team has started to hit their stride and look to be having a fun time doing it. Coming off a midweek win against the Western New York Flash, the team will host FC Kansas City, who are on their own three-game winning streak.
However, FC Kansas City will be missing key players, including their offensive powerhouse Amy Rodriguez. The Dash have relished their role as the underdog this year and a win against even a depleted squad-such as FC Kansas City would boost their confidence going into the second half of the season.
SKY BLUE FC at CHICAGO RED STARS (Sunday at 2pm ET - watch live)
The Chicago Red Stars have had ten different players score at least one goal so far this year, illustrating just how balanced offensively this team is at the mid point of the season. Defensively, they have been just as good. Last week against the Seattle Reign FC was the first time that the Red Stars allowed more than one goal this season. The challenge though this week will be to do the job without standout goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc, who will be in Canada with her national team.
Meanwhile, Sky Blue FC needs to find a spark and they need to find it fast. The season is quickly slipping away from them and aside from their big win against Portland three weeks ago, it has been a forgettable year for the club. The Houston Dash have already passed them in the standings and now the Boston Breakers may do the same by next week.
WASHINGTON SPIRIT at PORTLAND THORNS FC (Sunday at 5pm ET - watch live)
The Washington Spirit close out a four-game road trip with a match in Portland on Sunday. After dropping three points in Boston on Wednesday night, the Spirit will look to bounce back against a struggling Portland Thorns FC team.
The Portland Thorns FC will dig deep into their bench, as many of their talented starters will be gone for this game. However, it might be a good opportunity for this team to start fresh and put their historic five-goal loss against the Western New York Flash in the rear view mirror. The reigning champs still have plenty of time to right the ship, but they need to start winning games and a tired Washington team may provide the perfect opportunity.
Which match are you looking forward to the most? Can Chicago rebound and continue to climb toward Seattle? Can the Houston continue their winning streak? Can Portland salvage their season?
Share your thoughts below?