By SARAH HALLETT
The biggest stars of National Women’s Soccer League return from national team duty just in time for some must-watch games that will set up some important face-offs over the league standings.
As the Portland Thorns FC face Washington Spirit on Saturday, Alex Morgan is fresh off two goals on Thursday night for the U.S. Women’s National Team and is quickly finding her form after a seven-month layoff due to injury. It is good timing for the Thorns FC, who will be looking to improve on their sub-par sixth-place standing in the coming weeks before the season slips away altogether.
FC Kansas City are seeking their fifth win in a row, as they continue to chip away at the eight-point lead that league leaders the Seattle Reign FC have over them. The Blues have been the model of consistency this season, though their matchup against the third-ranked Chicago Red Stars should be a formidable one for them.
The Western New York Flash will wrap up the weekend against the still-undefeated Seattle Reign FC. The Flash are in the midst of a four-game stretch at home, which should serve them well as they make a push for the playoffs. On the line for Seattle? Keeping their unbeaten streak alive.
Here’s a closer look at this weekend’s NWSL fixtures:
PORTLAND THORNS FC at WASHINGTON SPIRIT (Saturday at 6:30 pm ET – watch live)
This is a rematch of the game played last Sunday, though the lineups should be very different as both teams will have several key players back from national team duties. The Spirit return home looking to redeem the 2-0 loss they suffered in Portland.
The Spirit are currently winless in their last two games, two games which they also failed to produce any goals. Though they still occupy fourth place in the standings, they will need to spark their offense if they are going to get past Portland. One advantage for the Spirit is that Nadine Angerer, the talented goalkeeper for the Thorns FC, will not be available to play thanks to a red card she earned in her last match against the Western New York Flash.
CHICAGO RED STARS at FC KANSAS CITY (Saturday at 8 pm ET – watch live)
The Chicago Red Stars had an exceptional month of May, but unfortunately the month of June has been largely forgettable. Their best result this month was a tie with the lowly Sky Blue FC. The Red Stars lost to the Western New York Flash on Wednesday night and will continue their three-game road trip to Kansas City on Saturday night.
Christen Press should appear in her second game for the Red Stars and they will need her offensive talent to counteract the play of Amy Rodriguez, who is having a breakout year for the Blues. Also dangerous for FC Kansas City is Erika Tymrak — she is rounding into the form that won her NWSL Rookie of the Year honors last season.
BOSTON BREAKERS at SKY BLUE FC (Sunday at 1 pm ET – watch live)
The Boston Breakers will be looking to rebound after a midweek loss with a match against Sky Blue FC on Sunday afternoon. While both teams hold miserable records and only a point separates the two from last place in the league, there are still many games to be played this season.
Sky Blue FC should take pride in their comeback last Sunday against the Red Stars, which led to a 2-2 draw. Perhaps that will give them a boost of confidence they need to make a statement against a very inconsistent Boston club.
SEATTLE REIGN FC at WESTERN NEW YORK FLASH (Sunday at 3 pm ET – watch live)
Both teams won their midweek games, though the Western New York Flash will have their hands full against the best offense in the league. No other team has scored more goals than the Seattle Reign FC and they also have one of the best goalkeepers in the world with Hope Solo.
It is unclear if Flash forward Abby Wambach will be back for the Flash. Wambach hasn’t played since May 31 when she suffered a knee injury and did not see any minutes with the national team this past week in their games against France. The Flash will need Sam Kerr, McCall Zerboni and Carli Lloyd to play their best and provide some goals to keep up with Seattle.
What do you expect this week? Can Alex Morgan’s form help the Thorns climb back up the league table? Can the Red Stars find the winning ways they’ve strayed from? Will anyone ever beat the Reign?
Share your thoughts below.