By SARAH HALLETT
The last few weeks of the regular season of the National Women’s Soccer League seem likely to have a few surprises left as the playoffs quickly approach.
The Seattle Reign FC captured the NWSL shield on Wednesday night after a 4-1 win against the Houston Dash. With a 15-1-4 record and 49 points, Seattle had already earned a spot in the playoffs, but now will be assured of home field advantage throughout.
But there are still three remaining playoff spots up for grabs after FC Kansas City squandered an opportunity on Wednesday night against the Washington Spirit to claim the second one. A 2-1 win for Washington elevated the Spirit into third place in the standings, while FC Kansas City missed out on securing the second seed and home field advantage in the playoffs.
Both teams will see action this weekend as the Washington Spirit will host the Chicago Red Stars and FC Kansas City host the Seattle Reign FC. The Red Stars currently sit in fifth place, but only three points separate them from the Spirit.
The weekend wraps up with another nationally televised game on ESPN2 featuring the Portland Thorns FC and the Houston Dash. Thorns FC owner Merritt Paulson is hoping for the biggest NWSL crowd in history and will most likely get it with close to 20,000 fans expected to attend the Sunday evening game.
Here’s a closer look at this week’s National Women’s Soccer League fixtures:
CHICAGO RED STARS at WASHINGTON SPIRIT (Saturday at 6:30pm ET – watch live)
This is a must win game for both teams as the season is quickly coming to an end. The Red Stars didn’t a lose a game in the month of July-but they also only won one game. Chicago had five draws last month and need to spark their offense in order to pick up the full three points against the Spirit.
The Spirit will play another game without Jodie Taylor, who leads the team with eleven goals. Taylor is back in England fulfilling national team duties and the Spirit will need to lean on Christine Nairn and Diana Matheson for their offense. Both teams have met twice so far this season with the Spirit taking both games, but the Red Stars boast one of the best defenses in the league.
SEATTLE REIGN FC at FC KANSAS CITY (Saturday at 8pm ET – watch live)
Each of these teams will play in the postseason, however FC Kansas City still needs to officially clinch a spot. If they can win this weekend against the Reign FC, they can also earn home field advantage, which will prove to be very valuable in the next few weeks.
FC Kansas City does have six losses on the year-but none of them have come at home. Expect the Blues to give the Reign FC a tough game and perhaps hand the league winners their second defeat of the year. Each club has a very healthy roster and this game should prove to be great preparation for the playoffs.
WESTERN NEW YORK FLASH at BOSTON BREAKERS (Sunday at 8pm ET – watch live)
The Western New York Flash have done a good job in the past few weeks of putting the playoffs out of reach. The sixth-place club has lost consecutive games against two of the worst teams in the league. An easy end of the season schedule has been sorely wasted and now the Flash will most likely miss out on the playoffs for the first time in their club history.
The team does have forward Abby Wambach back at their disposal and mathematically are not officially removed from the postseason. The Flash will need to win their last three games and Sunday night against the Breakers would be a good start. The Flash lost, 4-2, to the Breakers only a week ago, but the Breakers are in last place for a reason. Pick up three points in Boston and just maybe you find a way to sneak into that fourth playoff spot in the next few weeks.
THE HOUSTON DASH at PORTLAND THORNS FC (Sunday at 10pm ET – ESPN2)
The Portland Thorns FC will play two of their last three games at Providence Park as the champions are in the hunt to return to the playoffs. Currently sitting in fourth place with 30 points, the team needs to take advantage of the huge crowd expected this Sunday night and earn the full three points against the Houston Dash.
The Dash are a dangerous team despite their 5-11-3 record. They have one of the most talented goalkeepers in the league and always give their best effort for coach Randy Waldrum. Although the Thorns FC have won both previous games this season against the Dash, an electric atmosphere on Sunday evening on national television may spark Houston to try to spoil Portland’s big party.