Photo by Jane G. Photography/Seattle Reign FC
By SARAH HALLETT
The National Women’s Soccer League playoffs are set to begin in two weeks with two teams already slated for the postseason. The Seattle Reign FC and FC Kansas City have both locked up the number one and two seeds, respectively, which includes home field advantage during the semifinals.
This weekend both the Washington Spirit and the Portland Thorns FC could round out the final two spots, which would eliminate the Chicago Red Stars, the Western New York Flash and Sky Blue FC.
If the Spirit can find a way to earn a win on the road this weekend against the Reign FC, then they will automatically clinch a spot in the playoffs for the first time in their team history. If they can only muster a draw with Seattle, they will need some help from a few other clubs.
The Thorns FC have a tougher road to the playoffs however, needing a win of their own against the Boston Breakers on Sunday night and a loss or draw by the Chicago Red Stars, who will be facing FC Kansas City this weekend.
Here’s a closer look at this week’s National Women’s Soccer League fixtures:
FC KANSAS CITY at CHICAGO RED STARS (Saturday at 8 p.m. ET – watch live)
FC Kansas City played a storm-shortened game against the Boston Breakers on Wednesday night. The two teams were only able to complete the first half, though technically it was enough to allow the 2-1 score to stand. The win secured the number two seed for FC Kansas City and gives the Blues the luxury of resting players as needed during the final two weeks of the season.
The Chicago Red Stars on the other hand, need to secure a win if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Red Stars are sitting in fifth place and will need to lean heavily on the talents of Christen Press. Press has played steadily for Chicago since joining them midseason, but has yet to provide the spark that this team needs if they want to reach the playoffs.
The Red Stars lost a heartbreaker last weekend against the Spirit in the final minute of the match and will need to find a way to score more goals if they want to contend past this weekend.
SKY BLUE FC at HOUSTON DASH (Saturday at 9 p.m. ET – watch live on ESPN3)
The Houston Dash were officially eliminated from the playoffs last Sunday night after their 1-0 loss at the hands of the Portland Thorns FC. However Sky Blue FC is still mathematically a part of the playoff picture, though they need a lot of help to get there.
If Sky Blue FC is going to keep their postseason hopes alive, then the first thing they need to do is win on Saturday night against the Dash. A loss or a draw will automatically eliminate them from the playoffs.
Sky Blue FC is coming off of a win against the Flash a little over a week ago, but the team has proven to be the epitome of inconsistency this season. However, this is a team that was in the playoffs last year and that might be enough to motivate them to play their best on Saturday night.
WASHINGTON SPIRIT at SEATTLE REIGN FC (Saturday at 10 p.m. ET – watch live)
If you thought the Seattle Reign FC were simply going to coast their way into the postseason, then you don’t know coach Laura Harvey. The Reign FC sent a message to the league on Wednesday night with a 4-1 win against the visiting Houston Dash. This team does not appear to be content with just winning-they also want to win big.
The Spirit can lock up a playoff spot on Saturday night if they can find a way to beat the Reign FC. They will be without goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris who will not make the trip to Seattle. Harris has been having concussion like symptoms throughout the week after enduring a rough hit during the game against Chicago last weekend.
Even if Harvey rests a few of her starters, the Seattle coach has a talented roster with a lot of depth. But the Spirit have played well the past few weeks and this is the perfect test for a team that will be forced to play on the road-if they make the playoffs.
PORTLAND THORNS FC at BOSTON BREAKERS (Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET – watch live)
The offense for Portland has been stagnant for the past few weeks with the team only able to muster two goals in the last three games. Expect the Thorns FC to lean on memories of their last game against Boston a few weeks ago, when Portland scored six goals to defeat the Breakers in a nationally televised game.
The Breakers will not be playing for the postseason this weekend, but they have their own good memories to draw from. They defeated the Thorns FC 4-1 the last time the team made the trek to Boston. The Breakers have a chance to play the role of the spoiler on Sunday night and will have three other teams loudly cheering for them.