NWSL Week 14 Weekend Preview

Regardless of whether Sky Blue wins or loses to Boston, they will remain atop the table -- but a slip will allow the Portland Thorns to close the gap to a single point.

Sky Blue FC vs Boston Breakers

Match Date/Time: Saturday July 13 2013 at 7:00 PM ET

Venue: Yurcak Field Stadium, Piscataway

Online: NWSL Soccer YouTube Channel

Boston will have a chance to level the record against Sky Blue this weekend. The New Jersey club enters the match with a hefty chunk of their offense missing, and look ripe for the taking. In recent weeks, Monica Ocampo has dug SBFC out of sticky situations that could have have seen the league's top team fall down to second-- in the last three games, Ocampo has four goals and one assist. And now she's hurt, sidelined with a separated shoulder. Kelley O'Hara is still rehabilitating her ankle and will miss the meeting with Boston as well.

On the upside, Sky Blue will see Sophie Schmidt rejoin the side following her suspension. Having Schmidt on the field alongside Danesha Adams will give the hosts hope despite their otherwise depleted attack. Schmidt and Adams need to work with midfielder Katy Freels to move the ball forward.

If they don't, and Boston can control the game, Sydney Leroux might run amock. The NWSL's leading scorer is looking to earn MVP honors this season -- she's already in double digit goals midway through the year. Sky Blue has not been kind to Boston in the past, embarrassing them in a 5-1 defeat and consistently overturning the Breakers' leads. Saturday's match might not produce the same high score tallies we've seen to date in this fixture due to SBFC's current shortage of attacking talent, but that does not mean Boston won't have to figure out what to do with their weak back line and more importantly, concoct a strategy to get around SBFC's Christie Rampone-led defense.


Sky Blue FC

Out: Brittany Bock, Monica Ocampo and Kelley O'Hara

Boston Breakers

Out: Alyssa Naeher, Bianca D'Agostino

Portland Thorns FC vs Western New York Flash

Match Date/Time: Sunday July 14 2013 at 2:00 PM PT , 5:00 PM ET

Venue: JELD-WEN Field, Portland

Online: NWSL Soccer YouTube Channel

The best attacking team in the league will visit Portland for the first time this season. Portland hasn't produced three points in three weeks. Their last victory was against Seattle on June 16, shutting out the Reign 2-0. Since then, Portland has been defeated by FC Kansas City and Boston in identical scorelines.

This weekend, however, could be different. Tobin Heath joined the Thorns earlier this week for training and will be available for selection on Sunday. It remains uncertain whether she will start but making a 45 minute appearance in the second half could help the squad immensely, as they have been lacking organization in the midfield.

On the other end of the field, WNYF has been dealing with their own three-point drought this month, most recently losing to Seattle 3-2. The Flash, unlike Portland, have all the tools to create a powerful offense but are experiencing a problem with their front line. The midfield relies heavily on Abby Wambach which is problematic as she is consistently targeted by the opposition.

If WNYF wants to produce a win in their first ever meeting with Portland, they must use Carli Lloyd. She is agile and strong, she can carry the ball down the center and slip through the defense to find the back of the net. If Lloyd can maneuver around the PTFC midfield, she will have no issue getting past Karina LeBlanc between the posts.


Portland Thorns FC

Out: Becky Edwards

Western New York Flash

Out: Vicki DiMartino

Chicago Red Stars vs FC Kansas City

Match Date/Time: Sunday July 14 at 3:00 PM

Venue: Benedictine University Sports Complex, Lisle, IL

Online: Chicago Red Stars Live Stream in English or Spanish

This is the third meeting between both clubs until they close out the season on August 18. The record is currently level, with both sides earning a win apiece in their previous encounters. Kansas City might have the advantage however -- FCKC have Lauren Holiday (nee Cheney) will be back in action.

Holiday is a scoring threat and only two goals behind Sydney Leroux for the league leader. Chicago will need to balance their defense and organize the midfield because Holiday regularly teams up with Erika Tymrak, a goal-scoring machine herself with four goals on the season.

The offense, coordinated by Vlatko Andonovski, is aggressive and fast, they move the ball frequently rarely resting on a single player. Chicago will need to be on alert and avoid making silly fouls. The Red Stars have improved immensely to regain their footing this season but in order to continue moving up the ranks, they will need to expose FCKC's weakness, their defense.

Chicago's best option will be to apply constant pressure to the back line and spread them thin, especially targetting Lauren Sesselmann. Becky Sauerbrunn, a perceptive defender is dealing with a right knee sprain which could slow her down, giving the Red Stars even more of a chance to breach FCKC's rearguard.


Chicago Red Stars

Out: Shannon Boxx and Zakiya Bywaters

FC Kansas City - None Reported

Seattle Reign FC vs Washington Spirit

Match Date/Time: Sunday July 14 at 5:30 PM PT , 8:30 PM ET

Venue: Moda Health Pitch at Starfire Stadium, Tukwila, WA

Online: Fox Soccer

The Spirit have endured a difficult season thus far, producing only a single victory on May 16 against Seattle. Since then, the Spirit have been struggling, adding seven losses to their record (nine overall). This week their problems have only grown -- defender Robyn Gayle and midfielder Colleen Williams are sidelined to a right knee sprain and a torn ACL respectively.

Seattle have been handed a busy week 14 schedule, hosting and defeating WNYF on Wednesday with goals from Jessica Fishlock, Megan Rapinoe and Christine Nairn earning a 3-2 victory. The Reign have recently acquired Australian national team co-captain Emily Van Egmond, a midfielder who previously played for WNYF. Egmond might make her debut on Sunday.

Laura Harvey should consider using her Week 12 formation which served her well in Seattle's 3-1 win against Chicago. Harvey moved Jessica Fishlock out of the midfield and into the front line as a center forward with Kennya Cordner and Liz Bogus on the wings. Now that Cordner is on waivers to make room for Egmond, it would be an ideal spot for Megan Rapinoe.

On the other end of the field, it is vital that Washington put their best foot forward. Ali Krieger is their strongest defender and needs to organize the back line as they cannot continue to rely on Ashlyn Harris' heroics between the posts. Seattle packs a lot of energy up front and the Washington midfield might not be able to slow them down for long.

On the bright side, Washington could use Seattle's yellow card misfortune when it comes to breaking down the defense. Kaylyn Kyle is sitting on four yellow cards. A fifth would result in suspension and she must be cautious as to the tactics she will use. If Washington's Conny Pohler works with Diana Matheson, they could create a favorable 11 against ten man situation.

Pohler was the single driving force in the Spirit squad in week 13 to give the visitors a chance to defeat the top team in the league, Sky Blue. Pohler is daring and does not shy away from physical contact, if she finds possession of the ball she will drive it towards the box and link up with a player or find enough space to put up a shot.


Seattle Reign FC - None Reported

Washington Spirit

Out: Robyn Gayle, Colleen Williams and Caroline Miller

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