NWSL Week 15 Weekend Preview

With no mid-week matches scheduled, all eight NWSL clubs have an opportunity to refresh their engines for their weekend clashes. The top teams in the league failed to impress in Week 14 and will be looking to extract revenge and earn three points.

Chicago Red Stars vs Washington Spirit

Match Date/Time: Saturday July 20 2013 at 6:00 PM

Venue: Benedictine University Sports Complex, Lisle, IL

Online: Chicago Red Stars Live Stream in English http://chicagoredstars.com/live-eng/ or Spanish http://chicagoredstars.com/live-sp/

The Spirit have scored 11 goals this season and conceded 28; Diana Matheson is their leading scorer with six goals under her belt but four of her goals are converted penalty kicks. The Spirit have managed to equalize two games on the back of PK's while cutting their oppositions lead in half for two other matches but still failing to record a win.

The Spirit are not a team that bank on finding the penalty kick but luck has been on their side this season with amount of PK's they have been awarded. Despite this, the Spirit need to continue working towards their ultimate goal which is digging their-selves out of the bottom place. This task is more difficult this weekend as they are short a persistent defender.

Ali Krieger exited the field against Seattle on Sunday after a collision with Kaylyn Kyle. Later it was revealed that Krieger would be evaluated for concussion symptoms and will not join Washington against Chicago. This setback is in addition to Robyn Gayle's absence from the back line and Colleen Williams from the midfield.

With Krieger unavailable, the Spirit will have to look to Conny Pohlers and Ashlyn Harris to pull them out of a messy situation. Pohlers is a great driving force but has difficulty finishing and linking up with teammates, in 6 appearances she has yet to record a goal or assist. Harris on the other hand has been saving the Spirit for quite some time, coordinating the back line and making crucial saves on the line. Her heroics between the posts are much needed for this team to stay in the game.

On the other end of the field is a team that is slowly threatening to steal fifth place from Boston. Chicago trails by a point but their previous week of action is a testament to their character as they came back to earn a point at home after falling two goals behind FC Kansas City. Earlier in week 14, Chicago beat Washington 2-0.

Saturday's match will be the second meeting between both clubs and three key players to watch for Chicago will be Lori Chalupny, Adriana Leon and Ella Masar. This trio are hungry for goals and produce results for the Red Stars. Leon is a newcomer but has already created a name for herself as a physical player that is eager to help her squad. The Spirit defense will struggle containing her and Chalupny.


Chicago Red Stars

Out: Shannon Boxx, Taryn Hemmings and Zakiya Bywaters

Washington Spirit

Out: Robyn Gayle, Ali Krieger, Colleen Williams and Caroline Miller

FC Kansas City vs Seattle Reign FC

Match Date/Time: Saturday July 20 2013 at 7:35 PM

Venue: Verizon Wireless Field, Overland Park, KS

Online: NWSL Soccer YouTube Channel http://www.youtube.com/nwslsoccer

The third ranked team in the league will duke it out against a rapidly improving seventh place team, Seattle Reign FC. As FC Kansas City have settled into their rhythm in recent weeks on the back of winning performances from Lauren Holiday and Erika Tymrak, the once disappointing Seattle club have also found their niche in the competition.

Megan Rapinoe, Jessica McDonald and Christine Nairn are the attacking prowess for Seattle and this is their last opportunity to turn the tables on FC Kansas City. For their fourth and final meeting this season, the record has heavily favored FCKC who has yet to lose or concede a goal against the Reign. Their last clash was before Rapinoe's arrival and this time FCKC might not be prepared to handle the Reign's offense.

The Reign have stretched their unbeaten streak to six games including four wins. Their secret is quick touch passes in the midfield to move the ball forward especially now that Rapinoe is on board. She has a knack for sending long ranged crosses into the box for awaiting players. Seattle will have to play smart because the home team play technical soccer especially in the midfield where Kristie Mewis reigns supreme.

Mewis is a challenging player to dispossess and if she frustrates the visitors in particular Jessica Fishlock who already has four yellow cards, it could work in the home sides favor. Gaining a free kick near the 18 could open scoring opportunities especially for Lauren Holiday who is a goal away from tying the league lead with Sydney Leroux.

If FCKC have done their homework then they would know that McDonald has scored three goals in three appearances, making her a valuable player on the field for Seattle and a marked target for the defense. With McDonald likely covered by at least two Kansas City players, the Reign will need to find another route to score. This could be a great time to unleash Renae Cuellar, the former FCKC forward onto the field to score against her former team.


FC Kansas City

Out: None reported

Seattle Reign FC

Out: None reported

Western New York Flash vs Sky Blue FC

Match Date/Time: Sunday July 21 2013 at 1:30 PM ET

Venue: Sahlen's Stadium, Rochester, NY

Online: Fox Soccer

Both clubs began their inaugural season against one another and it is fitting that they conclude their epic saga by being the second NWSL match on Fox Soccer. The record has not been kind to Sky Blue who have fallen to the Flash twice and only recorded a single win in their first meeting on the back of an own goal by McCall Zerboni.

This week might not be any different as Sky Blue are without Kelley O'Hara and probably Monica Ocampo. The Mexican international is listed as probable with a shoulder sprain so she might not start but if training went well then she could make an appearance late into the second half.

The silver lining this week for the offense is that Lisa De Vanna can run circles around the opposition. If she has difficulty finding the back of the net then she must link up with Sophie Schmidt and Danesha Adams. De Vanna struggled against Boston last week in Sky Blue's second scoreless draw this season, despite her consistent presence in the Boston upper half. De Vanna is fast but her speed takes away from her accuracy on the ball, if she takes a moment to pause she would develop better aim. The last time she scored was June 16 against Boston but with five goals under her belt she is a favorite to score and for that reason she is heavily guarded by the opposition.

For Sky Blue to work their magic and maintain a comfortable lead in the rankings they will need to use Schmidt in the midfield rather than upfront as that strategy failed against Boston. Schmidt is a great scorer and finds pockets to slot a goal into the net but her presence in the midfield is mandatory. Katy Freels and Manya Makoski do a great job maintaining possession but Schmidt is a beast when it comes to defending and gaining possession. She is a vital player on the field for those moments when the opposition is gaining momentum. Sky Blue's best chance to score would be through a Schmidt and De Vanna partnership.

Offensively, the Flash outrank Sky Blue especially now that O'Hara is unavailable and Carli Lloyd is back in the starting XI. SBFC will have to deal with three tenacious scorers, Lloyd, Abby Wambach, and Samantha Kerr. In recent weeks Veronica Perez has been causing some difficulty for the opposition but has struggled to score. She can open up opportunities in the box for her teammates.

Sky Blue's strength is in the back four, Goodson matches Wambach's height but Foord holds incredible skill on the ball that allows her to keep possession and find teammates. Christie Rampone would be the ideal defender to guard Lloyd and push her away from the center outside the 18 yard box.


Western New York Flash

Out: Vicki DiMartino

Sky Blue FC

Out: Kelley O'Hara

Boston Breakers vs Portland Thorns

Match Date/Time: Sunday July 21 2013 at 4:00 PM ET

Venue: Dilboy Stadium, Somerville, MA

Online: Boston Breakers LiveStream ($4.99 fee) http://www.bostonbreakerssoccer.com/SCHEDULE/livestreams/737809.html

Portland met Boston for the first time earlier this month and experienced a 2-0 loss to the Breakers. For their second meeting, Portland has undergone a bit of a midfield shake up with Tobin Heath starting on the left. This change to the once disorganized midfield could cause Boston some trouble.

The last time both teams met it was Sydney Leroux who brought down the gavel with a brace in the first half. On both goals, Leroux was assisted by Heather O'Reilly as Boston was able to break down the Portland defense by means of speed brought on by Leroux and O'Reilly. The same could ensue this weekend as Leroux is looking to cushion her lead in goals scored for the league this season.

In Heath's debut in week 14 against WNYF, she played a large role in re-organizing the midfield and providing Portland's strikers, Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan, with better passes and more opportunities on goal. Heath had a knack at finding her teammates and it helped Morgan and Sinclair put pressure on the Flash. This is a positive thing to take away from Sunday's clash despite the 1-1 result because it means that Heath is the spark that Portland have been looking for since their 3 week goal drought starting at the end of June.

For Boston to produce three points they will need to work around Heath who is fast on the ball and swift at tackles. She can dispossess the opposition and for Boston, their strongest midfield assets are O'Reilly, Lianne Sanderson and Joanna Lohman. This trio of players will be targeted by the Thorns Allie Long and Heath.

Whether Leroux can score will be dependent on how often Heath finds the ball. When she will be in possession it is a guarantee that she will look for Sinclair, Morgan or Mana Shim to score.


Boston Breakers

Out: Bianca D'Agostino and Alyssa Naeher

Portland Thorns FC

Out: Becky Edwards

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