NWSL Week 18 Weekend Preview

WNY Flash, Portland and Sky Blue are in a three-way tie for second place. Can one team break clear of the rest of the pack?

Boston Breakers vs FC Kansas City

Match Date/Time: Saturday August 10 2013 at 6:00 PM ET or 3:00 PM PT

Venue: Dilboy Stadium, Somerville, MA

Online: Boston Breakers Live Stream ($4.99)

Boston did not qualify for the playoffs, but they have an opportunity to complete their final two matches of the season on a high. On Wednesday the Breakers beat Portland 2-1 thanks to a late winner from Heather O'Reilly in the 85th minute. Portland, an offensively strong team, struggled to get past the Breakers defense.

This could be Boston's key to collecting another three points at home as they face FC Kansas City on Saturday. If the Breakers defense, led by Cat Whitehill, can snuff out the danger put up by Lauren Holiday and Erika Tymrak moving centrally through the midfield, then the Breakers could hand FCKC their first defeat in over a month.

FC Kansas City are riding a 10 game unbeaten streak and are not looking to slow down, so they will use their strongest assets, starting with the midfield: Holiday, Tymrak, Jen Buczkowski and Desiree Scott. This midfield is difficult to break through and a challenge to win the ball off. The Breakers will need to figure out how to get around them and their best option would be through O'Reilly and Sydney Leroux, both of whom pack plenty of speed and can outpace FCKC.


Boston Breakers

Out: Bianca D'Agostino

FC Kansas City

Out: None Reported

Chicago Red Stars vs Sky Blue FC

Match Date/Time: Saturday August 10 2013 at 6:00 PM CT, 7:00 PM ET or 4:00 PM PT

Venue: Benedictine University Sports Complex, Lisle, IL

Online: Chicago Red Stars Live Stream in English or Spanish

Sky Blue FC have qualified for the playoffs but it has not been easy for the New Jersey Blues. This week they are dealing with another setback, with Lisa De Vanna suffering a recurrence of the hamstring issue that hit her in late July.

This is a challenging situation for Sky Blue because even though De Vanna had not scored in recent weeks, she still provided the speed that the remaining on-field members of SBFC lack. Even though Sky Blue has qualified for the postseason, they are still in a three-way tie with Portland and the Flash for second place. On Saturday, the Thorns and WNYF are set to face off against each other, which could end in a draw. If so, this could be Sky Blue's best opportunity to reclaim sole possession of second place. To do so they must seal three points.

Chicago are a challenging team but injuries have hurt their starting XI. Lori Chalupny is still out but the Red Stars will be relying on Inka Grings, scorer of a brace last week against Seattle, and Ella Masar. In last week's thrilling 3-1 victory over Seattle, Masar committed three fouls. This could work in Sky Blue's favor, especially if any fouls are committed close to Chicago's penalty box.

Sky Blue can't look to sit back and defend while Chicago create threats from all angles. The NJ club needs to take risks up the center of the field or down the flank by using Sophie Schmidt and Monica Ocampo. Recently, Sky Blue acquired Ashley Nick, a strong midfielder. She would be the best candidate to replace an injured Brittany Bock, who is also missing out on the action this week.


Chicago Red Stars

Out: Shannon Boxx, Zakiya Bywaters, Taryn Hemmings and Lori Chalupny

Sky Blue FC

Out: Kelley O'Hara, Lisa De Vanna, Caitlin Foord and Brittany Bock

Washington Spirit vs Seattle Reign FC

Match Date/Time: Saturday August 10 2013 at 7:00 PM ET, 4:00 PM PT

Venue: Maryland Soccerplex, Boyds, MD

TV: Fox Soccer

The Washington Spirit will be entering Saturday's match filled with new-found confidence after recording their second win of the season on Wednesday. The Spirit shut out Chicago 1-0 with a lone goal from Lupita Worbis. The weather conditions weren't kind to either side, but the Spirit took advantage of the slick terrain on their home turf and secured three points to exit their single digit misery.

This Saturday, Washington and Seattle, two bottom place teams, will face-off for an exciting 90 minutes as the Spirit will attempt to record a second consecutive win, and Seattle will look to get back on track.

Seattle is the healthier squad going into the match, as the Spirit have racked up another lengthy injury list. The silver lining however is that Ali Krieger and Robyn Gayle are back in action. It remains uncertain whether Krieger will join Gayle in the back line against Seattle; she has proven to be a strong midfielder and attacking player for the Spirit. Krieger playing in midfield could come in handy as the Spirit will need to push Seattle's aggressive offense at bay and sitting back and waiting for them to attack might be a poorly constructed plan.

It would provide also the back four with added time to mark dangerous players outside the box. If Krieger can connect up top with Stephanie Ochs or move the ball out the midfield with Diana Matheson, then the Spirit could see another win.


Washington Spirit

Out: Candace Chapman, Caroline Miller, Toni Pressley and Colleen Williams

Seattle Reign FC

Out: None Reported

Western New York Flash vs Portland Thorns FC

Match Date/Time: Saturday August 10 2013 at 7:35 PM ET, 4:35 PM PT

Venue: Sahlen's Stadium, Rochester, NY

Online: NWSL Soccer YouTube Channel

The battle for second place could be decided over the 90 minutes in which the WNY Flash host Portland. Both teams (and Sky Blue) are currently sitting on 34 points . However, the Flash lead in goal differential, which has given them second place while Portland sits in third.

This is the second and final time these teams will meet in the regular season. Their previous match concluded in a 1-1 draw with goals from Abby Wambach and Mana Shim. This week, WNYF might have the upper hand as Portland are dealt with reconstructing their front line after Alex Morgan's knee injury.

Morgan is a powerful force up front and without her on the field, Portland suffer -- her speed and accuracy on the ball is what wins games. They certainly seemed lost without her after she went off injured in their last match, which ended in a 2-1 loss to Boston, and Portland taking sole possession of second place without her seems unlikely.

The Flash stacked with tenacious, agile and persistent players. They rarely give up possession and are skilled at  scoring from any distance or angle. Look for them to overwhelm Portland's back line.


Western New York Flash

Out: Alex Sahlen

Portland Thorns FC

Out: Becky Edwards, Nikki Washington and Alex Morgan

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