NWSL Week 17 Weekend Preview

The top of the table clash will take place on Sunday between FC Kansas City and Portland Thorns but before then the battle for the other two playoff spots will take place.

Chicago Red Stars vs Seattle Reign FC

Match Date/Time: Saturday, August 3rd 2013 at 6:00 PM

Venue: Benedictine University Sports Complex, Lisle, IL

Online: Chicago Red Stars Stream in English or Spanish

Chicago has a golden opportunity to jump ahead of Boston in the table, steal fifth place and inch closer to a spot in the playoffs. At the moment Chicago has 23 points, tied with Boston and five ahead of Seattle.

Saturday will be Chicago's only opportunity to qualify for the playoffs, if they lose to the Reign then their hopes of reaching the top four will be dashed. There's a lot of pressure on the Red Stars, and they'll enter their home stadium on Saturday without their team captain, Lori Chalupny who is sidelined due to an ankle injury sustained against Portland.

Chalupny is an integral part to the Red Stars' offense and they will need to fill her place on the field. Ella Masar is probably their best option. Masar is a strong forward with tremendous strength on the ball and great on-field communication with the midfield. She is a team player and will be looking for her teammates to help out on set pieces to provide Chicago with an early lead against an aggressive Seattle side led by Megan Rapinoe.

The Reign continue to push in the competition, currently sitting in seventh place with eighteen points. They may be out of the playoff race but they will be hoping to complete their season on a high, and are likely to embrace their role as spoilers.

For Seattle to prevent Chicago from making it to the play-offs, they will need to devote most of their attention to the midfield. Leslie Osborne and Alyssa Mautz must be contained to give the visitors a fighting chance. If Seattle can win the midfield battle and seize control of the ball, they could well ruin Chicago's year.

Injuries

Chicago Red Stars

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

Seattle Reign FC

Out: None Reported

Boston Breakers vs Western New York Flash

Match Date/Time: Saturday, August 3rd 2013 at 6:00 PM ET

Venue: Dilboy Stadium, Somerville, MA

Online: Boston Breakers LiveStream ($4.99)

Boston have the chance to make the playoffs in NWSL's inaugral season. This will be a challenging game for the Breakers, but one that could be long cherished if they succeed in grabbing a win against the Flash. Late on Friday, the Breakers announced they had parted ways with head coach Lisa Cole, promoting defender Cat Whitehill in her place. The former U.S. national defender will have to juggling her new role with her play on Saturday. It will be interesting to see how she delegates her duties, but it wouldn't be much of a surprise to see Whitehill on the field for the opening half and then letting the reigns go to Rhian Wilkinson or Carmelina Moscato.

For Boston to smother the Flash offense they will need to form an organized back four; not their strong suit but doable. To start things off, the midfield needs to be on point -- which is never an issue for the Breakers anyway. They do well moving the ball out of the midfield and keeping possession, but the Flash are aggressive and do not allow their opposition much time on the ball.

One of WNYF's key players, exceptionally talented at dispossessing the opposition, is Carli Lloyd. She will be looking to get the Flash on the board early and in doing so causing some fouls. The Breakers will need to look out for her at all times because she has a knack for disrupting things in the middle.

Saturday's match will be an intense face-off between two dedicated teams that are fighting to keep or gain a spot in the play-offs.

Injuries

Boston Breakers

Out: Bianca D'Agostino

Probable: Jazmyne Avant, Alyssa Naeher, Katie Schoepfer and Kyah Simon

Western New York Flash

Out: None Reported

Sky Blue FC vs Washington Spirit

Match Date/Time: Saturday, August 3rd 2013 at 7:00 PM ET

Venue: Yurcak Field, Piscataway, NJ

Online: NWSL Soccer YouTube Channel

This would be Sky Blue's best opportunity to climb back up in the rankings. At the moment the former first place team is holding down the fort in third place with 31 points, only a one ahead of WNY Flash and three behind Portland. They have been struggling with a recent string of injuries and last week another name was added to the list.

Danesha Adams exited the field against Portland in week 17 and is now sidelined due to an ankle injury. She joins Kelley O'Hara and Caitlin Foord in the injury club -- none of them will be able to feature this weekend.This is a heavy hit to this talented New Jersey club because Adams was a consistent starter for the team and a powerful force up-front helping out Lisa De Vanna.

Speaking of De Vanna, since exiting the field against the Flash in week 15 with a hamstring strain, the Australian national striker has experienced some difficulty playing a full 90. SBFC has played two games since week 15, and in neither did she play more than 45 minutes. Saturday won't be any different; she will likely not play 90 minutes, but what she might be able to do for the team is link up with Sophie Schmidt up top.

Washington are not a defensively strong team. They lack the organization in the back line and their midfield is their strongest element but not strong enough. Much of their defense relies on Ashlyn Harris, but she can't stop all the shots from getting into the back of the net, so this is Sky Blue's best chance to take advantage of this struggling defense and earn three points at home.

Injuries

Sky Blue FC

Out: Kelley O'Hara, Caitlin Foord and Danesha Adams

Doubtful: Lindsi Cutshall and Lisa De Vanna

Washington Spirit

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

Probable: Robyn Gayle and Ali Krieger

Portland Thorns FC vs FC Kansas City

Match Date/Time: Sunday, August 4th at 5:30 PM PT, 8:30 PM ET

Venue: JELD-WEN Field, Portland, ORE

TV: Fox Soccer

The top of the table clash will take place at JELD-WEN Field, home to the Portland Thorns. The Thorns are second in the table; their visitors are first, and all that separates the two clubs is a point. Other than that they are equally talented across the board and this has been proven in three previous meetings.

The teams have tied the record with a win apiece and a draw and Sunday will result in a true victor of this epic saga. Portland has never been kind to FC Kansas City, and Sunday won't be any different -- it will be the first time FCKC meet Tobin Heath. The U.S. midfielder has breathed new life into Portland's once-disorganized midfield. She is aggressive and at times can't control that mean streak, resulting in four yellow cards in only four appearances. Heath will be walking on eggshells alongside Alex Morgan, who also owns four yellow cards.

Both of the U.S. allocated players cannot afford stepping out of line because it will be suspension from the following game where Portland face Boston. Considering that two of Portland's strongest players can't concede another yellow, FCKC could use this to their advantage and manipulate a caution for Heath or Morgan. It wouldn't be difficult, Morgan has been presenting a lot of frustration lately whenever she struggles to gain possession of the ball.

This is an important match for both teams because a win on Sunday would provide either team with a comfortable cushion in first place. For either team to win, they must press the attack hard but for FCKC this is never an issue. Talent is abundant on that squad, and they will be hitting the Thorns net from all directions including some sneak attacks into the box by Courtney Jones and strikes from a distance by Lauren Holiday.

Portland will need to work on closing down the midfield, in particular Desiree Scott and Jen Buczkowski. For Portland to score will be difficult as well because Kristie Mewis will likely be in the back four and she's in the process of wrapping up an excellent season. She not only dispossesses her competition but she moves the ball out of her half and finds players up top frequently. She will be the start to FCKC's counter attacks.

Injuries

Portland Thorns FC

Out: Becky Edwards and Nikki Washington

FC Kansas City

Out: None Reported

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