NWSL Week 18 Midweek Preview

USA TODAY Sports

Six teams take the field in the final mid-week scheduled games of the 2013 NWSL season. Portland and the Flash will need a draw or win from their respective meetings in order to set sail into the playoffs.

Boston Breakers vs Portland Thorns FC

Match Date/Time: Wednesday August 7th 2013 at 7:00 PM ET

Venue: Dilboy Stadium, Sommerville, MA

Online: Boston Breakers Live Stream ($4.99)

Portland and Boston have three games remaining in their regular season schedule and are both competing for playoff spots, with the Thorns ahead in second place. Portland will have to sweat it out for a week and a half before they can celebrate a playoff berth. Unfortunately, the Breakers still have a lot of work to do after suffering a crushing 2-2 draw against WNYFlash despite taking an early two goal lead against the Rochester giants.

Both teams have games this weekend, and for Portland this means that Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath cannot step out of line. Both are teetering on the edge of suspension with four yellow cards apiece. Last week against FC Kansas City, Morgan was taunted again by the opposition; this is becoming a common theme in the Thorns matches as of late, with opponents attempting to draw a booking from their star striker.

In Week 17, the Breakers took a two goal lead against the Flash thanks to Kyah Simon in the 17th minute and Lianne Sanderson in the 65th minute. Boston placed a great deal of pressure on the Flash but could not keep the opposition's attacking force at bay in the final minutes, when Vicki DiMartino and Carli Lloyd both scored to level the match.

For the Breakers, they will rely on Sydney Leroux's speed, Heather O'Reilly's creativity and Lianne Sanderson's persistence in the midfield to develop dangerous attacks. The Thorns defense is good, but whether they can stop O'Reilly and Leroux from linking up near the 18-yard box will be the deciding factor for who wins Wednesday's match.

Injuries

Boston Breakers

Out: Bianca D'Agostino

Portland Thorns FC

Out: Becky Edwards and Nikki Washington

Western New York Flash vs Seattle Reign FC

Match Date/Time: Wednesday August 7th 2013 at 7:05 PM ET

Venue: Sahlen's Stadium, Rochester, NY

Online: NWSL Soccer YouTube Channel

Megan Rapinoe and company will travel to Rochester, NY to face the WNY Flash for the third and final time this season. Seattle recently took down the Flash 3-2 on July 11th with goals from Christine Nairn, Megan Rapinoe and Jessica Fishlock.

This week the Flash have been assigned a challenging schedule as they are set to host Portland on Saturday. With only two days in between games, Aaron Lines will need to rest some of his star players on Wednesday against Seattle. The Flash have yet to secure a playoff spot and trail Sky Blue, by three points.

For the Flash to secure three points against Seattle they will need to close down Rapinoe and Keelin Winters. They are tenacious players that always find space for their teammates and look to score at every turn. Rapinoe has a knack for opening spaces for the supporting players up top and if she can give either Christine Nairn, Jessica McDonald or Renae Cuellar a solid ball into the box, the Flash might have no chance at stopping that goal.

Seattle should not stick to the starting XI they presented against Chicago which produced a miserable result for the Reign as they lost 3-1 to the Red Stars.

Injuries

Western New York Flash

Out: Alex Sahlen

Seattle Reign FC

Out: None Reported

Washington Spirit vs Chicago Red Stars

Match Date/Time: Wednesday August 7th 2013 at 7:30 PM

Venue: Marlyand Soccerplex Stadium, Boyds, MD

Online: NWSL Soccer YouTube Channel

Chicago currently sit out of the playoff places, but have a golden opportunity to pick up three points against the Spirit on Wednesday.

The Spirit are a good team but with so many of their quality players sidelined due to injury, it makes it more difficult for them to produce strong results. A big question going into Wednesday's game will be whether Ali Krieger clocks minutes. Her absence from the field has hurt the Spirit defensively, but if the back four can regroup with Robyn Gayle and Krieger, then their chances of keeping the Red Stars off the board look strong.

Three matches remain for the Red Stars, a win in all three would likely open the door for them to make the playoffs. This of course is pending the results posted by the Flash and Sky Blue in the next week. In addition, Chicago's remaining matches will be against Sky Blue this Saturday and FC Kansas City to close out the season. On Saturday, both Sky Blue and Chicago will be looking to secure more than a point in order to expand the gap in the table. Therefore, the Red Stars need to take advantage of this opportunity against Washington.

This task won't be easy because the Red Stars are still without Lori Chalupny. Their team captain is sidelined with an ankle injury and, while Chicago did manage to pull out a 3-1 win against Seattle without Chalupny, they're still going to find it difficult without her.

Chicago need Ella Masar and Inka Grings to create chances for themselves up front. They are talented forwards who are strong finishers and communicate well with each other. Both of these forwards are also physically intimidating; Masar is strong and difficult to dispossess while Grings has her speed. In the midfield, Leslie Osborne continues to perform at the highest level. Her control of the ball, ruthlessness and complete command of the midfield is proving to be a valuable asset.

Injuries

Washington Spirit

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

Chicago Red Stars

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

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