NWSL, Week 3 preview: Rebound?


Portland's home opener, a chance for Kansas City to settle a score, Seattle's first big test, and in Boston we'll probably just do trust falls and watch Duck Soup. It's week 3 of the NWSL season.

Week 3 brings the first meeting between Seattle and Houston, with both sides looking to build on big wins. Meanwhile, Kansas City, Washington and Boston will try to pick up the pieces after tough losses.

Chicago Red Stars vs. Washington Spirit
Benedictine U. Sports Complex Stadium, Saturday 8:00 PM ET

Confidence. That's what the storyline for the Spirit appears to be in 2014. And how well Washington can rebound from the inevitable tough losses is going to play a huge part in where last year's bottom dwellers end up this time around. The Spirit earned the biggest win in franchise history a week ago, topping FC Kansas City 3-1, but couldn't keep the momentum going in a midweek match with Seattle, dropping that one by the same score. Mark Parsons' side will need to shake off that midweek loss in a second straight road game, and one coming on short rest. They'll also have to do it without forward Tiffany Weimer, who the team confirmed earlier this week would miss the season with an ACL injury. Diana Matheson has already taken the reins as the Spirit's go-to for goals, but Washington badly needs someone else to share the load, or it could be another long season after all.

Chicago, whose offensive pressure impressed in their season debut last weekend, will provide another tough test for Washington. The Spirit will have to do a better job dealing with the constant pressure than they did against Seattle, and they'll also have to do better defending set pieces, where Chicago scored a week ago against the Flash, and where Washington gave up a goal on Wednesday.

Portland Thorns FC vs. FC Kansas City
Providence Park, Saturday 10:00 PM ET

Speaking of confidence, there's perhaps no bigger test for how well FC Kansas City can shake off that loss to the Spirit last weekend than against the top of the table Thorns. And in Portland's home opener, no less, where a for-sure raucous and large crowd will finally welcome their defending champions home. It's also the first meeting of the two teams since last year's semifinal, where FCKC blew a two-goal lead en route to an extra time loss to the Thorns.

The Blues have looked flat for large chunks of games so far this season, somehow combining last year's oft-lackadaisical defending with a still not totally in-sync offense.

Not that Portland has looked totally impressive either. While the Providence Park crowd will give the home team a nice boost, Portland's home record a season ago wasn't great and so far this year slow starts would have the Thorns in a very different place on the table if not for the scoring troubles and defensive lapses of the two teams they've faced. Which is kind of exactly where FCKC is at right now, something that spells trouble for the Blues and will probably be enough for Portland to grab at least another point without doing a whole lot.

Boston Breakers vs. Sky Blue FC
Harvard Stadium, Sunday 7:00 PM ET

There are two types of Boston Breakers-Sky Blue FC games. One is the kind where nothing happens. Nothing. Like, the watching paint dry or water come to a boil kind of nothing is more exciting because you know at least something is happening, even if you can't see it. The other is the kind where everything happens. Where Boston scores 14 seconds into the game, where Sky Blue wins 5-1 and Lisa De Vanna scores on a ridiculous bicycle kick, where Alyssa Naeher plays most of the game with a broken nose, where the only straight red card in NWSL history gets earned after Sophie Schmidt inexplicably throws the ball at someone.

The first kind is probably going to happen here, because both of these teams still mostly look like they've never met, and everyone will spend the entire 90 minutes sitting around in a circle and doing trust falls and having someone explain why they're wearing matching shirts. Now is as good a time as any since they play each other again next weekend anyway.

Seattle Reign vs. Houston Dash
Moda Health Pitch Memorial Stadium, Sunday 7:00 PM ET

No one could stop Laura Harvey in the offseason, and so far no one has been able to stop her team during the season. The Reign are at the top of the table, rolling over opponents, all entertaining and looking like they've been together since forever. But they also haven't had much of a challenge. Seattle opened the season against a Boston defense that spent the game doing some kind of Buster Keaton routine and then played a Washington team that managed to put up a bit of a fight but just didn't have the personnel to weather the storm. Now though, Seattle takes on a Houston side that's already proven itself to be much more than an expansion team.

Houston still has a lot of defensive problems thanks to some roster weirdness, which will certainly make things interesting against a Seattle offense that already features five different goal scorers and has proven itself very capable of turning little mistakes into great goal scoring opportunities. But Seattle isn't the only team with a cohesive offense here - Houston too has proven they can score goals and, unlike both of the Reign's previous opponents, the Dash is very capable of battling back from whatever hole those defensive troubles get them into.

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