NWSL week 14 preview: A four-team race

Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Western NY and Washington finish out the season series, Portland hosts FC Kansas City, Chicago tries to stop the bleeding, and Seattle looks to make it 17 straight.

With little more than a month left to play, Seattle and FC Kansas City have all but mathematically clinched the top two spots in the standings, but everything below them? It's a mess. Western NY and Washington, who play each other in week 14, are tied on points and currently sitting in the last two playoff spots, but it's anything but comfortable for last year's first and worst teams. Chicago and Portland, who don't play each other but do play Seattle and FC Kansas City, are also tied on points and each just one point back of Washington and Western NY. And because the bottom of the table is pretty much taking the week off, what with Sky Blue losing 5-0 to FC Kansas City on Wednesday and Boston flying to Houston to play a game for 45 minutes and then just Boston around for the other 45 in a loss to the Dash and all, this is a weekend is full of games with huge playoff implications.

Western NY Flash vs. Washington Spirit
Sahlen's Stadium, Saturday 7:00 PM ET

Call this one The Battle of the Inconsistents. Since the beginning of June, the Flash has won at a rate of exactly every other game, while Washington is unbeaten in the two games it's played post-6-1 drubbing in Portland. Currently tied in the standings with 23 points each and in third and fourth places respectively, the Flash and Spirit meet for the final time this season on Saturday, Washington's only trip to Rochester this year. Yes, with a month to play, last year's regular season champs and last year's last place team are locked in a battle for the last two playoff spots.

The two teams have met two other times this season, both in Washington, with the Flash winning the season opener and the Spirit taking the second edition in mid-May. A win here is big for both teams, with both Chicago and Portland just a point back and the other two playoff spots all but officially locked up for Seattle and FC Kansas City.

Western NY is coming off a big win last weekend over Houston, while Washington last played in a wild 3-3 draw with still bottom of the table Boston on July 2nd. That game featured, among the lowlights, Ashlyn Harris giving the ref a shove and facing no disciplinary action as a result and Tom Durkin and Breakers GM Lee Billiard criticizing the ref, which is basically a shove but with words, and both being fined as a result, because sticks and stones and goalkeeper gloves will never hurt me but words... Wait, how does it go? I think we bought this book of sayings in the same section of Marshall's where we found this pamphlet called NWSL Disiplinary Guidelinze. Both were marked "imperfect," but I don't even think you can really tell. I mean, there are those typos but we're never going to show this to anyone anyway. It's not like that shirt we bought with one short sleeve and one long sleeve. Now that was a mess. Remember when you didn't realize it and almost left the house wearing it? I think you were on your way to suspend Carli Lloyd for punching someone in the face. No, it was before Rory Dames criticized the officiating on Twitter and we just pretended it didn't happen. What? Where are you going?

Chicago Red Stars vs. Seattle Reign FC
Benedictine U. Sports Complex Stadium, Saturday 8:00 PM ET

Seattle, still unbeaten on the season, still in first place, streak now at 16. Seattle, now also stealer of games late to keep that streak in tact, defying controversy and injury along the way. Chicago tried that whole streak thing, too, and it worked out pretty well, for like, a month, but gosh this not losing thing is just so hard you guys. The Red Stars unbeaten May skyrocketed them into second and Chicago was all like "hey, Seattle, I see you" and "look at us" and "we can do that too." And then the whole thing fell apart and the Red Stars have not won a single game since, staying in the playoff race mostly because of the trifecta of terribleness that is Boston/Houston/Sky Blue and the bottom of the table. Chicago, now owners of a new streak, winless in seven and facing a team that it has already lost to once this season because who hasn't, and that it will have to play again in a week, with a game against Portland in between, because who ever made this schedule is so mean and can't we just play Boston like nine more times? No?

Portland Thorns FC vs. FC Kansas City
Providence Park, Sunday 7:00 PM ET

May 14th. That is the last time FC Kansas City lost a game. May 21st. That is the last time FC Kansas City didn't win a game. Vlatko Andonovski's side has climbed comfortably into second on the table thanks to a nine match unbeaten streak, winning the last seven of those nine, and outscoring opponents 17-5 in those games. The last three have been shutouts, a 1-0 win over Portland at the end of June among them. The Blues took apart Sky Blue FC last weekend, grabbing a big win in Jersey that featured a Lauren Holiday olimpico among the five goals Kansas City scored.

Then there is Portland, who ran over Washington to the tune of 6-1 on June 21st, and has not visited the win column in the four games since, losing to Sky Blue FC and FC Kansas City and playing to two consecutive draws with Chicago.

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