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NWSL Week 15 preview: Short rest

Washington takes on league leaders Chicago, the Dash meet the Flash, Sky Blue tries to climb out of the basement against Boston and Seattle goes for two in a row against Portland.

Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Week 15 has already been a busy one, with a handful of midweek games not only producing some interesting stories ahead of the weekend, but also forcing a few teams to play on very short rest.

On Monday, FC Kansas City played host to Houston with both teams in need of points -- the Dash will continue pushing for a playoff spot after an up-and-down start, with the Blues looking to build a little cushion in holding onto the final playoff spot. A 1-1 draw did little to help either, with FCKC still just three points up on the fifth place Flash and the Dash seeming stalled out in sixth, three points from the bottom and four from the playoffs. Houston will face Western NY on Saturday, with fifth place, at least, a sure thing for the winner.

Wednesday saw two more games, with league's top two teams -- Chicago and Seattle -- both winning their respective games to stay a point apart at the top of the table. Chicago handed Boston a 2-1 loss in Boston, while the Reign took the first half of a home-and-home with Portland, 1-0. That game set an NWSL attendance record, with a sellout crowd of 21,144 packing Providence Park. The two teams meet again on Sunday in Seattle.

Saturday, July 25
Washington Spirit vs. Chicago Red Stars
Maryland SoccerPlex, 7 p.m. ET

Last weekend it was second place Seattle, and this weekend, the Spirit will look to complete the Top Team Double against league leaders Chicago. Washington had little trouble knocking off the Reign a week ago, putting up a 3-0 win over last season's Shield winners. This week, DC will try to do it again, and the Spirit should finally have their USWNT contingent -- Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger -- available. Washington saw the return of Diana Matheson last weekend, and the Canadian international registered an assist less than 10 minutes into her first NWSL appearance of the season. Crystal Dunn also added another goal to her tally in that game, her league-leading eighth of the season.

The Red Stars will play on shorter rest than the Spirit, after a midweek trip to Boston. Chicago got a 2-1 win on Wednesday before heading down the east coast to the SoccerPlex. That game saw Julie Johnston and Christen Press make their club return, appearing in Red Stars colors for the first time since the World Cup. Lori Chalupny and Shannon Boxx made their first post-World Cup appearances last weekend.

Saturday marks the first meeting of the season between Washington and Chicago. The Red Stars and Spirit did try the whole playing a game thing once before, but weather forced the match to be abandoned, the latest chapter in the bizarre, weather-related saga of the Spirit and Red Stars. In 2013, Chicago was eliminated from playoff contention after a 1-0 loss to Washington in a game that was never actually, technically, completed. Lightning forced both teams off the field in the 76th minute, with play resuming after a delay of over an hour. Four minutes after the restart, players were once again lightninged off the field, this time never to return thanks to some uncooperative storms and the Maryland SoccerPlex's curfew. The league decided the 80 minutes played was enough to make it official, Chicago saw its playoff hopes come to a screeching halt and the Spirit headed into the playoffs, only to be eliminated in the first round by eventual Championship losers Seattle.

The replay of this year's scrapped game is rescheduled for August 16 in Chicago, the other only other time this season the two teams will face each other, and a game that could also have major playoff implications.

Western NY Flash vs. Houston Dash
Sahlen's Stadium, 7 p.m. ET

The second edition of the Rhyming Names Derby of 2015 features Flash and Dash teams currently in fifth and sixth, respectively, and separated by just a single point. Saturday's game will be the second for the Dash this week -- Houston played to a 1-1 draw with FC Kansas City in Kansas on Wednesday. It's also the second of four games Houston will play in the span of 13 days, with two more -- one in Houston against FCKC, and one at Washington -- scheduled for next week.

The Dash saw all three of its USWNT stars return on Wednesday, with Meghan Klingenberg playing 56 minutes and Morgan Brian and Carli Lloyd both going 90. Lloyd kept up her World Cup form, scoring Houston's only goal.

The Flash got half of its USWNT contingent back last weekend, with Whitney Engen going the full 90 in her return. The other half would be Sydney Leroux, who's done for the season due to ankle surgery. Leroux made just three appearances for Western NY this season, scoring one goal. And losing their should-be star striker wasn't the only blow WNY was dealt, as the Flash also managed to let a 3-1 lead evaporate, earning only a single point in a 3-3 draw/comedy of defensive errors against Sky Blue FC last Saturday.

If the Flash are going to rebound this weekend, they'll have to do it against a Houston team they've beaten just once in four tries since the Dash joined the league in 2014. The Dash won this season's previous meeting, on June 20 in Houston, 2-0.

Sky Blue FC vs. Boston Breakers
Yurcak Field, 7 p.m. ET

After the embarrassing defensive effort that was last weekend's 3-3 draw between Sky Blue and Western NY, the last thing the Jersey team needs is a game against Boston. And yet, here we are. Sky Blue-Breakers games tend to be chock full of hilarious/bizarre/ridiculous moments, and with both teams fighting to just not be the worst, what magical moment will Saturday provide?

Highlights of two previous seasons worth of meetings between the two have provided two red cards, 12 yellow cards, one broken nose for Alyssa Naeher, one bicycle kick goal, four one-goal games, two draws and one 5-1 win for Sky Blue FC. This season's previous meeting, way back in May, was a relatively tame 1-1 draw that included just one measly yellow card. We'll add it to the tally anyway.

The Breakers are coming off a midweek loss to Chicago, and currently sit in eighth, just one point ahead of long-time basement BFFs and current owners of last place, Sky Blue FC. A win could get the New Jersey team out of said basement for the first time since ... before the season started?

Sunday, July 26
Seattle Reign vs. Portland Thorns FC
Memorial Stadium, 7 p.m. ET

The second half of a home-and-home between Cascadia rivals, Sunday marks the final meeting of the season between Portland and Seattle. The Reign took game one on Wednesday night, topping Portland 1-0 on a goal from Kim Little in the league's 2015 kind-of, but not really, but let's pretend it's real television, television debut.

Seattle is still a point back on the first place Red Stars, while 2013 league champions Portland have continued their long, slow slide to the bottom. The Thorns are currently in seventh, five points out of a playoff spot and just two ahead of last place Sky Blue FC. Paul Riley's band of big names comes into Sunday having lost two in a row, and in the bottom three in scoring in the league. The Thorns have managed just 13 goals all season, the same amount as Houston. Only Sky Blue, with 11, has scored fewer goals. Seattle meanwhile, saw its eight-game unbeaten streak snapped last weekend against the Spirit, before rebounding with the win on Wednesday.