It's here. The last week of the 4th regular season of the NWSL. After Seattle and Houston conclude their potentially important match on Sunday night, six teams will enter the off-season.
Many international players will fly home immediately, unsure if they'll be back. Retirements, trades and draft choices will dramatically alter the team rosters for 2017. It's our final opportunity to show our appreciation for a hard-fought season, and our last chance to see our favorite teams as they're currently composed. Unless our favorite team has made the playoffs.
One playoff spot is still up for grabs.
If the Western New York Flash can get collect three points tonight away against the Boston Breakers in a sold out Jordon Field, they're in. If they tie and only get one point, they'll probably still get in, but Seattle would have at least a tiny chance to match the Flash on points with a win vs Houston on Sunday. The Reign would likely still have some work to do to get in based on tie-breakers, but it would theoretically be possible to leapfrog the Flash if the Flash only earns one point vs Boston.
If the Boston Breakers treat their home supporters to a final match victory tonight, and prevent the Flash from increasing their points edge on the Reign, they may also keep their regional rivals from making the playoffs at all. To get in, the Reign would just need an away win vs a stacked Houston Dash side on national TV on Sunday night. No pressure.
Week 20 kicks off in Orlando on Saturday.
FCKC at Orlando Pride
Bold Prediction: I think Orlando wins this one at home, 2-1. I'm not sure why. But that's what I think.
Western NY Flash at Boston Breakers
Saturday at 7:00PM
Bold Prediction: Boston will be without fleet-footed midfielder Louise Schillgard, and both Whitney Engen and Julie King are listed as doubtful with hamstring and ankle issues, respectively. The Flash will push for a playoff berth without Lianne Sanderson, who suffered an ACL tear in her right knee during a scrimmage. The Flash have the attacking quality to get the win, but I think Boston will fight them to at least a draw. 2-2, same as the last time. Then, let the nail biting begin.
Did you see my article on Breakers midfielder Angela Salem? Don't miss it!
Washington Spirit at Chicago Red Stars
Saturday at 8:00PM Eastern
Bold Prediction: Both of these sides have secured playoff spots, so we could see some caution here. Rest players a bit? Make sure nobody critical gets injured? Or, we might see a team looking to catapult themselves into the playoffs with a confidence-boosting signature victory against a strong team. Hard to tell. I think Washington is stronger, and I think Joanna Lohman's hair is tall enough now that she'll find herself elevated above all others for a set piece header goal to earn the win. 3-2 Spirit.
Portland Thorns at Sky Blue FC
Sunday at 7:00PM Eastern
Bold Prediction: Portland is so packed with talent, they could rest almost a full starting team and still have the firepower to win. Sky Blue is playing for pride, although if they win, and both Seattle and WNY lose, and they somehow score at least 15 goals without conceding any, they could theoretically still grab a playoff spot. Stranger things have happ... OK, no, they haven't. This looks like a 3-1 Thorns win to me.
Seattle Reign at Houston Dash
Sunday at 9:30PM Eastern
Bold Prediction: This game will be different depending on what happens in Boston on Saturday. If the Flash beat the Breakers, then this becomes a game that no longer has playoff implications. Both teams will play hard, but Seattle won't have the same motivation. I think the Flash collect one point at Boston, so the Reign will have a chance, and they give it their all, falling short on goal differential. 2-1 Reign.
Go turn on your TV and get over to FS1. No sweet streaming embed for you.