NWSL Week 4 Preview & Picks

After three weeks of play, only the Orlando Pride and Washington Spirit are winless. It's a whole new world for the league, with the re-named North Carolina Courage and the Boston Breakers sitting at the top of the table.

Boston is playing an attractive style of football, and the results against a very surprised Reign side last week show that a good or bad performance one week is not necessarily predictive of what to expect the following week. After plastering the Houston Dash by a 5-1 scoreline at home in week two, the Reign looked helpless in a 3-0 loss at Boston. So, will the Breakers do better than the Reign at building on a dominant win? Maybe.

Week 1: 4 correct, 1 very wrong
Week 2: 2 correct, 3 very wrong
Week 3: 4 correct, 1 very wrong*

*Week three was back to surprisingly good Bold (Bad) Predictions, and though I ordinarily don't make calls for draws, I think FCKC had some reason to feel harshly done by a late offside call against Brittany Ratcliffe that took away an equalizing goal. I'd still have been wrong, having called for an FCKC victory against Sky Blue, but this is a tough way to drop points.


Houston Dash at Chicago Red Stars

Saturday at 4PM on Lifetime TV

On your TV, without any "casting" or other magic.

On your TV, without any "casting" or other magic.

Lifetime TV travels to Chicago this week, where the Red Stars will try to improve upon their shutout loss to the Dash in Houston in week one. Both teams have shown mixed results this season; Chicago has laid an egg twice and Houston was demolished between two more solid performances. 

Houston is probably too good to not score at least one, but I think Chicago finds a way to get on the scoresheet here as well. I think Christen Press scores late to secure the home victory. Naeher is excellent in goal and preserves the win with several remarkable saves.

Chicago 2-1 Dash


Sky Blue FC at Washington Spirit

Saturday at 7PM on Go90 App & Website

This game had a different feel last season.

This game had a different feel last season.

What a difference a year makes. The Spirit, who were just seconds away from an NWSL Championship last year, are now first only in the number of ACL tears on the league injury report. Sky Blue hasn't put together their best game yet, but they've shown signs of promise. I think the short road trip will be good to the visitors.

Ultimately, the Spirit is still just missing too many pieces to put together a cohesive performance and secure a win. 

Sky Blue FC 2-1 Washington Spirit


Seattle Reign at Portland Thorns

Saturday at 10PM on Go90 App & Website

Surprisingly difficult to pick a winner in the Cascadian Derby (say: "Darby").

Surprisingly difficult to pick a winner in the Cascadian Derby (say: "Darby").

The battle of the Pacific Northwest is always fun to watch, but this particular installment brings with it some questions. 

1. Who are the Reign? The team that beat the Dash 5-1, or the team that lost to Boston 3-0? Both, of course. This week, they'll be without important midfielder Christine Nairn, who'd have been expected to disrupt Portland's duo of Amandine Henry and Lindsey Horan. Absent Nairn, the physical midfield matchup skews to the Thorns.

2. When will Portland be healthy? Tobin Heath, Mana Shim, Katherine Reynolds and Dagny Brynjarsdottir will all miss the match. Heath's creativity has been sorely missed by the Thorns, who've only scored one goal in the past two weeks.

Ultimately, I think Portland's size advantage is too much for Seattle, and the home side wins.

Portland Thorns 3-1 Seattle Reign


North Carolina Courage at Boston Breakers

Sunday at 6PM on Go90 App & Website

Who will blink first?

Who will blink first?

North Carolina Courage arrives in Boston on a 3-game winning spree, including a tough 1-0 win over the Thorns. Unfortunately, their more impressive wins came against Orlando and Washington, who currently reside at the bottom of the league table. So it's possible they'll be surprised by Boston's game planning and organization. Boston's two wins have been better wins, and the team is confident after their 3-0 dismantling of Seattle in week three.

This team doesn't know it is supposed to be everyone's doormat. 

This team doesn't know it is supposed to be everyone's doormat. 

I could see this game coming to any of the three possible conclusions, but I don't anticipate a high scoring match. The home crowd may help the Breakers pull off a win, but I think the teams share the points in a tough, physical match.

Boston Breakers 2-2 North Carolina Courage


Orlando Pride at FC Kansas City

Sunday at 6PM on Go90 App & Website

Another Tough Road Trip for Orlando

Another Tough Road Trip for Orlando

After winning their opener against Boston, FCKC hasn't been able to consistently connect on attack (Losing Amy Rodriguez will do that). Brittany Ratcliffe has shown some life up top, but she only arrived in Kansas City after being cut from the Red Stars on the final day of pre-season. So it's natural that she's not as well incorporated into the attack as had been ARod. Erika Tymrak has only seen a few late minutes, but she seems an obvious answer to getting FCKC's scoring back on track.

Orlando needs a win. A nice, big, team-building win that gives players a chance to see the talents of their teammates instead of just their shortcomings. They haven't been that bad, but their schedule had them up against some pretty difficult competition, facing Portland and North Carolina in the first three weeks. The draw with Washington gave both teams their only point of the year, but draws aren't going to improve team morale.

Unfortunately for the Pride, I think FCKC finds a way to score more on Sunday, with perhaps a set piece header by Yael Averbuch to seal it.

FCKC 2-1 Orlando Pride