NWSL Week 14 Preview & Picks

Week 14 has arrived, and we get all five matches on Saturday this week. We'll get all five matches on Saturday next week too, and then we get a FIFA break with no NWSL action until August 4th. So, it's basically August, and I'm not ready for that just yet. Oh, wait. We get the UEFA Women's EURO final tournament starting tomorrow, and we'll get that fun July 27-Aug3 Tournament of Nations on the west coast, featuring the USWNT, Australia, Japan and Brazil. August will have to wait!

Bleak stuff in the predictions world last week, though I did correctly see the multiple-goal outbreak from Sam Kerr in Sky Blue's 3-2 win over FCKC. It's hard to say that there are any very bad teams this year, which makes it difficult to see a Thorns/Dash draw coming. What's next?

First up, on Lifetime:

North Carolina Courage at Portland Thorns

Saturday at 3:30PM on Lifetime TV

The disjointedness ends after the photographs are over

The disjointedness ends after the photographs are over

North Carolina doesn't have any obvious flaws at this point in the year, and they're pretty healthy on top of it. They've got a variety of attacking options, and Zerboni, Mewis and Doniak (not to mention Debinha, who is her own attacking option) do a great job of finding whoever is flying forward to get the ball in the net. 

Portland is another story. They'll be missing Amandine Henry, Nadia Nadim and Dagný Brynjarsdóttir for the EUROs for a few weeks, and Henry in particular was sorely missed last week. They're at home on national TV, and a loss would see the preseason team-to-beat fall to even wins and losses on the season. Yikes. Unfortunately, unless Sinclair erupts (as she certainly still is capable of doing; ask FCKC), I can't see the home side earning points this afternoon. 

Courage 2-1 Thorns

Chicago Red Stars at Sky Blue FC

Saturday at 7PM on Go90 App

You guys have heard of Sam Kerr, right?

You guys have heard of Sam Kerr, right?

The Red Stars looked fairly pedestrian last Friday night and were unable to put a ball in the net against similarly scoring-challenged Boston. Well, they put two balls in the net, but both times they were called back for what lots of people like to call, "OFFSIDES." Take those people out back and wag a finger in their general direction, because as you know, dear reader, the condition under which an attacker is closer to the goal than the last defender at the time of the pass is called being "OFFSIDE." No "S." Just like Daylight Saving Time, not Daylight SavingS Time. No "S." End rant.

In any case, the only S that need be discussed here is the one that starts the current NWSL MVP's name. That S belongs to Sam Kerr. The baggy-kitted Australian netted three in twelve minutes to send the 10-player FCKC squad home empty handed. She was ruthless, and when she got going, the game took on the feeling that she might just keep scoring. I suspect she'll see plenty of things to like while running at the Red Stars this evening, but she can't hang consecutive hat tricks on consecutive visitors, can she? Well, she probably can. But whatever she does, it will probably be enough.

That said, Sky Blue's defense was a shambles in the first half against FCKC, and Mandy Freeman will be out for a while with the sprained ankle she suffered last week. Natasha Kai, however, will be available for selection after a long recovery from injury. Are you going to get in Kai's way if she subs in for the final 15 minutes? I don't recommend it. 

Sky Blue 3-2 Red Stars

FCKC at Orlando Pride

Saturday at 7:30PM on Go90 App

Another road game for FCKC

Another road game for FCKC

FCKC has had to re-imagine their attack several times this season, both due to injury and due to attacking players missing on red card ejections & suspensions. They haven't survived when limited like this, and with Shea Groom on the shelf this week, they'll need to somehow find more goals than the overdue Alex Morgan and the prolific Marta to come out of this one with points. 

Orlando should always win, right? It looks that way on paper. I think they're able to put together a complete performance at home tonight and start to climb their way up the table. There is just too much talent here not to get the points. (That's usually when things start to go south; just ask the Thorns).

Pride 2-1 FCKC

Washington Spirit at Houston Dash

Saturday at 8:30PM on Go90 App

Hot nights in the summertime

Hot nights in the summertime

Eh. The Dash have more losses than any other team, but the table is such that they could end the day in either 5th or 10th place, depending on the other results. They need to win, and lately, they've been getting results. Two wins and two draws in their last four matches isn't too bad, and even the Carli Lloyd haters of the world (I am not one of these people), must admit that her return, even accounting for the loss of Ohai for the season, has resulted in a dramatic improvement in the Dash. She's been hanging deeper in the midfield, and when part of a team attack, she's deadly. 

Washington, despite having only played 12 games so far, is at the bottom of the table, a shell of their 2016 selves. Mal Pugh is going to be a star, but similarly to her USWNT colleague on the other bench this evening, she's no team savior. Worse, she helps cover up some major problems in the Spirit by making goals appear out of nowhere and by being able to maneuver through challenges that would dispossess almost anyone else. Still, she's fun to watch, and she should have some room to work her magic against the Dash today.

I think the Dash can win this one at home unless they get sloppy and lose track of Pugh. Their recent form suggests they'll stay composed and grab the points.

Dash 2-1 Spirit

Boston Breakers at Seattle Reign

Saturday at 10PM on Go90 App

Last meeting was BOS 3-0 SEA (!)

Last meeting was BOS 3-0 SEA (!)

What if I told you that Boston's signature win of the year came at the expense of a full-strength Seattle Reign side. That Fishlock and Rapinoe couldn't manufacture a single goal while Haley Kopmeyer had to retrieve two from her own net? Sounds made up? You're right. Boston scored THREE to Seattle's zero.

That was back in April, before Rose Lavelle's hamstring was flown to Scandinavia for 180 minutes of wind sprints. As you may know, the hamstring eagerly participated in the friendlies, up until the point when it just, you know, quit.

Seattle is without Jess Fishlock, whose MCL sprain looked worse than it apparently turned out to be. Still, her absence was obvious when watching the Reign fall 2-0 to the Courage last week. 

Seattle hasn't had as much time as Boston to figure out how to play without one of their most important players, but at home, and for Laura Harvey's 100th match, and to avenge a 3-0 result from April, they'll be giving everything for a win.

Boston needs three points badly, and would love to head to Houston next week with some positive momentum. They're very thin in the midfield, with Haavi and DaCosta both overseas for the Euros, but Morgan Andrews has looked better and better each week. Both she and Rosie White can unleash a stinger from distance, which is the kind of threat the Breakers need to be able to bring when their hold-up play with Dowie is stifled. Still, Boston had a good plan for Seattle early in the year, and they just might be able to pull off an upset as the sun sets on week 14.

Seattle 1-2 Boston