NWSL Week 16 Preview & Picks

It's Week 16! Did you watch the Tournament of Nations? Did you watch the UEFA Women's EUROs? Thursday was a great day for the world-wide sport, even if you're an England, Austria, Brazil/Brasil or Japan fan. The youth development that has been going on around the world is creeping into the senior ranks, and older, more experienced teams (Hello France, Hello England) are finding it increasingly difficult to play the way they want to play to get to a win. Sometimes, the teams that can make the best adjustments come out on top. Teams with a combination of energetic veterans and talented newcomers are performing the best, although an unlucky injury or two can throw things off (Hello Austria). 

Now we've reached the summer, and the NWSL is back, starting on Friday night. It's likely that a few of the Tournament of Nations internationals will be available over the weekend, but tonight, for example, I'm not sure I'd be expecting Kelley O'Hara if I was watching Sky Blue. Julie Ertz made a fantastic clearance off the goal line, but paid for it as her momentum carried her into the goal frame, resulting in a knee contusion. So, safe bet she's out for the Red Stars. The Portland Thorns and Washington Spirit faithful will have to wait another week to see EURO finalists and Denmark internationals Nadia Nadim and Line Sigvardsen Jensen return to the squads. Hopefully everyone will return healthy, unlike one Boston Breaker of immense importance whose hamstring did not enjoy the USWNT jaunt to Scandinavia. [UPDATE: SIGVARDSEN's injury from yesterday is a TORN ACL. AAARRRRGGGGHHHH. Sorry Spirit Fans.]

Speaking of the Breakers, they're up first tonight, hosting FCKC. I'll be there as always and need to pack and leave time for 6 hours of rush-hour traffic to get to the game.* So, quick previews this week! Let's get to it! 

Oh, wait. THIS is GREAT:


*possible hyperbole

First up, on your phone/iPod/Android thing/computer/hackintosh/wherever:

FCKC at Boston Breakers

Friday at 7PM on Go90

The King in the North turns 103 Tonight

The King in the North turns 103 Tonight

Boston is 3-7-5, and FCKC is 3-7-4. One of the visitor's wins came at the expense of the Breakers on week 1. That match saw Amy Rodriguez score a triumphant goal shortly before being lost for the year with a torn ACL. Ugh. Without ARod, the Blues have struggled on the attack, and have only two wins to show for 13 subsequent attempts. Boston was on a roll, before the loss of Lavelle required the team to change their offensive strategy (with mixed results). 

I don't expect Becky Sauerbrunn to play 90 minutes on consecutive nights on opposite coasts, which removes a major part of KC's defense. If Sydney Leroux teleports from LA overnight, she'd still be coming off of major travel and a substitute appearance to play twice in less than 24 hours. 

For the Breakers, they've lost versatile Brooke Elby for a while as she recovers from ankle surgery, and Christen Westphal continues to deal with phlebothrombosis in her right foot (this is a blood clot issue). Lavelle remains out with her hamstring, though she's at least returned to the team. Midge Purce and Abby Smith were both with the USWNT for the ToN, but neither made an appearance. So, it's theoretically possible that they'll be available tonight, though the fact that the Breakers signed one of their front office staff (Jamie Gillis, previously GK in Finland and at UMass Lowell) to an emergency/replacement GK slot this week suggests that Smith won't be on the team sheet tonight.

However, Boston gets back Portugal's Amanda DaCosta and Norway's Emilie Haavi from the Euros. And, the team will be celebrating captain Julie King's 103rd appearance—most by any Breaker ever. Guess who might show up to pass the Cap-King/Queen's torch? I think everything comes together for Boston on a steamy Friday night.

Boston Breakers 3-1 FCKC

Washington Spirit at Sky Blue FC

Friday at 7PM on Go90 App

No Sam Kerr makes a Big Difference Here

No Sam Kerr makes a Big Difference Here

Yikes. Sam Kerr is slaying the world, and if anyone is capable of playing the better parts of two full matches in less than 24 hours, it's her. But. Surely this is unlikely. And if she plays, she's bound to be at least a little tired following her performance over the last week. Oh, and her flight was delayed.

Washington has a chance to sneak in a win here, but I smell a draw. Sorry, humanity.

Sky Blue 2-2 Washington Spirit

Houston Dash at Portland Thorns

Saturday at 2PM on Lifetime TV

One of these women will be battling to top Europe on Sunday for Denmark

One of these women will be battling to top Europe on Sunday for Denmark

This game has been pushed back to 2PM Eastern due to some hot, hot heat gripping the normally more agreeable climate of the Pacific Northwest. Still, it will be a game of attrition.

The USWNT Thorns mostly came in toward the end of last night's match, so I wouldn't be surprised to see them suit up on Saturday. Portland needs to win and keep up with other surging sides, but Houston has been impressive lately despite their bleak -7 goal differential. 

Still, I think the Thorns avoid an upset at home and win a close one. Then, ice baths. Aaaallllll the ice baths.

Thorns 3-2 Dash

Seattle Reign at North Carolina Courage

Saturday at 7:30PM on Go90 App

Too much Power in NC

Too much Power in NC

Oy. Good matchup here. Not sure how much Rapinoe will have in the tank on one day's rest if she makes the trip to NC, but if she's feeling ready, everyone needs to watch out (are you going to tell her she needs to rest?). She's having a season for the ages, and would be the only person worthy of discussing in such terms if not for the Sam Kerr show. Even with Rapinoe at 100%, when without Jess Fishlock, the Reign have had difficulty finishing games. They're dangerous, and I expect a late-season surge, but not in North Carolina on Saturday.

Courage 3-2 Reign

Chicago Red Stars at Orlando Pride

Saturday at 7:30PM on Go90 App

Marta emerged healthy and rested from the ToN, and she'll look to get a better result with her club than she did with her country when the Red Stars come to town on Saturday night. Chicago will probably be without Julie Ertz at least for this weekend, and Press will be a bit more fatigued than normal having played most of the match on Thursday night. Orlando has another match coming up on Tuesday, so minute management won't just be important for the Red Stars. This one seems very close, but for some reason I think Chicago can grab a road point here and start a playoff push with a draw.

Pride 2-2 Red Stars