Somewhere, somebody knows why we've got to have oddball mid-week matches here and there throughout the league, but I'm not that person. OK, in this case, I am that person.
First of all, the Tuesday night match (TONIGHT!) is here to allow fans of Women's Soccer to recover more gently from the amazing UEFA Women's EURO Tournament that wrapped up on Sunday morning (and the Tournament of Nations, which ended the moment Australia beat the USA on opening night).
Maybe it's also a way to get the Spirit caught up with all the other teams on number of games played. That's exactly the reason that the NC Courage will be visiting FCKC on Thursday; they attempted to face off on July 22nd but had the match called off due to the weather. After their match has concluded, every team (except overachieving Sky Blue) will have completed at least 16 matches so far this year. Orlando will join Sky Blue with 17 matches in the books tonight.
In truth, all the teams get a mid-week match this year, which is better than in years past. And, with NWSL action on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday this week followed by matches on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday next week—it should be enough to cure anyone's EURO2017 hangover.
Both mid-week games are on Go90, and feature one good and one, well, not so great team. Here's how I think things will shake out.
Washington Spirit at Orlando Pride
Tuesday at 7:30PM on Go90 App
Washington notched their best performance and win of the season last Friday night, embarrassing Sky Blue with a 4-1 scoreline that saw the hosts blow a 1-0 halftime lead. The necessary asterisk here is that the Tournament of Nations players had not yet returned to New Jersey, nor would they have been permitted to be selected if they had. Did you know there is a rule that prevents internationals from being available for their teams to select within 24 hours of their international duties? Yep, that's a thing. This was extra awesome for Boston, whose two call-ups Abby Smith and Midge Purce weren't given a single minute during the ToN but nonetheless weren't permitted to be dressed on Friday night. The Breakers were even forced to sign a replacement GK for the week for this very reason. OK, rant over: Back to ORLvWAS.
Do a thought experiment: does Sky Blue concede four goals while scoring zero if Sam Kerr and Kelley O'Hara are present? Nope. Don't believe they do. So, as impressive as the Spirit were in the 2nd half, they were playing against a team missing (arguably) their two best players. That said, Arielle Ship had herself a game to remember, scoring once (her first NWSL goal) and providing assists for two other goals. This is about the time of year rookies start to stand out, and Ship's performance was fully deserving of NWSL Player of the Week honors.
Orlando held the Red Stars to a home draw last weekend, with the visitors requiring a Goal of the Week-winning left footed bender from everyone's favorite future USWNT fullback, Sophia Huerta, to draw level in the second half. The Pride feature several players who were away on ToN duty until two days prior to this match (Marta, Kennedy, Morgan, etc. - oh, right - and criminally never-subbed Ali Krieger) and didn't look full strength. Now, on less than a full week's rest, they've got visitors once again. I think they'll be ready.
The Pride have a chance to make a playoff run, but they'll need to take the first step by dispatching an inferior Washington Spirit side tonight. I think they find a way to make it happen.
Orlando Pride 2-1 Washington Spirit
North Carolina Courage at FC Kansas City
Thursday at 8PM on Go90
FCKC was able to eek out a draw in Boston last Friday, finding a way to overcome two Rosie White stingers from distance to collect a road point. But there wasn't much to like in the performance besides the result. Without Becky Sauerbrunn and Sydney Leroux, the team at times lost composure when dealing with the ball anywhere other than in the midfield. They showed grit to claw back the equalizer, and looked increasingly dangerous once Brittany Ratcliffe and Erika Tymrak came on for the final 20 minutes. Tymrak ended up needing only half of that time to find the Boston goal to steal the road point.
The Courage had to deal with the incredible-healing-Fishlock show, and almost weren't up to the task. Seattle is fast and sharp when both Fishlock and Megan Rapinoe are on the field. Recently, due largely to the Wales international's injury, only Rapinoe has been available for selection. On Saturday, Rapinoe hadn't yet returned from the ToN, leaving Fishlock to orchestrate the Reign attack without her most dangerous teammate. A peek at the schedule for next weekend reveals a very interesting fixture: Courage AT Reign on Sunday night. The Courage will be recovering from playing on Thursday in KC, while Fishlock and Rapinoe will be fully rested and ready to put on a show for their home fans. That will be a fun one.
But, unfortunately, that fun has to wait. The Courage can extend their points lead to four with a win in KC, and that's exactly what I expect to see happen. Whether or not a Courage victory leads to a change in leadership at FCKC is another question. Vlatko Andonovski hasn't been able to get results for most of two years, and that's usually about the time the coaching seat starts to get pretty hot.
NC Courage 3-1 FCKC