NWSL Week 22 Preview & Picks

There's no mistaking that the most pressing thing in America at the moment is the potentially catastrophic hurricane slowly inching toward the Florida keys. It strengthened on Friday evening back to Category 5 status, but seems to possibly be moving a tad further to the west. Overnight, it made landfall in Cuba, which helped to weaken the storm to a Category 3, but it's expected to recharge in the shallow warm water between Cuba and Florida. It doesn't much matter, as this storm is enormous and deadly, and is going to cause immense destruction to the sunshine state.

The NWSL moved the Orlando v Seattle match to Thursday evening, and that one ended (as I called it) in a draw (1-1, not 2-2 like I thought) after two goals in quick succession gave Pride fans a heart attack. Alex Morgan's cross-goal strike seemed to lock up a playoff berth for Orlando, but four minutes of stoppage time proved to be too much, and Jess Fishlock rose above all others to head home an equalizer just as the game clock passed 93:00. Nobody likes a draw, but it makes this weekend's matches just a tad more interesting.

I'm climbing out on the upset special limb this week. If it makes somebody happy, can it really be called an upset? Here's what's on tap.

The Lifetime TV Game of the Week:

Chicago Red Stars at FCKC

Saturday at 3:30PM on Lifetime TV

Can Blue beat Red?

Can Blue beat Red?

Just a few weeks ago, this match looked like it would be not very exciting. Then FCKC picked up wins in four of their last five matches, while the Red Stars dropped off a cliff before recovering to win their last two. 

FCKC embarrassed the Red Stars on their home turf last month with a 3-1 win that looked even worse for the home team. Trades ensued. Kristie Mewis came to town and helped secure a 2-1 win for Chicago over the hapless Washington Spirit, before being shipped out to Houston days later. Then, the Red Stars seemed to get on a roll, beating the top-of-the-table Courage 2-1 at home last week. It's fair to ask if that result was fair, however, as the match included such interesting things as uncalled MMA take-downs on opposing strikers:

So, forgive me if I'm still not sold on the Red Stars. Their last win without Kristie Mewis or major luck/missed penalty calls was on July 22nd. FCKC, however, has been looking like a team on the rise. It's almost certainly too little too late, but it has been good to see them dig out of the early season ditch and put up some positive results against good teams.

Chicago is in the playoffs if they win, and almost surely are still in with a draw. So, unless they lose, so they'll probably get the job done. But I'm going to climb out on a limb and pick FCKC in this one. Maybe I'll pick all the underdogs this week (except Washington. Sorry Washington).

FC Kansas City 3-2 Chicago Red Stars

Houston Dash at NC Courage

Saturday at 7:30PM on Go90 App

Mewis vs Mewis, y'all

Mewis vs Mewis, y'all

So, I don't see the Dash being able to win this one, even with four-shirts-in-one-year Kristie Mewis taking the field against her sister Sam. There goes that whole "underdog upset special picks" thing.

The Courage will be missing McCall Zerboni due to yellow card accumulation, but they're so deep it shouldn't matter. Unless there was a league memo granting permission for NC players to be thrown down by the throat in the box without consequence, the Courage should take 3 points at home and lock up home field advantage.

The Dash had a decent run briefly, but the loss of Ohai for the year and more recently of Lloyd and Brian for extended periods (before sending Brian to Chicago in exchange for Mewis) have the side a bit disjointed and inconsistent in attack. That's just how the Courage want them.

There's one possible wildcard here, in Rachel Daly. She was again skipped over for a Lionesses selection this week, and nothing is more satisfying than proving wrong those who've snubbed you. So, she might go full Sam Kerr and take over this game to make the point that she can. I just don't see it happening against a very solid Courage side.

NC Courage 3-1 Houston Dash

Portland Thorns at Boston Breakers

Sunday at 6PM on Go90

Rest, Portland, you've earned it

Rest, Portland, you've earned it

Boston is currently in 9th place on the table with just 16 points through 21 games. One of those points was taken from the Thorns the last time they were in Boston. Rose Lavelle should get some serious time in this game, and Portland may rest some of their stars. OK, both of those things might be false. Portland wants a home playoff game, and a win on Sunday could make it happen. 

The Breakers, on the other hand, are fighting to avoid two consecutive finishes in 10th place. As much as I'd like to see Andi Sullivan and Rose Lavelle develop together in Boston (instead of Andi Sullivan and Mallory Pugh in Washington), I'd like to see the team show it has the stuff to beat a team like the Thorns right now. They fought back twice against Orlando last week, and responded well after going down 4-1 late in the 2nd half to grab a second goal. They'll need to avoid the defensive lapses against the Thorns, but if they can do that and repeat their 2-goal performance from their earlier meeting, they have a decent chance to win.

The head says Thorns 2-1; the heart says Boston 2-1. This world needs more heart.

Boston Breakers 2-1 Portland Thorns

Washington Spirit at Sky Blue FC

Sunday at 6PM on Go90 App

Who is Sky Blue?

Who is Sky Blue?

Sky Blue is a mystery. They're just as likely to score 5 as to surrender 5. They gave up 13 goals in 4 games in August, yet managed to win two of those games. Then, to start September, they spotted FCKC 4 goals while scoring only one, the same scoreline posted in their early August matchup with the Washington Spirit (though that game was without Sam Kerr). 

Kerr will be on the field, but Sky Blue hasn't looked unified and solid for quite some time. They play a frantic, boom or bust style, which has led to several busts. The Spirit don't want to lose the rest of their matches, and they've played well enough to win some recent contests. Still, their last win was that aforementioned 4-1 August 4th match with Sky Blue. Ultimately, I think the Spirit's injury woes will keep them from winning this one. With Franny Ordega, Estelle Johnson and Estefania Banini all still out (in addition to Ship, Aedo, Sigvardsen Jensen, Lohman and Labbé), and Mal Pugh still playing while nursing a hip flexor strain, it's a tough ask to field a full team for 90 minutes. They'll host Boston and Seattle to close out the year, and perhaps close in on the #1 overall draft pick.

Sky Blue 3-1 Washington Spirit