NWSL COG 18

Fun times: when Sky Blue couldn't get to Chicago last week, this fun didn't get to be published. I'm going to let it fly anyway, because I think there was actually a chance last week of Sky Blue winning. Not. So much. Today.

Brooke Elby is a character, so I have lots of pictures of her from her Breakers days. Those ended this winter, when she was grabbed up by the new Utah Royals FC. But she was shipped to Chicago in the "mega trade" and now has a chance to play in the only game of the weekend as Sky Blue comes to town seeking their first win. (It's like the game was actually going to happen!)

That's going to be a tall order, though Sky Blue didn't look awful in a loss to the visiting Thorns last weekend. Not awful might not be enough.

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We should take a minute to bid a fond farewell to Go90 on Saturday. Whatever you think of it, Verizon did pay for the rights to stream the NWSL on Go90, and that's a better deal than the league had on YouTube. No90 hashtags notwithstanding, it was broadly a step forward, albeit a step forward that can hopefully be stepped beyond very soon. (We didn't get to properly mourn Go90!)

The rest of the season will be streamed at the NWSL website when not on Lifetime or ESPNEWS. ESP. News. But you should have known that already, right?


What Happened in COG 16?

Two Fridays ago:
Utah Royals 0-0 North Carolina Courage

Two Saturdays ago:
Orlando Pride 1-1 Seattle Reign
Sky Blue 1-2 Portland Thorns

Two Sundays ago:
Washington Spirit 0-1 Houston Dash
 


(Canceled) Sky Blue FC at Chicago Red Stars 

Last Saturday at 8PM Eastern on Go90

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No, this game didn't happen. But I thought Sky Blue might have a shot at a win and that might never happen again. So here you go:

It's so haaaaarrrd to say goodbyeeeeeee to Go-Ninetaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. Enjoy your last Go90 match at 8PM Eastern on Saturday night. 

The Red Stars have shipped Morgan Brian, Alyssa Naeher, Julie Ertz and Casey Short off to USWNT camp for the Tournament of Nations. Am I forgetting anyone important? Oh, right. Sam Kerr. Yeah, she's in Hartford, CT with the Matildas waiting for her shot(s) at her club teammate in goal on Sunday. Otherwise, the Red Stars are full strength.

Sky Blue has Imani Dorsey and Jen Hoy listed as questionable this week, and they're without Katie Johnson and Carli Lloyd. Johnson is on Mexico international duty, and Carli is in the nutmeg state with team USA. Yes, Connecticut is nicknamed "the nutmeg state." Yes, I knew that without looking. Just like I know that Pennsylvania's state bird is the Ruffed Grouse. I'm a veritable treasure trove of useless knowledge. 

But let's get back to Chicago for this lone league match. Can a fairly full-strength Sky Blue somehow grab a win? Last time we checked, the answer was a strong no. Chicago dropped a 3-1 scoreline on the hosts in New Jersey just two weeks ago. All three of those Chicago goals came from Sam Kerr, who won't be present on Saturday night. Amani Dorsey, who scored the Sky Blue goal, will be available.

Looking a bit further back, there's a 1-1 draw at Chicago in April. In that match, Sophia Huerta scored first and Savannah McCaskill found an equalizer late. Huerta, of course, is now with the Dash. McCaskill remains with Sky Blue.

So, of the two prior matchups between these sides, zero goal scorers will be present for Chicago and two will be present for Sky Blue. VICTORY SKY BLUE!

It has to happen sooner or later, right? Let's give it a shot. I'm calling for an upset and 3 points to Hufflepuff / Sky Blue.

Chicago Red Stars 2-3 Sky Blue FC



Portland Thorns at North Carolina Courage

Sunday at 6PM on NWSL.COM

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The Courage, minus most of their internationals, just won the International Champions Cup. PSG, OL and Manchester City couldn't hold a candle to the Courage, and the extremely deep bench got some great experience. Realistically, the Courage's bench could probably beat most of the NWSL too, which is only a problem if you like parity. The Courage are just that good. They can collect the NWSL shield with a win tonight. It's only week 18. There is another month of the regular season still to go.

Portland hasn't shown much of their early season shakiness lately, only having one loss in their past five matches. They're getting players back (though Kat Reynolds is out for the year with an MCL), and have been looking better and better. A healthy Tobin Heath is almost impossible to defend, and Raso will soon be able to combine with Caitlin Foord on the attack. Foord is available on Sunday, and she looked sharp in the Tournament of Nations in limited time.

I think the Courage will want to follow up their ICC win with a statement against the Thorns, but the Thorns absolutely need to stay with the Courage. They grab a late equalizer to earn a draw in the hot, hot south.

NC Courage 2-2 Portland Thorns


Sky Blue FC at Orlando Pride

Sunday at 7:30PM Eastern on NWSL.COM

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Please see above for nice things about Sky Blue. I can't make a case for them to get on top of Orlando today, especially with playoff positioning starting to become a serious concern for the hosts. Both sides are largely healthy and at full strength after the break, and though Sky Blue should be well-rested after a long break, they just haven't shown that they're ready to compete with the top sides. Orlando wins at home.

Orlando Pride 3-1 Sky Blue FC


Utah Royals at Houston Dash

Sunday at 8:30PM Eastern on NWSL.COM

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Both sides can make a playoff run, but probably not if they lose tonight. They're currently within a point of each other, but only a solid run of play with some help will deliver playoffs to Salt Lake City or Houston. 

The Dash are so hot/cold, and it's challenging to predict when they're going to put a game together. Rachel Daly can always find a winner no matter what else is going on, but that's a lot to depend on when the overall play isn't working in your favor.

For the Royals, there is a chance to continue to develop and become a playoff team. It could happen. Buuuuut, they've lost three of their last five and that's not exactly the best momentum to drive forward. Their last win came at the expense of Sky Blue. But let's not forget that they did win against the Courage back in June. Today?

I think the Royals win this one, though it's going to be close. 

Houston Dash 1-2 Utah Royals 


Washington Spirit at Seattle Reign

Sunday at 9PM Eastern on NWSL.COM

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SEEEEEAAAAATTTTTLLLLLLEEEEEEEE. They're in 2nd place, but they could be in 4th at the end of the night if they're not careful. Good news: Washington won't require them to be super careful. They shouldn't have much difficulty getting past the Spirit.

Even Sky Blue has a draw in their past five matches, but the Spirit just keep losing. They're going to travel about as far away as possible just to lose again on Sunday night. Sorry Spirit fans.

Seattle Reign 4-1 Washington Spirit