This week, we combine the confusion of overfull rosters following the Boston Breakers shutdown with the return of the Australians from international duty. Predictions are meaningless in the face of such wholesale and paradigmatic abstraction. Plus they are hard to do.
Houston v. Utah – March 30 @ 8 pm ET
Last week, neither team had their known offensive weapons producing much and the usually reliable Becky Sauerbrunn gave up a (dubious) PK. Utah has a solid defense and, even with Nicole Barnhart out with an injury, Abby Smith’s move from Boston gives them an excellent replacement. Houston surprised everyone by looking composed and competitive against Chicago last week, but also had their scoring coming from an unknown and not the usual or expected. Houston should have the least change in personnel given their short injury report and lack of Aussie internationals, but also the most uncertainty about pulling together a repeat.
North Carolina Courage v. Sky Blue FC – March 31 @ 3 pm ET
North Carolina Courage: 1-0-0
Sky Blue FC: 0-0-0
SBFC makes their season debut, featuring such stars as NJ’s own Carli Lloyd, rookie and recent USWNT call-up Savannah McCaskill, and Shea Groom, acquired via the O’Hara trade this summer. They aren’t being thrown to the lions, because that would be Utah, but the Courage also have a cat crest—what’s with that in this league? Sky Blue has a potent young roster that could really compete this year, but runs the risk of relying too heavily on Lloyd to be a game changer. NC remains loaded with forwards, but saw no tallies from their marquee players (MacDonald, Williams) last week. They do have a solid defense that can hold off most challenges.
Washington v. Orlando – March 31 @ 3:30 pm ET
Orlando will no longer live or die on Alex Morgan’s performance, which will be good for them if she’s out with concussion issues. Sydney Leroux hasn’t shown her infamous speed in her return from maternity leave, but Cassius in that #2 “Mommy” jersey was a stunning debut. As for the game, with Marta serving there’s a good chance for a break on any play from any player. Orlando’s defense is solid and their GK Harris good for some great saves, and their offense should be remarkable given the personnel. Washington features more promised future stars than any other roster, but doesn’t have the usual sunsetting veteran star to help build out of the midfield or build the future careers.
Chicago v. Portland – March 31 @ 8:15 pm ET
A year ago we’d have billed this as a peek at a potential championship match. This year? Both still have loaded rosters, but so does everyone due to contraction. Portland has a solid core with Canada’s Christine Sinclair as a foundation. Chicago has major injury issues and will still be missing reigning MVP Sam Kerr to national team duty with Australia. Portland gave up some well-known players, but their Boston pickups alone (especially Midge Purce and Ifeoma Onumonu) are a roster improvement on an already-massive talent. Chicago may be missing QB Julie Ertz more than departed scoring leader Christen Press given how they looked a bit lost against Houston last week.
Seattle v. Any Takers
They shouldn’t do byes. The off team should play any challenger who steps up for their spot in the NWSL. By week 9 we’ll have Arsenal Women vs. Jamestown Area Travel U17 fighting for a playoff spot and I welcome the chaos because it’s easier than making real previews and predictions with these heavy rosters and lack of data.