Off the Bench with Backline Soccer: 2017, Week 14


Backline Soccer Recap:

Quick Fire Week 14 Game Previews:

We have arrived at week 14 of the NWSL and the last week of matches before a break for the USWNT Tournament of Nations with Japan, Australia, and Brazil all participating. Let’s dive into some previews. 

Game 1: Chicago Red Stars vs. Orlando Pride

Chicago Red Stars record: 7-3-4
Position: 2nd
Total Points: 25

Orlando Pride record: 5-5-4
Position: 6th
Total Points: 19

The Red Stars are finally playing a game at home after coming off a last-minute draw against Sky Blue last week. They will be looking to shut down the Pride attack that came alive last week against FCKC. Chicago, for all of its efforts, is still struggling to finish their chances as well even with the play of Christen Press and Sofia Huerta this season. If Chicago can keep stringing passes together and start to make something of their chances, Orlando may be in trouble. 

Orlando is coming into this game hoping for a much-needed, big win on the road against Chicago. The attack came alive last week, with four different players scoring the four goals. However, Orlando’s biggest problem all season has been staying consistent. If they can stay consistent, bring numbers forward, and make sure their chances are being finished, we should see a very good game. Their biggest threat from Chicago will be two-fold. One, figuring out a way to slip past the Chicago defense, who don’t leave much room for breakaways. Two, making sure, again, the attack is not stifled and making scoring opportunities happen. 

Game 2: FC Kansas City vs. North Carolina Courage

FC Kansas City record: 3-7-4
Position: 9th
Total Points: 13

North Carolina Courage record: 9-5-0
Position: 1st
Total Points: 27

FCKC is struggling this season. There is unfortunately just no other way to say that. They have a lot of talent but are missing a few very key players whose voids have not been filled. For all of the struggles, the team has remained positive but the mental game has been quite strong. Sydney Leroux is still not being used in ways that best suit her game, which is a big part of why they may be floundering on that front. They will have their hands full this week against a very tough Courage attack. The biggest test at home will be if their defense is up to the task.

North Carolina is coming into the week still at number one. Will anyone knock them off of the pedestal? Even though they are playing FCKC this week, the parity of this league has reared its head on more than one occasion this season, so anything can happen. They will be best suited to continue their strong wave of attack, making sure to keep up the pressure against FCKC’s backline, and challenge Nicole Barnhart as much as possible. 

Game 3: Houston Dash vs. Boston Breakers

Houston Dash record: 5-7-2
Position: 7th
Total Points: 17

Boston Breakers record: 3-6-5
Position: 8th
Total Points: 14

The Dash are coming in on a streak and I think it’s sufficient to say that the presence of Carli Lloyd and their renewed faith in their play have both contributed to that. I am of the belief that interim Head Coach Omar Morales does not have a whole lot to do with that, but rather playing a consistent starting line-up has helped a lot. This week against a Breakers side–who are also stringing a few more things together–the Dash will need to remain consistent. This will include preventing silly giveaways but also making sure the defense is on point. 

The Breakers are looking to tally a few more positive results together to get themselves on a run too. With Houston, their thing will be to find a way to score. Sounds easy enough, but Boston is having trouble making that happen, especially since Rose Lavelle went out. The Breakers will have their hands full with Carli Lloyd back in the mix but will also have Allysha Chapman back from suspension as well, who has been an asset for them this season.

Game 4: Seattle Reign vs. Sky Blue FC

Seattle Reign record: 5-3-6
Position: 5th
Total Points: 21

Sky Blue FC record: 7-6-2
Position: 3rd
Total Points: 23

Seattle has been one of the bigger head scratchers of this season for me, points and playing wise. One week, they seem to be on a tear, and then the next, they weaknesses predicted at the beginning of the season rear their ugly head. My co-worker, Charles Olney wrote a great piece about this struggle this week. Facing a Sky Blue team with Sam Kerr in the form she is in, is no easy feat. Their job is to find a way to contain Kerr and not let her produce some late match magic. Megan Rapinoe also had a quiet game last week and with Jess Fishlock out for the foreseeable future, there is even more pressure for her to be on her game. 

Sky Blue is the team of late-match magic this season. They have been inconsistent in stretches and then seem to come back at the very last-minute and put games away. Their defense without Mandy Freeman and some other key players has been struggling a lot this season and if Seattle can capitalize on that, they will be in trouble. While Sky Blue has many different pieces, without Sam Kerr, I believe we would be looking at a much different team right now as she has been the one to usually save the game in the end. 

Game 5: Portland Thorns vs. Washington Spirit

Portland Thorns record: 6-4-4
Position: 4th
Total Points: 22

Washington Spirit record: 3-7-3
Position: 10th
Total Points: 12

Portland, while pulling out a big win against the table leaders last week at home, still seem to be having trouble just figuring out what it is they want to do as a team. Chemistry on a team that has not seen a lot of turnover plus lack of play from some big names is a bit concerning. Christine Sinclair, for all of her international prowess, has been almost non-existent for the team and Adrianna Franch’s distribution issues and weaknesses are starting to be brought more into the light. But somehow, for the most part, they keep etching out wins. They may not have too much trouble this week against a struggling Spirit side, but ultimately, it may be their own lack of chemistry and togetherness that sees the Spirit potentially pull one out on the road. 

The Spirit are at the bottom of the table, seemingly struggling from injuries but also from the predicted outcomes from the beginning of the season. They have some of the pieces capable of turning it around but with Franny Ordega out, their attack has taken another big hit. The Spirit are in desperate need of a turnaround and I am not sure on the road against Portland will do them any favors in that regard. However, if they can just keep their head down and high pressure up against a Portland side that is also struggling with consistency, they might have a chance. Ultimately, the Spirit will need a big game from Mal Pugh and will rely on consistency from core players, Estelle Johnson in the back, Steph Labbé in-goal, and Tori Huster in the midfield. 

The Scouting Report:

We went live on Monday night with our weekly TSR. A reminder that you can catch TSR live every Monday night at 8pm EST on our YouTube channel. Make sure to follow the podcast on Twitter @ScoutingPodcast.

In case you missed this week’s episode, catch up here:

Follow us on Twitter