Off the Bench with Backline Soccer: 2017, Week 11


Image Credits: Elizabeth Wawrzyniak

Backline Soccer Recap:

Quick Fire Week 11 Game Previews:

After four mid-week games, we are in for another full weekend of NWSL games as we go into Week 11. Let’s see what we have on tap for the five games.

Game 1: North Carolina Courage vs. Sky Blue FC

North Carolina Courage record: 8-3-0
Position: 1st
Total Points: 24

Sky Blue FC record: 5-6-1
Position: 5th
Total Points: 16

The Courage will be coming in fresh this week as they lucked out by not having to play a mid-week game on Wednesday and not having to travel for this match. They’ll be facing a Sky Blue team, however, that will be on a mission to pull out a win. North Carolina is pulling themselves further and further away from the rest of the pack up top. With the defense settling in, this week, especially with fresher legs, they will be looking to continue to do many of the same things that have gotten them this far. With the hopeful return of Lynn Williams and Jess McDonald, they will be even stronger. 

Sky Blue is looking for vengeance after two disappointing losses in a row. They will have their hands full with North Carolina this week, especially given that they had to play a mid-week game. They will need more from Kelley O’Hara, first and foremost, to get back into their rhythm, after she had a not-so-great game against Orlando on Wednesday. The young defensive group, led by Christie Pearce, will also have their work cut out for them with the strength of the Courage attack. Hopefully, Sky Blue will see some more fabulous goals from Sam Kerr. Their key this game will be to rely on their depth and attempt to hold off the wave of attack from the Courage. 

Game 2: Boston Breakers vs. Washington Spirit

Boston Breakers record: 2-6-3
Position: 10th
Total Points: 9

Washington Spirit record: 3-5-2
Position: 8th
Total Points: 11

Boston is also coming in this week from a mid-week game and without some big names. Rose Lavelle is still out. And, as of this writing, no word on Abby Smith for Saturday’s match. The Boston of the beginning of the season has seemed to all but disappear. There seem to be just too many things that need to be fixed at this point in the season and they are not sure where to start. Having key players out has not helped but Boston has not been lucky in general. This week, after the Spirit come in off of more rest and a win over the Thorns, Boston will need to find a way to stifle the Spirit attack and contain Franny Ordega. 

The Spirit are coming into this match with the advantage of facing a struggling Boston team and also having not played a mid-week match. The Spirit will continue to rely on Ordega to lead their attack. But the Washington team may also see the addition of Mal Pugh back in the lineup, which will bolster the attack as well. The thing the Spirit will need to monitor this week will be their defense. The likes of Estelle Johnson have had a great season, for the most part, but Boston is looking to turn their season around and anything can happen. Additionally, with Tori Huster finally back for Washington, their midfield will also be a stalwart in facing the Boston side. 

Game 3: Orlando Pride vs. Chicago Red Stars

Orlando Pride record: 4-4-3
Position: 6th
Total Points: 15

Chicago Red Stars record: 6-3-2
Position: 2nd
Total Points: 20

The Pride are coming off of a huge mid-week win over Sky Blue but will also be on limited rest facing a very tough Red Stars team. Orlando has had problems all season maintaining consistency from game to game but one thing they hate to do is drop points at home. Expect them to try to not let that happen for the second home game in a row. The task will be large to contain Christen Press and Sofia Huerta in the attack while also trying to break the staunch defense of the Red Stars. Orlando will need to focus on leaving less space in the midfield for Chicago to take advantage of while also connecting and finishing more chances. The Pride are lacking a clinical finisher, but with Alex Morgan set to potentially return, she may be the missing piece they are looking for. She may not be active immediately so the Pride need to make sure their forward line can start finishing and finding better luck in the final third. Additionally, the Pride defense has settled into the starting four but need to see more work from Edmonds, who has not had a good season. Hopefully, Ali Krieger and the rest of the backline can focus more on their job this weekend and not have to clean up so much of Edmonds’ defensive miscues. 

Chicago is also coming off of a loss in their mid-week game, which snapped their win streak, and this could spell trouble for the Pride. While the Pride are more successful at home, the Red Stars will look to keep their place in the playoff spot and take home the win. This week the Red Stars need to focus on taking advantage of their opportunities but also look to string more passes together and make the job of their forwards a bit easier. The Red Stars have a very strong backline, but with Marta and the potential first minutes for Alex Morgan, expect them to be challenged by the forward line of Orlando. The biggest area the Red Stars will most likely have the best luck this weekend is in Orlando’s midfield. If Chicago can get some of their connecting weaknesses together, this may spell major trouble for the Pride at home. 

Game 4: Seattle Reign vs. Portland Thorns

Seattle Reign record: 4-2-5
Position: 4th
Total Points: 17

Portland Thorns record: 5-3-3
Position: 3rd
Total Points: 18

Seattle, like Portland, will be coming in on limited rest after a mid-week home game. Luckily, they will not have to travel and will be at a slight advantage for recovery and rest. Seattle has seemed to be hot and cold most of the season with plenty of draws to show for it. But expect them to want to capitalize on a big win over Chicago and pull out one over Portland. Their defense looked slightly shaky in the win against Chicago so the return of Lauren Barnes, after a one-game suspension, will be welcomed. The Reign can expect to be tested by a revitalized Portland attack, even on limited rest. If they can focus on their game and fighting until the final whistle, they should see some positive results. 

Portland, also coming in from a mid-week win at home, will want to capitalize on one of their best performances of the season. Christine Sinclair finally made herself known this season and had a brace to show for it. If she can get involved more in the attack against Seattle, they will be tough to beat. With no return of Tobin Heath in sight, Portland will have to figure out how to move on without her and made a good showcase of it Wednesday night. Their biggest thing will be if Adrianna Franch is on her game or will spell trouble for them in-goal this week against a strong Reign attack. 

Game 5: FC Kansas City vs. Houston Dash

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

Houston Dash record: 3-7-1
Position: 9th
Total Points: 10

FCKC, another team on limited rest, will be facing a Dash side who is in the same position. FCKC has yet to really figure out how to score goals, and after their mid-week loss to Portland, they will be looking to bounce back very quickly. FCKC needs more production from their forward line. Their defense has been putting in their time but cannot solely win the games for the team. After a not-so-great showing against Portland, they will need these three points as the playoff battle heats up. Their main goal this week, especially against a Dash side that is still figuring things out mid-season, is to score early and get their attack involved consistently throughout the game. 

The Dash are coming in, after snapping a 6-game losing streak, on a win and draw in their last two matches. They want to turn their season around but just do not seem to have the game plan to do it. After a questionable call gave them the win against Boston, look for them to want to continue their small upward trend against FCKC. But in order to do that, the consistency of their backline and moving forward without Kealia Ohai, who is out for the season with a torn ACL, will be a tall task. The Dash seemed to struggle at the end of their draw with Boston, in just what to do next. In order to have success against FCKC this week, the team will need to come in at the very beginning with a solid way to win and also play with consistency.

The Scouting Report:

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