Off the Bench with Backline Soccer: 2017, Week 4

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Welcome to Week Four of Off the Bench! 

This week, the format has shifted from game recaps to short game previews. Take a moment and let us know what you think by leaving a note in the comment section!


Backline Soccer Recap:

This week we welcomed four new people to our staff. So give a warm welcome to the three newest members of our social media team: Alyssa Zajac, Becca Kimble, and Caitlin de Souza. And we can’t forget our new writer, Chantelle DeRose.  We’re excited to be working with these awesome soccer fans!

In addition to our new staff members, we introduced another new weekly series for our readers this past week, The Way I See It: Unsung Hero of the Week. As always, we invite you to let us know your thoughts on any of our pieces in the comments section!

Make sure to join us on our new Backline Soccer Forum. And don’t forget to check out our Backline Soccer Shop. 


Quick Fire Week 4 Game Previews: 

A reminder for U.S. fans that you can catch the Lifetime Game of the Week live and on demand either via TV, computer, or mobile, and all other games live and on demand at the go90 app and the go90 website. Additionally, after 48 hours, all go90 games will be archived and available to watch on demand on the NWSL app and website. And if you’re an international fan, you can catch every game, live and on demand, on the NWSL website.

 

Game 1: Chicago Red Stars vs. Houston Dash

Chicago Red Stars record: 1-2-0
Position: 7th
Total Points: 3

Houston Dash record: 2-1-0
Position: 4th
Total Points: 6

This week the Lifetime Game of the Week matchup will find the Dash taking on the Red Stars in Chicago. Coming off a bit of a slow start to the season, the Red Stars will be looking to pull out three points at home. The Dash have started off relatively well, notching two wins and six points so far despite a disappointing loss in Week 2 at Seattle. Lydia Williams found herself back in goal last week in the Dash’s 1-0 win over the Spirit but they were not really outstanding as a whole. The Dash did just enough on the defensive side to get by, but it will not continue to carry them further into the season. The Red Stars will look to counter on this when stepping up their attacking front. The Red Stars aren’t lacking in much and with a few key moves on the attacking front, they could very well pull out the win.

 

Game 2: Washington Spirit vs. Sky Blue FC

Washington Spirit record: 0-2-1
Position: 9th
Total Points: 1

Sky Blue FC record: 1-1-1
Position: 6th
Total Points: 4

Sky Blue will look to capitalize on their win against FCKC last week and the Spirit are going to want to bounce back from their disappointing loss to the Dash. Hopefully this week the backline for Sky Blue will see Christie Pearce rejoin the team from concussion protocol as she will be a key part of the team moving forward. On the Spirit side, Stephanie Labbé has had a lot of work to do in net this season but she has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that she is up for the task. The Spirit are going to need her at the top of her game this week, faced with the likes of Kelley O’Hara and Sam Kerr on the attacking front. Washington has taken hits on the attacking front, and they’re going to need to find a way to overcome their losses on the attacking front if they want to climb out of the basement this week.

 

Game 3: Portland Thorns vs. Seattle Reign

Portland Thorns record: 2-1-0
Position: 3rd
Total Points: 6

Seattle Reign record: 1-1-1
Position: 5th
Total Points: 4

The Portland Thorns will take on the Seattle Reign at home this week in the first of what essentially amounts to the NWSL’s own version of the Cascadia Cup. Several of Portland’s most exciting and game-changing players are still listed on the Injury Report and likely will not dress, including Tobin Heath, Mana Shim, Dagny Brynjarsdottir, and Katherine Reynolds, and this should ultimately favor Seattle’s chances. The Reign, of course, are looking to bounce back after being soundly defeated by the Boston Breakers last week 3-0. Seattle’s primary problem in Week 3 seemed to be in giving the Breakers too much space, which is something they will need to shut down this week in order to not let the Portland attack get by them. Portland, on the other hand, has been able to sneak out two wins this season, with last week’s victory accompanied by a bit of controversy regarding a penalty that wasn’t, and a penalty that probably shouldn’t have been. Even though Adrianna Franch has come up with some key saves for the Thorns, her distribution and work out of the back leaves a lot to be desired and eventually, will not be enough to keep other teams from capitalizing on her mistakes. But look for the Thorns to continue to take advantage of the Reign’s positioning errors if they continue from last week.

 

Game 4: Boston Breakers vs. North Carolina Courage

Boston Breakers record: 2-1-0
Position: 2nd
Total Points: 6

North Carolina Courage record: 3-0-0
Position: 1st
Total Points: 9

Who knew coming into Week 4 of the NWSL we would be seeing a match up between the number one team (NC Courage,) and the number TWO team (Boston Breakers?!?) The Breakers will take the pitch this week after a strong 3-0 win over the Seattle Reign while the Courage are coming in hot from their game against the Pride where they won 3-1. Boston could be the team to figure out how to beat the Courage, as the #1 team’s only real weakness might be its defense. The attacking front is covered but if the teams they have faced in the first three weeks had been able to capitalize when they needed to, the Courage might not be sitting undefeated at the top. Boston will look to attack this backline of the Courage consistently and get ahead early. This matchup should be a fun one to watch.

 

Game 5: FC Kansas City vs. Orlando Pride

FC Kansas City record: 1-2-0
Position: 8th
Total Points: 3

Orlando Pride record: 0-2-1
Position: 10th
Total Points: 1

The final game of the weekend features FCKC and the Pride, and both teams are struggling to overcome disappointing losses in Week 3. FCKC is clearly missing Amy Rodriguez, their attack has suffered since the moment she went down in Week 1. In addition to Rodriguez, Shea Groom was out last week with a broken rib, and her status for Week 4 is unknown at the time of this writing. Leroux, coming back from maternity leave and doing a great job, needs some help up top with ARod no longer in the picture. FCKC will look to hold more of the possession this week, something that has been one of the Pride’s strong suits this so far this season, though they don’t have much to show for it.

The Pride have had a very lackluster start to their season after some promising moves in the offseason. They have held a good amount of possession the first three weeks of action but big mistakes, mental and positioning wise, have cost them in each meeting. The backline has a lot of talent but an almost non-existent midfield has seen them have to do a lot more to get the ball up the field to the attack. Once it makes it there, the Pride’s finishing has been abysmal. Danica Evans has been an energetic and creative spark in the minutes she has played, so starting her will help the Pride out a lot this week. In addition, Marta had some great moments last week; look for her to capitalize this week and get her potential first NWSL goal. Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni will need to make some changes to his lineup and put the best XI on the field in order to pull the three points out against FCKC. And FCKC needs to work quickly on figuring out how to move their attack forward without Amy Rodriguez.


The Scouting Report:

Huge news on the TSR front. We have joined Brew Sports Network!

The Scouting Report went live this past Monday with our NWSL Week 3 TSR recap. Make sure to tune in every Monday at 8pm EST to catch our weekly series!

You can find Monday night’s TSR here:

Come back next week for the next edition of Off the Bench! And don’t forget to check out the rest of our great content created weekly on the Backline Soccer website!