Image Credits to Kelley Piper.
Welcome to Week 5 of Off the Bench!
Backline Soccer Recap:
- 6 Takeaways from NWSL: Week Four: This week, Jordan Small, Luis Hernandez, and Elizabeth Wawrzyniak take you through the latest 6 Takeaways piece. They go through the empty seat situation in Chicago, the competitiveness of the league, Captain America, and more.
- Own Goal for Player of the Week: NWSL Power Ranking, Week 4 Edition: Jenn Hayes takes you through her power rankings from Week 4. First and last place see no change, but the middle shifted, as this seems to be anyone’s season.
- Unsung Hero of the Week: Gilliland’s Island: Jacqui Porter takes you through her pick for this week’s Unsung Hero. If the clever title doesn’t give it away, her pick is a certain amazing player for the Chicago Red Stars.
- Four Star Takeaways from Chicago Red Stars: Week 4: Sandra Herrera was at the Chicago and Houston game last weekend and walks you through her takeaways and player quotes from the match.
- Don’t Be Surprised When the Orlando Pride Beat The Courage: Luis Hernandez is back with another piece on the Pride. He takes a stroll down the path to solve just why the Pride have not won in twelve matches, and some thoughts on what they could do to get back a strong Courage side this weekend.
- The Unused Sub: When Silly Soccer Boys Tweet: Jacob Cristobal, the silly soccer boy, is back with another edition of the Unused Sub. This week he has some thoughts on the drama from Thorns owner Merritt Paulson and Olympique Lyonnais owner, Jean-Michel Aulas, hits you with his predictions, and graces you with your song of the week.
- Washington Spirit vs Sky Blue FC Photo’s From the Field: Our senior site photographer Kelley Piper was at the game last weekend and provided us some awesome shots to share.
- Route Two Soccer – Chicago 2-0 Houston: How to Control a Midfield: This week Charles Olney runs through Chicago’s tactical performance against Houston.
- Labbé Saves the Day in Washington: Jordan Small had the opportunity to go to the Washington Spirit practice this week and interview Stephanie Labbé.
Quick Fire Week 5 Game Previews:
Hard to believe we have arrived at Week 5 of the 2017 NWSL season already. Let’s dive right into this week’s previews.
Game 1: Houston Dash vs. Sky Blue FC
Houston Dash record: 2-2-0
Total Points: 6
Sky Blue FC record: 1-2-1
Total Points: 4
The Lifetime Game of the Week this week sees the Houston Dash finally return home for their first home game since opening day, to take on Sky Blue FC. Last week saw the Dash lose their first game to the Red Stars since July of 2015, while Sky Blue lost to the Spirit 4-3. Both teams will be looking to bounce back from their respective losses. Sky Blue was missing some big names last week with Christie Pearce, Daphne Corboz, and Raquel Rodriguez all missing from action. With only Pearce missing because of concussion protocol, Sky Blue can expect to see Corboz and Rodriguez back in action, but as of this writing, Pearce’s status is unknown for Week 5. The Dash will look to produce better results and some goals this week, as they scored none against the Red Stars last week. Amber Brooks will be the key for the Dash, so she will have to have a better game this week. The Dash are looking good as individuals but are still having cohesion issues that will bite them more, the further into the season we go. Hopefully with Morgan Brian seemingly back in action, and Andrea hopefully close, they can start to mesh a little better.
Game 2: Seattle Reign vs. Washington Spirit
Seattle Reign record: 1-1-2
Total Points: 5
Washington Spirit record: 1-2-1
Total Points: 4
The Reign are coming in this week after drawing with the Thorns last week after giving the Thorns a little aid from an own goal by Jess Fishlock. The Reign looked to be the better team but just couldn’t hold the lead. This week they will look to keep up the pressure from last week’s match and press early and often. The Spirit are coming off of a big first season win that saw them score four goals on Sky Blue last week. The Spirit looked their best last week and will look to continue that train of momentum into Week 5 against a strong Seattle side. Washington will look, again, to see a big performance from Stephanie Labbé, who has been dominating in goal through the first four weeks. If Player of the Week Francisca Ordega can pull off another big game this weekend, the Spirit just may have a shot to beat the Reign.
Game 3: FC Kansas City vs. Portland Thorns
FC Kansas City record: 1-2-1
Total Points: 3
Portland Thorns record: 2-1-1
Total Points: 6
FC Kansas City and Portland will face off in the last game on Saturday. Both FCKC and Portland are coming off of hard-fought draws last week against the Pride and Reign, respectively. Portland, while suffering in the first half, had a strong showing in the second half. They will look to carry that momentum into this week. Seattle did a great job last week of making Christine Sinclair and Nadia Nadim almost invisible. Portland will need them more active. It was also reported by Jamie Goldberg that Portland would again be without Tobin Heath, Mana Shim, Katherine Reynolds, and Dagny Brynjarsdottir as they struggle to return from their injuries. Portland will need to figure out the struggles in the final third until Heath returns. FC Kansas City is going to need a lot more out of Sydney Leroux if they are going to start churning out wins. In addition, Shea Groom saw minutes last week, even with a broken rib, but she was looking to be in pain as the match progressed, which could be a factor against Portland. FCKC is strong defensively and with Portland struggling in the final third, this game could see some great action.
Game 4: Orlando Pride vs. NC Courage
Orlando Pride record: 0-2-2
Total Points: 2
NC Courage record: 4-0-0
Total Points: 12
The battle of the first and last place teams. Could this week be the week the Pride get their first win in twelve games? Crazier things have happened. The Pride, while drawing last week with FCKC, played some of the best soccer they have played all season. They are still struggling with finishing their chances and should have beaten FCKC had they done so. The Courage’s only weakness can be found in their defense at the moment and the Pride were able to break through them the last time they played, but just could not finish their chances. With Danica Evans and Marta both hopefully getting the start again, we could see a better output earlier from the Pride. Last week also saw Ali Krieger’s best game she has played for Orlando, and they will need everything she has for the front line of the Courage. Orlando continues to struggle with their midfield which is causing a lot more unnecessary work for their defense. The Pride starting lineup looked a lot better last week, but with Monica getting injured in the first few minutes of the match, Dani Weatherholt may end up with the start. The Courage just need to continue to play the way they have while shoring up their defensive efforts. If Orlando can finish their chances and work the backline of the Courage, they might just have a shot.
Game 5: Chicago Red Stars vs. Boston Breakers
Chicago Red Stars record: 2-2-0
Total Points: 3
Boston Breakers record: 2-2-0
Total Points: 6
The final game of the weekend will see the Red Stars and Breakers face off at Toyota Park. The Red Stars will look to use the momentum of the shut out against Houston last week as they face a Breakers side who are a lot stronger than anyone expected them to be. A big question mark for the Red Stars is Christen Press who, while working hard this season so far, has yet to find the back of the net. She leads the league in shots but is also sitting on two yellow cards in four games, quite the unexpected stat. Once she unleashes her first goal, the season should progress nicely for her. In the meantime, Julie Ertz seems to have gotten this scoring thing down. Chicago continues to struggle in the final third, which may pose a bigger issue against the Breakers this weekend if they cannot correct it. The Breakers, on the other hand, have started this season quite strong. They lost to the Courage last week, but only by one goal. Boston proved last week that the Courage have some points where they can be beaten and they will look to carry that into Chicago this weekend. They mainly struggled with breaking out of pressure to get their runs in. That will be a priority this week against the tough defensive side of Chicago.
The Scouting Report:
We went live on Monday night with our Week 4 TSR, recapping all of the NWSL games.
In case you missed it, catch up here:
This week RJ Allen also had the pleasure of interviewing Kayla Mills and Mandy Freeman of Sky Blue FC.
Catch up here if you missed this awesome interview!
Come back next week for the next edition of Off the Bench!