Welcome to Week 6 of Off the Bench!
Backline Soccer Recap:
This week we introduced a new series created by RJ Allen, The Furt & the Fabulous.
- 6 Takeaways From NWSL: Week Five: This week Jordan Small, Leigh Nieves, and Luis Hernandez take you through their six takeaways from week five. Houston has a (coaching?) problem, attendance issues, and more await you in this week’s takeaways.
- The Furt & the Fabulous, Episode 1: RJ Allen takes you through our latest series in which she picks some of the good and not-so-good each week to talk about.
- It’s Official: Mallory Pugh Plays with Spirit: Jordan Small attended the press conference for the official welcome of Mallory Pugh to the Washington Spirit and wrote a recap of the event.
- Perfection is Overrated: NWSL Power Rankings, Week 5 Edition: Jenn Hayes takes you through another week of power rankings. This week, the top 2 stays the same but the rest of the table shifts.
- Unsung Hero of the Week: Broon the Broom: Each week Jacqui Porter chooses a player who was their team’s unsung hero, win or lose. This week she chose a strong, sometimes under appreciated, Department of Defense member.
- Route Two Soccer: Updating Our Priors: This week Charles Olney takes a different approach and rather than looking at a specific team this week, he delves into the NWSL season thus far, a season of the unexpected.
- The Unused Sub: The Power of Words: This week Jacob Cristobal takes you through the Pugh announcement, Merritt Mathias’ suspension, and gives his predictions for Week 6.
- Orlando Pride: Sticking to the Plan Will Earn a Result: This week Luis Hernandez takes a week at how Orlando might build on their Week 5 success.
Quick Fire Week 6 Game Previews:
We are now six weeks into the season and suffice to say, we can expect almost anything to happen moving forward. Another exciting week of games ahead!
Game 1: Boston Breakers vs. Portland Thorns
Boston Breakers record: 2-2-1
Total Points: 7
Portland Thorns record: 2-1-2
Total Points: 8
This week we will have our first Friday night game as the Boston Breakers host the Portland Thorns. Both teams are coming off of Week 5 ties and will be looking to pull out a win in Week 6. Rose Lavelle was the lone scorer for Boston last week and they will be looking for much of the same or more from her this week. Adriana Leon has also been quite the workhorse for Boston this season, so look for her to get involved as well.
Portland seems to be stifled and suffering due to the injuries sustained to Tobin Heath, Dagny Brynjarsdottir, Mana Shim, and Katherine Reynolds, who do not look to be coming back for at least another week. Adrianna Franch has been doing surprisingly well to avoid her weaknesses catching up with her, but Boston, with the likes of Lavelle, Leon, and Natasha Dowie may give her a run. Portland need a lot more production this week from Christine Sinclair and Nadia Nadim who have been a bit invisible the last few weeks. And with Portland historically having trouble playing the Breakers in Boston, the team will need to come together and figure out a way to score some goals.
Game 2: Sky Blue FC vs. Houston Dash
Sky Blue FC record: 2-2-1
Total Points: 6
Houston Dash record: 2-3-0
Total Points: 4
In a repeat of Lifetime’s Game of the Week matchup, we will see the same matchup as last week, except this week, Sky Blue is the home team.
Sky Blue won last week’s matchup 3-1, capitalizing on some disappointing play from Houston. Sky Blue looked much better with Captain America finally back in defense and seemed to be playing with a bit more confidence. They will look to continue that this week. Now that Sam Kerr has officially gotten her first 2017 NWSL goal, she should be off and running. Houston will need to find a way to contain her, especially with Kelley O’Hara returning back to the lineup after being gone last week with an excused absence.
The Dash seem to have the pieces, for the most part, but some terrible coaching decisions are not helping field the best team at any given point like they should. Poliana, the sole scorer for the Dash last week, has been a bit of a surprising light for the Dash, so she should hopefully start to see more minutes. Janine Van Wyk also took a bit of a beating last week, so she will be looking to be more involved this week as well.
Game 3: Washington Spirit vs. FC Kansas City
Washington Spirit record: 1-3-1
Total Points: 4
FC Kansas City record: 1-2-2
Total Points: 5
The Washington Spirit, wanting to erase last week’s abysmal game against the Reign from their memories, will want to come out strong and score early against FCKC this week.
After coming off of such a great win against Sky Blue in Week 4, they got pummeled 6-2 last week by the Reign. The Spirit, for the most part this season, seemed to have their defense locked down, but have had trouble on the attack. Last week, the defense seemed to be in shambles. The 3-back system deployed was not working against the strong Reign attack. This week though, the Spirit may be more evenly matched with FCKC, especially since Mallory Pugh is expected to see her first minutes. FCKC are still struggling to score, and Sydney Leroux, unfortunately, cannot be their only answer this season. Granted, the team had expected to have Amy Rodriguez this year, but they just don’t seem to have the answer yet to their attack that has not been stifled. FCKC will need to find a way to start scoring goals. Becky Sauerbrunn and the backline of FCKC are steady, along with Nicole Barnhart in goal. But in the end, if they are not scoring goals at this point, they are not winning games.
The Spirit will need more from their attack but expect their defense to be better. Mallory Pugh will not solve their problems, as her full value against top teams and the competitiveness of this league has not been tested or honed, but expect her to at least get her feet wet this week.
Game 4: North Carolina Courage vs. Chicago Red Stars
North Carolina Courage record: 4-1-0
Total Points: 12
Chicago Red Stars record: 2-2-1
Total Points: 7
The Courage, coming off of their first season loss to the Orlando Pride last week, are out for redemption this week.
Chicago is continuing to have some issues with their attack and finishing their chances. But with Christen Press netting her first goal (a header no less!) she will most likely be off and running. She has been working hard to get goals but has not been successful in finishing her chances before this week. After all, she leads the league in shots and shots on goal this season. Now that she has netted her first one, we can expect to see, as our own Sandra Herrera has dubbed her, Primetime Press in full force. The backline of the Red Stars will be tested against the star power that is the Courage attack.
But the Courage will also be feeling much of the same. As I’ve mentioned before, the Courage backline seems to be their struggling spot this season and Christen Press may do major damage this week. The Courage will also be without Abby Erceg this week as she will be suspended from her red card from last week’s loss to Orlando. Chicago will want to and need to capitalize on that absence.
Game 5: Seattle Reign vs. Orlando Pride
Seattle Reign record: 2-1-2
Total Points: 8
Orlando Pride record: 1-2-2
Total Points: 5
Orlando is coming off of their first win of the season against the top team in the league, a huge, much-needed win for the players and team as a whole.
Orlando played, for the most part, their best soccer game this season. While starting off in typical fashion in the first half, the Pride came alive in the second. This week against the Reign, they will need to replicate their second half from last week and carry it throughout this game. The Reign are coming off a commanding 6-2 win over the Spirit last week and will look to continue their strong attack at home against the Pride.
The Pride has seemed to finally settle on a backline that surprisingly includes Toni Pressley. Last season she had a lot of trouble with speed and overall ball handling and field positioning. This season she seems to have worked on a lot of that and has improved quite a bit.
The Pride have also found a star in Camila, who has been consistently good all season. Look for the Pride backline to be tested early and often against the Reign. The Pride will have to contain the Reign attack. They will also need to get on a goal or two in early, definitely before halftime. The frontline has not been set quite but we may see the same three from last week.
The Reign this season have seemed to either score a lot of goals or struggle to score any, so for the Pride, they will hope for the latter. The Reign, however, will be looking to continue their strong attack and come out much like last week’s Spirit game.
The Scouting Report:
We went live on Monday night with our Week 5 TSR, recapping all of the NWSL games from the weekend. A reminder that you can catch TSR live every Monday night at 8pm EST on our YouTube channel. And make sure to follow the podcast on Twitter @ScoutingPodcast.
In case you missed this week’s episode, catch up here:
Come back next week for the next edition of Off the Bench!