Off the Bench with Backline Soccer: 2017, Week 7


Welcome to Week 7 of Off the Bench!

Backline Soccer Recap:

Quick Fire Week 7 Game Previews:

Week 7 of the NWSL is upon us. We were graced Wednesday with a midweek matchup but we will still see five total games as well, all on Saturday, May 27th. Let’s dive in.

Game 1: North Carolina Courage 2 vs. Sky Blue 0

North Carolina Courage record: 5-2-0
Position: 1st
Total Points: 15

Sky Blue FC record: 3-3-1
Position: 3rd
Total Points: 10

A midweek game saw a showdown between the first place Courage and (before the game) second place Sky Blue. Sky Blue ended up resting some players in preparation for their match this weekend against the Pride. Both teams saw some great opportunities, but in the end, it was a huge shot from Lynn Williams and a goal from Sam Mewis that saw the Courage keep possession of first place. Kailen Sheridan, however, had herself one heck of a game in goal for Sky Blue, and without some of her stellar saves, North Carolina may have very well had more than two goals.


Game 2: Houston Dash vs. Seattle Reign

Houston Dash record: 2-4-0
Position: 9th
Total Points: 6

Seattle Reign record: 2-1-3
Position: 4th
Total Points: 9

The Dash are coming off quite an abysmal showing last week and will be looking to start connecting their pieces more. They just really seem to lack cohesion and a well thought out plan, as well as a way to implement it on the field. Many are speculating whether this has to do with coaching techniques or individual players. I believe it is mainly due to coaching techniques. The Dash will need to figure out their defensive woes very quickly as they will be facing a strong attack from the Reign. Lydia Williams, for the most part, has been holding steady but can only do so much with the current backline. The Dash will need to move away from the hope of Kealia Ohai pulling goals out of thin air if they want to get back to winning ways.

The Reign, while drawing with the Pride last week, will look to continue to get back to their dominant ways and pull out three points. The Reign are coming in with a very in-form Megan Rapinoe as well as a strong offensive presence who will look to make the Dash pay early. The Dash will also need to get past Haley Kopmeyer, who, in her first full starting season after backing up Hope Solo, has been strong and consistent, save for the major Marta error last week. 


Game 3: Chicago Red Stars vs. North Carolina Courage

Chicago Red Stars record: 3-2-1
Position: 2nd
Total Points: 10

North Carolina Courage record: 5-2-0
Position: 1st
Total Points: 15

Chicago is coming into this game after playing arguably their best game of the season last week against the Courage. Christen Press is off and running and Chicago will benefit greatly from her as long as she remains consistent. Newly signed Japanese International, Yuki Nagasato will not be in Chicago in time for this match. Alyssa Naeher, after a slower-than-usual start, has been getting more consistent in goal for the Red Stars and will look to work with the backline to stop the strong attack the Courage will be putting forth.

Though coming off a solid win, the Courage are also coming in with a bit of a disadvantage, having played the midweek game on Wednesday. The attack will need to get behind the Red Stars early in order to see success. 


Game 4: Sky Blue vs. Orlando Pride

Sky Blue FC record: 3-3-1
Position: 3rd
Total Points: 10

Orlando Pride record: 1-2-3
Position: 8th
Total Points: 6

Sky Blue rested key players on Wednesday but will still be coming in with minimal recovery days against the Pride. Sky Blue will want to see a better end product than they had Wednesday, but with Kailen Sheridan having a stellar game, the Pride will need to find creative ways to get passed her as well as the backline of Sky Blue, who will be back at full force. 

The Pride will be without Captain and starting goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris for approximately eight weeks, after staving off the Reign mostly without her last week. This is a huge loss for the Pride, not only on the field but off as well. With backup keeper Aubrey Bledsoe also out with a concussion, Caroline Stanley was signed as an injury replacement. This is a huge opportunity for her, as she will be the one to likely face her former club. The Pride backline, while getting more consistent over the last few weeks, will need to communicate early and often with Stanley to make sure they are together. The Pride also need much more production from their midfield. Marta has been playing quite selflessly, going where she feels she is needed, but the Pride could benefit more from her playing a bit more selfishly sometimes. Alanna Kennedy is also coming off her best game of the season, so if she remains consistent, she will be a threat for Sky Blue.


Game 5: FC Kansas City vs. Washington Spirit

FC Kansas City record: 2-2-2
Position: 6th
Total Points: 8

Washington Spirit record: 1-4-1
Position: 10th
Total Points: 4

FC Kansas City has a strong backline led by Becky Sauerbrunn, but since the loss of Amy Rodriguez to a torn ACL at the start of the season, FCKC has not figured out how to match with Sydney Leroux up top to garner more goals. Leroux still has work to do after missing so many matches after the birth of her son, but FCKC needs to find someone that can help her up top. Nicole Barnhart will be a major barrier, as usual, for the somewhat weaker Spirit attack to get through. 

The Washington Spirit, now with Mal Pugh, will look for revenge this week. Pugh will likely see more minutes but cannot be the sole player the Spirit depend on. Kristie Mewis had a few almost goals last week, which the Spirit will need more of from her. The Spirit are struggling offensively, but recently defensively as well, despite Steph Labbé continuing her great season in goal. FCKC, already struggling offensively, will have a hard time getting through her. 


Game 6: Portland Thorns vs. Boston Breakers

Portland Thorns record: 2-1-3
Position: 5th
Total Points: 9

Boston Breakers record: 2-2-2
Position: 7th
Total Points: 8

Last week the Breakers, ahead 2-0 seemed to almost have the game in the bag, but the Thorns fought back hard and ended up equalizing late for the draw. The Breakers will focus this week on making sure – while scoring – they hold defensively to stave off the Thorns and not blow any lead that they may build. The Breakers will look to players such as Angela Salem and Adriana Leon, who are having great seasons thus far, to continue to create opportunities. With Abby Smith in goal for the Breakers, the Thorns will need to find creative ways to get past her to score.

The Thorns will again be without Tobin Heath, Katherine Reynolds, Mana Shim, and Dagny Brynjarsdottir. Heath is a continued loss for the Thorns, and her skill is sorely missed. The Thorns, however, still seem to be hanging around each game and will look dangerous when everyone is fully healthy. Their key this week is to continue to create opportunities and goals. Adrianna Franch is having a good season statistically speaking, but she still needs to work on her distribution and overall decision and play making. The Thorns have not really paid for those weaknesses yet but it is only a matter of time. 

The Scouting Report:

We went live on Monday night with our Week 6 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!

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