First and foremost, a big thanks to my Backline Soccer colleagues for wishing me a happy birthday last week.
AS I TOOK ANOTHER STEP IN BEING OLD, I CAN’T HELP BUT GET REFLECTIVE
On Sunday, the UEFA Women’s European Championship started.
The second half of the NWSL season is underway and with it comes the push for the four playoff spots.
Next week there will be the Tournament of Nations in which the United States, Australia, Brazil, and Japan take part in, across three cities in the US.
Needless to say, times are good for women’s soccer.
Yes, there are still strides to be made in regards to accessibility for fans and media alike to watch a match on a television, computer, or mobile device. Yes, collectively attendances could always use more people going through the turnstiles and attending matches live. Yes, there are jamokes whose sad minds need to be changed from “LOLWOMENSSPORTS” and give these professional athletes, and human beings, the proper respect. That said, it’s pretty remarkable where the women’s game started compared to where it is today.
Last week, we celebrated the anniversary of the July 10, 1999, Women’s World Cup final where which defender Brandi Chastain converted the winning penalty and subsequent iconic photo. The interest of women’s soccer, let alone soccer, in general, was so far from my radar of interests, that it’s really surreal that here I am, typing out a weekly musings piece for a women’s soccer website.
Like any other world of sports fandom, the fanatics that make up the soccer world, no gender caveat specific, is sure a fascinating one. Yet I would not trade it for anything else in the world.
SO YOU WANT TO BE IN THE NWSL PLAYOFFS? “HIYA” SAYS BOSTON
With the second half of the NWSL season well underway, I think we can be safe in saying it will be North Carolina plus three other teams that will make up the playoff field for the NWSL Championship. Where things stand in the table at the moment, I think those other three will be the Chicago Red Stars, Sky Blue FC, and Seattle Reign FC. That being said, the teams in the middle aren’t too far off from the playoffs either. There are several squads who–with some strategic wins–could find themselves above the cutoff in that number four spot. But having seen Boston in person last weekend at Memorial Stadium, and watching them hold the Reign FC to just a point, I think the Boston Breakers will do enough to affect the playoff chances of either Portland or Orlando.
In the final two months of the regular season, the Breakers meet Orlando twice (one home, one away) and host Portland. If Boston gets a draw in those three matches and/or somehow get a victory one of them, it could be a proverbial bump in the road on them trying to get into the NWSL playoffs.
When Boston was in Seattle last week, head coach Matt Beard said they had a plan for Megan Rapinoe. You don’t have to look far as to how 2017 Megan Rapinoe has been playing–she’s at the top of her game. But the thing about Boston is … their plan worked. Historically, whenever the Reign FC score first at home, they smell blood in the water. Seattle scored first last weekend and if some final balls didn’t lack that last bit of quality, Seattle could have easily been up one or two goals on Boston, especially some of the chances midfielder Lindsay Elston had.
Yet Boston’s defense did not break; hell it barely bent considering the firepower capabilities Seattle had in Rapinoe and Nahomi Kawasumi. Goalkeeper Abby Smith and a defensive line led by Julie King stayed in constant communication and their switches and swarming the ball when they needed to worked as well as anyone could expect. If the Breakers are going to disrupt any playoff spot-chasing team in August and September, it’s going to be because of their defense. And we really need to start giving those back five the attention that they deserve. In talking to defender Amanda Frisbie after the match against Seattle, she sounded like a player that was totally into Matt Beard’s program. Previewing the season, I said that Boston could give people a lot more trouble and I’m sticking with it. So at the risk of making two strong and vocal fan bases really mad at me, yeah – Orlando and Portland, do not sleep on the Boston Breakers.
They could very well muck any thoughts you had of playoff soccer.
IN ADDITION TO MY GENERALLY BAD WEEKEND PREDICTIONS …
I am going to add a blurb or two as to what I see when looking at the matchups that leads me to make the predictions. And yes they’ll be from the same sound logic that is my brain and what I think I know about soccer.
Chicago Red Stars OVER Orlando Pride
Red Stars have a stout defense. And they have players up top to actually put shots on goal – I think they’re going to knock Orlando back to reality. And maybe out of that eyebrow-raising power ranking.
North Carolina Courage OVER FC Kansas City
Yes, for the most part, the side that is hosting historically gets the result. However, I don’t think KC will recover from Orlando’s four goals in time for a North Carolina side that is probably still annoyed at being handcuffed last week in Portland.
Houston Dash and Boston Breakers play to a DRAW
Houston will probably dominate the numbers and feel like they “should” win but the Breakers will be a barrier that won’t be broken.
Seattle Reign FC OVER Sky Blue FC
This will be a goal-fest, like four or five. Headlined by Pinoe and Kerr trying to top each other. And in the final minutes, a Seattle defender will get that match winner.
Portland Thorns FC OVER Washington Spirit
Remember that time Portland traveled to Maryland and Washington won because Portland looked lethargic? Yeah, the Thorns remember and will get their retribution.
And here is your music video break.
Song: “The Heavy Entertainment Show” | Artist: Robbie Williams