[dropcap size=small]I[/dropcap]nstead of a weekly review of the recent National Women’s Soccer League action, it’s time to start breaking down which teams are on the playoff bubble. The Seattle Reign have already clinched a playoff spot, and FC Kansas City can clinch a spot with a win against the Washington Spirit on Wednesday. The Boston Breakers, Houston Dash, and Sky Blue FC are all but mathematically eliminated, which leaves the Portland Thorns, Washington Spirit, Chicago Red Stars, and Western New York Flash battling for the final two playoff positions. With seven games this week and two weeks left in the regular season, every match becomes that much more crucial for the four teams vying for the final third and fourth positions in the table.
30 points, 3 matches left
Paul Riley’s squad host the Houston Dash on Sunday night, a game that will be featured on ESPN2. The Thorns scored six goals in their last televised match and will face a Dash team coming off a midweek match against a red hot Seattle Reign. The Thorns were outplayed last weekend against the Reign in all facets of the game and might have played one of their worst matches of the season. This year, the Thorns have been something of a Jekyll & Hyde team so I expect nothing less than three points from the Thorns in a must-win game for the team.
28 points, 4 matches left
Washington Spirit host FC Kansas City at home on Wednesday and the Chicago Red Stars on Saturday. The Blues are coming off of a solid win at home against Sky Blue FC but have been a different team on the road, going 4-5-1 in games away from Durwood Stadium. This is a good opportunity for Mark Parsons’ team to take points off of a top-two team. The Spirit host three of their final four matches and are coming off of a 1-1 draw at home last week against the Thorns but will need to take advantage of having Jodie Taylor available this week before she misses the last couple of matches due to international duty. Taking four or more points from this weekend is a must for the Spirit if they want to make the playoffs.
Chicago Red Stars
28 points, 4 matches left
The Chicago Red Stars play just one match this week and it’s against Washington on Saturday evening. The Red Stars have the chance to rest some tired legs before the match and hope FC Kansas City can take points on the road. About this time last year, the Red Stars made a fateful trip to Maryland and saw their playoff hopes disappear due a shortened game because of lightening in the area. But the Red Stars have a lot going for them this year and could be the wild card team in this hunt, as they have a habit of pulling out dramatic results this season, which should cause concern for teams holding a slim lead late in matches against them.
Western New York Flash
24 points, 4 matches left
The Western New York Flash are the odd team out at the moment, sitting four points back of fourth place with the teams ahead of it in much better form. However, Aaron Lines’ team has the most favorable finish to a schedule this season, playing Sky Blue and the Boston Breakers on the road, taking a week off, and then hosting the Breakers before a potential final day thriller against the Chicago Red Stars. The Flash play three of four matches against teams that have virtually nothing to play for outside of 2015 college draft order. The Flash don’t look anything like the side that won the regular season title last year but sometimes all a team needs to do is to peak at the right time. If there was ever a time to peak for the Flash, the time is right now.
Congratulations to the LA Blues of the USL W-League and Beach Futbol Club of Women’s Premier Soccer League for winning national championships this past weekend. The Blues scorched through the competition in the W-League Final Four, defeating the Charlotte Lady Eagles, 4-0, in the semifinals, and the Washington Spirit Reserves, 6-1, in the final. UCLA rising senior Sarah Killion was named the Championship MVP and this performance adds to her very solid resume and makes her a top candidate for a first-round draft pick next January at the NWSL College Draft.
In the WPSL, Beach Futbol Club ran the table throughout the season and won the Championship game, 1-0, over the Houston Aces after defeating CFC Passion, 2-0, in the semifinals. Former Seattle Reign forward Kristina Larsen scored the game-winning goal for Beach Futbol Club in that match.