On a weekend rife with playoff implications NWSL play kicked off on Saturday with a rare match devoid of such concerns.
Home teams listed first.
Orlando Pride 1-2 vs. Sky Blue FC
With NWSL year four winding down neither of these teams will be heading to the playoffs but that didn’t stop either side from putting on a solid display in front of close to 7,000 fans at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.
The first year Pride have drawn good support all season, with Orlando’s average of 8,933 ranking second in the league behind only the Portland Thorns, who average nearly 17,000 fans per.
Those Orlando Pride fans saw their side jump out to 1-0 lead on a well struck free kick from Kristen Edmonds shortly before the halftime intermission. Unfortunately for the home fans, the first year squad was unable to make that lead stand up conceding to Sam Kerr and Maya Hayes in the second half.
The ninth place Pride wraps up its inaugural campaign with a final home game versus FC Kansas City on September 24 while Sky Blue finish out the 2016 season the following afternoon when the Portland Thorns come to Yurcak Field in Piscataway, New Jersey.
FC Kansas City 0-0 vs. Chicago Red Stars
Needing only a point to claim a 2016 playoff berth the Chicago Red Stars traveled to Swope Park in Kansas City, Missouri to face the 2014-2015 league champion FC Kansas City and did what had to be done to extend its season.
KCFC is winding down a disappointing season that began with the retirement of Lauren Holiday and continued as the club lost Amy Rodriguez and Sydney Leroux to pregnancies.
The fans that came out to Swope Park on Sunday saw a quiet match, although Red Stars keeper Alyssa Naeher was called into action on a couple of occasions and the U.S. WNT netminder kept the clean sheet to send Chicago into the postseason for a second consecutive season.
Seattle Reign 2-0 vs. Washington Spirit
In the final regular season home match of Seattle captain Keelin Winters’ career, the Seattle Reign kept its playoff hopes alive with a shutout win over the league-leading Washington Spirit. Seattle and U.S. WNT star Megan Rapinoe avoided further controversy by standing for the national anthem, rather than kneeling as she had previously in support of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Rapinoe played a big role in Seattle’s opening goal, delivering one of her patented crosses to Beverly Yanez, who finished to the Spirit net for a 28th minute Reign lead.
Winters gave the home fans a treat scoring in the 78th minute securing the points and keeping Seattle’s playoff hopes alive.
Portland Thorns 3-2 vs. Western New York Flash
In front of a sold-out crowd of 21,144 and a national television audience on Fox Sports 1 the Portland Thorns held on to beat the Western New York Flash 3-2, a victory that earned the Thorns its first ever home playoff match. Having compiled an 8-1-1 mark at Providence Park this season, that is no small consideration.
The Timbers rolled to a 3-0 lead in front of its third full house of the year behind goals from Nadia Nadeem, Christine Sinclair, and Dagny Brynjarsdottir.
Trailing 3-0 the Flash fought back and made a game of it on when Jess McDonald scored from a Liz Eddy cross in the 77th minute before turning provider just three minutes later for Lynn Williams.
Showing impressive resilience Western New York pressed for the equalizer and very nearly got it, only to see Timbers keeper Michelle Betos get just enough of a long range shot from Williams to send the big Portland crowd home happy.
Houston Dash 4-1 vs. Boston Breakers
In a matchup of two teams firmly out of the playoff picture, the Houston Dash piled more misery on the last-place Boston Breakers, beating the visitors 4-1, sparked by a pair of goals from Carli Lloyd and a goal and an assist from Canadian international Janine Beckie.
The loss is just the latest in this awful season for the Breakers who head into the final week of the campaign with a minus 29 goal difference to its name, 20 worse than the Orlando Pride, who sport the league’s next worst mark.
Playoff scenarios: With the NWSL shut down next weekend the Western New York Flash and the Seattle Reign will head into the final games of the season fighting for the league’s final playoff spot.
Unlike the bloated MLS postseason that sees 12 out of league’s 20 clubs qualify for the playoffs, just four teams last into the NWSL “second season.” WNY controls its fate heading into Sunday’s season finale against dreadful Boston needing just a draw or of course a win.
The Flash can take all of the drama out the weekend by getting a result Saturday night when they travel to play Boston. If the Breakers manage to pull off an upset win at Jordan Field the final playoff berth would be Seattle’s for the taking, if they can defeat the Dash in Houston.
A Seattle loss would also see WNY advance, regardless of Saturday’s outcome.
The playoff dates and locations are:
Semifinals: Friday, September 30 – 8pm @ Maryland SoccerPlex, Boyds, Maryland.
Sunday, October 2 – 5pm @Providence Park, Portland, Oregon.
NWSL Championship: Sunday, October 9 – 5pm @BBVA Compass Stadium.
All times ET