NWSL: Washington and Portland go down to wire in race for first place
The NWSL is down to its last weekend of action. The Washington Spirit and Portland Thorns will go down to the wire in the race for first place.
It was a busy week in the National Women’s Soccer League as the premier women’s division in the United States completed match days 18 and 19. After each team played twice in the span of nine days, the playoff race has been shaken up.
Despite the Washington Spirit winning midweek against Seattle Reign, the league leaders find themselves only one point ahead of second place Portland in the race for the NWSL Shield (regular season champion) by Sunday night. In a rematch from the previous week, Washington were defeated by Seattle 2-0, keeping the Reign’s slim NWSL Playoff hopes alive.
The Seattle Reign are currently two points off the final playoff spot occupied by the Western New York Flash. The Flash failed to secure that last playoff place as the team drew 2-2 last Wednesday with Boston Breakers before being beaten 3-2 by Portland Thorns over the weekend.
Western New York’s NWSL Playoff destiny is in their own hands. A win or a draw against NWSL bottom-dwellers Boston on the final day of the regular season will see them into the postseason. The Flash have the better head-to-head record against Seattle. Therefore, if the two sides are level on points after match day 20, Western New York will qualify for the NWSL Playoffs.
Chicago Red Stars, like Western New York, have stuttered in their last two fixtures. However, the Red Stars have clinched a playoff place. Chicago played FC Kansas City in back-to-back weeks, losing their first meeting 3-2 before earning a 0-0 draw over the weekend. Chicago currently sit one point above Western New York and could see the Flash usurp them on the final day of the season.
If Western New York defeat Boston and Chicago lose to the Washington Spirit, the Red Stars will finish fourth in the NWSL based on head-to-head and goal difference.
While the top of the table and the NWSL Playoffs’ seating is yet to be decided, the teams hoping for better in 2017 is set. The Boston Breakers will finish the NWSL regular season as the league’s last place team. Boston will finish last for the second consecutive season and could set a new record for the fewest points obtained in an NWSL season.
In fact, Boston have been routinely poor since the NWSL debuted in 2013. The Breakers finished that season in fifth place, just missing out on the playoffs by six points. However, since then the Breakers have come second bottom or worse in the subsequent seasons.
Last season’s champions, FC Kansas City, will also miss out on the 2016 NWSL Playoffs. Kansas City have improved during the season, but currently find themselves six points back of the fourth playoff spot. The two-time NWSL champions will hope for better next season.
The 2016 season will go down as a success for the Orlando Pride despite the team missing out on the NWSL Playoffs. The Pride began league play this season, and even though they have only taken 19 points from 19 fixtures, the ladies have helped solidify Orlando as one of the top soccer cities in the USA.