NWSL preview: Ever-present Polkinghorne key for Houston's clash with Utah

Houston Dash are due a big examination of their title credentials against early National Women's Soccer League pacesetters Utah Royals on Sunday morning (AEST).

But if there's anyone who can help the Dash land a statement of intent, it's Westfield Matildas defender Clare Polkinghorne.

Alongside Kyah Simon, Polkinghorne has helped Houston make a strong start to the 2019 season and they currently sit in third place after a 1-0 win over Orlando Pride on Monday.

And Polkinghorne hasn't missed a single minute of action so far, conceding just one foul, making 23 clearances and nine interceptions.

It's not going to be easy against a Royals side who haven't conceded a goal yet, and enter the clash on the back of three straight 1-0 victories.

You can watch Utah Royals v Houston Dash live on www.nwslsoccer.comSunday 5:30am AEST. Read on to find out what else is in store for your Westfield Matildas this weekend in America's top flight.

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Sky Blue FC v Washington Spirit, Sunday 5am AEST

A fit-again Chloe Logarzo could be just what Washington Spirit need to break their mini-goal drought against Sky Blue.

Logarzo, 24, made her Spirit debut in last Sunday’s 0-0 stalemate with Seattle Reign and her presence was felt in that 24-minute cameo.

Teammate Amy Harrison was substituted at half-time in that one, in a match that saw both Harrison and Logarzo’s Sydney FC teammate Aubrey Bledsoe make an incredible nine saves.

Washington, currently sixth, will need to improve against a Sky Blue team that pulled off a morale-boosting 0-0 draw against reigning champions North Carolina Courage last Sunday.

Harrison
Amy Harrison is enjoying her maiden season in the NWSL with Washington

Orlando Pride v Portland Thorns, Sunday 9:30am AEST

One of the last things Orlando Pride want at the moment is the sight of Portland Thorns duo Caitlin Foord and Ellie Carpenter baring down on goal.

But in Alanna Kennedy and Emily van Egmond, this season’s early strugglers have two players who are perhaps best suited to nullifying the dynamic Portland pair.

Kennedy and van Egmond’s Pride are winless from their first five matches and have scored just one goal in that time - Kennedy's bicycle kick in a 1-1 draw with Reign on April 21.

It means Sunday morning’s home clash with fourth-placed Thorns approaches must-win territory. Portland attacker Hayley Raso returned to Oregon last week after gaining her international clearance and could be set to feature.

Foord
Caitlin Foord opened the scoring when these two sides met last - a 2-0 win for the Thorns in April

Chicago Red Stars v North Carolina Courage, Monday 8:00am AEST

North Carolina Courage are the NWSL gold standard right now but if there’s anyone who can gun the reigning champions down it’s Chicago Red Stars forward Sam Kerr.

Kerr opened the campaign with two goals in the first two games - against North Carolina (1-1) and Portland (4-4) - but has since gone two matches without scoring. Most recently, she was well marshalled and the Red Stars were defeated 1-0 by front-runners Utah.

The Red Stars are currently fifth on the table and will be aiming to hand the Courage (second) their first defeat of the campaign.

Kerr scored the first goal of the NWSL season against the Courage on April 13. They played out a 1-1 draw