NWSL weekend preview: Crunch time as Westfield Matildas team-mates do battle

There's plenty still to play for in the National Women’s Soccer League with just a month remaining in the regular season.

Six teams are still in the hunt for three remaining playoff positions and the top-four hopes of several Westfield Matildas could hinge on this weekend's results.

We take a look at what's ahead of our Aussie stars in the United States.

NWSL Wrap: Vital wins for Gorry, Williams

CHICAGO RED STARS v NORTH CAROLINA COURAGE

Saturday, August 11 at 10:00am AEST

League leaders North Carolina Courage have set a remarkable pace this season.

Having clinched the NWSL Shield with a 2-1 win over Portland Thorns in Week 19, Courage have now turned attention to carrying their sensational form into the post-season.

But if anyone can derail the run, it’s Sam Kerr and the Chicago Red Stars.

Kerr was in fine form at the Tournament of Nations but has dropped back to third on the NWSL’s scoring charts after Lynn Williams shot to the summit with a double for North Carolina last weekend.

The Red Stars should be fresh following almost a month of rest and an upset victory on home turf would go a long way to securing a spot in the top four.

They currently trail fourth-placed Portland Thorns by one point, and would climb as high as third - at least temporarily - with a win on Saturday morning.

UTAH ROYALS v SEATTLE REIGN

Sunday, August 12 at 5:30am AEST

Katrina Gorry’s Utah Royals are another club in the mix for a playoff position and their ambitions could be a set for a major boost when second-placed Seattle Reign visit Rio Tinto Stadium.

The Royals are level with Chicago on 28 points, but have played two additional matches and need to make every remaining fixture count.

Fortunately, on the back of Katie Stengel's late winner against Washinton Spirit, Gorry and her Utah team-mates will be full of confidence for a clash with a Seattle side unbeaten in two.

Westfield Matildas goalkeeper Lydia Williams kept a clean sheet for Reign last time out, even despite the injury-enforced absence of Steph Catley, and she will be hoping another blank can protect the club's three-point cushion in second.

SKY BLUE FC v HOUSTON DASH

Sunday 12 August at 9:00am AEST

Kailen Sheridan’s penalty save deep into stoppage time against Orlando Pride last weekend salvaged just a fourth point of the season for Sky Blue and they’ll be eager to turn that momentum into a maiden win when they welcome Houston Dash on Sunday morning.

For Houston, this is a must-win encounter.

Clare Polkinghorne and Kyah Simon both featured in their last fixture but were unable to prevent a 2-1 defeat to Utah, leaving Vera Pauw's side six points adrift of fourth.

The last time these teams faced off, Dash edged Sky Blue 3-2 at Yurcak Field – they’ll need a similar result to stay in playoff contention.

ORLANDO PRIDE v PORTLAND THORNS

Sunday, August 12 at 9:30am AEST

It’s a massive third versus fourth encounter to round off the weekend action, with five Westfield Matildas in line to feature.

Orlando Pride need to bounce back from Marta's costly late penalty miss against Sky Blue in order to feel completely confident of their finals chances.

Pride, who have Alanna Kennedy and Emily van Egmond on their books, sit third on the table, one point ahead of Portland prior to kick-off.

But the pressure will be on the home side, having played one match more than their opponents and with just a two-point buffer to fifth-placed Chicago, who have played two fewer games.

It means Orlando could potentially slip out of the top four if they are not careful against a dangerous Thorns side that was recently boosted by the presence of a fit-again Caitlin Foord.

Hayley Raso and Ellie Carpenter could make it a hat-trick of Aussies in Portland's starting XI for what promises to be a blockbuster.

NWSL LADDER

*Teams in bold contain Westfield Matildas players

  1. North Carolina Courage – played 20, 49 points, +28
  2. Seattle Reign – played 19, 33 points, +7
  3. Orlando Pride – played 20, 30 points, +1
  4. Portland Thorns – played 19, 29 points, +6
  5. Chicago Red Stars – played 18, 28 points, +4
  6. Utah Royals – played 20, 28 points, -2
  7. Houston Dash – played 19, 23 points, -7
  8. Washington Spirit – played 20, 10 points, -17
  9. Sky Blue FC – played 17, 4 points, -20

All NWSL matches can be streamed live at nwslsoccer.com

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This article was originally published on the Westfield Matildas website.
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