NWSL weekend preview: Kerr sets sights on golden boot

Four Westfield Matildas are set to jostle for prime playoff positioning in the final round of the National Women's Soccer League this weekend.

Form, pride and seedings are all on the agenda with the top four aiming to take winning momentum into the post-season.

And with Aussie hotshot Sam Kerr seeking to sew up the golden boot, there's plenty of reason to keep a close eye on the last four fixtures.

Here's a look at what's ahead for our NWSL stars.

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Portland Thorns v Seattle Reign

Saturday 12:00pm (AEST)

Semi-final hosting rights go on the line when Portland Thorns entertain the in-form Seattle Reign.

Portland have won three on the trot but trail second-place Seattle by two points. Only a win will do if they're to leapfrog the visitors and book a return to Providence Park, which will also host the Championship decider.

They'll be without the injured Hayley Raso, meaning the task is made slightly tougher for Caitlin Foord and Ellie Carpenter.

It will be difficult trying to break down a Seattle side that is unbeaten in seven, needs only a point and has Steph Catley and Lydia Williams as regulars in defence.

Sky Blue v Orlando Pride

Sunday 2:00am (AEST)

Emily van Egmond and Alanna Kennedy will expect to end the season on a high as their Orlando Pride head to bottom-placed Sky Blue.

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Orlando's hopes of securing a second successive appearance in the play-offs have been scuppered by a winless run that stretched to five matches with last month's 3-1 defeat to a Sam Kerr-inspired Chicago Red Stars.

Van Egmond watched that match from the bench and may well be recalled to join Kennedy in the starting XI at Yurcak Field.

Utah Royals v Chicago Red Stars

Sunday 5:30am (AEST)

Watch out, Utah Royals, because Sam Kerr is in unstoppable form.

The superstar striker has netted 10 goals in her last seven appearances to go three clear in the count for what is almost certain to be a second straight golden boot.

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That hot streak has fired Chicago into fourth and while a semi-final date with leaders North Carolina Courage appears most likely, three points away to Utah would keep Kerr and the Red Stars in the frame for a trip to Seattle.

Utah, meanwhile, are coming to the end of an encouraging debut season in the competition, with Katrina Gorry and her team-mates no doubt eager to hold firm in their credible fifth position.

North Carolina Courage v Houston Dash

Sunday 9:30am (AEST)

Noth Carolina are bound to enter the play-offs as clear favourites after a magnificent campaign that has seen them streak away at the top.

Paul Riley's side have, however, hit a slight wobble in the last month and a half, drawing three of their past five fixtures to give the chasing pack some hope leading into the play-off season.

That should only increase their desperation to make a final round statement against a dangerous Houston Dash team that put six past Sky Blue in their last outing.

Kyah Simon and Clare Polkinghorne will both hope for a chance to do their Westfield Matildas team-mates a favour by exposing any North Carolina shortcomings.

All matches can be streamed live and free at nwslsoccer.com.

NWSL LADDER

*Teams in bold contain Westfield Matildas players

  1. North Carolina Courage – played 23, 54 points, +31
  2. Seattle Reign – played 23, 41 points, +10
  3. Portland Thorns – played 23, 39 points, +10
  4. Chicago Red Stars – played 23, 37 points, +11
  5. Utah Royals – played 23, 32 points, -2
  6. Houston Dash – played 23, 32 points, +1
  7. Orlando Pride – played 23, 30 points, -6
  8. Washington Spirit – played 24, 11 points, -23
  9. Sky Blue FC – played 23, 6 points, -32
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This article was originally published on the Westfield Matildas website.
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