Note: sorry for the lateness of my weekly post. The holiday weekend took me away from my desk.
Records listed as W-L-D
If you're just joining us, the NWSL season to date has given us a distinct group of five teams at the top. Those five teams each have winning records and are a combined 22-7-6. The three team under-class have not once beaten the Group of Five, and are a combined 1-15-6.
Memorial Day weekend saw three games between a team from the top group against a team from the bottom, and in all three games, the better team got the win. The power rankings, therefore, go unchanged, with Sky Blue reasserting their right to hold the top spot, and the bottom three falling even further behind.
1. Sky Blue FC 6-1-1 previously 1
Last week: won at Kansas City 1-0
Sky blue wrapped up their road trip with the style it deserved, posting a statement win at Kansas City. Sophie Schmidt scored again for Sky Blue, this time from the spot in the 22nd minute, on the same foul that saw red for KC and left SBFC up a man for the remainder. Sky Blue's superlative defense posted its fourth consecutive clean sheet, and they continue to lead the league in goals against, conceding four times in 8 games (T-Portland). This followed their two-win Pacific Northwest tour last weekend that shot Sky Blue to the top. SBFC has the league's only winning record (3-1-0) against the Group of Five. They are also 3-0-1 against the bottom three.
Sky Blue now loses their keeper, Jill Loyden and lock down ceneter back Christie Rampone to team USA, along with left back/forward Kelly O'Hara. Canada adds to the misery by snatching leading scorer Schmidt. The depleted side will host an otherwise very important match against Boston Saturday, but won't have to face Leroux or O'Reilly.
2. Portland Thorns 6-1-1 previously 2
Last week: won at Seattle 1-0
Portland has punished the bottom three of the table, running off a perfect six wins in six matches, most of them of the dominating variety. However, the Thorns have not yet proven themselves against the Group of Five, going just 0-1-1 in those matches.
We do know Portland is good enough to play like crap on the road against a Seattle side who was having what their announcers agreed was Seattle's best performance of the year, and get the three points regardless. Portland snatched all three points late in a match that was decided on an 84th minute PK.
Saturday, the Thorns will be missing four players away on international duty. Alex Morgan & Rachel Buehler will be with the USA while Christine Sinclair and Karina Leblanc will be with Canada. Portland is obviously going to need its midfield to step up to get another three points from Chicago, who will have their keeper & two defenders away with Canada. Danielle Foxhoven, have at it.
3. Western New York Flash 3-2-1 previously 3
Last week: won at home vs. Chicago 2-1
Carli Lloyd was finally in the starting line up for the Flash, who got behind but came back and beat Chicago in Rochester. The Flash are 2-2 against the Group of Five and 1-0-1 against the bottom three. WNY has the weekend off, and it is unknown if either of their international call ups (Lloyd & Wambach) will be able to play in their next game, June 5th at Boston. The game at Boston is the first of four consecutive away from Rochester.
4. FC Kansas City 3-2-1 previously 4
Last week: lost at home to Sky Blue 1-0
Not being able to score against Sky Blue when you only have 10 men is understandable. Losing two of three feels worse. Kansas City drops to 1-2-1 against the Group of Five and 2-0-0 against the bottom three. The club may be nine points back, but they have games in hand and those games are against the easiest teams. FCKC would be higher on the table if they had played, for example, Portland's schedule.
Kansas City has six top players being called up for Sunday's friendly, but it's unknown who if any will be ready for KC's next match, Thursday June 6th at Portland.
5. Boston Breakers 3-1-2 previously 5
Last week: won at home vs. Washington 3-0
The Breakers finally broke through against Washington, beating the Spirit 3-0 after drawing their first two meetings of the season. The two teams meet for a fourth and final time at the end of July. Boston is now 1-1-0 against the Group of Five and 2-0-2 against the bottom three.
Boston gets their first crack at Sky Blue this Saturday in New Jersey. The Breakers will be missing Rhiann Wilkinson, Heather O'Reilly, & Sydney Leroux, who will be in Toronto.
6. Washington Spirit 1-4-3 previously 6
Last week: lost at Boston 3-0
The Spirit might very well prove to be an acceptable side and create real distance between themselves and Chicago & Seattle. However, their schedule has not given us much chance to see. Washington is a dismal 0-4-3 against the Group of Five, but have a perfect 1-0-0 record over the Reign & Red Stars.
Washington's next five games are all also against the Group of Five before they finally get Chicago July 10th. One mitigating factor for Washington's brutal docket is that they are off this weekend when four players are otherwise occupied in Toronto.
7. Chicago Red Stars 0-4-2 previously 7
Last week: lost at Western New York 2-1
Like Washington, Chicago has also had only one chance against the bottom three, going 0-0-1 with a draw against Seattle. They are 0-4-1 against the Group of Five with an increasingly impressive tie earlier at New Jersey.
Chicago travels to Portland Saturday without three Canadian call-ups, keeper Erin McLeod, and defenders Rachel Quon & Carmelina Moscato. Chicago's defense was already fairly weak, giving up twelve goals through six games. Now their makeshift back will face a depleted Thorn attack at Jeld-Wen.
8. Seattle Reign 0-7-1 previously 8
Last week: lost at home to Portland 1-0
Hope Solo returned for Seattle and the Reign played some of their best soccer of the season. Solo's return gave us a world class moment as Christine Sinclair stood over the spot ready to take an 84th minute PK while Solo took a long, leisurely drink from her beverage. Solo knew it was a big moment, and her pause in the action let everyone soak in it. Unfortunately for Solo, she went the wrong way as Sinclair slotted it home.
Seattle tries again to get something from this homestand when they host FCKC June 9th. The Reign are 0-1-1 against the bottom three and a dismal 0-6-0 against the Group of Five. They have managed just a single goal in those six losses. Three Canadian players (Emily Zurrer, Kaylyn Kyle, & Tiffany Cameron) will play in this weekend's friendly and while Solo was not called up for duty, she will be in Toronto for evaluation of her injured wrist.