1. Sky Blue FC 8-2-2
Since last rankings: 1-0-1 Boston 2:3 SBFC; SBFC 0:0 Portland
Coming up: Wednesday hosts FCKC, Sunday at Boston
Sky Blue is top of the table, has the tie breaker over Portland, and leads the league in both goals and goal differential. The only exceptions to their dominant form has been in their two losses to their rivals, Western New York, in which they have conceded five goals. They've only conceded five total in their other ten games. SBFC have been consistently better than their opposition all over the pitch, and appear to be the team to beat for the inaugural championship. Their only weaknesses appear to be off the field where their crowds are tiny and their home game feeds are an embarrassment. On the field, they're the best team in the league.
2. Portland Thorns 8-2-2
Since last rankings: 1-0-1 Portland 2:0 Seattle; SBFC 0:0 Portland
Coming up: Sunday at Kansas City
Sometimes even pretty buildings get cracks. You can fix the cracks, or if the cracks are either unfixable or you are just too dang lazy, you can just cover them with a painting or a well-placed coat rack. The Portland Thorns have two of the best strikers on the planet with Alex Morgan & Christine Sinclair. The two have proven to be immensely effective at hiding the cracks. Portland has manufactured results both from the penalty spot (Kansas City & Seattle) and by their favored method, lobbing the ball forward and letting Morgan run on to it and create goals by herself. Saturday in New Jersey, the Thorns relied on their keeper, Karina LeBlanc. She kept a clean sheet with several masterful saves and gave Portland a point they probably didn't deserve.
At the halfway point, Portland's cracks are either unfixable or Cindy Parlow-Cone has simply been masterful moving around some spackle and well-placed décor. They have two more games to work on their issues before the much anticipated arrival of Tobin Heath who hopefully will fix everything. That might sound like too much to ask, but it does seem quite possible that she's the perfect missing piece. One thing we know for sure is that Sky Blue FC has the Thorns' number. Two games have yielded 180 minutes of frustrated nothing from the Thorns' stellar attack. Christie Rampone appears to be the bane of the Thorns Plan A, and Sky Blue has been disciplined enough to not foul Portland in the box.
Portland has one more regular season game against New Jersey on the road at the end of July in what should be Heath's fourth game. That gives the Thorns one more chance to try to figure out how to break down Sky Blue's defense before the playoffs, where Portland's hopes for a title look to depend on it.
3. Western New York Flash 5-2-4
Since last rankings: 1-0-2 Washington 0:2 WNYF; Chicago 2:2 WNYF; WNYF 1:1 Seattle
Coming up: Friday hosts Washington
The Flash did not lose their top spot simply because they only got two points from their games last week against Chicago and Seattle. They lost it because, quite frankly, they deserved to lose both. Credit where it's due when you can be outplayed and salvage a result, but that's not enough when compared to the two teams with whom they are tied in the loss column.
The resilience that Rochester showed, however, did produce one of the more spectacular goals of the season, as Brittany Taylor streaked across the box and volleyed in a 30 yard pass* past the keeper to equalize in the 89th and break Chicago's hearts. Check it out here:
*American football lines at least serve to make it really easy to measure such things
Western New York has what looks like a gimmie at home Friday night against the Spirit, but then go on the road for four straight before closing out the season with five of six at home. Abby Wambach leads the league with seven goals.
4. FC Kansas City 6-4-1
Since last rankings: 2-1-0 Chicago 0:2 FCKC; FCKC 1:3 Chicago; FCKC 2:0 Washington
Coming up: Wednesday at Sky Blue, Sunday hosts Portland
Mixed results again for the Blues as they held serve against the surging Red Stars and got the expected result at home to the Spirit. Kansas City's task for the second half is to fend off Chicago and Boston and claim the coveted 4th playoff spot. Things were looking terrific on that task as they went to Chicago and claimed a solid 2-0 win, then went home for the rematch and scored in the 4th minute on a goal from Renae Cuellar. (Welcome back.) But then Chicago morphed into "June Chicago," and FCKC's nightmare began. Inka Grings opened her account in the 29th, and the Red Stars scored twice in the second half to take all three points. Kansas City is a highly talented and deep side, but the results have been, to my eyes, disappointing. They could have found themselves battling for first place at the half way point, but are instead looking over their shoulder. Playing the top two teams in the standings this week, however, gives the Blues a wonderful opportunity to move up. They must be thinking revenge playing Portland Sunday after their last meeting which was an epic 4-3 victory for the Thorns.
5. Chicago Red Stars 3-5-3
Since last rankings: 1-1-1 Chicago 0:2 FCKC; FCKC 1:3 Chicago; Chicago 2:2 WNYF
Coming up: Saturday at Seattle
The Red Stars are 3-1-1 in June to climb out of the basement, and are most certainly the current team no one wants to play. Wednesday against the Flash, Chicago looked the better team and were unlucky to not win the game. That promising performance followed Chicago's assertion of themselves against Kansas City, as Grings & Fuss each scored their first NWSL goals to give the Red Stars the win and a split of their home & home. The attack from Grings, Chalupny & Masar has been effective and relentless. Chicago's chase of Kansas City for the 4th and final playoff spot could prove to be one of the most exciting races of the second half. The game Saturday at Seattle will be a clash of two teams that recently shared the basement, but are both on promising paths forward. (Recommended viewing. Seattle's game feeds are high quality, and the game should be fun to watch.)
6. Boston Breakers 3-4-3
Since last rankings: 0-1-0 Boston 2:3 Sky Blue
Coming up: Wednesday hosts Seattle; Sunday hosts Sky Blue
What has happened to the Breakers? Through May, Boston was 3-1-2 with a blistering attack that had them looking to be a good bet to make the playoffs. But June has been unkind. They did manage a draw at home against the Flash, but that's it. They are 0-3-1 for the month with an 11 to 5 goal deficit. And the schedule looks daunting. They have home games this week against upstart Seattle and top-of-the-table Sky Blue and then go on the road for five out of six games in July. The Breakers are still holding on to fifth place, but the seven point deficit looks more like a deep pit instead of the sporting challenge it looks like for Chicago. They have the tools to turn this back around, but the pressure is most certainly on, and Boston has to find their form with urgency.
7. Seattle Reign 0-9-2
Since last rankings: 0-1-1 Portland 2:0 Seattle; WNYF 1:1 Seattle
Coming up: Wednesday at Boston; Saturday hosts Chicago
After several promising showings that left snake bit Seattle with loss after loss, Sunday the Reign finally got a result. They went on the road to Rochester and outplayed the Flash. They earned a draw that probably left them feeling that they dropped two points, as Abby Wambach scored a second half PK to equalize for the favorites. Megan Rapinoe made her long-awaited debut for Seattle and she looked to be the best player on the pitch as she menaced and threatened Western New York down the left flank throughout. Unfortunately for the Reign, their obvious improvement comes too late. They enter the second half of the season with two points in the standings, and would probably have to reel off eleven wins to close the season to have a chance at 4th place & the playoff spot that comes with it.
8. Washington Spirit 1-6-3
Since last rankings: 0-2-0 Washington 0:2 WNYF; FCKC 2:0 Washington
Coming up: Friday at Western New York
Call the Spirit the anti-Chicago. After their win at Seattle in mid-May made them look like the team most likely to right themselves and climb out of the bottom three, the Spirit have instead dropped four straight with scorelines of 2-nil, 3-nil, 2-nil, & 2-nil. It's been listless and ugly. At the season's midway point, the Spirit appear to be no threat to make up their 13 point deficit to make the playoffs.
Top Goal scoring duo's
1. FC Kansas City (11) Lauren Cheney 6 Renae Cuellar 5
2T. Western New York (10) Wambach 7 Samantha Kerr 3
2T. Sky Blue FC (10) Lisa De Vanna 5 Sophie Schmidt 5
4. Portland Thorns (9) Alex Morgan 5 Christine Sinclair 4