The playoff picture is finally coming into focus with Washington’s victory over Chicago this past weekend. Barring a setback in the Portland or Washington camp or a miracle from Chicago, we likely have our top four teams now with only the final positioning to be determined.
If current form holds, it should give hope for next season to the likes of Boston, Houston and Sky Blue FC as last season’s bottom two teams will have rebounded to make the playoffs this season.
Here are the Orange in the Oven NWSL power rankings following the completion of week 17 (see last week’s rankings here):
1. Seattle Reign FC (15-1-5), 1st Place (Last Week – 1)
Seattle took care of business this week. Despite seeing less of the ball against Houston, the Reign cashed in nearly every opportunity they created in taking a 4-1 win off the Dash. The win clinched the NWSL Shield and homefield advantage through the playoffs. Mid-week, Seattle traveled to FC Kansas City with a squad rotation system in place having nothing to play for. It did not stop them from coming away with a 1-1 draw.
As we expected, their first loss of the season seems to have woken them up and they have been playing much better ever since. That bodes well for the playoffs, however the news that they failed to book Memorial Stadium for the final and will have to play in their old abode at Starfire should they reach the final was more than a bit disappointing.
The lower capacity (4500) at Starfire is far from ideal for the Championship game but no other option (apart from Seattle losing in the semi finals) appears to be viable.
Week 18 Schedule: Seattle hosts Houston Wednesday night followed by their last home game of the regular season against Washington on Saturday.
2. FC Kansas City (11-6-5), 2nd Place (Last week – 2)
The good news for FCKC is that they clinched a playoff spot. The bad news is they needed help to do it and they seem to be heading in the wrong direction and the most critical point of the season.
Following a loss against Washington and a draw with Seattle, FCKC’s once insurmountable lead over 3rd place is now only 4 points. They are still in the driver seat as a win would clinch 2nd place for them, but they are making it far more interesting than it needs to be.
Week 18 Schedule: FCKC finishes up the season this week with a break before the playoffs start. Wednesday night they host Boston, Saturday night they travel to Chicago for the season finale.
3. Washington Spirit (10-8-4), 3rd Place (Last week – 5)
One week removed from a bit of a tough week, the Spirit kicked into high gear and delivered a clutch performance under playoff pressure. Two wins over playoff competitors shot them into 3rd place both in the standings and in our power rankings.
Washington hosted both FC Kansas City and Chicago this week and sent both home with 2-1 defeats. The win over Chicago was particularly critical as it opened a six point gap between the teams. The win came in dramatic fashion with a stoppage time goal from Yael Averbuch and it meant Washington put one foot into the playoffs with two games remaining.
Week 18 Schedule: Opening up a cushion over 5th was critical as the Spirit must travel to Seattle to face the Reign on Saturday, which could be a preview of one of the playoff semi finals.
4. Portland Thorns FC (9-7-6), 4th Place (Last week – 3)
Portland did what they had to this week, but dropped to 4th in our power rankings simply by virtue of Washington’s impressive week. The Thorns made their second national TV appearance when they hosted the Houston Dash on Sunday night on ESPN2.
It was a scrappy match, but the Thorns pulled out a 1-0 win off of a Vero Boquete goal. Coupled with Chicago’s loss, Portland’s playoff spot now looks nearly sealed. A semi final match between Portland and Seattle would be a lot of fun to see.
Week 18 Schedule: Portland travels to face Boston on Sunday.
5. Chicago Red Stars (7-7-7), 5th Place (Last week – 4)
Heartbreak hotel for Chicago this week. A win over Washington would have propelled them to within reaching distance of the playoffs, but a draw would have been enough to put them in good position. Instead, they conceded a devastating stoppage time goal, marking the third time this season that Chicago has lost to Washington by a single goal.
The Red Stars are five points back of the playoffs with a game in hand. They still have an outside shot, but they need to be perfect and they need help from other teams. At this point, it looks a long shot.
Week 18 Schedule: A three match home stand to close out the season begins on Saturday with a visit from FC Kansas City.
6. Western New York Flash (8-11-3), 6th Place (Last week – 6)
Hopes of a return to the playoffs are gone. A mid-week loss to Sky Blue put the hopes of holding on to 6th place under threat. A wild 4-3 win over Boston at the weekend re-opened the small gap to 7th place, however.
The biggest news from the win, however, was the brace for Abby Wambach. She is back and scoring goals. It is too late, of course, but perhaps not to late to keep the Flash in front of Sky Blue.
Week 18 Schedule: The Flash have the week off before finishing up next week against Sky Blue FC and Chicago.
7. Sky Blue FC (5-8-7), 7th Place (Last week – 8)
Their win over Western New York took them to within 2 points of 6th place with a game in hand. With the Flash’s weekend win, Sky Blue is now five points back with two games in hand. Of course, one of those games – the postponed match against Houston – may never be made up unless it is critical to the standings.
Sky Blue has been good as of late. Not great, mind you, but good enough to begin pulling away from Houston and applying heat to the Flash. Their final three matches of the season (bar the postponed match) are on the road, however, so they may yet slip back to 8th.
Week 18 Schedule: An important positioning battle looms on Saturday when Sky Blue travels to Houston to face the Dash.
8. Houston Dash (5-12-3), 8th Place (Last week – 7)
This was always going to be a rough week for the expansion Dash. Facing Seattle and Portland with the wealth of attacking options on offer from both teams was a tall order for the Dash’s leaky defense. Against Seattle, the defense was not up to the task. Against Portland, it was a different story.
A fairly open game filled with plenty of scoring opportunities for the Dash ended in a scoreline that looked worse than the actual match itself; 4-1 to Seattle. The Dash had better opportunities than Seattle but simply could not convert. Against Portland, the Dash had many fewer opportunities but also made it more difficult for Portland to score.
After making a good account of themselves on national TV, the Dash are now focused on taking as many points as they can from the remainder of the season and moving up the table.
Week 18 Schedule: A double week starting with another meeting with Seattle followed by a return home this weekend for the final home match of their inaugural season against Sky Blue.
9. Boston Breakers (4-14-2), 9th Place (Last week – 9)
Boston continues to keep things interesting as they make a pest of themselves. The latest was a high scoring loss to Western New York a week after a high scoring win over the Flash.
Boston still has four matches to go in the season so could feasibly pull themselves out of the cellar. It won’t be easy, however, as they face FC Kansas City, Portland, Chicago and Houston.
Week 18 Schedule: A trip to Kansas City mid-week followed by a Sunday visit from Portland.