NWSL weekend preview: Kennedy, Kerr key to decisive clash

With three out of four NWSL playoff spots confirmed, attention now turns to the battle for fourth.

Seattle Reign and Portland Thorns secured their post-season participation earlier in the week, leaving Utah Royals, Chicago Red Stars, Orlando Pride and Houston Dash to fight for the last remaining position.

READ: NWSL midweek wrap

The scenario makes for an exciting round of Sunday morning matches for our Westfield Matildas.

Here's a look at what looms as a pivotal day.

Seattle Reign v North Carolina Courage

Sunday 6:00am (AEST)

Shield winners North Carolina Courage and second-placed Seattle Reign are already playoffs bound, but this could be an important dress rehearsal for bigger things on the horizon for the two heavyweights.

Lydia Williams kept a clean sheet in Reign's 2-0 win over Houston Dash earlier in the week, while Steph Catley also played 90 minutes for the Seattle club.

There is little chance of Reign moving on the table over the remaining two rounds, but they'll want to keep the foot on the pedal and maintain momentum ahead of the finals.

Williams and Catley sit four points ahead of third-placed Portland Thorns and would seal second position with a win over the league leaders.

Orlando Pride v Chicago Red Stars

Sunday 9.30am (AEST)

All eyes will be on Orlando Pride's meeting with Chicago Red Stars on Sunday morning in what is a must-win match for Alanna Kennedy and Emily van Egmond.

Their team, Orlando, is currently in sixth on 30 points and needs to make up ground on both fifth-placed Chicago and finals rivals Utah, who are fourth.

Having lost two on the bounce, Orlando have it all to do in order to defeat the Red Stars, but Kennedy and Van Egmond will at least provide the side with a strong base from which to mount an assault.

WATCH: Kerr scores another NWSL Goal of the Week contender

Classy defender Kennedy will especially need to be in top form as she goes head-to-head with Westfield Matildas team-mate Sam Kerr, who has been in scintillating form for Chicago this season.

Kerr hit a double last time out against Portland and is the competition's leading scorer with 12.

Washington Spirit v Portland Thorns

Sunday 10.00am (AEST)

Portland Thorns clinched their spot in the playoffs by defeating bottom club Sky Blue 2-1 during the week.

Ellie Carpenter, Hayley Raso and Caitlin Foord all started as the Thorns made it three unbeaten.

It's the kind of form that makes them a dangerous proposition and the 2017 champions will want to take care of business away to ninth-placed Washington with a tough final round fixture against second-placed Seattle still to come.

The match comes as another ideal opportunity for Foord to continue building her fitness following a serious foot injury that sidelined her for much of the season.

Houston Dash v Sky Blue

Sunday 10.30am (AEST)

Houston Dash's fading playoff hopes are not yet over, but Kyah Simon and Clare Polkinghorne will need several results to fall their way to scrape into the top four.

That begins with beating cellar dwellers Sky Blue.

Six points from the remaining two matches are essential if Houston are to pull off the near-impossible and, with a daunting final day match-up against North Carolina looming ominously, a confidence-booster would be welcomed.

There are fitness concerns over Westfield Matildas striker Simon, who has been nursing an ankle injury over the past fortnight, while Polkinghorne could return to the starting XI after watching the recent 2-0 defeat to Seattle from the bench.

All matches can be streamed live and free here.


*Teams in bold contain Westfield Matildas players

  1. North Carolina Courage – played 22, 53 points, +31
  2. Seattle Reign – played 22, 40 points, +10
  3. Portland Thorns – played 22, 36 points, +9
  4. Utah Royals – played 23, 32 points, -2
  5. Chicago Red Stars – played 21, 31 points, +4
  6. Orlando Pride – played 22, 30 points, -4
  7. Houston Dash – played 22, 29 points, -4
  8. Washington Spirit – played 22, 10 points, -22
  9. Sky Blue FC – played 20, 5 points, -22