NWSL Fall Series Preview: Week 4

The National Women’s Soccer League is getting ready for a full slate of games on Saturday in the Fall Series. All three regional pods will be in action on Saturday.

Here’s a preview of the games plus players to watch for each team:

Washington Spirit at Chicago Red Stars

In the CBS Game of the Week, the Washington Spirit travels to SeatGeek Stadium to take on the Chicago Red Stars at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday, Sept. 26. This will be the third matchup between the two teams this year and the second in the Fall Series. In both of the previous games, the Spirit came away with a 2-1 victory. 

The Chicago Red Stars are looking to ride the momentum of an impressive 4-1 win over Sky Blue FC last weekend, where three different players found the back of the net by Chicago. Kealia Watt made her presence known for Chicago scoring her first two goals in a Red Star’s uniform. Even though Chicago made it to the final of the NWSL Challenge Cup they didn’t have any dominating performances but they finally got that with the win over Sky Blue FC. 

The Washington Spirit is a young team, they have eight players that are playing their first year with the Spirit and four of those eight are 2020 NWSL draft picks. The average age of the team is 24, but despite being a young team they have shown a lot of promise. The Spirit is 1-1 in the Fall Series after falling to Sky Blue FC in the first game and defeating the Red Stars in their second match. 

Players to Watch

Kealia Watt (Chicago) – Watt earned a brace and an assist last time out for the Red Stars; now, the veteran is leading the attack for Chicago and the Red Stars will look to continue to build on the momentum from that match. The Red Stars midfield will look to find Watt and with her ability to score or provide dangerous balls into her teammates we could be seeing another high scoring affair for Chicago. 

Sam Staab (Washington) – The Clemson alum is a key piece of the Spirit defense, Washington will have to be defensively sound if they want to win this game. Through two games in the Fall Series, Staab has four clearances and an 86% passing success rate. 

OL Reign at Utah Royals

The second match on Saturday sees OL Reign travel to Rio Tinto Stadium to take on the Utah Royals at 3:30 p.m. ET. The first of two meetings between the teams in the West pod. 

OL Reign was set to open up the Fall Series against the Portland Thorns on Sept. 12 but that game had to be postponed due to poor air quality in Portland so this will be the Reign’s first match of the fall. The Reign had a solid defense at the Challenge Cup but just couldn’t find the back of the net. At the Challenge Cup, the Reign played five games but only scored one goal. 

Utah looks to bounce back after a tough 3-0 loss to the Portland Thorns. This is another team that struggled at times to score goals consistently at the Challenge Cup. They scored four goals in the tournament but three of those goals were in the first match. 

Players to Watch

Bethany Balcer (OL Reign) – Balcer scored the lone goal of 2020 for the Reign so far. The reigning Rookie of the Year led the team with six goals in the 2019 season. She will be a key piece for the Reign as they look to emphasize the attack. 

Vero Boquete (Utah) – The midfielder only played 45 minutes in the loss to Portland but she was able to create five chances for the Royals. The Spanish international led Utah with two assists and a goal during the Challenge Cup. 

Orlando Pride at Houston Dash

The night game for the NWSL sees the Orlando Pride travel to BBVA Stadium to take on the 2020 Challenge Cup Champion Houston Dash. 

Orlando played their first match of 2020 last weekend against the North Carolina Courage where they played the 2019 NWSL Champions to a 0-0 draw. After the Pride was forced to withdraw from the Challenge Cup it was unclear on what to expect out of the team but they played well defensively to keep the clean sheet. 

The Dash made a statement in the Challenge Cup scoring eight goals and winning the whole tournament. Houston fell 4-3 to the Courage in a back and forth affair during their first match of the Fall Series. The Dash will look to continue their scoring ways and come away with three points in their first game at BBVA Stadium this year. 

Players to Watch

Carrie Lawrence (Orlando) – The UCF alum played all 90 minutes for the Pride in the match against North Carolina. The defender was a key part to Orlando earning the clean sheet, making five clearances. Perhaps the biggest play of that game came when Lawrence was able to come up with a goal-line clearance late in the second half. The defense for Orlando will be very important against the lethal attack of Houston. 

Shea Groom (Houston) – In this unusual year, Groom has had a breakout performance. At the Challenge Cup, Groom scored three goals and registered an assist. In Houston’s first match of the Fall Series, she registered two assists. With Rachel Daly out on loan, Groom will be the leader of the Dash attack.