The NWSL moves into the playoffs with both semifinals on Sunday. Seattle Reign FC, the runaway winner of the regular-season championship, will host the Washington Spirit, while defending champion FC
Kansas City will travel to the Chicago Red Stars for their game at Toyota Field, home of MLS's Chicago Fire. Both games will air on Fox Sports 1. SEATTLE-WASHINGTON.
The Seattle-Washington game is a repeat of their 2014 semifinal won by Reign FC, 2-1, on midfielder Megan Rapinoe
The Reign comes into Sunday's game with an eight-game unbeaten streak (seven wins and one tie) and finished undefeated at home in the regular season for the second season in a
Besides U.S. Women's World Cup goalkeeper Hope Solo
and Rapinoe, Seattle features the deepest team in the NWSL. Defender Kendall Fletcher
, Jess Fishlock
and Kim Little
were 2014 Best XI picks and all will
get serious consideration in 2015. Little (10 goals and 7 assists), Beverly Yanez
(9 goals), Fishlock (8 goals, 2 assists) and Rapinoe (5 goals, 5 assists)
leads an attack that has averaged 2.6 goals per game at home.
Seattle also comes into the game with the second-ranked defense in the league, featuring Lauren Barnes
, Stephanie Cox
, Rachel Corsie
and Fletcher in front of Solo and Keelin Winters
, one of the NWSL's top two-way midfielders.
No player has had a better year in the NWSL, though, than the Spirit's second-year forward Crystal Dunn
, winner of the 2015 Golden Boot with 15 goals -- one shy of matching Little's NWSL record set in 2014 -- and the favorite for the MVP award. Support for
Dunn will come from Christine Nairn
(5 goals, 4 assists), Canadian international Diana Matheson
(3 goals, 2 assists),
Nigerian forward Francisca Ordega
(3 goals, 2 assists) as well as Amanda DaCosta
World Cup backup keeper Ashlyn Harris
will be in goal, but she will be without U.S. teammate Ali Krieger
, who will be at
her father Ken
’s wedding this weekend in Virginia. The Spirit has survived without Krieger before. She played only eight of 20 games in 2015.
The Washington backline features Megan Oyster
, one of the top candidates for Rookie of the Year. The UCLA
product is the only Spirit player who played every minute in 2015. CHICAGO-FC KANSAS CITY.
The other semifinal is loaded with U.S. Women's World Cup
stars -- Christen Pres
s, Julie Johnston
and Lori Chalupny
for the Red Stars and
, Becky Sauerbrunn
, Heather O'Reilly
and retiring Lauren Holiday
The top scorers for Chicago and Kansas City are Press (10 goals) and Rodriguez (6 goals), respectively, even though both were
limited to 11 appearances.
When the Red Stars were without their World Cup stars in mid-season, rookies Sofia Huerta
(6 goals, 3 assists), Danielle Colaprico
(lone player to start all 20 games) and Arin Gilliland
came up big to keep them near the top of the
standings. They got a great season out of Vanessa DiBernardo
, who had a team-high five assists. Sunday's game will mark the final home appearance for Red Stars
keeper Karin LeBlanc
, who announced plans to retire after a career that spanned 17 years in goal for Canada.
Rookie Shea Groom
and Yael Averbuch
rank second behind Rodriguez on FCKC with four goals apiece. The supporting cast on the defending champs also
features longtime national team players Nicole Barnhart
in goal (0.94 GAA) and Amy LePeilbet