NWSL Central Week 8 Preview

It’s the last chance for teams to get some points in before the international break as Louisville heads to Washington, D.C., Kansas City hosts Chicago, and Houston heads to North Carolina. 

By Bekki Morgan

Week 8 is a big week for NWSL teams because it’s the last chance they’ll have to pull in some points before the FIFA international break that runs from June 20 to 28. After the break, many players will remain away from their teams for the July tournaments that serve as World Cup Qualifiers. The Africa Cup of Nations, Concacaf Women’s Championship, UEFA Women’s EURO, and CONMEBOL Copa América Femenina are all taking place through the month of July. This means Week 8 is the last chance teams will have to be at their full strength for over a month.

Racing Louisville Heads to Washington, D.C. 

Washington Spirit vs. Racing Louisville FC  – Friday, June 17 at 7:30 P.M. ET (Paramount +)

After narrowly losing to Angel City FC last Saturday, Racing will now head east to try their luck against the Washington Spirit on Friday. Both teams are in desperate need of points to stop their slide down the standings and will need these points to keep themselves within fighting distance of a playoff spot. 

Racing Louisville is currently in 9th place with 8 points and is coming off of a three-game losing streak. Although they looked to be returning to form in their recent match against Angel City, they still have a -4 goal differential to get out from under. With so many teams only separated by a point in the standings, that goal differential could be the difference between making the playoffs or not. 

Racing’s Jessica McDonald / Image courtesy USA Today Sports Images

The Washington Spirit are the reigning NWSL champions but have had quite a rough start to their 2022 campaign. They’re winless in their last six matches but still sit just a hair above Racing in 8th place with 8 points and a -2 goal differential. The Spirit has one of the most fearsome attacks in the league with Trinity Rodman, Ashley Hatch, and Ashley Sanchez.

If Racing is going to pull points from this game, keeper Katie Lund will need to be rock solid and not make any mistakes like the one that led to Angel City’s late penalty last week. Racing has done a great job at creating chances but has not done a good job at taking advantage of them. There will be no better time for them to break through whatever barrier is preventing them from scoring than this week. If Racing can get three points in this match, it has the possibility of rocketing them back to being just inside a playoff position.

Kansas City Current Hosts the Chicago Red Stars 

Kansas City Current vs. Chicago Red Stars  – Saturday, June 18 at 8:30 P.M. ET (Paramount +)

Despite the fact they stand miles apart in the standings, the Kansas City Current and the Chicago Red Stars are both on major upswings. The second-place Red Stars currently have 15 points. The only thing keeping them out of first place is the fact that their goal differential is one less than league-leaders the San Diego Wave. They’re currently on a six-game unbeaten streak that’s largely thanks to the unstoppable goal-scoring prowess of Mallory Pugh. Although they’ve won three of the last six, most of their results have been extremely close, with the Red Stars only scoring a single goal. Knowing that they’ll be losing Pugh and star keeper Alyssa Naeher to the Concacaf tournament in July means they’ll likely be hungry to get the win before losing two of their most critical pieces. A win could also propel them comfortably into first place and give them peace of mind heading into the break.

Kansas City’s Desiree Scott / Image courtesy Imagn

The Kansas City Current, on the other hand, is currently in 10th place with 8 points. They’re behind Racing Louisville by the slightest margin thanks to a -5 goal differential compared to Racing’s -4. Kansas City has been on a three-game unbeaten streak where they’ve won two out of three, so there is no doubt they’re on an upswing. 

Even so, the Red Stars will be a tough team for them to break down with the aforementioned Mallory Pugh being in arguably the best attacking form of her life. Kansas City will have to rely on defenders like Hailie Mace, Kristen Edmonds, and Elizabeth Ball to do what they can to contain the Red Stars threats that are so effective in getting Pugh the ball in dangerous areas. Attacking-wise, Kansas City will have to lean hard on Kristen Hamilton eking out hard-fought goals and Lo’eau LaBonta staying in top form to get them on the board. As with Racing, a win could push them into a playoff spot for one of the first times in their young history, which would be a wonderful way to enter the upcoming break.

Chicago’s Yuki Nagasato passes to teammate Rachel Hill / Image courtesy Chicago Red Stars

The Houston Dash Head East to North Carolina

North Carolina Courage vs. Houston Dash  – Sunday, June 18 at 5 P.M. ET (Paramount +)

The Houston Dash are making their way east to take on the North Carolina Courage on the back of a bruising loss to Portland last week. The Dash had been on a five-game unbeaten streak—the longest such streak in team history—when the Thorns came to town and beat them 4–0. The Dash will be looking to prove this was just a momentary blip in their so-far strong campaign in 2022. They currently sit firmly in fifth place in the standings with 12 points. A win could propel them up the standings or, at least, keep them well within playoff range, while a loss would likely have them holding onto a playoff spot by their fingernails.

The Dash have already gotten a taste of what other teams will get in the coming months as star Rachel Daly has already left to join the English team ahead of the international break. Her loss has seemed to have taken some of the wind out of the Dash’s sails, but they still have formidable players like Nichelle Prince, Alysha Chapman, and Shea Groom to help hold off the Courage. Although the last-place Courage started the regular season in poor form, they have had two straight wins and seem to be getting back into their normal, highly-competitive selves. No matter the outcome, they’ll be a tough team for Houston to beat.

Adding to some of Houston’s complications is the fact that they are amidst yet another coaching change. After head coach James Clarkson was suspended earlier this season pending an investigation into retaliation, first assistant Sarah Lowdon took over and helped lead Houston into their recent unbeaten streak. Yesterday it was announced that Juan Carlos Amorós will be taking over the Dash as interim head coach and Lowdon will be returning to the first assistant position. 

How this will impact the Dash will be interesting to see. Although he’s only the interim head coach, it’s hard to believe this isn’t essentially an audition for the main job while Clarkson’s investigation is wrapping up. Will Amorós come in eager to immediately set his own mark on the squad or will he feel things out and get a sense of how the team works before making any changes? It’s hard to guess, but Sunday’s match against the Courage will possibly give viewers their first glimpse of Amorós’ overall vision for the Dash.

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