FC Kansas City vs Orlando Pride preview: A key matchup in the playoffs race

FC Kansas City is set to host the Orlando Pride in the NWSL Game of the Week on Lifetime, a game crucial to both teams as the race for the playoffs intensifies in the league.

FC Kansas City vs Orlando Pride preview: A key matchup in the playoffs race
FC Kansas City vs Orlando Pride is a key matchup in the playoffs race for both teams

Two weeks ago, when FC Kansas City was on the verge of another game to be added to their winless streak, which at the moment was at nine, which could have joined the list of teams with 10-game winless streaks in a season, Shea Groom scored in the 83rd minute against the Houston Dash to give the Blues their first victory since May 27.

Four days later, after a two-hour weather delay, FC Kansas City hosted the Portland Thorns and pulled the 2-1 comeback victory to keep the Thorns winless at Children's Mercy Victory Field. Then, FCKC traveled to Chicago to take on the Red Stars where they extended their win streak to three after their 3-1 victory. Suddenly, a team that everyone had written out of the playoffs is just six points away from 4th place.

The Orlando Pride, too, once upon a time were a team that had many wondering what was going on, and why were they near the bottom of the standings after starting the season on a 4-game winless streak. With players like Marta, Camila, Ali Krieger, and Alana Kennedy, all players with international experience, the Pride, on paper, had a championship-caliber team.

It might have taken them until August 5th when they gained a crucial draw against the Chicago Red Stars, but ever since then, Orlando has been on a 4-game unbeaten streak this month, holding tight to that coveted number 4 spot.

Breaking Down the Game of the Week

FC Kansas City (6-8-5, 23 points) and the Orlando Pride (8-6-5, 29 points) meet for the third and final time of the 2017 NWSL season in the Game of the Week. National coverage from Children's Mercy Victory Field in Kansas City begins at 3:30 PM ET on Lifetime. The game can be streamed via NWSLSOCCER.COM and the Lifetime app with a TV provider subscription.

Orlando comes to Kansas City with the upper hand against the Blues this season. First, with a 1-1 draw back in May and a major 4-1 victory in July. For Orlando, that 4-1 victory reflected the best of the Orlando Pride team this season as they came out strong, pressing on every front. Goals by Alex Morgan, Toni Pressley, Kristen Edmonds, and Alana Kennedy gave the Pride a very convincing win over a struggling FC Kansas City side.

Marta has scored 11 goals this NWSL season, and she has created 46 chances for the Orlando offense | Photo: Jenny Chuang - VAVEL USA
Marta has scored 11 goals this NWSL season, and she has created 46 chances for the Orlando offense | Photo: Jenny Chuang - VAVEL USA

At this point in the season, the Pride are in good position to keep building off their 4-game unbeaten streak in August, including a 2-1 victory over the Boston Breakers last week. Their offense has scored 11 times in the last four games with Alex Morgan scoring six times. Marta continues to build chances, leading the league with 46, and she has scored 11 goals this season as well, which puts her as the 3rd leading scorer in the NWSL. Her partnership with Morgan up front has been commended and noticed throughout the league. Their defense, anchored by Ali Krieger, is also up to any challenge, allowing only 2 goals in four games, and last week the Pride saw the return of their starting goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, who was out the majority of the summer with a quad injury. Harris' performance against the Boston Breakers earned her Save of the Week honors.
 
FC Kansas City, by winning three in a row, has placed themselves in position to contend for a playoff spot. Those three victories have given FCKC confidence, which is a vital boost after struggling through a 9-game winless streak all summer. Sydney Leroux has scored 5 goals this season, which leads the team, and Shea Groom may be one of the hardest-working forwards in the league. Defensively, the Blues still have Becky Sauerbrunn, who is able to read potential offensive attacks and break them down. Also, Nicole Barnhart, the veteran goalkeeper, leads the league in saves with 80.

Since it is the third meeting between these two teams, they know each other well. FCKC will look to erase the memory of the 4-1 defeat in Orlando, and the Pride will look to cement themselves further as one of the best teams in the final stretch of the season and beyond.