NWSL weekend preview: in-form Kerr has Sky Blue on red alert

Sky Blue will be on red alert when in-form Westfield Matilda Sam Kerr arrives with Chicago Red Stars in this Sunday morning’s National Women’s Soccer League affair (kick off 10.00am AEST).

Australian skipper Kerr needed just 55 minutes to score a hat-trick against Orlando Pride last Monday, in what was her first NWSL match since the World Cup

Chicago had lost all three matches without scoring during Kerr’s World Cup absence, but after a morale-boosting win and with their star striker back, the Red Stars will be teeming with confidence for their match up against Sky Blue – the club for whom Kerr won the Golden Boot with in 2017.

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Sky Blue are yet to get off the mark this season, registering just two draws, and enter this one on the back of a five-match losing streak. It is a run which proved to be the final straw for head coach Denise Reddy, who was sacked last week after winning just one of her 33 NWSL games at the helm.

WATCH: Kerr's hat-trick against Orlando Pride last Monday

How a Clare Polkinghorne return would help Houston Dash in their search for a first NWSL victory in six matches. The Dash face reigning champions North Carolina Courage on Saturday morning, 9.30 kick off AEST.

Houston have not fielded a victory since a 2-1 win over Utah Royals on May 12, and despite Kyah Simon opening the scoring in last Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to Portland Thorns, the Dash have slipped into seventh position on the ladder.

North Carolina have been inconsistent throughout the World Cup-impacted 2019 NWSL schedule, residing in fifth spot prior to Saturday's match, but they’ll be looking to reignite their title defence with three points.

WATCH: Simon opens the scoring, but Dash lose 2-1 to Portland

There could be as many as six Westfield Matildas in action when league leaders Portland Thorns host third-placed Reign FC in Saturday afternoon's hugely anticipated late kick off (1.00pm AEST). Ellie Carpenter returned for Portland’s 2-1 win over Houston last Sunday, playing the second half, but teammates Hayley Raso and Caitlin Foord were not involved as the Thorns stretched their unbeaten run to five matches.

Australia’s World Cup players Lydia Williams, Steph Catley and Elise Kellond-Knight missed last Saturday’s 2-0 win against Utah, but could return to the fold as Reign aim to wrestle the NWSL lead off the Thorns.

The return of Alanna Kennedy and Emily van Egmond could not come sooner for eighth-place Orlando Pride, who welcome Chloe Logarzo and Amy Harrison’s second-place Washington Spirit on Sunday morning (9.30am AEST).

Pride fell victim to Sam Kerr’s hat-trick masterclass in last Monday morning’s 3-2 defeat to Chicago, and despite signs of improvement in recent weeks, they’ve got a 12-point gap to make up on fourth-place Utah, who occupy the last finals series place.

Washington have been one of the NWSL surprise packages this season but were knocked off top spot after last Sunday’s 2-1 loss to North Carolina, a match that saw Logarzo and Harrison start in left midfield and left back positions respectively.

That was Spirit’s first defeat since a 1-0 reverse to Utah on April 21, and with Portland (first) and Reign (third) facing off the day previous, Washington may sense an opportunity to return to the summit.

Washington Spirit
Logarzo (left) and Harrison (right) started Washington's 2-1 defeat to North Carolina last Sunday

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