They won't be hamming it up when they're playing against each other... - Max Bell/CanadaSoccer Flickr
After much anticipation, the NWSL finally released their 2013 schedule yesterday. But for all of you out there who want to see as much Canadian content as possible, what are some games to watch? We think we've got your list here.
With the NWSL schedule now out, we now know when the 18 Canadians will be facing one another during the five month long season. But with so many games to choose from, and so little time (and if you are traveling to Rochester for the Western New York Flash, money) -- we've narrowed down some of the crucial games for you, picking some of the games that you should have your TVs on, or should be looking to cross over to Rochester for.
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April 13th - Portland Thorns vs. FC Kansas City: The first match of the season, featuring talisman Christine Sinclair playing for the Thorns, with Karina LeBlanc likely in net. They'll be opposed by FCKC's two Canadian defenders, Lauren Sesselmann and defensive mid Desiree Scott -- both of which were key at the Olympics: Sesselmann was key in the central defender role after Candace Chapman and Robyn Gayle were ruled out; while Scott's hard tackling and goal-line stand snatched bronze from the jaws of the French. Can Sinclair find a way through? And will LeBlanc secure her #1 position in Portland?
April 14th - Boston Breakers vs. Washington Spirit: A battle between the youth and the vets. Robyn Gayle and Candace Chapman will form a nice combination in the back along with Ali Krieger, but how will they fare against a youthful tripartite attack that includes Adriana Leon, Sydney Leroux and Anisa Guajardo, with Rhian Wilkinson lurking in the mid? And how will Gayle's, Chapman's and even Krieger's recent injuries affect them (if at all)? And can Diana Matheson work her Olympic magic for Washington?
April 21st, May 25th, June 16th, August 17th - Portland Thorns vs. Seattle Reign: Cascadia's two NWSL teams will clash four times this season, which will mean that Sinclair and her linemate Alex Morgan will be meeting with Emily Zurrer quite a fair bit. Meanwhile, LeBlanc will not only have to fight for her #1 position with South African Roxanne Barker, but she will have to deal with a potential heir to Sinclair in Tiffany Cameron (a.k.a. Ladie Spitz), while dealing with longballs from Kaylyn Kyle. If Cameron's college career is anything to go by, LeBlanc will be in for a handful.
April 27th, May 12th, June 1st, July 28th - Chicago Red Stars vs. Portland Thorns: The first two matches will be in Chicagoland, the last two will be in Portland, but the key here will be the battle between Erin McLeod and LeBlanc, who have been dueling with one another for the past year to be Canada's #1 'keeper. Will the winner of these four duels be crowned the queen of Canada's net? Likely not (maybe in 2014, but that's another story...), but it would make a nice storyline!
April 27th, August 17th - Western New York Flash vs. Boston Breakers: The youth face off in Rochester. Breanna McCarthy and Jodi-Ann Robinson, learning from Abby Wambach, will be facing off against Leon. The future of Canadian women's soccer, all on the pitch at the same time. If you are truly wanting to go back to the future, then these two games are just what you're looking for. The teams do face off twice in Boston, but these two games are within striking distance of the GTA, with the latter likely to have playoff implications...it just makes the plot all the thicker!
June 23rd - WNY Flash vs. Seattle Reign: Another clash of the youth, and Seattle's only visit to Rochester in 2013. McCarthy and Robinson will be in tough facing off against Cameron and Kyle (Megan Rapinoe or Teresa Noyola may or may not be available by that time, depending on their European commitments), while Zurrer will have to make war with Wambach. In short, the youth are sure to learn a fair bit from this game...It can't get any better than that.
June 23rd, July 3rd - FC Kansas City vs. Washington Spirit: The two halves of the Canadian defence face off against one another. On one side, the experienced pair of Chapman and Gayle with the Spirit, and the newbie Sesselmann paired with the hard-tackling Scott with Kansas City. It will be a game of who will concede first (or less). Also, will the bronze medal hero Diana Matheson be the tipping point for Washington? Or will Scott and Sesselmann get the better of her?
August 10th - WNY Flash vs. Portland Thorns: This is likely the one you will want to keep your eyes on, Toronto. Not only will this game be Sinclair's one and only visit to the Rochester area (where two years ago, she won a WPS title with the Flash) in 2013, but she will be facing off against her old adversary in Wambach. And given the lateness of the match in the season, playoff implications could be looming large for both teams. With sky high expectations in Portland, can Wambach, Robinson and McCarthy sink the Thorns' playoff hopes, or will Sinclair do the same to the Flash?
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And yes, before you mention it, there are no matches involving Sky Blue FC on our list. While Sophie Schmidt and Melanie Booth are fine players, they did not offer any compelling matchups with any of their teammates. If you are a fan of them (or Sky Blue) in the Toronto area, you can watch them in Rochester on May 1st or July 21st.
But hey, if you think there is one we missed -- let us know in the comments below!