A nationally televised game, a top of the table clash and a total of five goals made for some very entertaining soccer last night. However the best part, depending on your perspective and fan hood, was the final result. FC Kansas City, off the backs of a brace from Lauren Holiday and Kristie Mewis' first NWSL goal, beat the Portland Thorns 3-2 and clinched a playoff spot for the 2013 postseason.
The Blues were the first team in the league to do so and they now hold a four point lead over the second place Portland Thorns and over Sky Blue FC. The Thorns have a game in hand, but beating the top opponents in the league in back-to-back weeks will do wonders for a team's table position. Even with the game in hand, the Thorns cannot pull even to FC Kansas City without the latter falling in one of their final two matches.
The Blues control their own destiny for the rest of the season.
The first game the Blues have will be on Saturday against the Boston Breakers. The Breakers were a fringe playoff contender but have since fallen off and would require some very serious help in their last three matches to earn the fourth postseason spot. FC Kansas City has mercilessly beaten Boston up this season, earning two wins with a combined 5-0 score against the Breakers. While the two teams have never met in Boston this season, the Blues should not have a problem dispatching the Breakers again.
The final game of the season is a home game for the Blues, taking on the Chicago Red Stars. This game is a little more tricky because none of the results this season have been consistent with each other. The Blues have beaten Chicago in Chicago, the Red Stars have beaten Kansas City in Kansas City and they drew 3-3 in the third match. The third match should've been an arguable win for the Blues save for their late-game collapse, but that doesn't matter too much now.
What matters is that Chicago is still fighting for a playoff spot and they may very well catch up to Western New York for the fourth spot. The Red Stars will be coming in hard to try and earn as many points as possible in the final match of the season. FC Kansas City will have a tough time with this match but as recent weeks have shown, this team can beat anyone in the league.
Last night's win at Portland gave the Blues a cushion at the top but the season is far from over. Many teams have three matches left to play, including second place Portland. The Thorns could easily rise up and takeover the top of the table if the Blues were to falter in these last two games. If that's the case then the Blues could have to travel to Portland in the NWSL Championship if both teams make it that far. The Portland atmosphere is not one that the Blues will want to deal with in such a big game. Winning these next two matches is key to getting the postseason matches in Kansas City.
The turnaround since the Cuellar trade has been remarkable. The Blues have been a force to deal with and haven't lost since. However the season is not over yet, and focus needs to remain on getting results these next two weeks. A serious playoff advantage could depend on it.