Match Preview: Portland Thorns FC @ Seattle Reign

USA TODAY Sports

Playoff implications infuse this derby match

MATCH INFORMATION
Date: Saturday, August 17, 2013
Kickoff: 8:00 p.m. (Pacific)

Location: Starfire Sports Complex (Tukwila, WA)

Forecast: 73 degrees, mostly cloudy

Referee: Christina Unkel

Assistant Referees: Adrienne McDonald, Ronald Lagraff

Fourth Official: Farhad Dadkho

Webstream available via www.portlandthornsfc.com.

There is, in the common parlance of the times, a sh*t-ton riding on this game for the Thorns. In the weeks leading up to this particular match (the season-ended for both squads), Portland (10-6-5, 35 pts) has emphasized a goal of hosting throughout the playoffs. As the Portland's form has slipped, so have the chances of that happening. Since the Thorns are now tied with the Western New York Flash and Sky Blue FC on points, some outside magic needs to happen in order for Portland to host (you can find the rundown here; basically, it's "Go, Breakers!"). In order to set the stage for that magic, the Thorns must at least draw this match, the final of four derby showdowns with their Cascadia rivals. Ideally, though, Portland needs a win. The team has only one victory in its last five games; to make that one in six doesn't exactly bode well for the Thorns playoff game, to be held August 24.

Portland comes in off last Saturday's sleep-inducing 0-0 draw with Western New York. Normally, a draw on the road at the end of a grueling five-games-in-15-days schedule would be a pretty good result, but Portland struggled mightily in that match, committed strange mental errors, and put up anemic offensive numbers. The only reason they didn't lose is that WNY was only marginally better, and Karina LeBlanc gobbled up 10 saves.

Seattle (5-13-3, 18 pts) started this season on a 12-game winless streak, but since then has gone 5-4-1, including wins over good sides like the Flash and the Boston Breakers. But lately the team has slid a bit, and has lost its last three games, including a 1-0 loss to the not-very-good Washington Spirit.

What to Be Worried About

Despite the recent losses, Seattle seems to have found its form in the latter stages of the season. With newfound confidence, swagger, and of course the addition of the likes of Megan Rapinoe and Hope Solo, this Reign team is not the one that Portland was able to bowl over in the first three matches these two faced. And, while Seattle is not headed to the playoffs, they no doubt would enjoy messing with Portland's postseason plans.

Seattle's midfield is the most threatening part of this team. Keelin Winters holds extremely well, while Rapinoe and Jessica Fishlock are both adept at beating keepers from afar -it's no coincidence these two are tied with four goals apiece to lead the team. When she's on, Rapinoe's creative skills rival anyone's in the world, and Fishlock's physical, knockabout playing style definitely bothers the Thorns.

Also, Reign coach Laura Harvey's no dummy. She already likes to stretch opponents out wide, sometimes employing a five-person midfield. Portland tends to especially vulnerable to that tactic.

What to Not Worry About

In theory, Portland's offense should feast on Seattle's inconsistent defense, even without the injured Alex Morgan. The Reign have yet to post a shutout this year, and the Thorns' speed could cause problems for the Reign in transition.

Quote You Can Interpret However You Want

This week, Fishlock was a guest on The Women's Game podcast and said the following about the upcoming meetup with the Thorns: "We can't wait. We always want to beat Portland, but this time we really want to beat them...I actually really think it's going to be a really tasty* match."

*She might have said "testy" --it's hard to tell with her accent.

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