Sunday's matchup between Portland Thorns FC (10-4-4, 34 pts, second place) and FCKC (10-4-5, 35 pts, first place) is the biggest game in the Thorns' short history. The winner of this game is guaranteed a playoff spot (both teams, if it's a draw). If Portland wins, it will give the Thorns sole possession of first place with three games to go in the regular season. This is crucial for a team who, in the past few weeks, has reiterated that its goal is not just to play in the playoffs, it's to host through the championship.
Among other things, that goal has injected some focus into a team that heretofore has lacked consistency. After an year in which they've shown flashes of brilliance interspersed with stretches of lackluster play, the Thorns come into this match having scored six goals in their past two games, three of which came in the team's 3-1 home victory over
Chicago Sky Blue on Wednesday.
FCKC, meantime, blazes into Jeld -Wen on the hottest of streaks, having remained unbeaten over a stretch of nine games. The Blues third straight win was their 1-0 topping of Sky Blue FC on July 28, the last time FCKC played
What to Worry About
Lauren Holiday (nee Cheney) is playing the best soccer in the league right now, leading the NWSL in goals (10) and assists (9). FCKC midfielder Erika Tymrak hasn't exactly stunk up the joint, either, having just been voted July's Player of the Month by the media. Tymrak had three goals and an assist in July, helping Kansas City to a 3-0-3 record for the month.
What to Feel Good About
While on Wednesday she missed some close-range shots that she usually puts away, Alex Morgan's scoring threat had Sky Blue back on its heels for much of the game. In fact, Morgan's penetration into other teams' defensive third has been key in freeing up Mana Shim, who in turn has scored four goals in four games. If Morgan can stave off fatigue (she looked pretty tuckered out after the game Wednesday) and keep pushing, Portland should be able to find the net. A lot.
Stat You Can Interpret However you Want
This will be Portland's third match since July 28. The temperature is expected to climb near 90 degrees.