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Match Preview: Portland Thorns FC @ Boston Breakers

Thorns need to steal three points on the road

USA TODAY Sports

Match Information

Boston Breakers vs. Portland Thorns FC

Date: Sunday, July 21, 2013

Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. (Pacific)

Location: Dilboy Stadium (Somerville, Mass.)

Forecast: 84 degrees, chance of thunderstorms

WEBSTREAM: www.bostonbreakerssoccer.com

Note: The webstream of this game is pay-per-view ($4.99). This is a Boston Breakers policy, not a Thorns FC policy. The front office has a handy guide to the pay-per-view protocol here (it's not particularly complicated, but the guide walks you through it).

SE Portland's Bazi Bierbrasserie (1522 SE 32nd, at Hawthorne and 32nd, 503-234-8888) is hosting the Rose City Riveters watching party. Make sure you call and reserve a spot at Bazi, as it tends to fill up fast.

Other establishments showing the game include Mad Greek Deli (1740 E. Burnside), On Deck (910 NW 4th Ave.) and McGillacuddy's (11133 NE Halsey St.)

And with that:

Overview

A home draw is not usually the most momentum-inducing result, but Portland's encouraging 1-1 tie against the Western New York Flash last week might have given the Thorns the oomph they need to steal three points from the Breakers.

Portland (8-4-3, 27 pts) needs all the help it can get. The last time these two met, the Breakers (5-5-5, 20 pts) put a 2-0 beatdown on the Thorns at JELD-WEN, courtesy of an impressive Sydney Leroux brace (which easily could have been a hat trick). In that game, Leroux's speed caused big problems for the Portland defense. In their last match against the Flash, the Thorns backline --especially Kat Williamson-- handled the physicality of WNY's Abby Wambach much successfully; it's the speed of Leroux and her teammate Heather O'Reilly (who provided the assists on both of Leroux's JELD-WEN goals) that seems to be more of a threat.

Every game from here until the end of the season is going to be crucial. Portland's tentative hold on second place is going to be challenged with each match. While Boston enters the game in fifth place, the team has found much stronger form in its past several games, in which they've gone 2-0-2, including a 3-2 win over league leaders Sky Blue FC. Sitting just four points behind the Flash for fourth place in the league --and thus the final playoff spot-- the Breakers will have a lot of motivation going into this match.

What to Worry About

Leroux, Leroux, Leroux. The rising USWNT star and ESPN the Magazine Body Issue cover girl is tied with Wambach for the league lead in goals with 10. She has been on a real tear in the latter half of the season after a mid-season benching.

Another issue: Boston's defense was shaky in the first part of the season, but looked very solid against the Thorns in their last matchup (at least until the second half, when the Thorns threw bodies forward). The addition of former Thorn Jazmyne Avant seems to have improved the backline, and Avant's speed makes this already fast team all the more dangerous, should the defender choose to make overlapping runs on the flank.

What to Be Encouraged By

The side Portland will be showing Boston will be much different than the last battled between the two teams. With Tobin Heath finally in the lineup, Christine Sinclair has been able to move to her proper place as a striker, Mana Shim has been able to move back to her proper place as a midfielder, and the side overall looks improved. The upswing was immediately noticeable in last week's draw with Western New York, in which the Thorns cranked out 20 shots, many of them quality. With Marian Dougherty back in the lineup, the backline showed the consistency of which it is capable, and Karina LeBlanc has only conceded 14 goals in 15 games.

A second potential advantage for the Thorns: Boston's first-string goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who was in goal for the shutout at JELD-WEN, will not play due to injury after she had surgery on her broken nose. Ashley Phillips will take her place.

Stats That You Can Interpret However You'd Like

Portland is 3-1-2 on the road, while Boston is 3-2-2.