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NWSL Semifinal Preview - Thorns at FC Kansas City

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The Thorns and Blues meet again in the NWSL Semifinals.

Stacey Neve - Stumptown Footy

The Portland Thorns (10-8-6, 36pts) travel to Kansas City, Missouri to take on Lauren Holiday, Amy Rodriguez, and FC Kansas City (12-7-5, 41pts) in a rematch of last season's Semifinal.  The match kicks off at 10:00am PDT and will be televised on ESPN2.

The Thorns and Blues met three times this season, with each meeting going to the home side.  In their first meeting, the Thorns won 3-1 as Jessica McDonald burst onto the scene as a substitute, scoring in the 84th and 88th minutes to give the Thorns the victory.  In their second meeting the Blues were victorious, as Holiday gave them the game-winner in the 41st minute.  In their final meeting, the Thorns blew out the Blues 7-1, as Vero got the goal scoring started in the 3rd minute, and the Thorns never took their foot off the gas.

Portland Thorns

The Thorns come into the match off arguably their most complete performance of the season, handing the Seattle Reign just their second loss of the season as Alex Morgan put home the game-winner off a perfectly placed corner kick in the 68th minute.

Unfortunately, the Thorns lost defender Nikki Marshall to a torn ACL early in the match..  Despite losing the cornerstone of their defense, the Thorns locked out the league's top attack, as they collapsed on attackers and clogged passing lanes, with the occasional big save needing to be made by Nadine Angerer, as she recorded her second consecutive home shutout.

While the Thorns lost Marshall, defender Stephanie Catley and midfielder Sinead Farrelly appear set to make their return to the pitch.  Catley missed the Thorns' last match, while Farrelly has been out for several weeks.

The Thorns will need to translate their strong home performances to the road, especially on the defensive side of the ball with all the weapons that Kansas City brings to the table.  Additionally, they will have to battle hot and humid conditions, as the temperature is expected to be in the mid-90s at kick off.

FC Kansas City

The Blues have had a long layoff since their last match, a 2-1 loss to the Chicago Red Stars on August 9, though defender Becky Sauerbrunn and midfielder Lauren Holiday played 45 and 86 minutes, respectively, for the United States in their friendly with Switzerland on Wednesday.

The Blues were one of the top home sides this season, finishing undefeated at Durwood Stadium at 8-0-4, one of only two NWSL sides to do so.

Amy Rodriguez finished the season with 13 goals, good for 2nd in the NWSL, while Holiday finished with 8 goals and Sarah Hagen and Erika Tymrak finished with 4 goals each.  In goal, Nicole Barnhart played 22 matches, finishing with a 11-6-5 record and recording 8 shutouts, with a 1.318 goals against average, facing 100 shots on goal and making 71 saves.

With the Blues having several options going forward and a distinct home field advantage, they will likely look to put out the Thorns out of the match early and press their defense from the onset, looking for them to make a mistake.  With the memory of their 7-1 loss still fresh in their minds, there is a certain revenge factor that comes with the Blues in this match that they would be more than happy to put out of their minds by sending the Thorns packing.

Final Thoughts

Paul Riley's hands are all over both of these teams.  Before joining the Thorns, he was integral in building the Blues into the powerhouse they have become, serving as a consultant with Kansas City as they put together their team last season.  Because of this, the Thorns and Blues are very evenly matched and have many similarities, though with the personnel and coaching staffs being different, their approaches to the match vary beyond this.

The Thorns come from behind overtime victory a year a goal was a defining moment of their season that propelled them past the Western New York Flash and to their first league crown.  With many similar conditions going into this match, the Thorns need another inspiring performance with a chance to face the Reign at Memorial Stadium in the Final next weekend.

Match Information

Portland Thorns at FC Kansas City
NWSL Semifinal
Saturday August 24, 2014 at 10:00am PDT
Durwood Stadium - Kansas City, Missouri
TV - ESPN2
Streaming - WatchESPN