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Match Preview: Portland Thorns FC v Boston Breakers

Portland takes unbeaten run to struggling Boston looking to recreate the magic from season-opening 4-1 win over the Breakers

Portland Thorns mob each other after a goal in their 4-1 win over the Boston Breakers in their NWSL season opener
Portland Thorns mob each other after a goal in their 4-1 win over the Boston Breakers in their NWSL season opener
Jeremiah Braeback

Previous Meeting: 4-1 W

Overall Record Against Boston: 3-4

Coming off consecutive 2-2 draws, Portland Thorns FC travels to the east coast to face the Boston Breakers Saturday afternoon in a rematch of the season-opener. Portland (2-0-2, 8pts) will have a chance to even their record against the Breakers, as Boston (1-3, 3pts) has won four of the seven contests all-time.

For the Thorns, the most important aspect will be to shore up the defense that has given up two early goals in each of their last two matches. Counter attacks have been Portland's weakness this season, as Chicago Red Stars' forward Christen Press showed with devastating efficiency. The back three have been organized in dealing with build up possession by their opponents but struggle when the opposition transitions quickly. The Spirit's Crystal Dunn looked dangerous every time she picked up the ball and ran at the Thorns back line last Saturday. The Thorns defense must build on the solid display they showed in the second half against Washington.

Portland has rallied from two-goal deficits in each of the last two games, at times dominating as the match wears on. A big part of this has been the creativity of midfielder Mana Shim, who scored in both draws and had a hand in both equalizers. She tallied the tying goal away at Chicago on April 25 and set up Allie Long to score the leveling goal last weekend against the Washington Spirit. Shim currently has three goals and three assists on the season.

Long's contributions have been substantial as the attacking midfielder continues her good form at home. With her goal against the Spirit, Long became the Thorns all-time points leader and tied Christine Sinclair as the club's top goal scorer with 16 goals. While Long leads the team this season with four goals, she would be happy to see new arrival Ayo Añonma get her name on the score sheet as well. However, amateur forward Sarah Jackson is likely to get another crack at her first NWSL goal following her solid performance against the Spirit in her first-ever NWSL start.

The Breakers are coming off back-to-back defeats, giving up six goals while scoring just once. However, the Breakers have won the last three matches in Boston against Portland, including a 4-1 in their first meeting last season on May 28, 2014. Portland last won in Boston on July 21, 2013, a 2-1 final score. The Breakers will be without goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who is with the U.S. Women's National Team.

Key Factors: Defense. The Thorns aren’t having much trouble finding the goal this season, but they can’t be giving up early gifts either. Boston is also dealing with defensive shortcomings, but hasn’t been able to produce offensively either. Shim and Long found joy against Boston in the season-opener making deep runs from midfield. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Players to Watch: Amateur midfielder Taylor Comeau has made back-to-back starts and looking increasingly impressive on both sides of the ball. Kendall Johnson provided her first Thorns assist the last time these two teams met. She’ll get playing time, so it’ll be a chance for Thorns fans to get their first look at Añonma as well.

Boston forward Stephanie McCaffrey poses a threat up front after scoring against Portland in the season-opener.

Thorns Potential Lineup: Betos, Menges, Williamson, Van Hollebeke, Zerboni, Farrelly, Johnson, Cormeau, Long, Shim, Jackson

The Thorns offense is driven by Long and Shim, while the two amateurs put in solid performances last time out. Jackson will look to run in behind, but if she checks to midfield, it’ll create space behind for Shim and Long to exploit. Williamson, Menges, and Van Hollebeke all had nervy moments against the Spirit. A confidence boost in the form of a shutout against Boston would go a long way, as well as a nice "welcome back" to the starting lineup for Betos.