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Match Preview: Portland Thorns FC vs Houston Dash

Despite one unbeaten streak ending, Portland aims to extend winning streak against a depleted Dash in first meeting of 2015

Portland Thorns FC will look to regroup following a first loss of the season last weekend.
Portland Thorns FC will look to regroup following a first loss of the season last weekend.
Jeremiah Braeback

Previous Meeting: 1-0 W

Overall Record Against Dash: 3-0

After a heartbreaking loss to the Boston Breakers last Saturday, Portland Thorns FC return to the Rose City to face the Houston Dash at Providence Park Saturday night. Portland saw their unbeaten start to the season end on the east coast, but still hold fourth place while the Dash sit down in seventh.

Portland has won all three matchups with Houston and all by 1-0 score lines, with three different goal scorers. Midfielder Allie Long tallied in the inaugural matchup, but in each match, both sides had chances to score more goals. Goals haven’t been difficult for the Thorns to find this season so far, but were shutout for the first time this season against the Breakers. Midfielders Mana Shim and Long have combined for seven of Portland’s nine goals so far and forward Ayo Añonma was the most dangerous player for Portland last weekend, leading the team with three shots on target. Playing in front of the Rose City crowd will be a new test, thought she certainly won’t be the only one facing Providence Park for the first time.

An increasingly difficult opponent, the Dash may have finished in last place in their first-ever NWSL season, but were a better side than their results. This season, expectations are higher for Houston, following some off-season trades, which included bringing in former Thorn Jessica McDonald, who leads the team with three goals. However, the Dash will be without a number of key players who are injured or with national teams. The U.S. squad has taken defender Meghan Klingenberg, midfielders Morgan Brian and Carli Lloyd, while starting goalkeeper Erin McLeod is with the Canadian National Team. Defender Stephanie Ochs is also out after undergoing knee surgery earlier this month.

More unbeaten streaks are on the line for the Thorns this Saturday. A three-match winning run against the Dash and an eight-match unbeaten run going back to last season. Houston is a sophomore club that hasn’t won in four matches, earning two draws and two losses, but have always made it tight for the Thorns.

The match marks the final game for Portland ahead of the NWSL break for the FIFA Women’s World Cup which kicks off June 6.

Key Factors: Portland will really want to get some momentum back ahead of the World Cup break. At home, against a Houston team with a much more depleted roster than themselves, Portland is in a good spot to get an important win to get confidence back and most importantly, three points.

Players to Watch: Añonma will get her first taste of a roaring Providence Park and she was the most dangerous player for Portland last week. Long and Shim have been on fire in the Rose City to start the season.

McDonald returns to Providence Park, but this time wearing the orange of Houston. She knows the atmosphere well and could cause the Portland backline a lot of trouble with her speed.