Previous Meeting: 2-0 L @ FCKC (2014 NWSL Playoffs)
Overall Record against FCKC: 4-4-1
Portland Thorns FC plays host to FC Kansas City Friday night for the club’s first match following a league-wide break for the group stage of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The two teams meet for the first time since Kansas City lifted the NWSL trophy last season, defeating the Thorns 2-0 in the NWSL semifinals. The match will feature a touch more rivalry as it puts the only two NWSL champions against each other.
The Thorns come into the match winless since their 1-0 victory over the Western New York Flash back on April 18. In the six games since, Portland has earned three draws and three losses, collecting three of 18 points and dropping from the top of the league to eighth spot, one point behind seventh place Kansas City. The Thorns have mustered one goal in their last four games and some would say the league break couldn’t have come at a better time for a struggling team. Facing the defending champions in the first match back could also be just the balance of motivation and confidence building challenge Portland needs to make a push back up the table. Despite a lackluster offense and difficult results, Portland can look back to their most recent hosting of Kansas City for inspiration. On July 13, 2014, the Thorns lit up Providence Park for their greatest victory ever in a 7-1 win over their Kansas City rivals. The match still stands as the most goals scored by the Thorns in a single match and the largest margin of victory in an NWSL match.
While Kansas City beat the Boston Breakers 1-0 in their last match, it’s been a while since FCKC has played a game. A bye followed their meeting with Boston and then the NWSL started their break, so it has been a good three weeks since Kansas City has kicked a ball in anger. The game will feature the second-straight that the Thorns will play against a former teammate as Becca Moros will try to follow the example of Jessica McDonald and have an impact against her old club.
The Women’s World Cup continues to affect team selection with valuable internationals going deeper in the tournament. As the U.S. Women’s National Team advanced to the round of 16, both squads will be without their U.S internationals. Becky Sauerbrunn, Lauren Holiday, and Amy Rodriguez will be absent for Kansas City, while Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath will be away from the Thorns, as well as Australia’s Steph Catley, Germany’s Nadine Angerer, and Canada’s Christine Sinclair, Rhian Wilkinson, and Kaylyn Kyle will all participate in the knockout rounds of the World Cup.
Key Factors: However Portland has used this recent break, whether to rest and recover or improve sharpness, it could be seen as a crucial turning point in their season. The next will be the return of the internationals, but if the Thorns don’t pick up wins starting immediately, even their star players may not be able to save their season.
Kansas City will also need to shake off some rust from a long gap in match play. Sharpness will be a key factor in both teams’ play. Hopefully this game won’t peter out to a dull stalemate, but rather show off reinvigorated motivation and enthusiasm for the league being back underway.