After a month-long hiatus for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, the Portland Thorns return to NWSL play to take on Cascadia rivals Seattle Reign FC on the road. Portland could see the return of all seven internationals who went to Rio, including U.S. Women’s National Team members Allie Long, Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan, Emily Sonnett and Meghan Klingenberg, French midfielder Amandine Henry and Canadian captain Christine Sinclair, who earned a bronze medal in Rio.
The returning Reign players will be overshadowed by the newest controversy surrounding goalkeeper Hope Solo, who’s remarks following the shock quarterfinal exit to Sweden caused her to received a six-month suspension from the national team and a termination of her current national team contract. Most notably in her comments, Solo called the Swedish team, led by former U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Pia Sundhage, "cowards." Midfielder Meghan Rapinoe, who also was a controversial pick for the Rio Games after spending the entire build up recovering from an ACL tear could also return for the Seattle side.
Despite missing so many internationals for several NWSL games ahead of the Rio Olympics, the Thorns earned a string of impressive results and currently hold second place in the NWSL standings. Thorns FC most recently beat the Reign 1-0 in Portland back on July 30th with forward Nadia Nadim scoring a dramatic header in the 74th minute off a Mana Shim cross to secure three points for the Rose City. However, with the U.S. exiting Rio so early, there may be more expectation for those internationals to jump right back into the starting lineup on Saturday.
The Thorns boast the best road record in the NWSL this season at 3-1-4 and have secured three clean sheets. In their last visit north, Portland earned a hard-fought 1-1 draw with Nadim also scoring a header in that match. Though she missed a number of games on national team duty, Heath still ranks second in the NWSL for assists, while Horan will look to break a deadlock of four goals each with Nadim and Dagny Brynjarsdottir.
Saturday’s match marks the fourth and final meeting between the Cascadia rivals this regular season. The Reign currently sit five points off a playoff berth while Portland holds the final home playoff spot on the league table with just five matches remaining. Portland’s next three matches will be played at Providence Park. Thorns FC has never hosted a home playoff match.
Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. (Pacific) with a live-stream available via YouTube and thornsfc.com.