It’s been a long offseason, but the Portland Thorns are finally back in action in Cary, North Carolina against last season’s championship rivals the North Carolina Courage.
Thorns manager Mark Parsons has warned that the team may be up to six weeks away from their best after a short preseason in which the team’s offense was visibly still coming together. The depth of the squad will be stretched to its limits: only 16 players were available to make the trip, just enough to fill the bench. Notably, Tobin Heath is still recovering from ankle surgery and unavailable for selection.
Even with the team short-handed, there will be competition for spots in the starting lineup. The major selection questions are in defense and midfield. Elizabeth Ball and Kelli Hubly are in contention for the centerback spot left by the injured Emily Menges, who is expected to return next week. Angela Salem will travel with the team before returning to school in two weeks time, and will be in contention with Celeste Boureille to play alongside Lindsay Horan at the base of midfield.
Away at a Courage team that many have tipped to end up at the top of the table again, the Thorns will need top performances from new faces in order to have a chance of walking away with points.
Watch it on: Lifetime in the US, NWSL.com outside of the US
When: Saturday, March 24th at 12:30 p.m. PT
Where: WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina