The Portland Thorns are on the road for the second week in a row, this time against a greatly depleted Chicago Red Stars side.
Last week’s championship rematch against the North Carolina Courage ended in a 1-0 loss for the Thorns, but the result belies the nature of the game, to some extent. Lacking a proven starter at forward, Portland did struggle to score, but the midfield is better than it was this time last year, and the defense—other than a couple of glaring slip-ups, one of which lead to the Courage goal—looked much better than it could have, given Emily Menges’s absence.
Portland’s starting lineup today isn’t likely to change from last week, as Menges and Tobin Heath are still injured, and the Thorns’ new forward, Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic, won’t arrive until after the FIFA window.
The Red Stars, meanwhile, are dealing with some huge absences of their own. After a disjointed 1-1 draw against the Houston Dash last week, Chicago heads into this match missing Vanessa DiBernardo, Julie Ertz, Stephanie McCaffrey, Yuki Nagasato, and Casey Short—on top of Rosie White, who’s on the 45-day disabled list, and Sam Kerr, who’s away on international duty. All things considered, Chicago is probably the more shorthanded of the two sides; defensively, in particular, losing both Ertz and Short is a serious difficulty.
Storylines: “The Thorns will come out on top if they can find a way to keep the ball in the Red Stars’ half, as the serious counterattacking threats from Chicago just aren’t there at the moment. Getting a few more corners will go a long way toward putting the ball in the back of the net—with Hubly and Boureille in the side, the Thorns have some serious aerial ability that they normally wouldn’t, and they need to take advantage of that.”
Watch it on: Go90 (in the US), NWSL.com (international)
When: Saturday, March 31st at 5:15 p.m. PT
Where: Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL
Portland Thorns: 0-1-0, 9th place in the NWSL, lost 1-0 at North Carolina Courage
Chicago Red Stars: 0-0-1, 5th place in the NWSL, drew 1-1 at Houston Dash