In-between away trips to two of the more questionable teams in the league, the Thorns have snuck in a genuinely big match against fellow playoff contenders the Chicago Red Stars. It promises to be the only real test for the team before the USWNT players take off for pre-World Cup camp after week 3. After a season where they showed flashes of talent but struggled to integrate the new members of their team, this Chicago side might be their best ever in the NWSL. You know Sam Kerr by now, and Julie Ertz. The combination of Danielle Colaprico and Vanessa DiBernardo in midfield is one of the more underrated in the league. The Red Stars, however, have quite a few players just returning from preseason injury, and their status is up in the air. There’s a lot we won’t know until the team sheets come out.
Portland has a very strange 8-1-8 record against the Red Stars over the years. Chicago hasn’t beaten the Thorns since 2013 but the two teams have been involved in some pretty competitive and memorable draws in recent memory, most recently a 2-2 game at Providence Park that looked like it was going to drop Portland out of the race for hosting a home playoff spot. Until, that is, Reign FC let in a goal in the 6th minute of stoppage time at home to North Carolina, opening up the chance for the Thorns to clinch hosting rights in the final game of the 2018 regular season. You remember the rest.
It’s apparently Chicago goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher’s birthday today! Best wishes to her, except on the field today.
“So you’re playing against a team that has Sam Kerr. What to do? Well, although defending against Alex Morgan last week was made easier by her coach demanding that she frequently drop deep into midfield, the basic theory is similar: Deny her the ball. If she does get the ball, then get defense in deep to deny the shot.
As before, this starts with dominating in midfield. With Vanessa DiBernardo still recovering from a long-term injury and playing limited minutes; Nikki Stanton seems likely to start in midfield alongside Julie Ertz and Danielle Colaprico. That’s an active and physical midfield who won’t be afraid of trying to win balls anywhere on the field — and who will quickly pounce if anyone in the Thorns midfield makes a mistake or gets isolated.”
This week’s Red Smoke Radio also previewed the game.
How to Watch
Where: SeatGeek Stadium, Chicago, Illinois
When: Saturday, April 20, 12:30pm PT
Portland Thorns: 1-0-0, 2nd place in the NWSL, won 2-0 at Orlando Pride
Chicago Red Stars: 0-0-1, 6th place in the NWSL, drew 1-1 at North Carolina Courage