Following a 4-4 draw against the Chicago Red Stars, the Thorns continue their string of road games against New Jersey. Sky Blue FC have opened their 2019 campaign 0-2-0 and don’t appear to have made significant strides since last year’s ninth place finish. After losing two-year starter Mandy Freeman to a season-ending achilles injury, Sky Blue’s defense has looked shaky and disorganized. Last weekend, the Houston Dash found success in the space both between New Jersey’s midfield and defensive lines and behind their backline, calling Kailen Sheridan to make ten saves on the night. Their offense has similarly struggled, only producing three shots on goal over their first two games.
However, this match shouldn’t be written off as an easy win for Portland. Sky Blue has historically presented a challenge for the Thorns—the 7-6-3 overall record between the teams leans only slightly in Portland’s favor. Additionally, last week’s performance was riddled with defensive errors, and the absence of Lindsey Horan’s presence in the midfield presents further concern.
“One of the features of the Chicago game that really vexed the Thorns was Sam Kerr’s movement off the back line into midfield. As dangerous as Kerr has been running at opposing defenders, she’s also a fantastic creator and her relentless energy put a lot of pressure on Portland midfielders. Thorns coach Mark Parsons thinks other teams are taking notes. “We’re gonna deal with something similar from Sky Blue,” he said in training on Thursday. “Unless they change things, one of their forwards will be looking to do that [drop deep], and the other will be looking to stretch play ... Unfortunately, [Kerr] was turning and bringing others into the game who were getting past her.” The numbers up situation in midfield at the end of the game put the Thorns under a lot of pressure on the ball. Can Sky Blue really muster something similar?”
How to Watch
Where: Yurcak Field, Piscataway, New Jersey
When: Saturday, April 28, 3:00pm PT
Portland Thorns: 1-0-1, 2nd place in the NWSL, drew 4-4 at Chicago Red Stars
Sky Blue FC: 0-2-0, 9th place in the NWSL, lost 0-1 vs. Houston Dash