The Thorns head out to New Jersey for the final leg of their six game away season opener to square off against Sky Blue FC for the second time this season. Last time the two clubs met they drew 2-2 but every single goalscorer in that game has since departed to be with their national teams to prepare for the World Cup.
Carli Lloyd may be away for now but Sky Blue still look significantly better than they did during their one-win season last year, getting goals and solid performances from Raquel Rodriguez and Imani Dorsey. Savannah McCaskill has yet to get off the mark this season but looks dangerous and creative in attack. They managed to hold the North Carolina Courage to a scoreless draw earlier this year. All positive signs, but they still don’t have a win under their belts in 2019. With Caprice Dydasco and Julie James out this game, the team will be losing some consistency in midfield and defense.
Meanwhile, the Thorns will be attempting to integrate new players into the team and asking existing ones to up their games in the absence of their internationals, who have scored all but two of the team’s 12 goals so far this season. Much will be expected of Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic and Dagny Brynjarsdottir as the most experienced attacking players in the team, but Meghan Klingenberg’s services going forward will be sorely needed to provide some width. The Thorns need to be able to effectively utilize the space in the extra-large Yurcak Field, and in the formation they’ve gone with in past weeks, the only real width in the team comes from the wingbacks.
“Looking back at the game against Washington, Mark Parsons noted that it “was the first game where I thought we looked very lethargic in the final third. I thought we lacked sharpness; I thought we lacked ruthlessness. I thought we lost an edge.”
The Thorns will look to find that edge and test Sky Blue’s backline, with Tyler Lussi putting them under pressure and Ana Maria Crnogorcevic and Dagny Brynjarsdottir sending through balls to beat the defense. Meghan Klingenberg will look to provide attacking width against rookie Paige Monaghan, who had some degree of success defending Tobin Heath last time the teams met.
On the flip side, both Parsons and Emily Menges expressed disappointment with Portland’s defensive performance against the Spirit and the three goals they allowed. “We have to get back to this mindset of ‘we don’t let up goals,’” explained Menges. Parsons pointed to “a couple of small [defensive] mistakes,” against Washington. “We’re ready to get those right and we’re going to continue to keep trying to get them right,” he said, emphasizing that the errors that led to goals — especially lapses on set pieces — were very uncharacteristic of the Thorns..
How to Watch
Where: Yurcak Field, Piscataway, New Jersey
When: Saturday, May 25, 3:00pm PT
Portland Thorns: 2-1-2, 6th place in the NWSL, lost 3-1 at Washington Spirit
Sky Blue: 0-2-4, 8th place in the NWSL, lost 2-1 at Reign FC