The excitement is palpable as the Portland Thorns finally return home to take on the Chicago Red Stars. While the main storyline of this weekend centers around the Thorns’ first game at Providence Park, the game itself promises to be an exciting one.
This will be the second time Portland faces Chicago this season, with the first match resulting in a back and forth 4-4 draw. The scoreline isn’t the only area where the two sides are even; both teams have 11 points on the season — though the Red Stars have played one more game than the Thorns — and each side has recorded 13 goals for and ten against.
Although Chicago is without Sam Kerr — who leads the league with six goals — Yuki Nagasato remains an attacking force for the Red Stars, tallying three goals and three assists across her seven matches this year. Michelle Vasconcelos has also shown well for Chicago so far, producing two goals and two assists in her second NWSL season.
The Thorns, on the other hand, have relied heavily on their international players to contribute going forward. Without them, Portland has struggled to produce goals (though Midge Purce was able to find the game winner against Sky Blue last weekend). Even so, the Thorns have a favorable record against the Red Stars, and this should be a game where they can find a result.
“With Chicago’s forwards typically tucking inside to overload the midfield, whoever starts at the base of midfield has extra responsibility. Gabby Seiler has impressed this season so far but this promises to be her toughest test yet, though Angela Salem’s years of professional experience, should she start, will be helpful to the rookie.
The most interesting question, though, is if Simone Charley can continue to impress if she gets her second start at striker. Charley managed two nutmegs and six successful dribbles last game which was effective at holding play up while she waited for support. Mark Parsons, who has been talking Charley up for months, praised her performance now that she’s finally gotten her chance: ‘(Simone) managed to tick two boxes that I think are crucial to our team: get the game plan right, and play like you. Every player on this team has an individual personality and Simone struck the balance where she did so much hard work for us. The runs that she makes, the dribbles that she has, the ways that she cuts people and gets in the box looking for crosses (...) I think it’s just the beginning for what we can see.’”
How to Watch
Where: Providence Park, Portland, Oregon
When: Sunday, June 2, 3:00pm PT
Portland Thorns: 3-1-2, 3rd place in the NWSL, won 1-0 at Sky Blue FC
Chicago Red Stars: 3-2-2, 4th place in the NWSL, lost 2-0 vs Washington Spirit