The Portland Thorns (4-1-3) play host to the rising Utah Royals (5-2-1) for a top four NWSL clash on Friday. Portland are beginning to settle into their home stretch: last week the Thorns got out of North Carolina in their last east coast trip of the season with a point and conceded only their first goal since losing their internationals last week. From this point on in the season the farthest they have to travel is Houston.
The Royals have been defying expectations on the back of some strong defending and finishing the chances that they need to. Key to their success has been some strong finishing from Amy Rodriguez, who has scored four goals in four games including a truly astonishing long range effort last week. The only games they’ve won so far this season have been 1-0 wins, but it’s tough to imagine them keeping this young Thorns attack off the board for long. Without Vero Boquete, Utah needs their depth to step up and provide shots for ARod.
When Portland and Utah met in 2018, the Thorns had the advantage in midfield on height and speed of play alone. Looking far improved from last year, the Royals will have to line up without Vero Boquete, who will sit this game out due to a right ankle injury. Gunny Jonsdottir and Mandy Laddish have both been constants in Utah’s midfield, with Jonsdottir’s physicality proving especially valuable to the Royals. Lo’eau LaBonta is available for selection after serving a two match suspension and will likely feature in this game, adding scrappiness and playmaking ability going forward. Assuming they stick with their diamond midfield formation, it’ll be interesting to see how Portland responds to Utah’s numbers-up advantage in the center of the park.
Defensively, the Royals are one of the best teams this year; they’re tied with the Washington Spirit for the least goals allowed. Utah’s last two goals conceded came against the Spirit, both generated by moments of individual brilliance from Ashley Hatch as she exploited small pockets of space on the dribble. Fortunately, Portland has a player who can do the same in Charley.
How to Watch
Where: Providence Park, Portland, Oregon
When: Friday, June 21, 8:00pm PT
Portland Thorns: 4-1-3, 3rd place in the NWSL, drew 1-1 at North Carolina Courage
Utah Royals FC: 5-2-1, 2nd place in the NWSL, won 1-0 vs Sky Blue FC