The two powerhouse teams in the NWSL are going to be meeting at full strength for the first time since their fateful encounter at Providence Park in the NWSL Championship game.
After a rough patch of recent games, the Thorns now only have two wins from their last five games: despite playing well they’ve failed to create effective scoring opportunities and have been unable to close their opponents out. The Courage have been on the better run of form but it’s been a close run thing: they played most of their last game against the Spirit with an extra player after an early Paige Nielsen sending off but still only won 1-0. Last time the teams this season, the Thorns (if not their fans) were perfectly happy sitting back and getting a point on the road in one of their most personnel-strained matches of the year. This time, though the Courage have a few lingering injury issues, more or less the full complement of starters are available for the Thorns (minus Ellie Carpenter, who is still listed as questionable). Expect fireworks.
“Collectively we need to be pressing on the front foot in the right areas at the right times, Parsons said ahead of the Courage game, “so that we don’t spend as much time in the defensive third dealing [with] or thinking about [North Carolina’s high pressure and ability to break down teams through it].” He pointed out that “when we’re flying, it’s very similar;” when Lindsey Horan, Tobin Heath, Christine Sinclair, and Hayley Raso are all clicking, the Thorns are a similarly difficult team to beat.
As with any game against North Carolina, it feels like the stakes are high. However, Parsons pointed out that — while this match may decide who leads the NWSL table for the time being — this isn’t the game that’s ultimately going to determine who wins the league: “If we get the three points we need, it’s going to go right down to the wire. And if we don’t get the three points we need, it’s going to go right down to the wire: chasing for a shield, chasing for a home playoff, chasing for a playoff spot. I think that can give us some calmness. Let’s not be emotional; let’s be focused and detailed.”
How to Watch
How to watch: ESPNNews; NWSLSoccer.com for international viewers
Where: Providence Park, Portland, Oregon
When: Sunday, August 11, Noon (Pacific)
Portland Thorns: 7-3-6, 3rd place in the NWSL, lost 1-0 vs Reign FC
North Carolina Courage: 8-3-4, 2nd place in the NWSL, won 1-0 at Washington Spirit