A historic tenth season of the NWSL began on Friday and the Thorns will make their debut this Saturday when they face Kansas City Current at 4 pm PT. It will also be their home opener.
In 2021, these teams met four times: once in the Challenge Cup and three times in the regular season. The history between them shows 2W – 1D – 0L for Portland in the regular season and 1W – 0D – 0L in Challenge Cup (2021).
Rocky Rodríguez and Marissa Everett are two of the four surviving goalscorers on the team, with Tyler Lussi and Simone Charley being the other two (now with Angel City).
When we look back at the clubs’ previous meetings, we can see that Portland was superior to the Current throughout the 2021 season, except in the last game when Kansas City earned a draw. Unfortunately, that day Christine Sinclair missed a PK that could’ve granted the win to the Thorns away from home. In 90 minutes, the Thorns registered 18 shots in 90+ minutes but only two were on frame.
In the four games Kansas City and the Thorns faced each other, Portland registered an average of 16.5 shots (66 total) and 4.75 (19 total) of them were on frame. How many goals came from these shots? Five in favor and just one against, which gives an average of 1.25 goals average total per match. It’s important to say, though, that one of the five goals scored against Kansas was an own goal (Kristen Edmonds).
Portland won the Shield in 2021 which meant they ended up first in the table in the regular season with 44 points and 13 wins (5D - 6L). Kansas City finished last with 16 points and only three wins in the entire season (7D – 14L). The numbers show us the huge gap that existed between these two teams. Granted, 2021 was Kansas City’s first year in the NWSL. They were babies! 2022? A totally different story so far.
This year brought lots of changes for the Thorns and while they’re out of the race for the Challenge Cup, Kansas City is still in it. In their sophomore year and without their big signings (Sam Mewis and Lynn Williams) due to injury, they managed to look completely different mostly because of two key players that were added at the end of last season. We’re talking about Hailie Mace and Kristen Hamilton. Both are crucial for the run the Current is having in the Challenge Cup, with Hamilton leading the team in shots (15 and Mace, 11), shots on frame (7), and goals (4 and Mace, 2).
Kansas City won their group and left the 2021 Championship finalist, Chicago Red Stars, with no possibility to qualify for the knockout stages (not even as the second-best). Portland couldn’t perform in a crucial match against Angel City and did not qualify as the best second-place team.
Where are both teams right now?
Even though pre-season tournaments are important in terms of building up for the rest of the year and sometimes can be a mirage, we can’t deny that this Kansas City is not the same one we saw last year. We also have to understand that both teams are on completely different pages right now: they might deny it, but Kansas City must be thinking about winning the semifinals of the Challenge Cup on Wednesday while the Thorns must be thinking about starting strong at home and setting the foundations of what the season will be.
Although Portland has shown very interesting things during this pre-season, they’re still trying to get used to a new formation after playing a 4-4-2 diamond for years and with the absences of players that became crucial to the team under Mark Parsons's tenure.
Besides that, they still need to finish their chances better, a problem they have been carrying since 2021. It will be interesting to see where the versatile Janine Beckie fits in Rhian Wilkinson’s plan this year and how the team will get organized during the Concacaf qualifiers when many national team players will be gone.
A frustrating result but so proud and honoured to have made my @ThornsFC debut, very excited about what this team can do. Regroup, recovery and bring on the regular season #BAONPDX pic.twitter.com/yHuLtlTsrX— Janine Beckie (@janinebeckie) April 25, 2022
In Mark Parsons's first year as a Thorns coach, the team won the Shield and got to the semifinals of the playoffs. Will coach Wilkinson reach the same level of initial success? The league has changed a lot since 2016 but what hasn’t changed is how high the bar is set for this club.
The Thorns kick off their regular season today. Kick off is slated for 3 p.m. Pacific at Providence Park.