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Match Preview: Portland Thorns @ Racing Louisville

After two weeks, the Thorns are back and they’re reloaded!

Rocky Rodríguez celebrating
Rocky Rodríguez celebrating
Thorns FC

Christine Sinclair and the rest of the internationals are back and will be available for the game against Louisville tonight at Lynn Family Stadium. The Thorns don’t have a long history with Racing — with them starting in the league just last year — but the two times they did meet Portland got wins with multiple goals (2-0 on the road and 3-0 at home). Will history be on the Thorns’ side again?

The results both teams have gotten in the season so far indicate that that might well be the case. The home team hasn’t been able to win a game since May 22, when they got a 1-0 victory over Gotham. After that match, they obtained three draws and four losses. Racing only has two wins this season, and in both of them, they’ve won by a narrow margin (1-0 vs San Diego and Gotham).

Another tendency they’ve shown is that when they’ve lost, they also did so by a narrow margin, except for the loss they suffered against North Carolina (0-3) at the beginning of June. With one of the top assistants of the team gone (CeCe Kizer), it will be up to Jessica McDonald to take the mantle, having three assists so far this season. It’s interesting to note that Portland is the only NWSL team Louisville hasn’t been able to score against in any competition. Will that keep being the case?

Speaking of assists, Yazmeen Ryan leads Portland and the league in this department with four. By now, everybody is aware of the Thorns scoring prowess, having scored 29 goals in 12 regular season matches. According to Opta, that’s the most goals ever scored by an NWSL team through that number of games. So this match will show an interesting battle between the Thorns attack and Louisville’s backline, with goalkeeper Katie Lund having registered a career-high in the latest game against San Diego (0-0) when she made eight saves.

It will also be interesting if Nadia Nadim gets to play. She’s returning from the Euros, and this match will mark the first time the former Thorn will face Portland since she left the league back in 2017. Let’s remember that the Afghan-Danish player is a club legend and one of the top goal-scorers in the Rose City. (She scored 19 goals in 37 games between 2016 and 2017.) Added to that, she has already become one of Racing’s top goal-scorers with three goals so far this season.

This upcoming game will answer some questions, too. Coach Rhian Wilkinson has been using a three-back formation since the year started, but after the 4-0 win against the Dash, she’s been using four players in the back (although the internationals were still with the team against Orlando). Will she switch again on tonight’s game? And speaking of defenders, will our newest Thorn, Tegan McGrady, get some minutes?

Another question arises when we analyze the production the younger players have put on the field in the absence of the internationals. Who will have the opportunity to start tonight? It will be a hard decision for coach Wilkinson after so many of them (if not all of them) have risen to the opportunity in the absence of many starters.

The injury report shows that Emily Menges is still out from her her foot injury, Crystal Dunn is still on her way back after her pregnancy and Shelby Hogan is on COVID protocol.

The game will start at 5 P.M. Pacific. Fans in the United States can watch the match on Paramount+, while fans in Canada and abroad can do so on Twitch.