The Portland Thorns (10-5-4 W-L-D, 34 points) head up I-5 to take on the Seattle Reign (7-6-6, 27 points) on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium in Seattle, Washington.
The Thorns and Reign have met twice this season, with the Reign leading the series with a win and a draw. In their first meeting, the Reign quickly took the lead on a goal by Jess Fishlock, only to see Fishlock concede an own goal in the 37th minute. Two minutes later, the Reign would regain the lead on a goal by Merritt Mathias, but an 82nd minute goal by Allie Long leveled the match at 2-2. In their most recent meeting, a Megan Rapinoe brace handed the Thorns a 2-0 loss in Seattle.
The Thorns quickly took control of the match in their last match against Houston, taking the lead off a Lindsey Horan header in the 14th minute, then doubling their lead to start the second half as Amandine Henry scored her third of the season. Dominant for much of the match, by the 70th minute the Thorns were controlling all aspects of the match.
The Reign come in having been single-handedly dominated by Sky Blue forward Samantha Kerr, who scored four of Sky Blue’s five goals in the match, setting a new NWSL record in the process. Seattle quickly took control of the match, with early goals by Katlyn Johnson, Fishlock, and Naho Kawasumi giving the Reign a 3-0 lead before halftime, but it wasn’t enough, as Kerr scored 3 of her goals in the first 26 minutes of the half. Kristen Dallstream gave the Reign the lead, only to see Maya Hayes and Kerr score in second half stoppage time to give Sky Blue the victory.
The Thorns come into the match having won four of their last five, while the Reign have lost three of their last five. The Thorns have had their struggles on the road, especially at Memorial Stadium in recent years, where the Thorns have still never won a match. The Reign will, however, be without Rapinoe, who is currently 2nd in the league with 12 goals, after she had arthroscopic surgery on her knee in early August.
The Thorns, on the other hand, received a boost with the announcements that Tobin Heath and Savannah Jordan will be joining the active roster as they solidify their position in the standings and move closer toward the playoffs.
Overall, the series is even at 6-6-3, but the Reign have a significant edge at home, leading the series 4-2-1 in Seattle, and outscoring the Thorns 15-5 in those 7 matches. On the season, the Reign have capture 19 of their 27 points at home, while the Thorns have had mixed results on the road, with a record of 2-4-3.
For the Thorns to find success on the road, they have to replicate what they have been able to do in recent matches: control the match early and find the back of the net. In each of their victories in August, the Thorns have scored at least once in the first 15 minutes of the match, and are nearly perfect in matches where they score first, with their only loss occurring against Kansas City last week. The Thorns will also need to contain Kawasumi, who has proven especially dangerous this season, leading the league with 8 assists, in addition to 6 goals. If the Thorns can successfully contain Kawasumi, as get an early footing in this match, they could be well on their way to solidifying their position in 2nd place, while gaining on North Carolina in the race for the top of the table.
Watch it on: go90, NWSL website
When: Saturday, August 26th at 1 p.m. PT
Where: Memorial Stadium, Seattle, WA
Portland Thorns: 10-5-4 (W-L-D), 2nd place in the NWSL, 2-0 win vs Houston Dash
Seattle Reign: 7-6-6, 5th place in the NWSL, 5-4 loss at Sky Blue FC