NWSL Match Preview: Chicago Red Stars vs. Portland Thorns FC at Benedictine Sports Complex

Thorns return to Chicago for second showdown with Red Stars

Match Information
Portland Thorns FC at. Chicago Red Stars
Date: Sunday, May 12, 2013
Kickoff: 3:00 p.m. (Pacific)
Location: Benedictine Sports Complex (Lisle, Ill.)
Forecast: Sunny, 58 degrees
Webstream: www.portlandthornsfc.com

Sunday’s match marks the second meeting between Thorns FC and the Chicago Red Stars in the past three weeks of the inaugural NWSL season. Thorns FC scored twice in the final 20 minutes en route to a 2-0 shutout win against Chicago on April 27 at Benedictine Sports Complex. Second-half sub Danielle Foxhoven recorded the go-ahead goal for Thorns FC in the 70th minute and forward Christine Sinclair tacked on an insurance goal in the 81st minute. In their last match, Thorns FC received goals in each half as goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc made a season-high six saves in a 2-1 road win at the Washington Spirit on May 4 at Maryland SoccerPlex.

The Red Stars are playing their second match in the last five days after a come-from-behind, 1-1 road draw against Sky Blue FC on Wednesday at Yurcak Field in Piscataway Township, N.J.

Sinclair Named Player of the Month
Thorns FC forward Christine Sinclair was recently named the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Player of the Month for April. Sinclair earned at least a point in three straight games during the month of April, helping guide Thorns FC to an undefeated 2-0-1 record during the opening month of the inaugural 2013 NWSL season. The Canadian international recorded the first goal in Thorns FC history, converting a game-tying penalty kick on April 13 in a 1-1 draw against FC Kansas City in the league’s inaugural match. A former standout at the University of Portland, Sinclair assisted on forward Alex Morgan’s goal in a 2-1 win against Seattle Reign FC on April 21 in Portland’s home opener, becoming the first player in league history to register both a goal and an assist during the season. Sinclair then scored her second goal of the season in the team’s next game, a 2-0 road win against the Chicago Red Stars on April 27.

Scoring Diversity
Thorns FC finished Week 4 of the NWSL regular season with a league-high seven goals through four games. Showcasing the club’s attacking versatility and depth, five players have accounted for the team’s seven goals - including two apiece from forwards Sinclair and Morgan. Forwards have tallied five of the teams seven goals (71.4 percent), while midfielders and defenders have tallied one goal each (28.6 percent combined).

Streaking Forward
Thorns FC forward Alex Morgan has recorded at least a point in three straight games. The U.S. Women’s National Team standout tallied a goal on April
 21 against Seattle Reign FC at JELD-WEN Field in Portland’s home opener, followed by an assist on Sinclair’s insurance goal on April 27 in a 2-0 win against Chicago. On May 4, Morgan converted a 12th-minute penalty kick in a 2-1 win against the Washington Spirit. Morgan and Sinclair (April 13-27) are tied for the team’s longest scoring streak so far this season.

Shim, Avant Make NWSL Debuts
Two Thorns FC players made their NWSL debuts in a 2-1 win against the Washington Spirit on May 4 at Maryland SoccerPlex. Midfielder Meleana Shim made her professional debut, as well as her NWSL debut, starting and playing 89 minutes for Portland. Defender Jazmyne Avant, who played 10 games for the New York Fury of WPSL Elite last season, earned her first career NWSL appearance entering the match as a 64th-minute substitute for injured defender Nikki Marshall. Shim’s inclusion in the starting XI marked the first time this season Thorns FC have swapped a new player into the starting lineup after head coach Cindy Parlow Cone utilized the same starting XI in the first three matches of the season.

Among the League Leaders
Heading into this weekend’s matches, Thorns FC forward Alex Morgan is the league leader in shots on goal (9) and is tied for first with Chicago’s Lori Chalupny in shots (14). Forward Christine Sinclair ranks fourth in shots (10) and is tied for fourth with five shots on goal. Midfielder Allie Long is tied for the league lead in fouls committed (11) alongside Chalupny. In goalkeeping statistics, Thorns FC goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc leads the league with three wins and is tied for second with one shutout. LeBlanc’s 0.75 goals-against average is the second lowest in the league, trailing only U.S. Women’s National Team goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart (FC Kansas City), who has an 0.33 goals-against average. Portland ranks fourth overall among NWSL teams in shots (42) and tied for third with 24 shots on goal.

Road Scoring
Heading into this weekend’s games, the league’s two West Coast squads lead the league with three away games each. Portland has traveled for games against FC Kansas City, the Chicago Red Stars and the Washington Spirit. Seattle Reign FC started the season with a three-game road trips to Chicago, Portland and Kansas City. Thorns FC average 1.6 goals per game (5 goals in 3 games) on the road and have scored two goals in two of their three games during the current road trip.

Busy Schedule
Thorns FC are set to contest a busy schedule in the coming week with three games slated for the next eight days beginning on May 12 against Chicago. Following Sunday’s game at Benedictine Sports Complex in Lisle, Ill., Thorns FC returns to JELD-WEN Field in Portland for matches on Thursday, May 16, against Sky Blue FC and Sunday, May 19, against the Washington Spirit. The busy week is a preview of what’s to come as Portland will play five games each during the months of June and July as the inaugural NWSL season kicks into high gear.