NWSL Match Preview: Portland Thorns FC vs. Washington Spirit at JELD-WEN Field - May 19, 2013

Thorns host Spirit at JELD-WEN Field in second game of the week

Matchday preview, Thorns vs. Spirit, 5.19.13

Photo Credit: 
(Washington Spirit)

Date: Sunday, May 19, 2013

Kickoff: 2 p.m. (Pacific)

Location: JELD-WEN Field (Portland, Ore.)
Forecast: 65 degrees, cloudy
Local Radio: Freedom 970 AM

Webstream: www.portlandthornsfc.com

Sunday’s match marks the second, and final, regular-season meeting between Thorns FC and the Washington Spirit. Both teams are coming off games on Thursday as Thorns FC suffered its first defeat of the year and Washington earned a road win at Seattle Reign FC.

Thorns FC conceded an 80th-minute goal by midfielder Taylor Lytle in a 1-0 loss to Sky Blue FC on Thursday night before 11,055 fans at JELD-WEN Field, snapping the team’s season-opening, five-game unbeaten streak.

The Spirit earned goals from Diana Matheson, Ali Krieger, Tori Huster and Tiffany McCarty in a 4-2 win against Seattle Reign FC on Thursday at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Wash. The win, Washington’s first of the season, kept the team undefeated (1-0-1) on the road this season.

Last Time Against the Spirit
In the second game of a three-game road trip, Thorns FC traveled to face the Washington Spirit on May 4 at Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Md. Forward Alex Morgan converted a 12th-minute penalty kick and midfielder Nikki Washington tallied a goal in the 51st minute as Thorns FC earned a 2-1 win before a sold-out crowd of 5,011.

Goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc made a season-high six saves, conceding only a late penalty-kick goal to Canada Women’s National Team midfielder Diana Matheson in the 86th minute.

Midfielder Meleana Shim made her professional debut for Thorns FC against the Spirit and defender Jazmyne Avant earned her NWSL debut, entering as a second-half substitute for injured defender Nikki Marshall.

Scoring Diversity
As of Saturday, Thorns FC is tied with the Spirit with a league-high nine goals through six games. Showcasing the club’s attacking versatility and depth, six players have accounted for the team’s nine goals - including a team-high three from forward Alex Morgan. Forwards have tallied six of the teams nine goals (66.7 percent), midfielders have pitched in two (22.2 percent) and defenders have tallied one goal (11.1 percent).

On Frame
Thorns FC have attempted 68 shots through six games this season, which ranks second in the league, behind only Sky Blue FC (96). More importantly, 38 of those shots have been on goal. Portland’s shots on goal-rate of 56 percent (38 of 68) trails only the Boston Breakers for the league’s highest percentage (30 of 50, 60 percent).

Washington Connections
Portland midfielder Allie Long and defender Nikki Marshall each played in the Washington, D.C. area during Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS). Long was the seventh overall pick by the Washington Freedom in the 2009 WPS Draft and logged 31 appearances and four goals in two seasons (‘09, ‘10) for the team. Marshall, the seventh overall pick in the 2010 WPS Draft, notched three goals in 25 games for the Freedom during the 2010 WPS season before the team moved to Florida and became magicJack for the 2011 WPS season. The Colorado native tied for the team lead in minutes played (2,250) during her rookie season and was one of two players to appear in all 25 games.

Standout Defense
Along with the team’s dynamic attacking players, the Thorns FC defense has performed at a high level through the first six games of the season. Portland and the Boston Breakers are the only two teams that have yet to concede multiple goals to an opponent this season. Thorns FC has held every opponent to either one or zero goals in six games. The Thorns FC backline of Marian Dougherty, Rachel Buehler, Kathryn Williamson and Nikki Marshall with Karina LeBlanc in goal have formed consistency early in the season with all five players starting all six games this season. LeBlanc is tied for the league lead with Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Brittany Cameron with a 0.66 goals-against average. The Canada Women’s National Team standout is tied for second in the league with two shutouts and holds the league’s best save percentage (84 percent).

Among the League Leaders
Thorns FC rank near the top of the league in several notable categories including ranking second in shots (68), shots on goal (38) and tied for first in goals-against average (0.66). Forward Alex Morgan leads the league in shots (25) and shots on goal (17), as well as offsides (11). Midfielders Becky Edwards and Nikki Washington are tied for third with 11 fouls suffered.

Busy Schedule
Thorns FC are in the midst of a busy schedule, contesting three games over an eight-day stretch that started on May 12 against Chicago. Following a 2-0 win against the Red Stars at Benedictine Sports Complex in Lisle, Ill., Thorns FC returned to JELD-WEN Field in Portland for two matches in a four-day span this week. Portland fell 1-0 against Sky Blue FC on Thursday night and play host to the Washington Spirit on Sunday at 2 p.m. (Pacific). The busy week is a preview of what’s to come this summer as Portland will play five games each during the months of June and July as the inaugural NWSL season kicks into high gear.