Thorns FC Opponent Dossier: Seattle Reign FC - June 16, 2013
Ready to take on the Seattle Reign for the third time this season, the Portland Thorns will be at JELD-WEN Field again on Sunday for this Cascadia rivalry (2pm PT, TICKETS, webstream, Freedom 970). Brush up on your knowledge of the opposition with this in-depth dossier.
What can the Thorns expect?
They can expect a real battle in midfield and must keep a close watch on both Jessica Fishlock and Christine Narin, who have proved to be Seattle’s two best players this season. Those two midfielders dictate the tempo at which Seattle likes to play and with Tiffany Cameron and Teresa Noyola constantly making runs up front, there is a lot of movement in their team.
Seattle is still missing United States internationals Amy Rodriguez, Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe, but they have quality spread throughout their team. Lauren Barnes and Kristen Meier are solid defenders, their midfield is strong and hard-working, while they appear to have finally solved their issues in the striking department.
Who are their main threats?
Fishlock is the key player for Seattle because she acts as the creative force in midfield, but also chips in with a huge amount of defensive work. The Welsh ace has adapted to the NWSL without any hiccups and she has brought the best out in those around her – most notably Nairn. If those two players can be shackled, then the Thorns will have a great chance of dominating the game.
While scoring goals proved to be a big problem for them early in the season, Seattle have worked hard to get into better goalscoring positions. The addition of Noyola, a Mexican flyer, to the line-up has given them a cutting edge, while Liz Bogus has great hold-up play and Lindsay Taylor can also pop up with valuable contributions once the team gets the ball moving forward.
Where are they most vulnerable?
There is no doubt that the Thorns will have noticed the gaps that Seattle tends to leave behind when they sweep forward on counter attacks. Part of the problem with playing a 4-3-3 system is that a team can be over-run in midfield if they commit too many players to attacks. And that is somewhere that the Thorns will look to take advantage – lure them in, then hit them on the break.
Head coach: Laura Harvey
A promising player before injury cut short her career, Harvey moved into coaching at an early age with Birmingham City Ladies and a number of England underage teams. But it was when she took over at Arsenal that her talent really stood out as the Gunners won 11 trophies under her watch, including three league titles. She has named as Seattle Reign’s first head coach last December.
One To Watch: Lauren Barnes
Seattle used their second pick in the NWSL Supplemental Draft to select this UCLA graduate and she has proved to be a valuable addition to their roster. An outside back with a lot of speed, Barnes works well in breaking forward as part of counter attacks and she is just as good covering in defensive situations. While she is still only 23, her time with the Philadelphia Independence in the WPS has clearly stood to her.
What happened when the teams last met?
So far this season, the Thorns have beaten Seattle on two separate occasions, but their last meeting on May 25 was a tight affair that was settled by Christine Sinclair’s penalty kick on 84 minutes. Seattle was not happy with the awarding of the penalty, but the Thorns go on with it and took the three points from the game at Starfire Sports Complex in Washington.
What did the Thorns learn from that game?
The main thing that the Thorns learned was that the rivalry between the two teams was alive and well. There was certainly no love lost in the game with 21 fouls committed and three players receiving yellow cards. It was a feisty encounter and one that could only be settled by a late penalty, which showed that the Thorns can keep their cool when under pressure.
The game also showed how much Seattle had improved from when the teams met earlier in the season. Seattle actually had more shots in the game (17 compared to 13 for the Thorns) and forced Karina LeBlanc into making five saves. The 4-3-3 formation that they used brought a different dynamic to their game with a lot of speed and attacking at the heart of it.
What did the two camps have to say?
Portland Thorns head coach Cindy Parlow Cone
“We can take bouts of the game where we’re not necessarily dominating the game. We can fight through those times and still find a way to win.”
Seattle Reign goalkeeper Hope Solo
“Unfortunately, Portland didn’t earn the victory. And I think that’s what’s most disappointing for our team. They didn’t earn it [the penalty]. Referee gives it up. That’s really all I’ve got to say.”
How has Seattle fared since then?
Seattle has only played one game since meeting the Thorns last and that didn’t go as planned as they feel to a 1-0 defeat against FC Kansas City. While there was more than an element of misfortune to the lone goal that they conceded – Erika Tymrak’s strike took a deflection on its way in – Seattle was second best in a lot of areas in the game.
Harvey mixed things up slightly by packing the midfield, which was an attempt to stop Kansas from dominating in that area, but Seattle was the home team and probably should have seized control early on. Solo was called on to make seven saves, while Fishlock was their most affective attacker with four shots on goal but none of them found the back of the net.
Did You Know?
Seattle forward Teresa Noyola, who was born in Mexico City but grew up in California, represented the United States at Under 17, U18, and U20 level before switching to Mexico at senior level.
Gareth Maher is a contributing writer to PortlandThornsFC.com. He is a frequent writer about soccer for the Irish Daily Mail in Dublin as well as ESPNFC.com.