Set to meet for the second time this season in the NWSL, the Portland Thorns renew their Cascadia rivalry with the Seattle Reign on Saturday (7pm PT, webstream at www.portlandthornsfc.com). Find out everything you need to know about Seattle.
What happened when the teams last met?
A league-record crowd of 16,479 supporters turned up at JELD-WEN Field to see the Thorns record a 2-1 victory. After Marian Dougherty opened the scoring just before half-time, Alex Morgan put Cindy Parlow Cone’s team 2-0 up on 52 minutes. Even though Jessica Fishlock pulled a goal back for Seattle, it wasn’t enough to ignite a comeback.
What did the Thorns learn from that game?
The boggest element that the Thorns took from this game was that they have the character and the toughness to get through a battle. As expected with a derby game, the intensity was high and the tackles were physical – referee Josh Wilkens handed out six yellow cards – but the Thorns had to react to that, especially in front of their home crowd.
The Thorns also learned that they could profit from set-pieces with Dougherty getting in front of her marker to head in Nikki Washington’s free-kick. While they have two of the best forwards in the league – Morgan and Christine Sinclair – the Thorns found out in this game that they could score from other areas and that gives them an extra edge over teams trying to figure them out.
What did the coaches have to say?
Portland Thorns head coach Cindy Parlow Cone
“I think the chemistry both on and off the field with this team is outstanding. Are we where we want to be in August? No. We’ll get there. We’ll continue to get better. We made some mistakes and we will look at those and we will continue to get better from week to week.”
Seattle Reign head coach Laura Harvey
“We didn’t think we played well. The goals that we conceded were definitely preventable. I’m not disappointed in the players; they’re just disappointed in their performance. It’s just something that we have to work on.”
How has Seattle fared since then?
Not very well. They lost away to FC Kansas City, then lost at home to the same team, lost on the road to Sky Blue FC, before losing back-to-back home games against Washington Spirit and Sky Blue FC. That leaves them with a dismal record of 0-6-1 after seven games played and that first victory doesn’t look to be getting any closer.
Having conceded 15 goals and scored only four times, Seattle are struggling at both ends of the pitch. They have some undoubted quality and an excellent head coach, who was hugely successful in England with Arsenal, but they just have not clicked yet. Injuries certainly have not helped their fight for form either.
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.
Star Player: Emily Zurrer
When you see how composed Zurrer is with the ball at her feet and how she doesn’t rush any plays, it is clear that she has picked up some good habits from her time in Europe. With spells in Germany and Sweden, the Canadian international improved the technical side of her game, which added to the superb defensive attributes that she already had. She is a fighter, a leader, and, just a really solid player.
One To Watch: Christine Nairn
Capped by the United States all the way from Under 16 level up to the senior team, this Maryland native is an exciting midfielder with an engine that never seems to burn out. Covering a huge amount of ground in every game, Nairn offers support to her defenders by tracking back, while also making overlapping runs forward to contribute to attacks. She has already scored this season and should prove to be key to Seattle as the season winds on.
What can the Thorns expect?
There is little doubt that Seattle will work hard, scrap for every loose ball, and try to make things difficult for the Thorns. But it is what they do when they have possession of the ball that will ultimately dictate this game because so far this season, they have surrendered the ball too easily and put themselves under pressure.
In their last game – a 3-0 defeat at home to Sky Blue FC – Seattle tried to mix things up by switching to a 3-4-3 formation and replaced goalkeeper Michelle Betos with Haley Kopmeyer. It didn’t really work though despite registering 13 shots on goal.
Who are their main threats?
With the trio of Hope Solo, Amy Rodriguez and Megan Rapinoe yet to play a single game, Seattle have been operating at less than full strength. Yet, they still have some good players who can turn a game in their favor – players like Fishlock, Tiffany Cameron, Lyndsey Patterson, Teresa Noyola, and Liz Bogus. But it is all about finding the right balance with those players.
In midfield, they should be able to cause problems for the Thorns. The likes of Nairn, Noyola and Kaylyn Kyle are excellent at breaking up play and setting their team off on counter attacks. But Fishlock, a much-travelled Wales international, is their trump card; a player who can produce a moment of magic to lift her team when they most need some inspiration.
Where are they most vulnerable?
Having the worst defensive record in the league indicates that Seattle’s backline is in desperate need for some repairs. Injuries have not helped, while Jenny Ruiz’s red card in their last match was another blow. But they need to find a way, as a team, to tighten up and not allow opposing teams to cut them open so easily with direct runs and slide passes.
If Harvey can get her midfielders to provide better protection then the defense will have more time to prepare itself for opposition attacks. Solo is bound to make a huge difference once she returns from a wrist injury, but, for now, they have to bunker in as a unit and shut down space in front of them. If they fail to do that, then the Thorns forwards should punish them.
Did You Know?
Seattle midfielder Elli Reed spent three years at the University of Portland, where she played for the Pilots before joining Boston Breakers and then enjoying a spell in Germany.