PORTLAND, Ore. — Meeting for a second consecutive season in the semifinal round of the NWSL Playoffs, No.3 seed Portland Thorns FC squares off against No. 2 seed FC Kansas City in a nationally televised match on Saturday at Verizon Wireless Field at Durwood Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. Saturday’s match marks Portland’s third consecutive road game in postseason play after contesting both the semifinal and championships game on the road in 2013.
Saturday’s match will be carried lived on ESPN2; kickoff is set for 10 a.m. (Pacific).
Facing FC Kansas City on the road in Portland’s first-ever postseason match, Thorns FC overcame a 2-0 deficit, registering three unanswered goals in a dramatic, 3-2 win in overtime on Aug. 24, 2013, at Shawnee Mission District Stadium in Overland Park, Kan. Portland stormed back after surrendering a pair of goals in the first 25 minutes as midfielder Tobin Heath tallied her first goal in a Thorns FC uniform in the 33rd minute. Portland tallied the equalizer in the 65th minute to send the match to overtime. In the first of two, 15-minute overtime halves, midfielder Allie Long netted the game-winning goal in the 103rd minute to send Thorns FC to the 2013 NWSL Championship match.
Portland’s home form down the stretch was critical in helping the team secure a playoff spot. Thorns FC finished the season on a five match unbeaten streak (4-0-1) at Providence Park, including a playoff-clinching win over No. 1 seed Seattle Reign FC on Aug. 17. In the last five home matches, Portland outscored its opponents 17-6, while holding a 15-4 advantage in goals in four straight wins at home to finish out the regular season. Thorns FC shutout their final two opponents at Providence Park and clinched the third seed in the NWSL Playoffs by earning a 1-0 victory against Seattle in the team’s regular-season finale on Sunday. After a scoreless first half, forward Alex Morgan broke the deadlock, making a run to the left post and heading in Long’s corner kick for the game-winning goal in the 68th minute. Goalkeeper Nadine Angerer was in top form in the match, recording a clean sheet, while making five saves.
Thorns FC (10-8-6, 36pts) enter Saturday’s match with a 2-1-0 regular-season record against FC Kansas City this season, having outscored the Blues, 10-3, in three meetings. Portland put on a record-breaking performance in the last meeting between the two sides at Providence Park with a 7-1 victory on July 13. Thorns FC set NWSL single-game records for goals (7) and largest margin of victory (6) in the match. Five different players scored goals (Vero Boquete, Morgan, Long, Christine Sinclair and Amber Brooks), while both Boquete and Long registered a brace. Boquete also added a pair of assists.
In eight meetings all-time, the two teams have combined to score an astounding 34 goals. Only one match has finished in a draw – the inaugural NWSL match on Apr. 13, 2013, which finished tied, 1-1. Portland has compiled a mark of 4-3-1 all-time against FC Kansas City in all competitions, while outscoring head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s side 20-14. In seven of the eight matches all-time, multiple goals have been scored by at least one team six times, while both teams have scored multiple goals three times in a match.
Individual performances have stood out as well in the eight previous meetings. Long has registered five goals all-time against FC Kansas City in all competitions and forward Jessica McDonald scored her first career brace in a 3-1 win on Apr. 26 at Providence Park. A total of 10 Thorns FC players have scored a goal against FC Kansas City in the all-time series.
Portland has several players that could see their first action in the NWSL Playoffs this weekend. Comparing the 2014 squad to last year’s team, only midfielders Mana Shim and Angie Kerr, defender Rachel Van Hollebeke, forward Christine Sinclair, Heath, Long and Morgan saw action in the 2013 NWSL Playoffs for Thorns FC. Defender Nikki Marshall did as well, but will be unavailable during the postseason due to injury. Two other current Portland players appeared in the playoffs last season, but with different teams: Sinead Farrelly (FC Kansas City) and Sarah Huffman (Western New York). Heath, Sinclair, Shim, Kerr, Long and Van Hollebeke all featured in the 2013 NWSL semifinal at FC Kansas City. Morgan did not appear in the semifinal match, but was available as substitute after recovering from a late-season knew injury.
Individually, McDonald finished the regular season ranked among the top goal scorers in the league. The forward ranked third tied for third with 11 goals, while she was one of just two players along with Marshall to appear in all 24 regular-season matches for Portland. Boquete ranked among the league leaders during the regular season with six assists, tying her for third in the NWSL. Sinclair finished the regular season leading the league in both shots (77) and shots on goal (40), while Long led the league in corner kicks (103) and ranked tied for fifth with nine goals. Angerer ranked both fourth in saves (74) and shutouts (4) among goalkeepers.
As a team, Thorns FC finished with the league lead in shots (361), shots on goal (177) and corner kicks (149), while ending the regular season tied for third in goals (39) and ranked second in assists (29).
Thorns FC have compiled a mark of 11-6-8 (.600) on the road in all competitions since 2013, including a 2-0-0 record on the road in the postseason.
FC Kansas City (12-7-5, 41pts) was one of two teams, along with Seattle, to go unbeaten at home during the regular season (8-0-4). Saturday’s match will be the first for FC Kansas City since finishing the 2014 regular season with a 2-1 loss to the Chicago Red Stars on Aug. 9 at Benedictine Sports Complex in Lisle, Ill. FC Kansas City boasts a strong attack, scoring 39 goals during the regular season led by forward Amy Rodriguez’s 13 goals, which finished second in the NWSL. Tied for second in the league in assists (7), midfielder Lauren Holiday is another scoring threat with eight goals this season. In eight games all-time against Portland, Holiday has tallied seven goals. Goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart is among the top goalkeepers in the league, leading the way with eight shutouts. She also ranks among league leaders in saves (71).
Morgan, Long see action for U.S. Women’s National Team in 4-1 win against Switzerland
Forward Alex Morgan and midfielder Allie Long both appeared for the U.S. Women’s National Team in a 4-1 win against Switzerland in an international friendly on Wednesday evening at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.
Morgan started and played 66 minutes in the match, while Long earned her fourth international cap, entering as a substitute in the 85th minute.
Join the Thorns FC official viewing party Saturday at Ringlers
Fans are invited to attend the club’s official viewing party to watch Saturday’s NWSL playoff match against the FC Kansas City at Ringlers (1332 W Burnside St, Portland) in downtown Portland; kickoff for the game is 10 a.m. (Pacific) and doors open at 9 a.m. (Pacific). There, you can watch the match with other Thorns FC supporters and Thorns FC broadcaster Ann Schatz, enjoy breakfast specials and enter to win prizes, including a Thorns FC autographed jersey. Limited edition 2014 Thorns FC Playoff scarves will be available for purchase at the viewing party as well.