NWSL Match Preview: Boston Breakers vs. Portland Thorns FC at Dilboy Stadium - July 21, 2013

Match Information
Boston Breakers vs. Portland Thorns FC
Date: Sunday, July 21, 2013
Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. (Pacific)
Location: Dilboy Stadium (Somerville, Mass.)
Forecast: 84 degrees, chance of thunderstorms

WEBSTREAM: www.bostonbreakerssoccer.com

Portland Thorns FC and the Boston Breakers meet for the second time during the inaugural National Women’s Soccer League season on Sunday at Dilboy Stadium in Somerville, Mass. Sunday’s game marks Portland’s first of two trips to Boston this season. In the first meeting between the two teams at JELD-WEN Field on July 6, Boston forward Sydney Leroux netted two first-half goals resulting in a 2-0 road win for the Breakers. Thorns FC and the Breakers will meet for the third and final time in the regular season at Dilboy Stadium on Aug. 7.

Thorns FC enter Sunday’s game maintaining second place in the NWSL after a 1-1 draw against Western New York Flash on July 14 at JELD-WEN Field. Midfielder Meleana Shim netted the equalizer, her second goal of the season, just more than 90 seconds after Portland conceded the opening goal to Flash forward Abby Wambach. Portland, which is winless in its last four matches, has earned two comeback draws this season.

Scouting the Breakers
The Boston Breakers, currently fifth place in the NWSL, are just four points adrift of fourth-place Western New York for the final berth to the NWSL playoffs. Boston has struck a vein of good form recently, having gone undefeated in four consecutive games. Three of those four games were played on the road, as Sunday’s match against Portland marks the only home game for Boston during the month of July. The Breakers have performed well against the top two teams in the NWSL standings this year, earning a 1-2-1 record against Sky Blue FC and a 2-0 road win against Thorns FC on July 6 at JELD-WEN Field.

Head coach Lisa Cole’s squad is led by forward Sydney Leroux, who is tied for the league lead with 10 goals. Leroux scored a brace against Portland in the last meeting between the two sides. Boston forward Lianne Sanderson leads the NWSL with seven assists and midfielder Heather O’Reilly ranks second on the team in scoring with three goals and five assists (11 points).

LeBlanc Named Player of the Week
Thorns FC goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc was named the NWSL Player of the Week by the media for Week 14 of the regular season. The accolade marks the second time in the last four weeks that LeBlanc has earned the honor. The Canada Women’s National Team standout made five saves, including stopping an 84th-minute penalty kick from forward Abby Wambach, to help preserve a 1-1 draw with the Western New York Flash before 13,021 fans at JELD-WEN Field on July 14. LeBlanc previously earned Player of the Week in Week 11.

Among League Leaders
Through 15 games in the inaugural NWSL season, several Thorns FC players rank among league leaders in several statistical categories. Thorns FC forward Alex Morgan leads the league in both shots (61) and shots on goal (33), despite missing two matches while on international duty. Morgan’s team-high five goals ranks tied for fourth overall in the NWSL. As a team, Portland is tied for fourth in goals (19), but ranks first in goal defense, conceding a league-low 14 goals in 15 games.

Magic Number
Thorns FC are 7-0-0 when scoring two or more goals this season. In seven of the team’s eight wins, Portland has tallied two or more goals, including a streak of four straight wins when scoring twice in a game (April 21-May 12). When scoring the first goal, Thorns FC are an undefeated 8-0-0.

Holding a Lead
Thorns FC are the only team in the NWSL that has yet to concede a lead this season. Portland, 8-0-0 when scoring first, is the lone remaining squad that has not allowed an opponent to come back for a tie or win in a match.

Keeping the Goalkeeper Busy
Thorns FC’s two-game total of 40 shots from July 6-14 ranks tied with Seattle Reign FC (July 11-14) and Sky Blue FC (June 22-26) for the highest number of total shots in back-to-back games this season.

Hit the Road
Sunday’s match marks Portland’s only road game in the month of July. Thorns FC have earned a 4-1-2 (.714) record away from home this season, which ranks tied for first in the league with Sky Blue FC (5-2-0, .714).

Attendance in Context
Through eight home games, Portland has earned an average attendance number of 12,825 at JELD-WEN Field. The number is impressive when put in larger context. When placed alongside Major League Soccer attendance numbers, Thorns FC draw larger average crowds than Chivas USA and just slightly less than the Chicago Fire (13,433). Worldwide based on 2012-13 attendance, Thorns FC outdraw seven men’s teams in the Dutch Eredivisie (Netherlands), five teams in Ligue 1 (France), three teams in Serie A (Italy) and England’s npower Championship (the step below the Premier League) and two teams in La Liga (Spain).

Thorns FC to Play on FOX Soccer
The NWSL and FOX Sports Media Group recently announced a national television broadcast schedule consisting of six regular-season matches and three playoff games. Portland Thorns FC are featured in consecutive weeks on FOX Soccer in regular-season home matches on Sunday, July 28, against the Chicago Red Stars and Sunday, Aug. 4, against FC Kansas City at JELD- WEN Field. The times of those matches have been changed to accommodate national television. The match on July 28 is now at 4 p.m. (PT) and the game on Aug. 4 (a doubleheader with the Timbers Reserves) is at 5:30 p.m. (PT).