NWSL Match Preview: Portland Thorns FC vs. Sky Blue FC at JELD-WEN Field - July 31, 2013

Match Information
Portland Thorns FC vs. Sky Blue FC
Date: Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. (Pacific)
Location: JELD-WEN Field (Portland, Ore.)
Webstream: www.portlandthornsfc.com
Radio: Freedom 970 AM

Wednesday’s match, presented by Alaska Airlines, marks the third regular-sea- son meeting between Portland Thorns FC and Sky Blue FC this year. Thorns FC have recorded an 0-1-1 mark against Sky Blue FC this season, most recently coming away with a scoreless draw on June 22 at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, N.J. Unbeaten in three straight games, Thorns FC is in the midst of a stretch of three home games in eight days, culminating with the regular-season home finale on Sunday against FC Kansas City.

Sky Blue FC enters Wednesday’s match winless in three straight games following a 1-0 loss to top-ranked FC Kansas City on Sunday at Yurcak Field. Wednesday marks Sky Blue FC’s second trip to the Rose City this season, earning a 1-0 win on May 16 at JELD-WEN Field. Substitute midfielder Taylor Lytle tallied the game-winning goal in the 80th minute in the match. Only one of Sky Blue FC’s last four games is against a team (Portland) in the playoff picture.

Last Match vs. Sky Blue FC
Goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc made a season-high seven saves, including two in second-half stoppage time as Portland Thorns FC played to a scoreless draw against Sky Blue FC before 3,002 fans at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, N.J., on June 22. The result extended the club’s road record to 4-0-2. With the draw, Portland registered its second consecutive shutout, marking the second time this year that Thorns FC have earned back-to-back clean sheets. Forward Tiffany Weimer registered a team-high four shots (3 on goal). Weimer saw a chipped effort to the far post glide just wide in the 19th minute. Forward Alex Morgan attempted three shots, hitting the side netting after rounding Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Brittany Cameron in the 17th minute. LeBlanc put in a productive 90 minutes of work on the defensive end, making four saves in the first half and coming up with consecutive saves in second-half stoppage time to keep the clean sheet. LeBlanc earned NWSL Player of the Week honors for her performance in goal against Sky Blue FC.

Scouting Sky Blue FC
Head coach Jim Gabarra’s squad is coming off a 1-0 loss to front-runner FC Kansas City on July 28. Sky Blue FC, who have played one more game than Thorns FC, hold the advantage in the season series with an 1-0-1 record against Portland. Led by former University of Portland standout Sophie Schmidt’s six goals, Australian forward Lisa De Vanna (5g, 2a) and Mexican forward Monica Ocampo (5g, 2a) have helped contribute offensively for Sky Blue FC.

Goalkeeper Brittany Cameron ranks second in the NWSL with a 0.94 goals- against average and eight shutouts, but Sky Blue FC have faltered recently, going winless in three straight games.

Sky Blue FC last won on July 6, but have gone 1-3-3 over their last seven matches, starting with a scoreless draw against Thorns FC on June 22 at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, N.J.

Thorns FC Draw 3-3 Against Chicago
Forward Christine Sinclair scored two goals and midfielder Mana Shim tallied her third goal in as many games, but Thorns FC conceded two goals in the final 15 minutes in a 3-3 draw against the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday before 12,534 fans at JELD-WEN Field. Midfielder Tobin Heath recorded two assists, one on a clever free kick to Sinclair for the game’s opening goal in the 23rd minute. Taking a 3-1 lead into the 75th minute, Chicago’s Alyssa Mautz tallied on a header off a pass from defender Rachel Quon and midfielder Julianne Sitch provided the game-tying goal in the 86th minute, finishing a loose ball in the penalty box.

Scoring Streak
Rookie midfielder Meleana Shim became the first Thorns FC player to record a goal in three consecutive matches this season with her a goal against Chicago on July 28. Shim, who has scored four goals this year, tallied the game-tying goal against the Western New York Flash on July 14 and the game-winning goal on July 21 against Boston. Forwards Alex Morgan (May 4-12), Christine Sinclair (May 19-25) and Danielle Foxhoven (June 6-16) have scored goals in back-to-back matches this year.

Holding a Lead
Thorns FC have yet to concede defeat when scoring first in a match this season. Portland is 8-0-1 when scoring first and 8-0-1 when scoring two or more goals. Thorns FC conceded their first draw after taking the lead when the Chicago Red Stars overcame a 3-1 deficit for a 3-3 draw against Portland at JELD-WEN Field on July 28.

Magic Number
Thorns FC are 8-0-1 when scoring two or more goals this season. In eight of the team’s nine 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 8-0-1.

Steady Hands
A two-time NWSL Player of the Week selection, Thorns FC goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc ranks third in the league with a 1.00 goals-against average. The Canada Women’s National Team standout has stopped consecutive penalty kicks and is the only goalkeeper in the NWSL that has saved more than one penalty kick this season. LeBlanc ranks third in shutouts (6) in the NWSL.

Offensive Awakening
Thorns FC have registered six goals in their last three games, which equals the team’s season-high goal-scoring total for any three-game stretch this season. During the club’s three-game unbeaten run, forward Christine Sinclair became the first Thorns FC player to score twice in one game in a 3-3 draw with Chicago on July 28 at JELD-WEN Field. Forward Alex Morgan has tallied an assist in consecutive games, become the first Thorns FC player to accomplish that feat and midfielder Mana Shim has scored a goal in three straight games.

Challenging Stretch
Thorns FC are entering the stretch run of the inaugural NWSL season with
four games in the next 11 days (July 31-Aug. 10). Thorns FC have two remaining home games (Wednesday against Sky Blue FC; Sunday against FC Kansas City), before taking to the road for the final three games of the regular season. Off Portland’s five remaining opponents, three are ranked in the top four of the league standings. Only Boston (5th) and Seattle Reign FC (7th) are outside the top four in the standings. Portland faces Sky Blue FC (2nd) and FC Kansas City (1st) in consecutive games.

Super Sub
Thorns FC forward Danielle Foxhoven ranks fourth on the team in scoring with three goals this season, all of which have come as a second-half substitute. Foxhoven, who scored in the 48th minute of a 4-3 win against FC Kansas City on June 6 as a halftime sub, has appeared in 16 of the team’s 17 games - 13 times off the bench.

Reliable Defensive Corps
Through 17 games this season, Portland’s back line of Nikki Marshall, Rachel Buehler, Kat Williamson and Marian Dougherty have proved to be a reliable group. Marshall and Williamson have started all 17 games, with Williamson (a rookie) playing every minute of every game this season (1,530). Marshall ranks third on the team in minutes played. Buehler has missed two matches, both for international duty, while Dougherty missed two games (one due to her sister’s wedding).

Among League Leaders
Entering the week, Thorns FC Alex Morgan ranks first in the NWSL in shots (68) and shots on goal (35), while coming in fourth place in overall points with 17 (6g, 5a). Morgan has tallied an assist in back-to-back games for Thorns FC.

Attendance In Context
Through nine home games, Portland has earned an average attendance number of 12,793 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 (8,715) and just slightly less than three other MLS clubs: D.C. United (13,688), New England (13,745) and Chicago (13,775). Worldwide based on 2012-13 attendance, Thorns FC have earned higher average attendance than 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).