Matchday Preview, Thorns vs. FCKC, 8.4.13
Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer

NWSL Match Preview: Portland Thorns FC vs. FC Kansas City at JELD-WEN Field - August 4, 2013

Match Information
Portland Thorns FC vs. FC Kansas City
Presented by Providence Health & Services
Date: Sunday, August 4, 2013
Kickoff: 5:30 p.m. (Pacific)
Location: JELD-WEN Field (Portland, Ore.)
TV Broadcast: FOX Soccer
Radio: Freedom 970 AM

Sunday’s match, presented by Providence Health & Services, marks the regular-season home finale for Portland Thorns FC. Facing first-place FC Kansas City in a nationally televised game on FOX Soccer, Portland has the opportunity to leapfrog their opponents into the No. 1 spot in the National Women’s Soccer League with a win. Sunday’s game marks the fourth meeting this season between Thorns FC and FC Kansas City. The season series, which is tied 1-1-1 between the sides, has seen a little bit of everything, beginning with the first-ever game in NWSL history on April 13 as Thorns FC fought back for a 1-1 draw on the road against the Blues. The two sides traded blows on June 6 at JELD-WEN Field as Portland emerged with a 4-3 win despite a brace from FC Kansas City’s Lauren Holiday. Most recently, FC Kansas City earned a 2-0 win over Thorns FC on June 30 at Verizon Wireless Field in Overland Park, Kan.

Unbeaten in four straight games, Portland took the outright claim to second place on Wednesday following a 3-1 win over Sky Blue FC.

Last Match vs. FC Kansas City
Midfielder Lauren Holiday tallied a strike from distance in the 10th minute 
and second-half substitute Merritt Mathias added a goal in the 71st minute as FC Kansas City defeated Thorns FC 2-0 before 4,774 fans at Verizon Wireless Field at Shawnee Mission District Stadium on June 30. The match marked Portland’s first road loss of the 2013 season. The home side jumped out to an early lead when defender Leigh Ann Robinson picked out Holiday with a pass from the defensive third in the 10th minute. Holiday collected the ball near
the halfway line and dribbled 25 yards down the middle of the field before unleashing a right-footed shot that deflected off a defender and caught Thorns FC goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc out of position. Defender Merritt Mathias added a second goal for FC Kansas City in the 71st minute when a pass from Robinson was mishit into the penalty box by Thorns FC midfielder Angie Kerr. The ball looped over the Portland defense and Mathias was able to flick it into the goal past LeBlanc, who was rushing off her line to stop the threat.

Scouting FC Kansas City
Head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s squad has built a nine-game unbeaten streak, including three consecutive wins entering Sunday’s match. Led by midfielder/forward Lauren Holiday, who leads the league with 29 points, nine assists and ranks tied for first with 10 goals, FC Kansas City has fashioned itself into one of the league’s top-ranked offenses. Rookie forward Erika Tymrak has added six goals, taking some of the scoring load off of Holiday's shoulders down the stretch this season. Defender Leigh Ann Robinson has chipped in with five assists, all five of which have come in matches against Thorns FC.

Coupled with a high-powered offense, FC Kansas City has conceded 17 goals in 19 games, which began the weekend tied for the league’s best defense with the Western New York Flash. Goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart has earned league-high 10 shutouts this season, while ranking just sixth in total saves (55). Barnhart also ranks first in the league was a 0.82 goals-against average.

Thorns FC Earn 3-1 Win Over Sky Blue FC
Three unanswered goals, including back-to-back tallies in an eight-minute span during the second-half, helped propel Thorns FC to a 3-1, come-from-behind win over Sky Blue FC before 13,769 fans at JELD-WEN Field on Wednesday night. After conceding the opening goal on an own goal in the 17th minute, Thorns FC responded when forward Alex Morgan tallied the equalizer in the 36th minute. Midfielder Mana Shim netted the go-ahead goal, her fourth goal in as many games, in the 65th minute and midfielder Allie Long added an insurance goal for Portland with a picturesque curling shot to the upper far corner.

Playoff Picture
Entering the weekend, Thorns FC can clinch a spot in the NWSL playoffs with a win on Sunday or a draw combined with a Boston loss or draw against Western New York. Thorns FC can also clinch with a Chicago loss or draw against Seattle on Saturday coupled with a Boston loss or draw against Western New York.

Thorns FC Sign Tina Ellertson
Thorns FC signed former U.S. Women’s National Team defender Tina Ellertson on Wednesday at the NWSL roster freeze deadline. Additionally, the club placed mid- fielder Nikki Washington on the disabled list with a knee injury. Ellertson, 31, was the team’s first pick (eighth overall) in the NWSL Supplemental Draft on Feb. 7. She has made 34 appearances for the national team, including three caps during the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup in China. Ellertson is a Northwest native, born in Vancouver, Wash., and the University of Washington’s career leader in points (99) and goals (43).

Scoring Streak
Rookie midfielder Meleana Shim became the first Thorns FC player to record a goal in three consecutive matches this season with her 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.

Magic Number
Thorns FC are 9-0-1 when scoring two or more goals this season. In nine of the team’s 10 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 fourth 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 also ranks third in shutouts (6) in the NWSL.

Offensive Awakening
Thorns FC have registered eight goals in their last three games, which is the team’s season-high, goal-scoring total for any three-game stretch this season. During the club’s current four-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 a point in three consecutive games and midfielder Mana Shim has scored a goal in a club-record setting four consecutive games.

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.

Reliable Defensive Corps
Through 18 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 18 games, with Williamson (a rookie) playing every minute of every game this season (1,620). 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 weekend, forward Alex Morgan ranks first in the NWSL in shots (76) and shots on goal (41), while ranking among leaders in overall points with 19 (7g, 5a). Morgan has tallied a point in three straight games for Thorns FC.

Attendance In Context
Through 10 home games, Portland has earned an average attendance number of 12,890 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).