Matchday preview, Thorns @ Boston, 8.7.13
Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer

NWSL Match Preview: Boston Breakers vs. Portland Thorns FC at Dilboy Stadium - August 7, 2013

Date: Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Kickoff: 4 p.m. (Pacific)
Location: Dilboy Stadium (Somerville, Mass.)
Forecast: 82 degrees, partly cloudy
Referee: Elvis Mahmutovic
Assistant Referees: Albert Calise, Russ Wolf
Fourth Official: Mounir Idmalak
Follow @ThornsFC on Twitter for match updates
Wednesday’s match marks the third, and final, regular-season meeting between Portland Thorns FC and the Boston Breakers. The game is the first of a season-ending, three-game road trip for Thorns FC that features matches against the Western New York Flash on Saturday, Aug. 10, and Seattle Reign FC on Aug. 17. Portland is able to clinch a spot in the NWSL Playoffs with a win or a draw on Wednesday against the Breakers. The season series between the two clubs is knotted at 1-1-0 overall, with each team winning once on the road. 
Boston enters Wednesday’s match with one win in their last five games. Player/interim coach Cat Whitehill helped guide the Breakers to a 2-2 draw with Western New York on Aug. 3 at Dilboy Stadium. Whitehill earned an assist in the match as forwards Kyah Simon and Lianne Sanderson provided Boston with a 2-0 lead through 65 minutes. Western New York scored twice in the final 15 minutes to steal a point on the road.
Midfielder Meleana Shim scored the game-winning goal in the 86th minute and forward Alex Morgan added a goal and an assist for Thorns FC in a 2-1, come-from-behind win over the Boston Breakers in front of a sellout crowd of 2,978 at Dilboy Stadium in Somerville, Mass., on July 21. Shim, who tallied her third goal of the season and second in consecutive games, delivered a low, hard shot to the far left post for the game-winning goal. The Hawaii native provided the game-tying goal just one week earlier in a 1-1 draw with Western New York on July 14. Morgan tallied the equalizer in the 24th minute for Thorns FC. Defender Rachel Buehler sent a long pass over the top of the Breakers defense that allowed Morgan to run into space on the left side. Racing in on the goal, Morgan caught goalkeeper Ashley Phillips on the wrong foot with a quick stutter-step move and calmly slotted in the game-tying goal into the empty net. Thorns FC goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc stopped four shots, including back-to-back saves in the 64th and 67th minutes, respectively.
The Boston Breakers, while still mathematically able to qualify for the NWSL Playoffs, will need to garner positive results in their final three games, while also hoping for the Western New York Flash and Chicago Red Stars to falter in their final three games. Despite being on the cusp of reaching the postseason, the Breakers fired head coach Lisa Cole on Aug. 2 and named defender Cat Whitehill as player/interim head coach for the remainder of the 2013 season. Boston has earned just one win in its last five games, a 5-2 win over last-place Washington on July 27. The Breakers held a 2-0 lead against the Western New York Flash on Aug. 3 at Dilboy Stadium, but the fourth-place Flash recorded two goals in the final 15 minutes to earn a come-from-behind draw. Boston ranks third in the league with 31 goals, behind FC Kansas City and Western New York. Forward Sydney Leroux leads the Breakers with 10 goals, while Heather O’Reilly and Lianne Sanderson have each notched four goals and seven assists.
PLAYOFF PICTURE Thorns FC can clinch a berth to the NWSL Playoffs with a win or a draw against the Boston Breakers on Wednesday at Dilboy Stadium in Somerville, Mass. Portland currently sits in second place, tied on points (34) with Sky Blue FC. Thorns FC hold the tiebreaker over Sky Blue FC based on overall goal differential.
Despite massive support at home, Thorns FC have compiled the best road record in the NWSL through eight away matches this season. With a road record of 5-1-2 (.708), Thorns FC are the only NWSL club that has suffered just one loss away from home. Portland has conceded a paltry five goals on the road this season, ranking first in the NWSL in road defense with a 0.63 road goals-against average. The Western New York Flash have conceded 13 goals in 11 road games (1.18 road goals-against average), while league-leader FC Kansas City has yielded 14 goals in 10 road games (1.40 road goals against average). Thorns FC have registered four of their six shutouts on the road in 2013, including a scoreless draw against Sky Blue FC on June 22.
Forwards Danielle Foxhoven and Alex Morgan tallied goals in the second half, but a late comeback attempt fell short as Thorns FC suffered a 3-2 loss against FC Kansas City before a record-setting crowd of 17,619 fans at JELD-WEN Field on Sunday. With the match tied 1-1, FC Kansas City netted back-to-back goals in the 55th and 73rd minutes to grab a 3-1 lead against Thorns FC. Morgan pulled a goal back in the 89th minute, but Portland couldn’t find the equalizer before the final whistle. The crowd of 17,619 set an NWSL record for single-game attendance and bested Portland’s previous record of 16,479 against Seattle on April 21 at JELD-WEN Field. Thorns FC outshot FC Kansas City 17-10 in the match and held an 8-5 advantage in shots on goal.
Thorns FC rookie defender Kathryn Williamson is one of five players that has appeared in every minute of every match during the NWSL season. Williamson has started and played all 1,710 minutes of Portland’s 19 games in 2013. FC Kansas City’s Jen Buczkowski and Leigh Ann Robinson, Sky Blue FC defender CoCo Goodson (all 1,800 minutes) and Western New York Flash defender Estelle Johnson (1,710) are the other four players that have played every minute this season.
Through 19 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 19 games, with Williamson (a rookie) playing every minute of every game this season (1,710). 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).
Thorns FC forward Alex Morgan has registered a point in four straight games for the second time this season. Morgan, who leads the club with eight goals and five assists in 17 appearances, tallied a goal and an assist in a 2-1 win over Boston on July 21, an assist in a 3-3 draw with Chicago on July 28 and goals in back-to-back games against Sky Blue FC (July 31) and FC Kansas City (Aug. 4). Previously, Morgan notched a point in four straight games from April 21-May 16.