NWSL Match Preview: Portland Thorns FC vs. Chicago Red Stars - July 4, 2014

Portland Thorns FC vs. Chicago Red Stars
Date: Friday, July 4, 2014
Kickoff: 11 a.m. (Pacific)
Location: Providence Park (Portland, Ore.)
Forecast: 81 degrees, partly cloudy
Referee: Timon Berry
Assistant Referees: Veronica Perez, Deleana Quan Fourth Official: J.J Blodgett
Webstream: www.portlandthornsfc.com

Match preview

Portland will play the first of three games against the Chicago Red Stars during the month of July on Friday. The two teams will meet twice in a sixday span and three times in 14 days, playing twice in Chicago and once at Providence Park. Portland faces a quick turnaround, playing at Chicago on Wednesday, July 9, at 5 p.m. (Pacific).

In their last match, Thorns FC were unable to find an equalizer in a 1-0 loss at FC Kansas City on June 28. Portland faces a tough stretch of games during the month of July, playing seven times in 24 days and four times on the road.

On Friday, Portland and Chicago meet for the first time in 2014 and the only time during the regular season at Providence Park. Thorns FC have a record of 2-1-1 all-time against the Red Stars. Forward Christine Sinclair has scored three goals, including a brace, in four matches against the Red Stars.

Close chances against FC Kansas City

Thorns FC lost 1-0 in a hard-fought match against FC Kansas City on June 28 at Durwood Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. Portland had multiple quality chances in the match, but conceded a goal in the 41st minute to foward Lauren Holiday. Forward Amy Rodriguez found Holiday at the top of the box and Holiday’s shot from distance deflected off a Portland defender and in for the only goal of the match. In the first half, forward Alex Morgan had a header cleared off the goal line. Late in the second half, substitute forward Jessica McDonald saw her header go over the crossbar, while in the 84th minute midfielder Allie Long’s shot from distance was tipped off the crossbar by FC Kansas City goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart. Thorns FC’s defense limited FC Kansas City’s shots as the Blues finished the match with nine shots, including three in the second half.

Last time against Chicago

Forward Christine Sinclair scored a brace and midfielder Mana Shim added a goal, but Thorns FC conceded two goals in the final 15 minutes of a 3-3 draw against the Chicago Red Stars on July 28, 2013.

Sinclair tallied the game’s opening goal off a free kick from midfielder Tobin Heath in the 23rd minute. Portland earned a free kick and Heath chipped the ball over the defense as Sinclair made a run through the middle of the box, volleying a shot past the goalkeeper.

Thorns FC doubled their lead 10 minutes into the second half when forward Alex Morgan dribbled into the right side of the box and delivered a pass that deflected off a Chicago defender before falling for Shim to convert in front of goal.

Chicago trimmed Portland’s lead with a goal in the 60th minute, but Thorns FC quickly answered in the 63rd minute as Sinclair scored her second goal of the match and Heath tallied her second assist. The Red Stars made it a one-goal game in the 75th minute, while midfielder Julianne Sitch scored the equalizer in the 86th minute.

The two teams combined for 31 shots in the match as Thorns FC held a 16-15 advantage. Six Portland players registered at least two shots in the match. Sinclair and Heath tallied three shots each.

Scouting Chicago

Chicago will play its first game in two weeks on Friday. The Red Stars last match was a 1-0 loss at FC Kansas City on June 21. Goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc made seven saves, but Chicago conceded the game-winning goal in the 77th minute of the match.

The Red Stars are winless in their last five matches, claiming their only points in a 2-2 draw with Sky Blue FC on June 15. Chicago has spent most of the season on the road, playing nine of its first 14 matches away from home. Saturday’s match will be the team’s third consecutive match on the road. The Red Stars are 4-4-1 on the road this season.

U.S. Women’s National Team forward Christen Press joined the team in June after finishing her season with Swedish club Tyresö FF and has started the last two games for Chicago. LeBlanc is among the top goalkeepers in the league with a 0.91 goals-against average and three shutouts. As a team, the Red Stars have allowed the second fewest goals in the league this season (15). Forward Jen Hoy leads the team with four goals and two assists.

Dog days of summer

July is a busy month for Thorns FC as the team will play a total of seven games in 24 days, traveling more than 14,000 miles round trip. The month includes four games away from Providence Park and three games against the Chicago Red Stars. July begins with back-to-back games against Chicago as the two teams meet twice in a span of six days and three times in 14 days. Twice this month, Portland is on the road for a midweek game before returning to play a weekend home match. Three of the team’s last four matches during the month are on the road. The team’s final four games from July 17-27 include multiple long road trips. Thorns FC will travel approximately 10,190 miles during that stretch, flying over 2,000 miles one way to both Chicago and Washington D.C., before making the short trip to Seattle (173 miles).

Tobin Heath arrives

Midfielder Tobin Heath joins Thorns FC following her season with French club Paris Saint-Germain. In two seasons at PSG, Heath appeared in 22 matches and scored five goals. During the 2013 season with Thorns FC, Heath was named MVP of the NWSL Championship game, scoring the go-ahead goal off a 30-yard free kick in a 2-0 win against Western New York. She scored her first goal for Portland in the semifinals of the NWSL playoffs in a 3-2 win at FC Kansas City. Heath started seven matches during the regular season and tallied three assists for the club.