NWSL Match Preview: Portland @ FC Kansas City at Shawnee Mission District Stadium

Match Information
Date: Saturday, April 13, 2013
Kickoff: 5:35 p.m. (Pacific)
Location: Shawnee Mission District Stadium (Overland Park, Kan.)
Forecast: Partly cloudy, 60 degrees
Webstream: FC Kansas City feed available via www.portlandthornsfc.com

Portland Thorns FC and FC Kansas City square off in an historic affair on Saturday in the inaugural match of the National Women’s Soccer League at Shawnee Mission District Stadium in Overland Park, Kan. New to the women’s professional soccer landscape in the United States, neither Portland nor FC Kansas City played in either of the first two women’s professional leagues (WUSA, WPS) and both will hit the pitch for the first time ever on Saturday.

Under the direction of head coach Vlatko Andonovski, FC Kansas City recently earned an 8-0 win against the University of Nebraska behind a five-goal, one-assist performance from Mexico Women’s National Team forward Renae Cuellar on April 6. Possessing a roster that includes U.S. Women’s National Team midfielders Lauren Cheney and Kristie Mewis, defender Becky Sauerbrunn and goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart along with Canada Women’s National Team midfielder Desiree Scott and defender Lauren Sesselmann - on paper the Blues appear to be one of the league’s more talented squads.

Portland Thorns FC, which is coached by two-time Olympic gold medalist Cindy Parlow Cone, enter Saturday’s match on the heels of a 2-1 comeback win against a talented University of Portland squad on March 30 in front of 4,892 fans at Merlo Field on the campus of the University of Portland. Playing without all four of the club’s national team allocation players, forward Danielle Foxhoven and midfielder Allie Long scored two unanswered goals in the second half to help lead Thorns FC to a preseason win.

Featuring two of the most well-known women’s soccer players in the world in Canadian striker Christine Sinclair and U.S. Women’s National Team forward Alex Morgan, Thorns FC’s front line pairing combined to score 51 international goals in 53 matches for their respective national teams during the 2012 calendar year.

READ: NWSL 101: How the Thorns roster was formed

Thorns FC head coach Cindy Parlow Cone has three former University of North Carolina players on the roster (four if you factor in midfielder Tobin Heath, who is expected to join the team this summer). Midfielder Allie Long, forward Nikki Washington and goalkeeper Adelaide Gay all played at UNC while Cone served as an assistant coach for her alma mater. FC Kansas City’s roster includes former Tar Heels forward Casey (Nogueira) Loyd and defender Courtney Jones. Midfielder Merritt Mathias also attended UNC for two years (2008-09) before transferring to Texas A&M.

Portland’s roster features a number of players with experience at the U-17, U-20, U-23 and senior national team level for the United States or Canada. Of the 18 players on the season-opening roster, 15 players have gained youth or senior national team experience. Canada Women’s National Team forward Christine Sinclair is the most capped member of Thorns FC, earning 195 appearances for Canada since making her debut in 2000.

READ: Thorns FC Positional Preview: Meet Your Thorns

The Portland Thorns FC roster features three players who spent their collegiate careers representing the University of Portland. Forwards Christine Sinclair (2001-02, 2004-05), Danielle Foxhoven (2008-11) and midfielder Angie Kerr (2003, 2005-07) all starred for the Pilots. Sinclair, the program’s all-time leading scorer, helped guide the Pilots to NCAA Championships in 2002 (under the direction of legendary head coach Clive Charles) and again in 2005. Kerr (then Angie Woznuk) teamed up with Sinclair for the 2005 title, while Foxhoven finished her four-year career ranked fourth on the school’s all-time scoring list. Additionally, Pacific Northwest native Courtney Wetzel (Puyallup, Wash./Oregon State University) rounds out the team’s Cascadia roots.

While this might be the first time Portland Thorns FC step foot in Kansas City for a soccer game as a team, the area is not unfamiliar to some players on the roster, especially head coach Cindy Parlow Cone. As a member of the U.S. Women’s National Team from 1996-2004, Cone appeared in three national team matches played in Kansas City (all at Arrowhead Stadium). Cone’s three appearances came on Oct. 7, 1999, vs. Finland, Aug. 20, 2000, vs. Canada (featuring Thorns FC forward Christine Sinclair) and Oct. 16, 2004, vs. Mexico. The match against Mexico marked Cone’s 153rd international cap - she finished her career in December 2004 with 158 caps. Forward Alex Morgan is the most recent Thorns FC player to appear in a match in Kansas City for the U.S. Women’s National Team, earning a cap against Canada on Sept. 17, 2011, at Sporting Park.

READ: Thorns FC Opponent Dossier: FC Kansas City

Referee: Kari Seitz
Assistant Referees: Kathryn Nesbitt, Kyle Atkins
Fourth Official: Jon Freemon