NWSL Match Preview: Seattle Reign FC vs. Portland Thorns FC at Starfire Sports Complex

Match Information
Portland Thorns FC vs. Seattle Reign FC
Date: Saturday, May 25, 2013
Kickoff: 7:00 p.m. (Pacific)
Location: Starfire Sports Complex (Tukwila, Wash.)
Forecast: Overcast, 66 degrees
Radio: Freedom 970
Webstream: www.portlandthornsfc.com

Saturday’s match marks the second of four meetings between the NWSL’s Pacific Northwest squads and the first game between the two teams at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Wash. Thorns FC enter the match following a stretch of three games in eight days from May 12-19 that saw the club finish 2-1-0 overall during the span, while outscoring its opponents 4-1 in three games.

Seattle Reign FC faced a similar streak, playing three games in nine days, as Reign FC suffered two losses against Sky Blue FC (2-0 on the road May 11; 3-0 at home on May 19) and a 4-2 loss to the Washington Spirit (May 16). Reign FC has battled injury problems and inconsistency early in the season, scoring four goals, while conceded a league-high 15 through seven games. Midfielder Christine Nairn leads the club in scoring with three points (1g, 1a).

Last Time Against Reign FC
Thorns FC and Seattle Reign FC last faced each other on April 21 before a record-setting crowd of 16,479 fans in Portland’s home-opening match at JELD-WEN Field.

Defender Marian Dougherty scored the first-ever goal at JELD-WEN Field for Thorns FC with a header inside the left post right before halftime. Midfielder Nkkki Washington delivered a free kick from the right side of the field as Dougherty cut through the box and connected on the go-ahead goal in the 45th minute. Forward Alex Morgan tallied an insurance goal in the 52nd minute before Seattle midfielder Jessica Fishlock trimmed the lead with a goal in the 74th minute.

Thorns FC outshot Seattle 11-7, including 6-2 on goal, in the victory.

Road Scoring
Saturday’s game is Portland’s fifth road game of the season and its first trip to Seattle. Through four away games, Thorns FC is tied for the league lead
in road scoring with seven goals (Sky Blue FC has also scored seven road goals). Averaging 1.75 goals per game away from home, Thorns FC, Sky Blue FC and Seattle lead the league with four road games apiece. Portland is the league’s last remaining unbeaten team on the road (3-0-1).

Super Subs
Through seven matches this season, Thorns FC forward Danielle Foxhoven and midfielder Courtney Wetzel have each featured as second-half substitutes in six of the team’s first seven games. Both have contributed in the Thorns
 FC attack with Foxhoven tallying the club’s first-ever substitute goal in a 2-0 road win at the Chicago Red Stars on April 27 and Wetzel earning her first career NWSL assist on May 19 in a 2-0 win against the Washington Spirit. Both players are former local college standouts as Foxhoven ranks fourth all-time on the University of Portland scoring chart with 139 points (57g, 25a) and Wetzel ranks second all-time in assists (22) for Oregon State.

Pacific Northwest Connections
Portland and Seattle feature several Pacific Northwest links between the two sides. Reign FC defender Kate Deines was born in Portland, grew up in Issaquah, Wash., and played soccer at the University of Washington from 2008-11. A number of players on both sides crossed paths at the University of Portland. Seattle’s Elli Reed (2007-10) and Keelin Winters (2007-10) were college teammates with Thorns FC forward Danielle Foxhoven (2008-11) and midfielder Angie Kerr (2003, 05-07) while Seattle midfielder Megan Rapinoe (who is finishing her contract with Lyon in France) played for the Pilots from 2005-08, sharing the field at different points with Foxhoven, Kerr and Thorns FC forward Christine Sinclair (2001-02, 04-05).

Stalwart Defense
Along with the team’s dynamic attacking players, the Thorns FC defense has performed at a high level through the first seven games of the season. Portland is the only team that has yet to concede more than one goal in a game to an opponent this season, holding every opponent to either one or zero goals in seven games. The Thorns FC backline of Marian Dougherty, Rachel Buehler, Kathryn Williamson and Nikki Marshall with Karina LeBlanc in goal have formed consistency early in the season with all five players starting each of the team’s seven games this season. LeBlanc is tied for the NWSL lead with a 0.57 goals-against average. The Canadian Women’s National Team standout is tied for second in the league with three shutouts and holds the second-best save percentage (86 percent).

National Team Duty
Thorns FC players Alex Morgan and Rachel Buehler (United States), Christine Sinclair and Karina LeBlanc (Canada) have been called up by their respective national teams for an international friendly between the United States and Canada on Sunday, June 2, at BMO Field in Toronto. All four players will depart for Toronto following Saturday’s match at Seattle Reign FC and return on June 3. Thorns
 FC will be without the players for a home match against the Chicago Red Stars on June 1 at JELD-WEN Field. The first friendly to take place during the NWSL season, Canada and the United States square off at 1:30 p.m. (Pacific) with a live broadcast on ESPNews.