Thorns Matchday preview, Thorns vs. Red Stars, 5.31.13
Photo courtesy of Chicago Red Stars

NWSL Match Preview: Portland Thorns FC vs. Chicago Red Stars at JELD-WEN Field

Match Information
Portland Thorns FC vs. Chicago Red Stars
Date: Saturday, June 1, 2013
Kickoff: 2 p.m. (Pacific)
Location: JELD-WEN Field (Portland, Ore.)
Forecast: 75 degrees, mostly sunny
Radio: Freedom 970
Matchday Preview
Saturday’s match marks the third of four meetings between Portland and Chicago during the inaugural National Women’s Soccer League season. Riding a two-game winning streak, Thorns FC enter the match without conceding a goal in 190 minutes. Sky Blue FC scored the game-winning goal in the 80th minute of a 1-0 win against Thorns FC on May 16 and since then Portland has earned two straight shutouts. The Red Stars, who have played two fewer games than Thorns FC, scored first on May 24 at the Western New York Flash on a 52nd-minute goal by Lori Chalupny, but the Flash scored twice in the next 15 minutes to extend Chicago’s winless streak to six games. The Red Stars have struggled offensively this season, but did earn a late 1-1 road draw on May 8 against Sky Blue FC as midfielder Alyssa Mautz notched the equalizer in second-half stoppage time.

Last Time Against Chicago
Chicago has hosted Thorns FC twice this season at Benedictine Sports Complex in Lisle, Ill. During a three-game road trip, Thorns FC visited Chicago on April 27 and again on May 12. In the first meeting, second-half substitute forward Danielle Foxhoven tallied the go-ahead goal in the 70th minute, netting the rebound following forward Alex Morgan’s initial shot. Forward Christine Sinclair scored in the 81st minute for a 2-0 win as Portland earned its first road win of the season. Just two weeks later, Thorns FC traveled to Chicago and came away with another 2-0 win as Morgan (3rd minute) and midfielder Allie Long (35th minute) scored in the first half and goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc made four saves for her second shutout of the season.

Among League Leaders
Thorns FC rank tied for the NWSL lead in goals scored (12) and place second in assists (7), shots (95) and shots on goal (49). Tied on points (19) with Sky Blue FC for the league’s top spot, Thorns FC are the most fouled team in the league, suffering 80 fouls in eight games.

Amateur Call-ups
Due to the absence of four national team players, Thorns FC called up three amateur players for Saturday’s match against Chicago. Former Portland State University goalkeeper Cris Lewis (2006-09) and midfielder Amanda Dutra (2009-12) and former Baylor defender Carlie Davis (2009-12) join the club for the game against the Red Stars. Lewis holds PSU career records in saves (375), wins (24) and shutouts (17) while Dutra is the school’s all-time leader in assists (16). Davis, a key defender for the Bears, helped guide the team to the third round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament and school records for most wins (19), shutouts (13) and fewest goals allowed (14) during her senior season. All three amateur players were part of preseason training camp with Thorns FC, while Lewis and Dutra have regularly trained with the club during the season.

Stalwart Defense
Along with the team’s dynamic attacking players, the Thorns FC defense has performed at a high level through the first eight 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 eight games. The Thorns FC backline of Marian Dougherty, Rachel BuehlerKathryn 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 eight games this season. LeBlanc is tied for the NWSL lead with a 0.50 goals-against average. The Canadian Women’s National Team standout is second in the league with four shutouts and holds the second-best save percentage (88 percent). LeBlanc and Buehler, however, will miss Saturday’s match on national team duty.

Second-Half Scoring
Thorns FC leads the NWSL in second-half scoring, netting seven of the team’s 12 goals in the final 45 minutes. Portland has scored three goals in the final 15 minutes of its matches, including an 84th minute, game-winning penalty kick from forward Christine Sinclair against Seattle Reign FC on May 25. Chicago has scored three of its four total goals in the second half of matches this season.

Scouting The Red Stars
The Chicago Red Stars competed in Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) from 2009-10 and moved to the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) for the 2011 season. Under the direction of head coach, and Chicago native, Rory Dames, the Red Stars finished the 2011 WPSL season with a 10-1 record and moved up to the WPSL Elite division for the 2012 season. Chicago advanced to the league’s championship game, but lost on penalty kicks to the Western New York Flash. Recently, defender Rachel Quon (second round; ninth overall pick in the 2013 NWSL College Draft) was called into Canadian Women’s National Team training camp for the first time ahead of Sunday’s friendly against the United States. Forward Lori Chalupny, who has earned 92 caps for the United States and won a gold medal at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, leads the Red Stars with two goals and one assist in six games. First overall NWSL College Draft pick Zakiya Bywaters and midfielder Alyssa Mautz have scored one goal apiece for Chicago. Reserve goalkeeper Taylor Vancil made her NWSL debut on May 24 against the Western New York Flash, stopping five shots in a 2-1 road loss at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester, N.Y.

Chicago Roster Moves
On Saturday, the Red Stars will be missing starting goalkeeper Erin McLeod, defenders Carmelina Moscato and Rachel Quon (national team duty with Canada), and midfielders Shannon Boxx (injury) and Lauren Fowlkes (retired). On May 21, Chicago added a pair of 34-year-old Germans in forward Inka Grings (Germany’s Frauen Bundesliga all-time leading scorer) and defender Sonja Fuss. Both players have experience with the Germany Women’s National Team and are expected to be available for this weekend’s match. Grings ranks third all-time in scoring for Germany. To create room on the roster, the Red Stars waived forward Hanna Gilmore, a 22-year-old rookie from Baylor University and goalkeeper Jamie Forbes was added as an amateur player for Saturday’s game.

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 at BMO Field in Toronto. All four players departed for Toronto following last Saturday’s 1-0 win at Seattle Reign FC and will return on June 3. Thorns FC will be without the players for Saturday’s home match against the Chicago Red Stars 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.

Upcoming National Team Games
The U.S. Women’s National Team recently announced two international friendly matches against South Korea, creating a busy month of June. The U.S. Women’s National Team will face Canada on Sunday at BMO Field in Toronto, then square off against South Korea on June 15 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., followed by another match against South Korea on June 20 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. After hosting the United States on Sunday in Toronto, the Canada Women’s National Team will face off against Germany on June 19 at Benteler Arena in Paderborn, Germany.

Keeping Track of Tobin
U.S. Women’s National Team midfielder Tobin Heath is finishing out her contract with French side Paris Saint-Germain before joining up with Thorns FC for the remainder of the inaugural NWSL season. Possessing previous professional experience in WPS with the Atlanta Beat (2010) and Sky Blue FC (2011), Heath signed a six-month contract with PSG in January 2013. PSG’s French Division 1 Féminine season concluded on May 26. Head coach Farid Benstiti’s squad locked up second place and a spot in the 2013-14 UEFA Women’s Champions League competition on May 18 and finished the season with a 5-0 win on May 26. Heath scored twice in the season-ending win over Guingamp, ending her year with four goals in eight league games. The 25-year-old midfielder scored her first goal on Feb. 3, in a 4-1 win against Arras and netted her second goal of the season on March 30 in a 3-0 win against Yzeure Allier.