Matchday preview, Thorns @ WNY, 8.10.13
Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer

NWSL Match Preview: Western New York Flash vs. Portland Thorns FC at Sahlen's Stadium - August 10, 2013

Date: Saturday, August 10, 2013
Kickoff: 4:35 p.m. (Pacific)
Location: Sahlen’s Stadium (Rochester, N.Y.)
Forecast: 77 degrees, partly cloudy
Referee: Margaret Domka
Assistant Referees: Amanda Ross, Lauren Dearman
Fourth Official: Christopher Trottier
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Saturday’s match marks the second, and final, regular-season game between Portland Thorns FC and the Western New York Flash. The match is vitally important for both clubs in terms of seeding for the playoffs, as the winner will have the inside track on the No. 2 seed and the right to host a semifinal match. Entering the game, Western New York is seeded second, holding the tiebreaker over Thorns FC on overall goal differential (the team’s drew 1-1 in their only match).
Thorns FC square off against the Flash after suffering a second straight loss, 2-1 against the Boston Breakers on Wednesday at Dilboy Stadium. Forward Tiffany Weimer scored the opening goal for Portland, but Thorns FC conceded two goals in the final 22 minutes.
Western New York is unbeaten in five straight games, dating back to a 1-1 draw against Portland on July 14. The Flash earned a 1-0 home win over Seattle Reign FC on Wednesday with Carli Lloyd scoring in the 54th minute.
Midfielder Meleana Shim scored her second goal of the season and goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc made five saves, including an 84th-minute stop on a penalty kick, as Portland Thorns FC earned a 1-1 draw against the Western New York Flash before a spirited crowd of 13,021 at JELD-WEN Field on July 14. After making three saves in the opening 30 minutes of a back-and-forth match, LeBlanc got a hand on an off balance shot from Western New York forward Abby Wambach in the 37th minute, but was unable to make the save as the Flash took a 1-0 lead. Just more than 90 seconds later, Thorns FC found the equalizer off Shim’s left foot in the 38th minute. Western New York earned a chance for the game-winning goal in the 83rd minute when forward Veronica Perez was fouled in the penalty box by Thorns FC midfielder Allie Long. Wambach, who increased her season total to 10 goals earlier in the game, stepped up moments later for the penalty kick. Diving to her left side, LeBlanc saved the shot off the right post and the rebound attempt went wide.
The Western New York Flash clinched a berth in the NWSL Playoffs with a 1-0 win over Seattle Reign FC on Wednesday. The win, which helped extend the team’s unbeaten streak to five games, kicked off a stretch of three straight home games for the Flash to end the regular season. Western New York in 7-1-1 at Sahlen’s Stadium, including a current four-game, home-winning streak. Led by forward Abby Wambach’s 10 goals and seven assists, the Flash have received hefty offensive contributions from midfielder Carli Lloyd (8g) and Australian forward Samantha Kerr (5g, 5a), while recording a league-high 34 goals in 20 games.
Head coach Aaran Lines’ squad put together a nine-game unbeaten run from May 1-June 28. Rookie goalkeeper Adrianna Franch leads the league with 89 saves and ranks third with six shutouts and a 0.95 goals-against average.
After clinching a berth in the postseason on Wednesday, Thorns FC are locked into a tight battle for seeding in the NWSL Playoffs. Tied on points with Western New York and Sky Blue FC, Thorns FC are currently seeded third after tiebreakers are applied (with Western New York second and Sky Blue FC fourth). Saturday’s match, along with Sky Blue FC’s game against Chicago, are critical in terms of clinching a home playoff game. The top two seeds host semifinal matches on Aug. 24, while the highest seeded team to reach the final will host the championship on Aug. 31.
Thorns FC forward Alex Morgan sustained a mild MCL sprain in her left knee in the opening minutes of Wednesday’s 2-1 loss at the Boston Breakers. The forward, who leads Thorns FC with 21 points (8g, 5a), is expected to miss between 2-4 weeks.
Despite massive support at home, Thorns FC have compiled the best road record in the NWSL through nine away matches this season. With a road record of 5-2-2 (.630), Portland has conceded a paltry seven goals on the road this season, ranking first in the NWSL in road defense with a 0.77 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.
Thorns FC conceded the game-winning goal to midfielder Heather O’Reilly in the 84th minute of a 2-1 loss against the Boston Breakers before 3,012 fans at Dilboy Stadium on Wednesday night. Despite the loss, Portland still qualified for the National Women’s Soccer League Playoffs due to other results around the league. Forward Tiffany Weimer, who entered the match in the 13th minute after forward Alex Morgan suffered a left knee injury, tallied the opening goal in the 52nd minute for Thorns FC. The goal was Weimer’s first of the season. Boston midfielder Lianne Sanderson netted the equalizer in the 68th minute off an assist from Sydney Leroux. Following a pass over the top of the defense in the 84th minute, O’Reilly converted the game-winning goal for Boston to the low right post.
Thorns FC are in the middle of a busy final stretch to close out the regular-season schedule. Finishing with three straight road games, Portland will play its second game in a four-day span on Saturday against the Western New York Flash. Saturday’s match also marks the fifth game in 14 days for Thorns FC, who played three straight at home July 28-Aug. 4.
Thorns FC defender Tina Ellertson, who was signed by the team on July 31 at the roster freeze deadline, made her debut on Wednesday against the Boston Breakers. Ellertson, who was an unused substitute on July 31 against Sky Blue FC, entered as an 86th-minute substitute against the Breakers on Wednesday.