Matchday Preview, Thorns vs. FCKC, 4.26.14
Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer

NWSL Matchday Preview | Portland Thorns vs. FC Kansas City | Apr. 26, 2014

Date: Saturday, April 26, 2014
Kickoff: 7 p.m. (Pacific)
Location: Providence Park (Portland, Ore.)
Forecast: Partly Cloudy, 58 degrees
Referee: Katja Koroleva
Assistant Referees: Veronica Perez, Ronald Lagraff
Fourth Official: Farhad Dadkho
Talent: Ann Schatz (play-by-play), Marian Dougherty (analyst)

After opening the 2014 NWSL season with consecutive road matches, Portland Thorns FC play host to FC Kansas City in their home opener tonight at Providence Park. Thorns FC captured a second straight result on the road in their last match, playing Sky Blue FC to a 1-1 draw on April 19, and return home in second place in the NWSL through two matches. FC Kansas City visits Providence Park in search of their first win of the season. The Blues received a goal from forward and U.S. international Amy Rodriguez in a second straight match, but fell 3-1 on the road to the Washington Spirit in their last match April 19. Tonight’s game features a rematch of the 2013 NWSL playoff semifinal between Thorns FC and FC Kansas City on Aug. 24, 2013. Portland overcame a two-goal deficit on the road in that match to force extra time, and Allie Long scored the game-winning goal in the 103rd minute to propel Thorns FC to a 3-2 victory and a place in the league’s title match.

2013 NWSL Champions

Thorns FC play host to FC Kansas City tonight in their highly anticipated 2014 NWSL home opener. To commemorate Portland winning the inaugural NWSL championship in 2013, the club will unveil its championship banner tonight at Providence Park as part of a special pregame ceremony. Additionally, returning members of Thorns FC, including defenders Nikki Marshall and Rachel Van Hollebeke, midfielders Angie Kerr, Allie Long and Mana Shim and forwards Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair, will receive their championship rings during a pregame presentation. Portland finished the 2013 regular season among the league’s top teams and defeated the top two seeded playoff teams, FC Kansas City and the Western New York Flash, on the road to capture the NWSL’s first championship. Tobin Heath and Christine Sinclair each scored in a 2-0 win against the Flash in the title game on Aug. 31, 2013.

Thorns FC battle back to earn road draw

Midfielder Allie Long scored in a second straight match, converting a penalty kick in the second half, to help Portland Thorns FC earn a point on the road in a comeback, 1-1 draw against Sky Blue FC at Yurcak Field on April 19. Thorns FC had the better of the chances throughout the match, but Sky Blue FC, playing in their home opener, claimed the lead off a corner kick in the 25th minute on a goal by Christie Rampone. Portland controlled the run of play in the second half and leveled the score in the 75th minute on a penalty kick after Sky Blue FC was called for a handball in the box. Thorns FC outshot Sky Blue FC, 18-10, and held a 7-3 advantage in corner kicks. Sky Blue FC had its best scoring chances of the night on set pieces, and the home side capitalized on a corner kick in the 25th minute to take the lead. A corner kick by midfielder Katy Freels found Sophie Schmidt on the near post, and Schmidt flicked the ball on to the far post. The ball nicked off the right post and Rampone knocked the ball over the goal line for her first NWSL goal. Thorns FC pressured Sky Blue FC from the opening whistle of the second half. After multiple quality looks on goal, Portland earned a penalty kick 15 minutes from time after a Sky Blue FC player was called for handball inside the penalty area. Long stepped up and calmly slotted the ball down the left side of the goal as Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Jill Loyden dove the other way, tying the score at 1-1.

Scouting FC Kansas City

On the road for a second consecutive week, FC Kansas City visits Portland for just the second time. The Blues are coming off a 3-1 loss to the Washington Spirit in their last match on April 19. Forward and U.S. international Amy Rodriguez tied the game at 1-1 in the 29th minute on her second goal of the season, but FC Kansas City allowed two more goals before halftime in their first loss of the season. Rodriguez also tallied the team’s goal in a 1-1 draw against Sky Blue FC in the season opener April 12. With two goals, Rodriguez ranks among league leaders in goal scoring early in the season. Among the many talented players returning in 2014 for head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s side is U.S. Women’s National Team forward Lauren Holiday, who recorded five goals in four games against Thorns FC during the 2013 regular season. The Blues had eight players named to 2013 NWSL Best XI teams, including first-team selections in Holiday, defender Becky Sauerbrunn and goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart. Additionally, midfielder Erika Tymrak was named the 2013 NWSL Rookie of the Year, and has recently played for both the senior and U-23 U.S. Women’s National Teams. Including Saturday’s match, FC Kansas City plays three of its next four games on the road.

Home, Sweet Home

Thorns FC plays in its first home match tonight since the team’s 2013 regularseason home finale on Aug. 4, 2013, against FC Kansas City. Since then, Portland has played in seven consecutive away matches, including a pair of NWSL playoff games on the road. While away, Portland assembled a six-match unbeaten stretch on the road, including the 2013 postseason and the first two regular-season matches of the 2014 NWSL campaign. Back on their home grounds at Providence Park, Thorns FC will play in front of their supporters for the first time in 261 days. Thorns FC averaged 13,320 fans at Providence Park during the 2013 regular season.

An old-fashioned shootout 

With both clubs featuring a wealth of attacking talent, it is no surprise that Thorns FC and FC Kansas City have produced some exciting matchups. In five meetings in 2013, including the playoff semifinal, the two teams combined for 21 goals. Portland edged the Blues, 4-3, in a thriller at Providence Park on June 6, 2013, matching a league record for total goals (7) scored by both clubs in a single game. FC Kansas City returned the favor in a 3-2 victory at Providence Park on Aug. 4, 2013. Thorns FC have scored 10 goals in the all-time series against FC Kansas City, with goals coming from seven different players. Over the five matches in the all-time series between the two clubs, including playoffs, Thorns FC are 2-2-1 against FC Kansas City. In 2014, both Thorns FC and the Blues rank among league leaders in attacking statistical categories early in the season. Both rank among league leaders in shots attempts (KC 31, POR 30). FC Kansas City (14) and Portland (11) are first and second, respectively, in the NWSL in corner kicks.

Among League Leaders

While early in the season, Thorns FC players sit among the NWSL leaders in multiple statisical categories. Having scored in back-to-back games, midfielder Allie Long is tied for second in the NWSL in goal-scoring with two goals, and leads the league in both shot attempts (11) and shots on goal (6). Forward Christine Sinclair has attempted seven shots, which ranks fifth. Goalkeeper Nadine Angerer has a 0.50 goals-against average through two games, which rates among the best in the NWSL. As a team, Thorns FC rank third in the league with 30 shot attempts. Portland’s defense is tied for fewest goals allowed among teams that have played two regular-season games, having conceded just one goal.

NWLS Team of the Week

Following a steady performance against Sky Blue FC last weekend, Thorns FC goalkeeper Nadine Angerer was selected to the NWSL Team of the Week for Week 2 by NBC Sports’ Angerer, the 2013 FIFA Ballon d’Or winner as the top female player in the world, recorded two saves against Sky Blue FC, guiding a backline that allowed just four shots on goal during the contest. Through the first two games of the regular season, Angerer has made saves on four of the five shots on goal that she has faced.