This Portland Thorns FC team is ruthless.
Over the last month, the Thorns have strung together result after result, summoning goals and pure joy at will from the seemingly bottomless depth of their roster. They dropped 5 goals on Gotham FC in a Providence Park classic and silenced the home crowds in LA and Seattle with brilliant equalizing goals.
All told, the Thorns haven’t lost since May 21 (4-0-4). And now, they’re getting the band back together.
On Friday evening (5 p.m. PT, Paramount+), the Thorns take on Racing Louisville FC, a struggling team with only two wins this season (the last one in May). Meanwhile, a win for the Thorns would vault them to the top of the league standings. It could get scary.
Here are three things to know.
1. The Thorns’ international stars are back but it's everyone's game.
Without the team’s internationals, 10 different players have scored in the club’s last four matches. Yazmeen Ryan kicked off the stretch with a dramatic game-tying in the final seconds to salvage a draw against Angel City after trailing from the first minute, Kelli Hubly continued her growth as a leader and anchor along the back line and Morgan Weaver ensured there wouldn’t be any dropoff among the front three.
Now, after competing in the Concacaf W Championship in Monterrey, Mexico, Rocky Rodríguez, Janine Beckie, Christine Sinclair, Sophia Smith, Sam Coffey and Becky Sauerbrunn are back with the club and raring to go. Finland international Natalia Kuikka returned from her shift in the W Euros, too.
Head coach Rhian Wilkinson has a full arsenal again this Friday.
“We have 15 to 16 players who could start anywhere in the league,” Wilkinson said. “Then we have development players right underneath pushing.”
2. Road games have been tricky, but the Thorns rain down goals.
Portland hasn’t lost this season on the road—but hasn’t won much, either. A victory in Kentucky would be the only their second road win of the season.
But here’s the only stat we’re looking at come Friday: The Thorns’ +19 goal differential.
The Thorns’ 29 total goals are nine goals greater than the next highest-scoring team and are the most goals scored by any NWSL team through the first 12 matches of a season ever.
3. August is jam-packed with games and roster depth is more important than ever.
The Thorns will play six games in August—four regular season games and two guaranteed-thrilling tournament games at Providence Park in the Women’s International Champions Cup (Aug 17-20), where they will need to defend their title against international heavyweights Olympique Lyonnais, Chelsea, and Monterrey.
It’s a packed schedule and there’s a lot on the line. So even with the international stars back in the mix, Wilkinson won’t face much pressure to reintegrate them too quickly. Her squad’s depth is a big reason why the team is one game away from taking the NWSL’s top spot.