Portland is back in action at Providence Park for NWSL week 4 matchup.
The Portland Thorns are back to NWSL regular season play following a midweek trip to San Diego for ÜKG NWSL Challenge Cup action.
Suffering a tough result on Wednesday night against San Diego Wave FC, the Thorns look to bounce back and resume their league form. They host a Racing Louisville FC squad that has been neither terrific, nor atrocious, just sort of mid-level.
Kick-off is set for 7:30pm.
Racing with Louisville
Racing Louisville FC has had somewhat of a 'meh' start to their campaign in 2023. Their three draws across three matches, four goals in favor and four goals against, have placed the Kentucky club in the bottom third of the standings. Winless and yet undefeated in 2023, they make for an interesting opponent come Saturday evening.
Their results have so far relied on four different goalscorers, and despite not registering a victory yet, it seems their offense is clicking. They have secured 2-2 draws in their last two matches. One of those four-goal matches was a week 2 encounter with current second-place Washington Spirit. In an incredible effort, Racing saw themselves go down 0-2 in the first half at home, only to come ferociously back in the second half to score two unanswered goals. Their comeback proved that they've got the fight to go head-to-head with one of the league's best.
On the defensive side, goalkeeper Katie Lund secured a cleansheet on opening matchday back in late March. However, in the following two games she ended up on the receiving end of two goals per match. After an admirable performance against Washington, Louisville flipped the narrative in a visit to Los Angeles facing Angel CIty FC in week 3. This time Louisville went up 0-2 in the first half, before their defense collapsed in the second half allowing Angel City to come back and tie the game 2-2.
A scoreless draw, a come-back draw that felt like a win, and then a fumbled draw that felt like a loss gives head coach Lars Kim Björkegren almost an unidentifiable form. Just the kind of puzzle that Thorns head coach Mike Norris would love to figure out.
Thorns look to shake-off midweek stumble
Despite a heart-breaking own-goal loss to San Diego Wave FC on Wednesday night in the first round of the 2023 ÜKG NWSL Challenge Cup, the Portland Thorns have shifted their focus back to league play. Saturday's showdown with Racing Louisville FC provides a great opportunity to bounce-back from the forgettable trip to SoCal and get back to positive results.
In the 2023 NWSL regular season, Portland still remains glued to the top of the standings on seven points from a possible nine. Their +7 goal differential is by far the best in the competition and they will be looking to increase it facing a Louisville club whose defense has been shaken in their last couple matches.
Leading the attack will surely be top MVP candidate Sophia Smith who still leads the race for golden boot with four goals, and is tied for first in assists with two through three matches played. Having only seen 45 minutes of action midweek, head coach Mike Norris is likely to rely on Smith for Saturday's matchup. New arrival Adriana Leon made her Thorns debut against San Diego and participated in 68 minutes of action. She looked fierce down the left wing, and contributed well, making some key plays that looked dangerous for Portland. Saturday provides the possibility of seeing Leon make her league debut with Portland as well.
In goal, Bella Bixby is more than likely to return to the starting line-up. Her performances through the first three weeks have been stalwart. Her back-up Shelby Hogan looked solid on Wednesday, and despite the own-goal that she had no way of preventing, put in a solid 90-minute shift, assuring that Portland's goal is in safe hands no matter who stands below the three posts.
Portland looks to push their lead atop the standings with a win at home tonight as the 2023 NWSL season picks up steam.