Portland Thorns vs. Seattle Reign: Preview

Stanley Chou

A midfield battle is set to commence on Sunday as two of the league's strongest centers meet at JELD-WEN Field.

Portland and Seattle enter their second match of the season on a level playing field, as they try to break through the one-point barrier. This match will highlight a veritable crème-de-la crème of the brightest stars that the NWSL has to offer.

Portland will be sending in the wooly mammoths for this match in order to produce a win. Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair may have had a rough match against FC Kansas City but that was only the first of 22 games they are set to play this season. Their performances in the inaugural match are insufficient to base any conclusion on; they're two of the best players in the world and will benefit from another week's worth of training with their teammates.

Seattle may be missing four players on their active roster -- not including Amy Rodriguez -- but where they lack in quantity, they exceed in quality. Kaylyn Kyle and Jessica Fishlock turned in superb performances last weel. However, Fishlock was a bit aggressive and sloppy in her tackling against Chicago, and picked up a yellow card in the 35th minute. She'll have to be more careful against Portland, who have a couple of excellent dead-ball strikers in Sinclair and Allie Long that could make Seattle pay for giving away free kicks.

Morgan and Sinclair were handicapped during the inaugural match because of Kansas City's insurmountable midfield that refused connections reaching Sinclair and Morgan. This tactic might reappear in Sunday's match as Seattle will look to keep a clean sheet. Expect Teresa Noyola and Kaylyn Kyle, plus Jessica Fishlock or Kristin Meier to start in the Seattle midfield. Together they have incredible speed, and if Seattle maintains a 4-3-3 formation as used against Chicago, with Kyle, Noyola and Fishlock/Meier in the midfield, they should be effective at keeping possession and denying Sinclair the ball.

Although Christine Nairn is listed as a midfielder for Seattle, she was used as a forward in the Chicago match, and helped to put them up early against the Red Stars. Nairn should retain her position for the Portland match as a striker alongside Liz Bogus and Kiersten Dallstream. The trio can wreak havoc for Portland defenders due to Bogus' creativity coupled with Nairn's speed and Dallstream's persistence.

At the other end of the field, Portland will attempt to counter them with Nikki Washington, Allie Long and Nikki Marshall. These players were the most active on the field in the FCKC match with Washington helping to retain possession for her side and Long acting as the primary playmaker. They could eventually be aided by Sinclair, who will drop back to find the ball if the she feels Morgan and herself are too isolated.

Portland Thorns FC absences:

OUT: Tobin Heath (completing season at Paris St. Germain)

Seattle Reign FC absences:

OUT: Lindsay Taylor (eye injury), Tiffany Cameron (school commitments), Megan Rapinoe (completing season at Olympique Lyonnais), Hope Solo (wrist injury), Amy Rodriguez (pregnant)

Match Time/Date: Sunday, 6 pm ET, 2 pm local

Venue: JELD-WEN Field, Portland, Oregon

Online: NWSL Soccer YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/NWSLsoccer

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