The Chicago Red Stars should gear up and expect a return of the Hulk (Alex Morgan), Robocop (Nikki Washington) and Allie Long (she needs no superhero alter-ego). This trio will put a enormous strain on the Chicago midfield because they do not yield to any challenges, and you can expect that the Thorns will come out of the gate swinging and dominate the match.
Chicago must rely on Lori Chalupny, Taryn Hemmings and Leslie Osborne to hold a strong defensive line so that the Thorns striker Christine Sinclair, who has recently taken to sitting behind the striker, cannot thread any passes to Morgan. The defense will also need to be on high alert for the Washington-Long partnership which usually connects with Morgan-Sinclair, but recently the Thorns having also found a strong performer in Becky Edwards, who shys away from a physical match but is technically well suited on the ball.
Chalupny might pull a double shift in this match as she supervises the midfield while also attempting to break through the Thorns intimidating backline. The visitors' defence will consist of Rachel Buehler in the center alongside Angie Kerr, with goalscorer Marian Dougherty and Nikki Marshall at fullback. Red Stars midfielder Zakiya Bywaters has the skill to run circles around the Thorns, but Washington is the type of character that can easily shut down her strides down the flank. Bywaters will need to link up with Lauren Fowlkes in order to get more opportunities into the Thorns box, and Ella Masar will be required to finish up such a build-up. Jessica McDonald may make an appearance as a forward, for at 5'10 she is the second tallest member of the Chicago squad and could contribute in the air.
The Thorns have a lot of talent to work with but the Red Stars maintain a technical group of individuals that do not opt for physical bullying on the field. Both sides will need to find a balance or else the Thorns might accumulate a handful of yellow cards.
The Portland Thorns have recently welcomed Boston Breakers midfielder, Elizabeth Guess to the squad she was waived by the Breakers. Guess assisted in the only goal Boston scored in the game against the Spirit, when she thread a pass to Sydney Leroux for the Breakers' equaliser. It will be interesting to see where and when Guess will make her debut for the Thorns. Guess has a rather different playing style to her midfield counterparts Washington and Long who are aggressive, and she would help in balancing out the duties required of the midfielders and decrease the amount of cautions distributed to her teammates.
Chicago Red Stars Injuries
OUT: Amy LePeilbet (knee), Lindsay Tarpley (knee), Inka Grings (joining squad in May), Sonja Fuss (joining squad in May), Jen Hoy (joining squad in June)
Portland Thorns FC Injuries
OUT: Tobin Heath (completing season with Paris St. Germain)
Match Date/Time: Saturday April 27, 7pm EDT
Venue: Benedictine University Sports Complex Stadium, Lisle Illinois