Portland has met their match: Sky Blue FC. The two teams occupy the first and second spot in the standings respectively. This match won't determine whether Sky Blue claims the lead in the tournament -- that would require SBFC to score a minimum of three goals and maintain a clean sheet, which isn't going to happen against the Thorns in Portland, but should SBFC earn a win things get very tight up at the top.
This match will be a veritable clash of the titans -- Alex Morgan versus Kelley O'Hara and Christine Sinclair versus. Sophie Schmidt. The national team members have spent a month apart and are now reunited as enemies. The mammoths of women's soccer are Morgan and Sinclair but their performances so far this season are built on the hard work of teammates Allie Long, Nikki Washington, Becky Edwards and the recently-emerged Meleana Shim . They work well together to shut down their opponents in the midfield and to create opportunities for the Thorns.
Portland will have to work hard close down SBFC's leading goal scorer Schmidt (three goals in five games). She continues to find space for herself in the box to receive crosses from O'Hara and Lisa De Vanna. While Morgan is a heavily guarded presence on the field, Schmidt is able to subtly enter the play without alarming the birds. The same can be said about Katy Freels, the fast midfielder with an accurate shot. She has popped up in recent matches as a reliable offensive player whilst able to maintain a great line of defense, linking up well with O'Hara and Schmidt.
Kelley O'Hara -- a.k.a Rocket Raccoon -- is a visionary on the ball with an unmistakable presence on the field. Portland will focus on her throughout to make sure she cannot rile the back line. O'Hara has the ability to wrap the ball around defenders and maneuver within tight spaces even if three or four defenders are lined up in front of her. She is successful at penetrating into the 18 which allows her to test the goalkeeper. The challenge will be whether Rachel Buehler's back line can dispossess O'Hara and De Vanna without conceding a foul/free kick outside the 18 yard box in the process.
Portland's starting XI might not change from Sunday's lineup against Chicago, but SBFC's Jim Gabarra should consider giving Taylor Lytle more time on the field. Last week she secured a clean sheet for SBFC in the 88th minute when she cleared a header from Seattle off the line.
Portland Thorns FC Injuries
Out: Emilee O'Neil
Sky Blue FC Injuries
Out: N/A In Doubt: Brittany Bock, Jill Loyden
Match Date/Time: Thursday May 16, 7:30 pm
Venue: Jeld-Wen Field
Online: NWSL Soccer YouTube Channel