The Portland Thorns (0-1-1, 1 point) are still looking for their first NWSL Challenge Cup victory in Utah and Sunday’s matchup with Washington Spirit will be no easy feat.
During the team’s recent media availability, coach Mark Parsons shared that veteran Becky Sauerbrunn could be sidelined for the remainder of the Challenge Cup due to a left hip injury. This means the center back minutes will be divided between Emily Menges, Christen Westphal and Autumn Smithers on Sunday.
She won’t play Sunday. It’s not too bad. Right now, it looks doubtful she’ll play another game in the tournament. And when I say that, that sounds bad. Let me be clear. I think if this tournament was another couple of weeks longer, she’d be back. So, it’s not too bad. Obviously disappointing. -- Mark Parsons
While Sauerbrunn won’t take the field on Sunday, that doesn’t mean she won’t still have an impact on the game off the field. Parsons said Sauerbrunn’s “support, her experience and her standards off the field are going to help us for this tournament.”
First-overall 2020 NWSL draft pick Sophia Smith will not be available for the Thorns once more, as she continues to rehab a left knee injury.
The Thorns will, however, have numerous options off the bench. Parsons could look to the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft Morgan Weaver to get in another game this weekend. The former Washington State star made her debut vs. the Courage.
When asked about his philosophy on the squad’s rotation, Parsons told The Philadelphia Inquirer that he believes his team could be a bit “fresher” in the second half vs. first half of Sunday’s matchup.
I look at this game against Washington [on Sunday], they stuck to a very strong group between the first two games. If they stick to that again, my best bet would be the first 10-15 [minutes] they probably look a bit better than us. Because we had changes on Wednesday [and] we’ll have a couple more changes this game. I think for us, we would then build into the game, and you’d see us get back to understanding and being tactically back to who we are, and the non-verbal communication between players in individual relationships come through.
I think this game, because we made changes in the last, we haven’t had the reward of what Washington had that stuck to their guns. But potentially on the physical sides, there’s an advantage at some point in the game. -- Mark Parsons
How to watch
Date: Sunday, July 5
Time: 7:00 p.m. PT
Location: Zion Bank Stadium | Herriman, Utah