The only remaining undefeated team in the NWSL takes on the No.1 team in the league on Wednesday, as the Portland Thorns (4-0-5, 17pts) play host to the Chicago Red Stars (5-1-3, 18pts).
Both teams are coming off of impressive shutout wins last week, with the Portland scoring a 2-0 win over the Western New York Flash and Chicago grabbing a 3-0 win over the Boston Breakers.
For Portland a win would give them a 2-point lead over the Red Stars, and vault them into first place in the NWSL. But if recent memory serves true, grabbing a win vs Chicago will be no easy task.
Just over a week ago Portland and Chicago battled to a 1-1- draw on the Red Stars’ home turf. A goal from Christine Sinclair gave the Thorns the 1-0 lead in the 25th minute, but the Red Stars were able to grab an equalizer midway through the 2nd half.
For much of the game the Thorns defense was impenetrable. They kept Chicago’s offense from ever really making a push, and limited the Red Stars to just one shot on goal. Unfortunately, that one SOG was the equalizer in the 1-1 draw.
Despite the draw, Portland’s defense was a strong point in that matchup against the Red Stars, much as it has been all season. Portland has already logged four clean sheets (goalkeeper Adrianna Franch has three of those in only six appearances), and is the only team in the NWSL yet to concede multiple goals in a match this season.
As good as the defense has been, it was missing a key piece in the draw to Chicago: Defensive midfielder Amandine Henry. Henry, who signed with the Thorns earlier this season, was not yet available the last time these two teams played, as she just still finishing up her season with French side Lyon. Henry, widely regarded as one of the best female soccer players in the world, made her Thorns debut in Portland’s last match, and could make her first NWSL start vs. the Red Stars on Wednesday.
Could Henry be the difference this time around? Could she be to key to keeping Chicago off the board and helping Portland grab its fifth clean sheet? We will see on Wednesday night.
Thorns to Watch:
Amandine Henry. As stated before, Henry is one of the best footballers in the world and will have Providence Park buzzing when she makes her home debut. She was the winner of the Silver Ball in last year’s Women’s World Cup, and was a finalist for 2015’s UEFA Best Women’s Player in Europe Award. She may be just 26-years-old, but she has a long history of success and winning. She wasn’t available the last time Portland faced Chicago, and she could be a big difference maker this time around.
Christine Sinclair: The Canadian striker has been riding a hot streak, scoring goals in two-straight matches, including the game winners against WNY. Coming off the recent announcement that Sinclair will play for Canada for the Rio 2016 Olympics, it would be no surprise if she caps off a big week with another goal.
Red Stars to Watch:
Christen Press: Press leads the NWSL with four goals, including the Red Stars only goal in the 1-1 draw against the Thorns on June 12. Press has been in top form this season, and could be looking to go out with a bang before she leaves Chicago for USA Women’s National Team duties and a July 9 friendly vs South Africa.
Match Info: Kickoff is set for 7:00 PM at Providence Park. Note - Providence Park has made changes to fan entrance procedures, and the Thorns/Timbers are recommending fans show up earlier than usually to accommodate.