Portland Thorns (h).
Updated: Aug 14, 2021
When? Saturday August 14, 4 p.m. PT, 7 p.m. ET and 00:00 BST (15/8).
Where? Exploria Stadium, Orlando, FL.
How can I catch the action? The game will be broadcast on Paramount+ for residents of the United States and Canada. The game will be broadcast internationally on Twitch (Twitch.tv and via the Twitch app).
The Orlando Pride will head into this game with all the confidence I had heading into season 2 of The Mandalorian. I knew it was going to work our great. The Pride were the real deal in Chicago, last time out; arguably, for the first time this season. The team were calm and measured in their approach. They had a game plan which they executed with maximum efficiency. As a result of that, and their previous positive display in North Carolina, it's hard to imagine that the Pride won't feel confident of avenging their defeat at Providence Park last month.
In yet another week where the NWSL's inability to protect its players has been exposed, it's nice to focus on the football again. Not to detract from the callous nature of the transgressions committed by Richie Burke, the Washington Spirit and the league itself, of course. These athletes continue to defy the odds, and will continue to showcase why the NWSL continues to be one of the most fascinating leagues in the world. On the pitch, anyway.
I have absolutely no doubt that the Orlando Pride will do us proud, in what promises to be a cracking contest.
We all know the quality that this Portland team possesses, with or without their national team players. There's been no word, as of yet, on whether the likes of Lindsey Horan are available for this game. Pride head coach, Becky Burleigh, expects Alex Morgan back in market by August 18 (see team news). So with that in mind, it's reasonable to assume a similar time-frame for Horan et al.
Regardless, this will still be a stern examination for this rejuvenated Orlando team. The Thorns, like the Pride, are coming into this game with a bit of form, having won 5 of their last 6 games. The Thorns are a dogged team, tenacious in their desire and will to win. They also possess a tremendous amount of quality in terms of their overall possession. In their most recent outing (against the Spirit), they had 51.7% of the overall play, playing 455 and completing 81.5% of those passes (figure 1). They play an average of 428.9 passes per game, with an overall pass completion rate of 77.9%. Only Gotham FC and the Spirit have better percentages.
This team is excellent when keeping possession of the ball, but they're even better when they attack you with it. They lead the league in goals (20), shots (129) and in XG (1.75-figure 2). Interestingly enough, they also lead the league in XG away from home, with a rating of 1.41 (figure 3). This is due in part to their excellent conversion rate of 10.8%. They're a frightening attacking prospect at the best of times.
They're not unbeatable, however. As the Pride has already shown this season. Portland has lost 3 games on the season, with 2 of those defeats coming away from Providence Park. If Orlando stay compact, and organise well during the transition they could have some joy here.
Figure 1 shows Portland's passing statistics (right) from their win over Washington.
Figure 2 shows Portland's overall XG statistics on the season so far.
Figure 3 shows Portland's XGa statistics on the season so far.
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No official news, at the time of writing, regarding a timeline for the return of Portland's CANWNT and USWNT stars. Though, as previously mentioned, Alex Morgan is expected around the 18th for us, so it's reasonable to assume a similar date for the Thorns' contingent.
The NWSL injury report states that Portland has no injury concerns at all (as of August 12). Though it also says Orlando have no concerns, even though we know Jade Moore and Carrie Lawrence are both significant injury doubts.
Erin McLeod is currently back in Orlando, so there's the possibility Christine Sinclair is available for Portland. Again, nothing is certain.
EDIT: Kylie Strom is listed as an excused absence, and Ali Krieger is listed as questionable.
Possible starting XI
I'd take this with a pinch of salt to be honest, because of the uncertainty surrounding the Olympians. So I've worked off of the assumption they won't be involved. I think they'll set up in their familiar 4-3-3 formation as so:
Sophia Smith is arguably one of the world's brightest young talents, in a team that is choc full of young talent such as Olivia Moultrie. Smith is fast establishing herself as a key player for the Thorns, as her numbers will attest to; 703 minutes across 7 starts and 4 substitute appearances, 1 assist, 3 goals and 7 key passes. Her close ball control, pace and high soccer IQ make her a formidable opponent for any defender. And she's still only 21-years-old. The fact that she didn't travel to Tokyo was a huge mistake for the USWNT, and I say that as an England fan.
Portland is one of the form teams in the league right now, having won 5 of their last 6 games. Mark Parson's side currently sit 7 points clear at the top, with a 9-1-3 record.
Orlando, meanwhile, are unbeaten in their last 2 having drawn 1-1 with the Courage, before that 2-0 win in Chicago. They are currently 5-5-4 on the season.
*All statistics courtesy of nwslsoccer.com and footystats.org
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