Tonight at 7:30 the Seattle Reign take on their northwest rivals in Portland for the third time this season and the second time in the Rose City. After having never drawn in their previous three years of conflict, both of the head-to-head matches this year have been draws. Both have come when the Thorns were depleted, by losing Tobin Heath to a suspension in Seattle and losing most of their starters to national team duty in Portland. In both cases Mark Parsons organized his team to close up shop and limit Seattle chances, which they did effectively.
Tonight they will again be without most of their national team contingent as preparation for the Olympics in Brazil has gutted their roster again. So expect another narrow defensive effort, even at home.
The difference from the previous match in Portland is that this time the Reign have Naho Kawasumi and Manon Melis, neither of whom appeared in that dour game in Providence Park in May. That should stretch the defense and prevent them from packing the midfield so effectively.
Seattle’s only loss is Rachel Corsie, who remains out (probably for a while) with a knee injury. But Kendall Fletcher and Lauren Barnes are a very good pairing in the center and the defense should see little dropoff.
This is a very important match for Seattle, and not just for rivalry reasons. Currently in 6th place, they are running out of time to move into a playoff position before the regular season clock runs out. A win on the road would get them to 23 points and (pending the results of other matches) that last playoff spot in 4th place. With only two home matches left, just draws on the road might not be enough. And a match against a largely reserve team is the perfect opportunity to make the move.