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Match Preview: Seattle Reign vs. Portland Thorns

The Reign close out a three-match week in Portland.

Last Updated
5 min read
© Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle Reign FC concludes its three-match week on Saturday, May 11, with a road game against the Portland Thorns. The match kicks off at 7 PM PT and will air on ION.

It should be a sunny and warm evening at Providence Park, and there will be plenty of Reign supporters in the stands. The Reign distributed 750 tickets to their fans and some seats in the away section are still available.

While Seattle had a mid-week game against a tough opponent, the Thorns are more rested – having last played a week ago at home. The Reign are ready to make up for that with the grit they've shown in their recent games, something that's always a big factor in this Cascadia rivalry battle.

After losing five straight matches, the Reign have gone undefeated in two games. The Thorns, meanwhile, have won four straight matches after failing to win their first four games.

"Going down there is never easy," Reign head coach Laura Harvey told media ahead of the game. "But you know, obviously they are always exciting games, games that we always circle on our calendar... excited for us to get down there and build on some of our good performances."

Recent Results

The Reign played to a scoreless draw in their midweek match against the Kansas City Current. The Portland Thorns, closing out their three-match week, won 2-1 against the Washington Spirit at home last Saturday, May 4.

Head to Head

The Reign are 15-14-9 all-time against Portland.

  • That includes a 7-9-4 record on the road.
  • The Reign lost both matches against the Thorns in 2023.

Quick Stats

  • The Portland Thorns (4-3-1) have scored 17 goals and conceded 14.
  • Seattle Reign (2-5-1) has scored 7 goals and conceded 10.
  • Sophia Smith leads the league and the Thorns in goals, with 7.

What to Watch

Portland likes to high press

The Thorns are a high-pressing team, and with the speed in their frontline and midfield, their press is really effective. They have forced a league-best 111 high turnovers in eight matches and have scored four goals from those turnovers, which is also the most in the NWSL.

Portland's opening goal against the Spirit last week is a great example of how their high press causes chaos. The Reign are going to have to be really clean on the ball, especially as the game starts because the last thing they want is to go behind early in Portland.

"I think being pragmatic on the ball, make sure we keep it in the moments that we need to, defensively not give them spaces," said Harvey. "I think Sinc [Thorns forward Christine Sinclair] has been very good for them in the nine and honestly sets the Sophs [Sophia Smith] of the world up to find spaces, because Sinc's going to come in spaces you don't – as, as defenders you don't really want her to come into. So I think solving that early is gonna be really important."

Now, the Thorns have only gotten 11 shots from these high turnovers – but they've done a great job of converting them into goals (see point number two below).

In addition to an effective high press, the Thorns close down quickly in the midfield and find their speedy forwards to counter opponents. They've won the most balls in the midfield (237, compared to 221 for Seattle). The Reign did well to prevent the Current from getting in behind and will likely look to do the same against the Thorns to limit these opportunities.

Sophia Smith is a menace

Unfortunately for the Reign, Sophia Smith is on fire right now. She's scored a league-leading seven goals in eight matches. Smith's goals have come in a lot of ways: with her speed, from distance, and with some impressive solo efforts.

Here's one example from two weeks ago, where Smith takes a few dribbles to create just a little space to get a difficult shot off.

While it's difficult to completely stop Smith, especially on shots like the above, the Reign can't let her make uncontested runs into the box like she did for her second goal against Chicago.

The Reign will need to try to prevent balls into Smith as much as possible. If she does receive passes in and around the box, they need to put pressure on her to try to ensure she can't turn and get a shot off like this one against the Current.

No early momentum

During Portland's four-game winning streak, they've scored in the first half in every single game. They scored two in the first half in a 4-1 win against Houston. The only two goals in a 2-0 win over Chicago also came in the first half, and the Thorns scored twice in the first half in a 3-2 win against Bay FC. Last week, their 2-1 victory over the Spirit came in the first half.

That's a really clear pattern. The Reign will need to have a really strong first half to keep the match competitive. Seattle has lost all three games when they trailed at halftime.

"Defensively, we need to be as strong as we have been," Reign midfielder Jess Fishlock observed. "And I think with the ball, we need to be a little bit more pragmatic and a little bit more patient to really then be able to hurt them with the players that we have."

At the same time, if the Reign gives up an early goal, Portland has a tendency to bend and sometimes break later in the game. While the Thorns held on for the win, as you can see from this match momentum chart provided by @nwslstat, the Spirit dominated the second half.

Injury / Availability Report

Seattle Reign

OUT: Claudia Dickey (knee), Jordyn Huitema (back), Quinn (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: Alana Cook (illness)

Portland Thorns

OUT: Bella Bixby (maternity leave), Isabella Obaze (knee), Gabby Provenzano (SEI -
achilles), Morgan Weaver (D45 - knee)

How to Watch

Seattle Reign will travel to Providence Park on Saturday, May 11, to face the Portland Thorns. The 7 PM PT match will air on ION.