At 1 p.m. PT on Saturday, August 26, #BeatPortland weekend escapes like a thunderbolt onto the soccer pitch. It all goes down at Memorial Stadium, as Seattle Reign FC (7-6-6) plays host to the Portland Thorns (10-5-4). Fans can watch the match through the go90 app, go90.com, NWSL app, or NWSLSoccer.com
The best rivalry in the NWSL has lived up to the hype so far in 2017. The two Cascadia sides have faced off twice this season, and Reign FC leads the series with a win and a draw. That win came at the start of July in Seattle, thanks to a Megan Rapinoe brace. The draw started with a bang at Providence Park, as Jess Fishlock blasted a long-distance shot into the back of the net just one minute into the match. The game would end 2-2, with Allie Long equalizing in the 82nd minute.
Both teams are coming off a two-game week that saw them lose one match and win the other. Seattle came from behind in stoppage time to defeat the Chicago Red Stars 2-1. Then the team fell apart in the second half against Sky Blue FC—squandering 3-0 and 4-3 leads and letting Sam Kerr take the wheel and power her team to a 5-4 win.
Portland, meanwhile, lost a mid-week match against FC Kansas City—falling 2-1 after scoring first. Over the weekend, they beat the Houston Dash at home with a comfortable 2-0 win. Portland comes into the game without as much on the line as Seattle—aside from a large dose of rivalry pride. The Thorns currently sit in second place, holding a five-point advantage over the Chicago Red Stars and Orlando Pride.
That certainly doesn’t mean the traveling squad is going to sit back and let the game come to them. They want to keep that second-place position—or aim even higher—as it means a home semifinal playoff match. Plus, there’s that whole hatred for Seattle thing fueling their fire.
But that hatred is shared by Seattle players and fans with equal force. So how does Reign FC build a bonfire and watch Rose City wilt?
Portland is a tricky team to pin down, as they deploy a mix of technical and direct players all at the same time. Australian forward Haley Raso has had a breakout season—she provides the direct, speedy threat on the wings. She’s linked up really well as of late with Christine Sinclair, who has played in more of a withdrawn forward role—connecting the attack through passes and finding seams to exploit for runs and shots.
Raso typically lines up on the right, so whoever Harvey starts at left back—likely either Carson Pickett or Lauren Barnes—is going to have to be ready for a player that isn’t afraid to run full-force at the defense. Nadia Nadim should return to the starting lineup now that she has returned to the squad after playing in the UEFA Women’s EURO final with Denmark.
Much of the Thorns’ attack flows through Meghan Klingenberg on the wing. She has assisted on the game-winning goal in three of the five most recent victories for the Thorns. On the other side, Thorns coach Mark Parsons has converted Australian attacker Ashleigh Sykes into a wingback. She’s really starting to gel with her teammates, and she brings another speedy option on both offense and defense.
“They’re in a good spot right now and playing well,” said Reign FC head coach Laura Harvey, referring to Portland’s record and the fact that they’ve given up just 18 goals in 19 games. “The difference between them and us right now is that they can see games out. We know that and we must be better at that.
The real leader more recently has been Lindsay Horan, who has played as the most advanced midfielder in the center of the field. She completed 66 passes and got three shots off against Houston, in addition to creating two chances. Give Horan too much time on the ball, and you’ll be in trouble. She’s also dangerous in the air, and shouldn’t be left unmarked in the box.
Seattle’s relentless pressure, especially higher up the field, has caused Portland trouble—this season and in year’s past. The team won’t have the intensity and nonstop pestering from Rapinoe, who remains out from an injury, but they have plenty of other players who can pressure the Thorns backline into mistakes.
If Reign FC can do that, control the midfield, and stay sharp on defense for all 90 minutes, they should be able to watch those rose buds wilt.
"We hate them. They hate us."
That’s how Megan Rapinoe described the relationship between the Reign and their rivals down south. If Seattle wants to get some redemption for their performance last weekend and stay in the hunt for the playoffs, this match should be great inspiration for the squad.
“I said to the girls that in my opinion there’s no better competition to have than Portland after last Saturday’s game,” said Harvey. “If you don’t want to go out and beat them then you shouldn’t be a part of this club.”
Seattle: OUT: Diana Matheson (SEI – left knee ACL tear), Megan Rapinoe (left knee meniscus tear)
Portland: OUT: Tobin Heath (D45 – back sprain), Meg Morris (D45 – left hip inflammation), Mana Shim (concussion)
How to Watch
Time/Date: Saturday, August 26, 1 p.m. PT
Location: Memorial Stadium, Seattle
Streaming: go90.com, NWSLSoccer.com (international stream), go90 app (iOS/Android), NWSL app (iOS/Android - International stream)
This is your Reign FC gamethread. Watch and discuss with us.