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Reign Report: A Ros(e)y rivalry

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In match two of #BeatPortland Saturday, Seattle Reign takes on the Portland Thorns at Memorial Stadium.

Reign vs. Thorns: Photos Mike Russell / Sounder at Heart

What You’ll Watch

The Cascadia battle continues on Saturday with the second of three regular season matches between Seattle Reign FC and Portland Thorns FC. This is the only home match for Seattle against their I-5 rivals, and it comes after defeating the Thorns in thrilling fashion in May, when a late Rumi Utsugi goal secured a 3-2 win for Seattle.

The Thorns currently sit in fourth place with a record of 5-4-5 (20 points in 14 games played; 1.4 ppg) while Reign FC are in third with a record of 5-3-5 (20 points in 13 games played; 1.5 ppg). The last time out, both teams played to a frustrating draw against their opponents. On Wednesday, Portland drew with last-place Sky Blue FC at home, while Seattle played to a scoreless draw on the road against Utah.

Reign FC are currently struggling to emerge on the other end of a four-game winless streak, which hasn’t happened since the end of the 2013 season. While Seattle remains in third place in the standings, they will need a win against the fourth-place Thorns to keep their spot on the table.

A Look at the Enemy

Last Five: T-W-T-L-W with 8 goals scored and 7 conceded

Leading Goal Scorer: Christine Sinclair, 7

Assist Leader: Sinclair, 5

Injury Report and Suspensions

Portland

OUT: Caitlin Foord (right lis franc repair), Emily Menges (hip pain), Meg Morris (left hip pain – SEI); QUESTIONABLE: Tobin Heath (right ankle injury), Midge Purce (right ankle sprain)

Seattle

OUT: Yael Averbuch (illness), Kiersten Dallstream (left quad strain), Jess Fishlock (right quad strain), Jaycie Johnson (right knee sprain – D45)

Match Officials

REFEREE: Christina Unkel

AR1: Jeremy Weed

AR2: Diego Blas

4TH: Cephas Quartson

What to Watch

Portland has altered between some version of a 4-2-3-1 and 3-5-2 formation for much of this season, depending on the opponent and personnel on the field. With centerback Emily Menges out for the match, I suspect they will put four bodies along the backline to avoid leaving too much space on the flanks for Megan Rapinoe and her wide partner on the right.

Portland plays a lot more direct than Seattle, trying to get the ball up the field as quickly as possible. That involves a lot of long balls over the top, and a lot of play through linchpin Lindsey Horan, who leads the league in touches per 90 minutes and is second in passes. When Horan is unable to get involved or having an off day, the team struggles.

Since Andressinha joined the team, however, Portland has evolved into more of a short-passing team that likes to maintain some possession in the midfield, especially if Tobin Heath is healthy at the same time. They use the width of their speedy wide players to get down the sidelines and whip crosses into the box—looking to connect with a forward or Horan making a run into the box.

The Thorns also have figured out how to utilize Christine Sinclair in lethal fashion this season. Sitting behind the lone striker, which is usually Ana-Maria Crnogorčević, Sinclair is skilled at finding and exploiting the smallest amounts of space. Many of her goals have been the result of quick give-and-go play with teammates.

Rivalry matches are always a little extra aggressive. Add to that the fact that Portland leads the league in fouls committed, and fans should expect a physical match. Seattle has struggled to put the ball into the back of the net recently, but there is no better time to have the attack come together than on Saturday.

Quick Keys

  • Limit Horan’s time on the ball. Pressure her into quick giveaways, cut off passing lanes to her, and limit her ability to distribute through balls to her attackers.
  • Track Sinclair. She’s not a particularly fast withdrawn forward, but she is a tricky one. The Reign centerbacks and holding midfielders will need to follow Sinclair’s movement at all times. And if they’re marking her properly, don’t forget the runs from her teammates. Sinclair doesn’t just lead the league in goals — she’s at the top in assists as well.
  • Be prepared for balls into the box. Seattle got burned on two balls into the box against Portland earlier this season — the only two goals the Thorns scored. Once came from an inability to clear a corner. On the other, Betos mistimed a cross and came too far off her line, leaving the goal exposed. Reign FC should be prepared to defend and clear those crosses on Saturday.

How to Watch

Date/Time: Saturday, June 30 @ 7:00 PM PT

Location: Memorial Stadium | Seattle, WA

Streaming: go90.com (U.S.), NWSLSoccer.com (International)