It’s going to be an epic weekend in Seattle, with OL Reign jumpstarting the Lumen Field doubleheader with a match against their rivals, Portland Thorns FC. The game kicks off at 4 PM PT on August 29 and will stream on Paramount+ for fans in the U.S. and Twitch for international viewers.
The Portland Thorns lead the league with a record of 10-3-2 and 32 points, while OL Reign overcame a rough start to the season and now sit in a tie for third place with 22 points and a 7-7-1 record.
This might be the first home Reign match for a lot of Puget Sound soccer fans, as tens of thousands are expected at Lumen Field on Sunday. Here’s what you should know about OL Reign’s opponent.
Portland plays a 4-4-2 diamond formation, using their fullbacks for width. Left back Meghan Klingenberg, in particular, is heavily involved in the attack, and has three assists already this season. The Thorns midfield is stable thanks to the thankless work of defensive midfielder Angela Salem, who isn’t flashy but does well to win duels and find a teammate.
Salem’s tireless work rate means that — depending on who starts — Lindsey Horan, Rocky Rodriguez, and Crystal Dunn can roam more in the midfield. They often pull wide to create overloads, provide width in the attack, and pressure their opponents on the wings. Christine Sinclair has historically been at the top of the diamond, playing as both a withdrawn forward and No. 10. However, in their mid-week match against Gotham, Sinclair started on the forward line, with Dunn in the attacking midfield role.
Portland’s two forwards play more narrow with their two-person frontline. They have a lot of speed on the front line, with players like Simone Charley, Sophia Smith, and Morgan Weaver often looking to peel behind their centerbacks. Portland’s forwards are typically pure goal-scorers, where the Reign’s frontline create as much as they score.
What to Watch
- Lots of shots: The Thorns lead the league in shots, shots on target, and corner kicks. They are relentless in creating chances. Don’t be surprised to see them get some good attempts off. The Reign will want to make sure they put numbers behind the ball when Portland has possession, preventing them from any close-range, high-percentage shots. A lot of shots come from crosses as well, as Portland leads the league in successful crosses — 60 compared to the Reign’s 46. (By the way, the second-best team in shots/shots on target? OL Reign.)
- A relentless press: Some teams like to possess their way into controlling a match. Not the Thorns. They want to press teams into giving up the ball, and it works. They’ll look for the spots in their attacking half where they can lure opponents, then double-team quickly or pick off the passing lanes. NWSL Analitica shares a great example from their recent match against Gotham. As NWSL Analitica alludes, OL Reign’s midfield is going to have to be dynamic and constantly moving to try to create open lanes and avoid Portland’s traps.
Secondly, something about the pressure from Thorns but also the buildup from Gotham.— NWSL Analitica (@NwslAnalitica) August 26, 2021
Thorns forced Gotham to go outside, with different matchups, knowing that both Cudjoe and Long are not particularly dynamic (as seen here) to move around and receive the ball. pic.twitter.com/2WkYZGcKfm
- A stingy defense: Portland has only given up nine goals in 15 matches, which leads the league. Emily Menges and Becky Sauerbrunn will likely be the starting centerback duo, with Klingenberg on the left and either Christen Westphal or Natalia Kuikka on the right. The Thorns are a hard team to break down, but it’s possible. The Reign managed to score two against the Thorns in May thanks to strong pressure in the midfield, taking advantage of set pieces, and winning the second ball in the box (see: Shirley Cruz’s goal below). Teams have found success against the Thorns when they get the ball into the penalty box and create chaos. The Reign have the tools to do that.
- Sophia Smith: 5 goals, 1 assist
- Simone Charley: 5 goals
- Christine Sinclair: 3 goals
- Meghan Klingenberg: 3 assists
- Bethany Balcer: 6 goals
- Jess Fishlock: 3 goals, 3 assists
- Eugenie Le Sommer: 3 goals, 3 assists
- Megan Rapinoe: 3 goals, 1 assist
OUT: Ally Watt (right knee), Rosie White (illness)
Portland Thorns FC
OUT: Celeste Boureille (left wrist), Meghan Klingenberg (right thigh)
QUESTIONABLE: Simone Charley (left knee), Tyler Lussi (right hip)
How to Watch
The match kicks off at 4 PM PT on Sunday, August 29, and will stream on Paramount+ for fans in the U.S. and Twitch for international viewers.