Portland Thorns (10-6-4, 34pts) v. Western New York Flash (9-4-7, 34pts)
Saturday, August 10, 2013 at 4:35pm PDT (7:35pm EDT)
Sahlen’s Stadium, Rochester, New York
Watch the Match Here!
Twitter – @ThornsFC @WNYFlash #WNYFvPTFC

The Portland Thorns end their East Coast road trip as they head to Rochester, New York to take on the Western New York Flash in a match scheduled to kickoff at 4:35pm PDT (7:35pm EDT) at Shalen’s Stadium.

The Flash and Thorns have met once this season.  In what many were calling the match of the season, as they played to a 1-1 draw on July 14 at JELD-WEN Field in Tobin Heath’s debut match for the Thorns.  Abby Wambach scored one of her classic goals, while the Thorns’ Mana Shim added the equalizer just a minute later.  The Flash has a chance to take the lead late on the match on a penalty kick, but Karina LeBlanc came up with a huge save.

What do the Thorns need to do?

All is not well on the Thorns front.  They lost Alex Morgan for 2-4 weeks, after suffering an MCL strain early in their last match against Boston, then lost the match after going up on Tiffany Weimer’s first goal of the season.  Additionally, they are playing their 5th match in 14 days, to mixed results, and are currently sitting on a 2 match losing streak in the midst of seeking the right to host at least the first round of the NWSL Playoffs.

Despite losing Morgan, the Thorns are more than capable on offense, with Christine Sinclair (6 goals), Mana Shim (5 goals), and Dani Foxhoven (4 goals) all among the league leaders in scoring, Offense hasn’t been the problem of late for the Thorns though, as they have seen what was once the league’s best defense has suddenly given up 9 goals in the past four matches, resulting in a record of 1-2-1.

The matchup with the Flash could spell trouble for the Thorns.  While Wambach has yet to score since their last meeting, Samantha Kerr and Carli Lloyd, among others, have picked up the scoring, as they have gone 3-0-1, while recording three shutouts and only allowing two goals.

There is much on the line for the Thorns in this match.  A victory would give them the tiebreaker over both the Flash and Sky Blue, while also putting them within striking distance of first place FC Kansas City.  To achieve victory, they will have to play a similar match to their last meeting against the Flash, where they were able to contain the Flash attackers save for one brilliant Wambach goal, while putting away the chances given to them by the Flash and Adriana Franch, who played a stunning match against the Thorns in their first meeting.

What do the Flash need to do?

The Flash have played spectacularly in recent matches, nearly pacing FC Kansas City in the race to the top of the league, even with Wambach not scoring in nearly a month.  Lloyd has picked up the scoring for the Flash, scoring a goal in each of their past four matches, while Kerr has added two goals.  Wambach has been contributing in additional ways, assisting on 3 goals and always drawing defenders when in the attacking third.

While the Thorns a definitely a fatigued side, the Flash will be playing their fourth match in 10 days, which showed in their last match as they needed a 53rd minute goal by Lloyd to defeat the Seattle Reign on Wednesday.

This match is just as important for the Flash as it is for the Thorns.  With the Thorns recent struggles on defense, the Flash will want to push the attack directly at the Thorns, and it wouldn’t hurt to have Wambach find the back of the net once again.  While the Thorns will definitely look to press the attack, the Flash are more than dangerous on the counterattack, especially with Lloyd ever-dangerous from distance.

Projected Lineups

As much as fatigue plays a major role in any changes, the injury to Morgan necessitates lineup changes for the Thorns, but it seems unlikely that they will simply put Weimar up top and keep the same formation.  With a dangerous opponent, it seems likely that the Thorns will shift their lineup, moving from a 4-4-2 diamond to more of a defensive 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1.

In the past several matches, the only change they have made was to bring Brittany Taylor on for the injured Alex Sahlen.  They will most likely maintain the same 4-3-3 lineup they have used in their recent matches.

wny-por-aug-10-2013-lineup

Keys to the Match

Thorns-

  1. Push the attack at Franch
  2. Contain Wambach and Lloyd
  3. Keep the ball out of your defensive third

Flash-

  1. Wake up Wambach
  2. Spread the Thorns defense
  3. Break up the Thorns attack

Match Prediction

The Flash and Thorns both have a lot riding on the result of this match.  As a result, I expect both sides to put forth the maximum effort in this match.  A victory for either side essentially clinches hosting at least the first round of the playoffs, but is more important for the Thorns as the Flash have a much higher Goal Differential.  The x-factor for either side in this match is Heath and Wambach, who have been notching plenty of assists, but not scored in recent matches.  While the Flash have been playing much better than the Thorns of late, with as important as this match is, it is hard to make a clear prediction.