Thorns, Reign Clash in First Match of the Cascadia Derby


Seattle Reign FC (0-0-1, 1pts) v. Portland Thorns FC (0-0-1, 1pts)
Sunday, April 21, 2013 at 2:00 PDT
JELD-WEN Field, Portland, OR

Watch the Match Here!
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Twitter – @ThornsFC @SeattleReignFC

The second round of the NWSL season comes to a close this weekend with a clash between Pacific Northwest rivals as the Portland Thorns play host to the Seattle Reign.  With an anticipated crowd of over 14,000 expected to pack JELD-WEN Field, both teams will look to shake off the early season rust and bring out their A-game in their first of four meetings.

What do the Thorns need to do?

To say that the Thorns came out flat is an understatement.  They looked like a team that had not played together very long, especially in the 1st half, but the halftime adjustments made by Coach Cone, having striker Christine Sinclair play a more withdrawn role and the substitution of Danielle Foxhoven in the 64th minute allowed the Thorns to equalize in a game where they were mostly outplayed.

Much of the issues for the Thorns came from poor linking in the midfield, which allowed Kansas City to easily take possession and control the play, and leaving the Morgan/Sinclair forward tandem largely ineffective and looking lost.  Without their attack going and falling down a goal very early in the match the Thorns resulted to booting the ball down the field, hoping to take advantage of Morgan’s speed, which was all for naught as the ball often skipped down the fast field in Kansas City.

For the Thorns to come out strong, they need their midfield to play at their best, specifically in the moving the ball up the field in the attack.  Distribution will be key to getting Morgan and Sinclair going, and much of this duty falls to midfielder Angie Kerr, who had a less than stellar performance against KC.  On the defensive side of the field, the Thorns looked shaky, especially early in the game when KC’s Cuellar slipped through the defence and past goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc.  While it takes time for the backline and goalkeeper to become a solid unit, with an actual game under their belts, the lapses seen last week should be lessened.

What do the Reign need to do?

Last week against the Chicago Red Stars, the Reign came out and took the lead early off an 11th minute header by forward Christine Narin, before giving up the equalizer in the 23rd minute.  Outside of the early goal though, the Reign looked out-matched against the Chicago attack and easily could have left without a point.

The Reign are very much a team in search of an identity. Now former General Manager Amy Carnell abruptly resigned last week, putting added duties on Head Coach Laura Harvey, and the team is also without USWNT members goalkeeper Hope Solo (injury), midfielder Megan Rapinoe (playing in France until late May), and forward Amy Rodriguez (pregnant), as well as missing forwards Lindsay Taylor (eye injury) and Tiffany Cameron (completing college), with serious question marks in the early part of the season.

Like the Thorns, midfield play will be key for the Reign, with Keelin Winters playing a critical role of defensive midfield.  They will need to look to be a disruptive force and break down the attack, as well as solid play from internationals Kaylyn Kyle and Jessica Fishlock and run the counterattack, where Portland had issues last week, setting up the attacking duo of Liz Bogus and Christine Nairn, who combined for the only goal of the match last week.

Projected Lineups

With the lack of updates of from the Reign regarding the injury to Taylor and the cancellation of a friendly against the Haitian National Team, I am assuming that they will be bringing out the same lineup as last week against Chicago, where they came out in a 4-4-2.

For the Thorns, I believe that we will likely see the same line up as well, with the possible exception of a swap of Danielle Foxhoven for Angie Kerr, moving her out wide up top with Alex Morgan and putting Christine Sinclair into a withdrawn striker role, and the attack benefitted from this tactical change last week, so I wouldn’t be too surprised to see this move made again.  In either of these formations though, I would expect to see Sinclar in a more withdrawn role, allowing Morgan to roam free and use her speed through the attacking zone.


What to Expect

This game will be exciting, and JELD-WEN Field to be rocking.  While the Thorns and Reign are both brand new teams, the history of the Portland-Seattle rivalry run deep, with iterations of it including Blazers-Sonics (NBA), Winterhawks-Thunderbirds (WHL), and of course Timbers-Sounders (MLS/USL/NASL).  Of the many reasons that NWSL came to Portland and Seattle, this rivalry and the potential for rabid fanbases had to be at the forefront of their minds, and this match will be the first of several meetings for these squads.   There will be an energy throughout the stadium, and expect players from both sides to feed off the 14,000 strong that will be in attendance.

While it shouldn’t be expected that the Reign will just give up and let the Thorns bowl them over, it seems unlikely that the will be able to contain the attack as well as KC did.  Playing on the familiar surface of JELD-WEN Field, the passes that went awry last game are not likely to do so.  Playing surface matter a lot in this game, and Portland has one of the best in North America.  While it is a bit of an excuse, it appeared that part of the troubles the Thorns had was surface related.  What is likely going to be a deciding factor for both squads is the play of the midfield.  Solid play in the middle will hopefully lead to a more exciting game for both sides, leading to more attacking play and a potentially high-scoring match.

Keys to the Game

Reign- 1.) Solid midfield play, 2.) Absorb pressure, 3.) Counterattack.

Thorns- 1.) Get the attack going, 2.) Midfield distribution, 3.) Use crowd energy.

Score Prediction: Let’s face it, Portland came up against one of the top defenses in the league with current #1 USWNT goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart last week, and their attack looked anemic at best. Playing in front of their home fans for the first time in soccer-mad Portland, it just don’t seem that the Reign will being able to contain Morgan and Sinclair, and with the Thorns defense now having played a real game together, don’t expect to see them letting the Reign sneak in a goal.  Seattle 0:3 Portland.

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  • Paul Atkinson

    I can’t wait to see our Thorns in action.

  • Leviance

    Its too bad this league is so strongly weighted in Portland’s favor. A hard-fought 1-0 finish either way would do more for building a rivalry than a blowout. Should be interesting.