In a top-of-the-table match-up, #1 Washington Spirit will play #2 Portland Thorns FC tonight in Portland, with just one point separating the two. This match will also be the final one before World Cup-rostered players are released to their National Teams.
The Portland Thorns, reigning NWSL champions, have scored an incredible 29 goals this year – 10 more than the next closest team – and have yet to be held scoreless in a regular season game. Their attacking prowess will pose a challenge to the Spirit, whose games have typically been low-scoring, last week’s 3-2 comeback win against Kansas City a striking exception. Washington may need to adjust their usual diamond midfield to a double pivot, like they did in that game, to defend against the talented Portland side.
If the Thorns have a weakness at all, it’s defense; they have the 5th most goals allowed and have particularly struggled in the absence of veteran center back Becky Sauerbrunn. Washington’s attack hasn’t been as consistent as their defense, but they’ve showed a capacity for accuracy on set pieces and finishing in important moments that could help them go goal-for-goal with the Thorns tonight.
With both teams eager to end the weekend in first place, this promises to be an exciting and potentially high-scoring match. As Spirit coach Mark Parsons reported defender Amber Brooks saying: “If you’re not pumped for this game, you better check your pulse.”
Key Player: Tara McKeown
Voted NWSL Player of the Week after her performance against Kansas City, Tara McKeown scored two goals in two games last week and is a consistent scoring threat on set pieces. But it’s her skill as a center back, particularly in keeping high-powered attackers out of play, that make McKeown essential to Washington’s chances in this match. Aided by the rest of the Spirit defense, she held Alex Morgan to one shot and Debinha to two in games earlier this season. If she can shut down Portland’s attackers as effectively, she could help the Spirit bring home three points.
Watch Out For: Sophia Smith, Crystal Dunn
As previously mentioned, Portland is stacked with offensive talent, with 6 players who have scored more than one goal this season. Two of the most dangerous and among the best in the world are forward Sophia Smith and midfielder Crystal Dunn. Between them, these two account for 12 of Portland’s 29 goals and 7 of 23 assists. Washington will be hard-pressed to cover both of them and will need to balance that coverage with a healthy respect for the rest of the Thorns’ offense.
Challenges: Can the Washington Spirit defense contain the goal-scoring juggernaut that is the Portland Thorns?
Previously: Portland is the only remaining team the Spirit haven’t played this season. In 2022, Portland beat Washington at Segra Field and tied them at Providence Park.
Portland Thorns FC Availability:
Out: Janine Beckie (SEI – knee); Rocky Rodriguez (knee); Becky Sauerbrunn (heel)
Washington Spirit Availability:
Out: Bayley Feist (D45 – lower leg); Anna Heilferty (SEI – knee); Tori Huster (SEI – lower leg)
Location: Providence Park, Portland, OR
Kickoff time: 10:30 p.m. ET
Referee: Ekaterina Koroleva
Available TV: NBC Sports Washington
Available streaming: Paramount+