The Washington Spirit will take on the Portland Thorns this Saturday, July 22 in the fourteenth week of NWSL regular season play. As the summer starts to round out, this is the last match before the international break for the Tournament of Nations hosted by the United States, but it also coincides with the Women’s Euro Tournament currently taking place in the Netherlands. All these international commitments may be throwing off teams’ rhythms and serving as somewhat of a distraction, but this week’s match is still of utmost importance to both the Spirit and the Thorns, who are trying to escape last place and hold on to a potential playoff spot, respectively. The last time these two teams met, the Spirit overcame with a 1-0 victory, but with both sides suffering from absences due to the Euros, each side will arrive with a clean slate.
Thorns looking to further secure a playoff spot
After securing the Supporters' Shield during the 2016 season but losing and being eliminated from the playoffs in front of a home crowd, it was immediately clear that the Thorns would be back in 2017 and with a vengeance. Their plans for complete dominance were thrown, however, with the string of injuries suffered by the team early in the season, which has left them scrambling to ensure they’re securely in a playoff spot. This week, against the lowest ranked team in the league currently, would seem like a great time to make that securing move, but with the absence of Amandine Henry, Dagny Brynjarsdottir, and Nadia Nadim, and the ongoing injury to Tobin Heath, head coach Mark Parsons will have to do a lot of adjusting to the team’s midfield. He does have depth though and can look to the likes of Meleana Shim, who has scored nine goals for the Thorns in her career. While there will be many gaps to fill from the Thorns’ usual lineup, the team has a wealth of players to choose from. The real difficulty will be putting together a team that can work and communicates together effectively on such short notice.
Washington Spirit needs a boost to their... Spirits
It has been a rough stretch for the Spirit. They haven’t won since they last played the Thorns, nearly a month ago, and at most their efforts have rewarded them with a tie at best. Despite having the star power and talent of Mallory Pugh on their squad, they just haven’t been able to pull everything together to achieve a win. Line Sigvardsen Jensen is joining the Thorns’ Nadim playing for Denmark, but her role can successfully be filled by Meggie Dougherty Howard and Havana Solaun. If the Spirit can catch the Thorns off due to all their missing players, a victory here, against a team in the top half of the table would serve well for the players’ morale. No player wants to lose frequently, so any reminder to the team that success is possible, even during a rough season, would be incredibly beneficial for fans and players alike. As the clock ticks on this season, any hopes of the playoffs have largely been dashed, but there can still be a focus on building with the young players the team has available and looking to the future for more reliable game results, and that begins with figuring out what works against teams like the Thorns.
The game will be played at Providence Park in Portland, Oregon on July 22, 2017. The match kicks off at 10 pm EST and will be streamed on the go90 app and website.