Coming into the season most people expected the Chicago Red Stars (3W-6D-3L) and Portland Thorns FC (4W-3D-4L) to be in a fierce battle at the top of the standings with the North Carolina Courage. Instead, the two perennial title contenders are fighting for their playoff lives as the second half of the season gets into gear. In their last match before the FIFA break, Chicago broke a seven-game winless streak as they beat the woeful Washington Spirit on a rain-soaked pitch. The Thorns were beaten 4-1 by the Courage in their last match on the Wednesday before the international break. The winner of this match will remain in fourth place in the standings, while the loser could drop as far down as 7th.
Injuries define the season for both sides
The Red Stars hosted the Thorns once already this season in a 3-2 Thorns victory. That win was secured by a brace from Portland forward Christine Sinclair who leads the league with six goals on the season. Portland will look to regain that fire this weekend as they travel back to Chicago for the ESPNews Game of the Week.
Portland suffered a pair of losses with forwards Midge Purce and Tobin Heath both suffering sprained ankles while away with the United States Women's National Team. Goalkeeper Adrianna Franch is still out as well after having knee surgery nearly two months ago. In her absence, Britt Eckerstrom has been holding down the fort, but she has not had as much success as Franch over the few seasons. The Thorns defense might be even more shorthanded if Emily Sonnett cannot go due to a back injury. The Thorns have been limited by injuries throughout the season, but they seemed to be getting healthy before Purce and Heath picked up knocks while on national team duty.
The Red Stars are trending in the other direction with respect to injuries, but it hasn't helped them secure wins. Forward Sam Kerr, midfielders Julie Ertz and Vanessa DiBernardo, and defender Casey Short were all injured the last time these two teams met. Now, the only the player on the Chicago injury report is Stephanie McCaffrey who is out indefinitely with nerve damage. With so many players back, the Red Stars could start the second half of the season on a roll or they could continue to flounder. A matchup against Portland is an excellent test to see whether the team can stand up and beat one of the strongest squads in the league.
How to watch
This game will be broadcast across the country on ESPNews, LifeTime and the National Women's Soccer League worked together to move half of the LifeTime Game of the Week matches into an evening time slot for player safety, attendance, and viewing reasons. The game will kick off at 8:00 pm from Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL.