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NWSL Preview: Chicago Red Stars Look to End Portland Thorns Unbeaten Streak

By Kim Tate



Portland's Alex Morgan (top) and Chicago's Ella Masar (bottom) look to face off in this Saturday's match at the Village of Lisle - Benedictine University Sports Complex in Lisle, Ill.
Portland's Alex Morgan (top) and Chicago's Ella Masar (bottom) look to face off in this Saturday's match at the Village of Lisle - Benedictine University Sports Complex in Lisle, Ill.

In just their second match of the year, and in the first of four meetings between these two sides, the Chicago Red Stars welcome Alex Morgan and Portland Thorns FC this Saturday, April 27th.

Portland currently sit at the top of the NWSL table with four points and are coming fresh off a 2-1 home win over Seattle Reign, in their opener at JELD-WEN Field on April 22nd.

Chicago are tied for third with Boston and Kansas City at 0-0-1 after their 1-1 draw vs. Seattle Reign FC at home on April 14th, where midfielder Lori Chalupny led the league with four shots on goal and scored in the 25th minute off an Ella Masar assist to level with an early Seattle goal by Christine Nairn in the 10thminute. In spite of a heavy Red Stars advantage in shots, Seattle GK Michelle Betos came up big several times to keep the game level.   

Portland will look to continue their undefeated streak in this match after defeating Betos and the Reign in last week’s derby at JELD-WEN in front of a league-record 16,479 fans.  Thorns FC goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc registered just one save, while the team outshot Seattle 11-7, including 5-2 on goal. A late goal in the first half by Marian Dougherty put the home side up 1-0 by halftime, and registering a team high four shots, Alex Morgan provided an insurance goal quickly into the second half off an assist from Christine Sinclair in the 52nd minute.  Wales international captain Jessica Fishlock scored the lone goal for Seattle in the 74th minute, striking the ball on a half volley past LeBlanc after Seattle defender Kiersten Dallstream lofted a cross just inside the top of the Portland box. The game ended 2-1 and lifted Thorns FC into first place.

Red Stars head coach Rory Dames looks forward to the match, citing Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan as two of the top five players in the world.  “Sinclair can cause some real problems,” he said. “She can play in midfield, up front, behind the line and off the line. They have a top 5 goal scorer in Alex. She has been scoring at an incredible rate at the international level. She’s dangerous behind the line, and able to finish with both feet and her head. We will learn a lot about ourselves in the 90 minutes of this game.”

Portland is led by head coach Cindy Parlow-Cone, one of the all-time leading scorers for the U.S. Women's National Team and a FIFA Women's World Cup champion. She ranks among the U.S. Women's National Team's all-time leading scorers with 75 goals and 35 assists in 158 career appearances. Following her playing career, Parlow Cone, 34, has served as an assistant coach for the women's soccer program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for the past six seasons from 2007-12. She helped guide the team to national championship-winning seasons in 2009 and 2012.

Additional Notes:

Portland’s home crowd of 16,479 fans was larger than any single-game crowd during the three-year duration of Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) from 2009-11. It also ranks among the top single-game attendance marks in women’s professional soccer history in the United States.

Both Alex Morgan and Lori Chalupny registered team highs in terms of shots in their previous games, and Christine Sinclair contributed to both outcomes for Portland with the game tying goal in their first game of the season against FC Kansas City, and the game winning assist against Seattle.

Kim Tate is a sports publicist, and an NWSL, US Men and US Women's National Team correspondent for football.com. Follow on Twitter @KimTateSports