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Match Preview: Portland Thorns vs Angel City w/ Kamran Nia of The Sporting Tribune
Kamran joins Stumptown Footy for this match preview.
Portland Thorns host Angel City on Saturday, April 29 at Providence Park (kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. PT, streaming on Paramount+).
These two clubs have some of the best fan support in the league and it’ll be rocking Saturday night. Don’t be surprised to see ACFC fans coming up for the game.
Julie Ertz, Alyssa Thompson, and Angel City will hope to pull off the upset.
5 Questions with Kamran Nia
Stumptown Footy: What are your impressions of Angel City this year?
Kamran Nia: Angel City has been inconsistent this year. In some games, they start quickly on offense but collapse in the second half. In others, they find themselves in a hole early and have to claw their way back. The team has shown grit, but their inability to be consistent over 90 minutes has led to their mediocre 1-2-1 record.
Luckily for Angel City, their last game against the San Diego Wave was their most consistent performance. They pressured the Wave’s back line and got the ball in dangerous positions. However, they struggled to put the ball on the net, leading to a second-half surge by the Wave and a 2-0 loss for them.
Rookie forward Alyssa Thompson has been excellent for Angel City, as her speed puts their opponents on edge. The 18-year-old has used quick bursts to set up her team in the final third. However, as defender Ali Riley mentioned after the Wave game, the team needs to support her with runs, and she can get trapped near the corners of the field without help.
Midfielder Savannah McCaskill has also been impressive as the catalyst of many of Angel City’s attacks. She is a facilitator up the middle and leads the NWSL in entry passes to the final third (32). When Angel City struggles, she often discusses adjustments with head coach Freya Coombe, displaying her leadership.
This team has a lot of talent, and as they learn each other's tendencies, they could improve. However, early on, they have struggled to get their desired results.
STF: How have they improved since last season? What concerns do you still have?
KN: Angel City was an expansion franchise last season, so they entered without clarity. This year, they had an entire offseason to settle in and prepare for the highs and lows of an NWSL season. On the field, their outcomes have been similar to last year, but with new signings like midfielder Julie Ertz, and the potential returns of forwards Sydney Leroux and Christen Press, there is much to be hopeful about in Los Angeles.
Angel City has been challenged in transition, and the Wave exploited that. However, adding Ertz should help them defend against counterattacks and sure up the midfield.
STF: What did you see from Ertz in her first appearance? Assuming Amandine Henry joins, how do you see them playing together?
Ertz was a steadying force in Angel City’s first match. After giving up a deep pass in the first few minutes of the game against the Wave, she remained calm. She took away direct crosses against the Wave and won aerial battles. But more importantly, her steady presence rallied the team.
Riley mentioned after the game that she and her teammates found themselves running less because of Ertz. The team can also play in higher positions because of Ertz's patience under pressure.
Amandine Henry is one of the biggest names on the market this summer, so it would be another significant signing if she is added. She and Ertz bring a lot of experience, which could benefit the development of the younger talents at the club.
STF: What matchup between Portland vs Angel City matchup are you most paying attention to?
Thompson against the Portland Thorns’ back line is an intriguing matchup. Thompson has been threatening all year but has not scored or assisted since the season's opening game. With Riley mentioning that Angel City is looking to support her with runs, it will be interesting to see if the team can free her up or become an outlet for her crosses against. The Thorns have only allowed two goals this season, so it will be a demanding test for Thompson.
STF: Score prediction and why?
I predict that the Thorns will win 2-1. The Thorns have looked unstoppable on both ends of the field all year. Forward Sophia Smith has continued to be a force offensively, contributing with a goal or assist in eight of the Thorns’ 11 goals this season. The Thorns could pressure Angel City quickly (as they have done against other teams this year) and force them to play from behind. But even if Angel City manages to find success early, if they slow down, even momentarily, the Thorns could punish them quickly.
Stumptown Footy Prediction
Alyssa Thompson is one of the most exciting players in the game. Her track speed on the pitch is the real deal, but as a winger she has been absolutely brilliant. Thompson’s combination of speed, ability to sense and escape pressure, and her intelligence makes it nearly an impossible task to defend. The way she can read defenses, get past defenders, and sees the space makes her the player to watch from ACFC. Katie Johnson and Jun Endo complete their strong frontline. Johnson will play in the middle and has already scored twice this season. Endo continues to be one of the best players in this league with her creativity, technical ability, and soccer IQ.
Natalia “Natu” Kuikka will be Portland’s best chance to slow her down, but it’ll take everyone on the pitch to help out in defense. One key player the Thorns may be without is superstar center back, Becky Sauerbrunn. Emily Menges made her return on Wednesday, but may need more time to get back to playing full games. Expect Meaghan Nally and her to split time.
Julie Ertz made her return to NWSL with Angel City after last playing May 21, 2021. She brings the much needed composure, defense, and aerial ability missing from much of their midfield. Savannah McCaskill has been very underrated this season and will be looking to continue her strong run of form.
Angel City have allowed 7 goals in their first 4 games, that places them 4th worst in the NWSL. That backline has no answer for Portland’s frontline of Weaver, Smith, and Sugita. The Thorns will be able to bring on Adriana Leon and Izzy D’Aquila in the second half as well.
However, this game will come down to who has the best midfield. Crystal Dunn, Sam Coffey, and Christine Sinclair or Rocky Rodriguez/Olivia Moultrie will dominate this game. All Portland midfielders are comfortable with the ball, playing out of pressure, and passing at high levels. Look for this group to step up and provide an assist and a score.
Portland has been struggling against high presses in each of their games so far. ACFC had a lot of success pressing and pinning San Diego back last game, so look for them to try to do that for at least half the game. The struggles is a bit of a surprise for midfield, as the talent and skill set is there to escape the press, and spring even more counters.
This game will be played for the majority in Portland’s favor and pace. The Thorns will come out and dictate this game from the start. Angel City will have a lot of trouble generating chances outside of Thompson and McCaskill which will help the defense key in on them. They’ll need to be careful not to provide many set piece chances as ACFC have been able to score off of them, and now with Ertz will be even more dangerous.
Final Prediction: Portland 3, Angel City 1
Goals: Weaver (POR), Smith (POR), Dunn (POR), Thompson (ACFC)
Assists: Smith(POR), Sinclair (POR), Sugita (POR), McCaskill (ACFC)
Projected Starting XIs
Weaver - Smith - Sugita
Dunn - Coffey - Sinclair
Klingenberg - Menges/Nally - Hubly - Kuikka
Angel City: 4-3-3
Thompson - Johnson - Endo
Weatherholt - Ertz - McCaskill
Vignola - Nielsen - Gorden - Riley
Leave Kamran a comment below to show him our gratitude and appreciation.