Match Preview: Portland Thorns vs. San Diego Wave (ft. Abraham Zepeda of East Village Times)
In a race for the top spot the no. 1 Thorns take on no. 2 San Diego
The Portland Thorns return to action after a brief but successful international break. We saw Rocky Rodriguez become the top goal scorer for Costa Rica, Christine Sinclair and Janine Beckie qualify for the 2024 Olympics in France, Natalia Kuikka tally her 80th cap for Finland, and Crystal Dunn notched two more wins with the USWNT.
This upcoming match has a playoff berth on the line: If the Thorns beat the Wave they will earn a spot in the NWSL playoffs. If the teams draw then it leaves their fate up to other teams (at least for this week). The teams have a regular season draw and a challenge cup Thorns win.
The match will be played at home in Providence Park at 7:30 PT and can be streamed on Paramount+
Stumptown Footy: San Diego players to watch?
Abraham Zepeda: Not even two years into the NWSL and I feel confident in saying that Naomi Girma is the best center back in the game. Her poise and ability to command a backline, while also shutting down runs by star players is astounding.
On the offensive side the past few weeks Rachel Hill has been creating great chances from the right side of the pitch, and has made excellent crosses that were once always finding the back of the net, but Alex Morgan hasn’t been herself in the final third this season.
SF: What matchup are you most looking forward to seeing on the pitch?
Zepeda: Naomi Girma has locked down her former Stanford teammate, Sophia Smith in their previous matchups, but with Smith being questionable for the match, how will Girma fare against other strikers? Morgan Weaver has been strong for the Thorns as they push forward without Smith, but I expect Girma to be ready.
SF: This game is the match for first place... how do you think the Wave should go about that?
Zepeda: The Wave only allowed two shots on goal last week, but they both managed to find the back of the net. I would expect Casey Stoney’s defense to hold strong for the Wave to keep chances for Portland limited. Though on the offensive side of the ball the Wave need to be lethal in the final third, which they haven't been in their last two matches. Jaedyn Shaw outclasses a lot of players in the NWSL, but a great ‘10’ like her will be limited if none of her strikers can apply a good finish.
SF: Score and starting lineup prediction, and a why if you have any reasoning behind your choices.
Alex Morgan, Jaedyn Shaw
Makenzy Doniak, Danielle Colaprico, Emily Van Egmond and Rachel Hill
Pogarch, Girma, Riehl Westphal
Abby Dahlkemper will likely still be out with an injury keeping Kaliegh Riehl at center back, but Riehl has been solid throughout the year.
San Diego haven’t been great in the first half recently, so I expect them to start slow and allow a goal early for the Thorns. Then the Wave will come out strong to start the second half, and Jaedyn Shaw will score her first goal at Providence Park by the 65th minute.
I’m feeling a Thorns win —they’re coming off a win against Seattle which hopefully will put wind in their sails, and they also had a bunch of international success over the break and will hopefully bring that energy.
What do you think? Can the Thorns grab first place? Let us know in the comments!