Photo: Tony Quinn/ ISI Photos
BOYDS, Md (May 19, 2016) – The Washington Spirit (4-0-1, 13 points) travels to the Pacific Northwest this Saturday in its first cross country road trip of the season to face Portland Thorns FC (2-0-3, 9 points). Both teams are undefeated this season, including a 0-0 draw with each other at the Maryland SoccerPlex on May 7th.
The teams met two weeks ago in an contentious 0-0 draw that saw five yellow cards including two which led to a red card ejection of Thorns midfielder and captain Tobin Heath. The Spirit tallied an impressive 16 shots throughout the game, more than doubling the Thorns. However, the edge in shots didn’t translate to goals scored and the Spirit attack will need to improve its efficiency during Saturday’s game.
“We look forward to this match for a number of reasons,” said Spirit general manager and head coach Jim Gabarra. “We get the opportunity to play one of the top teams in the league at full strength and again will work to improve on our last performance. The atmosphere in Portland is always special.”
Both times Washington traveled to Portland in 2015, the Spirit jumped to a first half two goal lead on goals from 2015 NWSL Golden Boot winner Crystal Dunn and Nigerian striker Francisca Ordega only to have the Thorns storm back to tie the games 2-2 and 3-3.
The Spirit will look to combat any similar second half surge from Portland with the best defense in the league. Goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé, center back pairing Megan Oyster and Shelina Zadorsky, outside backs Ali Krieger and Alyssa Kleiner, and holding midfielder Tori Huster have kept their opponents to one goal all season.
Washington will be looking to a combination of experienced and fresh faces to provide attacking pressure against the Thorns. Veteran midfielders Joanna Lohman and Diana Matheson are having banner years with two and three goals so far respectively, while rookie Cali Farquharson has looked dangerous as she searches for her first professional goal.
After sitting out Portland’s last match against Seattle Reign FC due to a red card suspension, Heath, who leads the NWSL in assists this season despite the missed game, should be back in the lineup. Another returner is Canadian forward Christine Sinclair who made her 2016 debut for the Thorns as a second half substitute in the match against the Reign following injury.
Spirit goalkeeper Kelsey Wys will not travel to Portland due to a family wedding. DiDi Haracic who plays for the Washington Spirit Reserves will travel to Portland with the team after being signed as a goalkeeper replacement per league rules. Haracic most recently played in Sweden for Krokom/ Dvärsätts IF.
Next week the Spirit heads to Texas to face Houston Dash on Friday, May 27th, then concludes its longest road stretch of the season in Boston on Friday, June 10th before returning to the Maryland SoccerPlex on Saturday, June 18th to take on Orlando Pride. The Orlando game is already the hottest ticket seller of the year, with roughly 1,500 left and nearly assured to be a full sell-out prior to game day. Fans can be part of the NWSL soccer experience at perfectly manicured natural grass Maureen Hendricks Field by calling 301-337-8579 or visiting our website.