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Photo: Brad Smith/ ISI Photos
BOYDS, Md (May 6, 2016) – The Washington Spirit (3-0-0, 9 points) are the only perfect team in NWSL heading into week four and will take on the Portland Thorns FC (2-0-1, 7 points) at the Maryland SoccerPlex on Saturday, May 7th at 7 p.m. The Spirit currently sits atop the National Women’s Soccer League standings and remains undefeated after winning three consecutive games, the last two on the road. The Portland Thorns are the only other undefeated team in the NWSL.
Last weekend against Western New York Flash, the Spirit came away with a 3-0 road win on two goals from Diana Matheson and a late finish from former Bayern Munich forward Katie Stengel. Matheson finished early, cooly with her left off a cross-field through ball from U.S. National Team and Spirit forward Crystal Dunn. The Canadian international also finished a second half penalty kick to put the game out of reach, before Stengel got a touch on the end of a Christine Nairn free kick for more late insurance.
“We are working to improve every week and have been pleased to get three positive results to start the season,” said Spirit general manager and head coach Jim Gabarra. “Portland always presents a good challenge, and we look forward to our match with them Saturday at the Plex.”
Several players on the Spirit’s roster are near the top of the statistics leaderboards early in the season. Matheson currently leads the league in goals with three, 2015 NWSL Golden Boot winner and USWNT forward Crystal Dunn is in second place in assists with three, and Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé sits in a three-way tie for first place for clean sheets with two. The trio will look to continue to lead the Spirit both offensively and defensively against Portland.
The Portland Thorns are led by former Spirit general manager and head coach Mark Parsons who made the move to the Pacific Northwest prior to the 2016 season. Parsons has leaned on veteran Thorns midfielder Tobin Heath to take on a bigger leadership role for the team, and he has added Heath’s younger USWNT teammates Lindsey Horan and Emily Sonnett to his roster. Parsons also brought two former Spirit players Katherine Reynolds and Hayley Raso to Portland. With so many new players on the roster, the Thorns will look to continue building their team chemistry on Saturday against the Spirit.
The two teams last met in August 2015 which ended in a goal-filled 3-3 draw. The Spirit ended the first half 2-0 thanks to a nutmeg goal from Nigerian forward Francisca Ordega and a beautifully executed header from Dunn on a corner kick from Nairn in first half stoppage time. In the second half, the Thorns scored three consecutive goals to take the lead 3-2. In the final fifteen minutes of the match, Dunn scored an equalizer leaving each side with a point. With both teams making key off-season acquisitions, Saturday’s matched is poised to be another thriller.