Preview: Spirit Hosts Top-Ranked Portland Thorns FC in Highly-Anticipated Return to Audi Field

Washington Spirit  |   August 26, 2023
Preview: Spirit Hosts Top-Ranked Portland Thorns FC in Highly-Anticipated Return to Audi Field Featured Image

Washington, D.C. (08/26/2023) – The Washington Spirit will face Portland Thorns FC in both sides’ 17th match of the 2023 NWSL regular season. The match kicks off at 5:00 p.m. EDT at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. and will broadcast nationally on Paramount+ for fans across the United States. International viewers can stream the match on 


The Spirit 

Despite taking a lead into second half stoppage time last weekend, the Spirit enters Sunday’s match off a 1-1 draw with the Houston Dash thanks to a late María Sánchez equalizer.  


In her first game back from the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, midfielder Ashley Sanchez scored the lone Spirit goal. She did so only 40 seconds after subbing into the game. The goal extended her goal streak to four consecutive regular season appearances with a score, a Spirit club record. 


Forward Ouleymata Sarr, who made her Spirit and NWSL debut after subbing into the game, delivered the assist on Sanchez’s goal. She is the fourth Spirit player ever to record an assist in their debut with the team. 


Additionally, a number of Spirit players achieved important milestones last match. Both goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury and forward Ashley Hatch played in their 100th match with the Washington Spirit, joining Tori Huster as the only players to ever play 100 regular season matches with the club. Huster herself reached 13,000 career regular season minutes played (all with the Spirit) in the match, becoming the 16th player in NWSL history to achieve this feat. 


Looking ahead to Thorns FC, the last time the two sides met was on June 23 in Portland. The match, which was the final regular season contest before World Cup players reported to camp, resulted in a 4-2 victory for the home side. 


Thorns FC star Sophia Smith logged a hat trick in that match. It was Smith’s second hat trick in the 2023 season, helping her join Kristen Hamilton (2019) and Sam Kerr (2017) as the only players with multiple hat tricks in the same season.   


Overall, the Spirit has been magnificent at Audi Field this season, dropping a league-low one home game during the regular season. Seven goals conceded across seven home matches marks the third-fewest home goals allowed in the NWSL this season. Before the home loss to the Orlando Pride on July 1, Washington had allowed just four goals in six home matches in 2023, including two clean sheets for Kingsbury. 


A key for the Spirit to pick up much-needed points against league-leading Thorns FC will be to strike first. When scoring first this season, the Spirit is unbeaten – 5-0-4. Finally, the Spirit will look to keep its offensive intensity going. The team has scored in 14 of its 16 matches this regular season, the most of any club. 


Following Sunday’s match, the Spirit continues its homestand at Audi Field, facing off against the Chicago Red Stars. The match kicks off at 5:00 p.m. EDT on Sunday, September 3. Tickets are available here. 


The Opposition 

Portland enters the match after an historic 2-1 victory against the North Carolina Courage. In a battle of the top-two ranked teams in the NWSL, Thorns FC became the first team to ever win after a first half red card. It was also the first time Portland won a regular season match in which the side had a player sent off, though it marked the club’s third such win overall – also doing so in the 2021 Challenge Cup and the 2013 NWSL Championship. Additionally, Portland earned its first win after conceding the opening goal to an opponent since its NWSL semifinal win against San Diego Wave FC on October 23, 2022. 


Sophia Smith continues to double down on her 2022 NWSL MVP season. Just one minute after being substituted in last week, Smith scored the go-ahead goal — her 11th goal of the season, extending her lead in the Golden Boot race. The goal marks her fifth consecutive regular season match with a goal, which ties Sam Kerr for the most in NWSL history. 


Smith’s goal – assisted by Morgan Weaver – was the game-winner against the Courage. Since the beginning of last season, Weaver and Smith are two of the three NWSL players with at least 15 goals and eight assists across all competitions (Alex Morgan is the third). 


The win propelled Thorns FC to the top spot on the NWSL table with an 8-4-4 (28 points) record. The Spirit is only three points behind with a 6-3-7 (25 points) record. Portland has been a true powerhouse in the NWSL since joining as an original member in 2013: the 2015 season marked the only season in which the club finished lower than third on the NWSL table.    


Portland strikes early and often. With 36 goals, Thorns FC leads the NWSL by 13 goals with the next-closest team being the Spirit at 23 goals for. Over half (19) of Thorns FC’s goals have come in the first half, also top mark in the NWSL this season.  


Despite Thorns FC’s red-hot scoring capabilities, road matches have proven turbulent for the Portland attack. The side has a +12 goal differential at home, but only a +2 goal differential on the road. Over eight road matches, Portland has conceded 14 goals (1.75 goals conceded per game). The Spirit will look to exploit this and protect its home turf of Audi Field. 


Next up, Portland continues its roadtrip, facing off against Racing Louisville FC on Saturday, September 2 at 7:30 p.m. EDT. 



  • The Spirit owns a 3-14-8 record (all competitions) versus Portland Thorns FC. It is the worst winning percentage (12%) the Spirit has against any team in the history of the club. The first-ever Spirit match played at Audi Field actually came against Portland in 2018, during Mark Parsons’ third season at the helm of Thorns FC. That match marked the first of only four regular season losses the Spirit has had at Audi Field in five years. 
  • In its draw with Houston, Washington held 31.95% of the possession, the lowest mark by any team in a match (all competitions) over the last two seasons. The Spirit was the first NWSL team to earn at least a point in a match while having under 32.0% possession since the Red Stars in September 2016. 
  • This matchup features a showdown between the two most recent NWSL champions as the Spirit won its first title in club history in 2021 and Thorns FC won the club’s third title last season. 
  • Former Spirit players reunite with team: 
    • Portland Thorns FC defender Crystal Dunn reunites with the Spirit and head coach Mark Parsons after playing for the Spirit from 2014-16. She appeared in 54 games for the Spirit and is tied for the most assists (11) as well as the third most goals (17) in club history.
    • Portland Thorns FC defender Tegan McGrady also reunites with the Spirit after making 19 regular season appearances with the club. She was a notable feature on the Spirit’s 2021 NWSL Championship team.  
  • Former college teammates meet again:
    • Spirit defender Amber Brooks played with Thorns FC defenders Crystal Dunn (2010-12) and Meghan Klingenberg (2009-10) at North Carolina.
    • Spirit midfielder Bayley Feist played with Thorns FC forward Hannah Betfort at Wake Forest (2017-18). 
    • Spirit defender Gabrielle Carle played with Thorns FC defender Natalia Kuikka at Florida State (2017-18).
    • Spirit midfielder Andi Sullivan played with Thorns FC defender Tegan McGrady at Stanford (2015-17).
    • Spirit midfielder Riley Tanner played with Thorns FC defender Reyna Reyes at Alabama (2021-22). 
    • Spirit midfielder Marissa Sheva played with Thorns FC midfielder Raquel “Rocky” Rodriguez at Penn State (2015).
    • Spirit forward Ashley Hatch played with Thorns FC forward Michele Vasconcelos at BYU (2013-16).  
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