North Carolina will take their unbeaten record on the road yet again as they face the Portland Thorns before the USWNT players depart for camp. The national team will be taking on China on June 8th and 12th, but NWSL will carry on with the Courage traveling to Houston on June 6th. Before all that, the team goes to Providence Park to face the Thorns. The game comes after the Orlando Pride threw everything they had at the Courage, but still fell 4-3 with a last minute stunner from Jess McDonald giving the North Carolina club a win.
Perfection on the line in Portland
The Portland Thorns will be a difficult test for the NC Courage. The home field atmosphere will give the Thorns an extra edge in the game and the team has been in great form. Portland hasn’t allowed a goal in two games and bounced back from a 2-1 loss to Orlando on May 12th with two wins in a row. In their last match, the team shut out the Utah Royals and now sit in 4th place with 15 points.
Portland was especially successful at getting through the pressure that Utah was exerting on them. The team managed to effectively possess the ball and jumped out to an early lead thanks to a goal from Christine Sinclair assisted by a finally healthy Tobin Heath in the 18th minute. It was Sinc’s sixth goal of the year and puts her in the lead for the Golden Boot this season. The second goal was scored by Lindsey Horan off of a cross from Meghan Klingenberg in the 39th minute. Up two goals by the half, Portland saw out the game for their second win in a row.
Back on the road on short rest
This is the third of four away games in a row for the Courage and a stretch of six in seven on the road. So far the team is, well, perfect with a 2-0 record and wins against Sky Blue and the Orlando Pride. Of course, the games haven’t been flawless. North Carolina gave up four goals in total over the past two matches and saw its stout defense get somewhat overwhelmed in Orlando. Meanwhile, the team escaped with a win thanks to a saved penalty in New Jersey. So far the mistakes haven’t cost the team points, but North Carolina will need to regain the defensive cohesion that they had at the beginning of the year to ensure they continue their unbeaten streak.
As far as this match, the team will need to contain the attacking talent of the Thorns. In addition to Sinclair, Heath, and Horan, the team added Swiss international Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic at forward. While Horan typically plays a holding midfield role for the team, she certainly likes to get forward and still has a nose for goal as she showed last weekend. A key player to watch will be McCall Zerboni who will again have to put in an MVP caliber performance against a talented and in form Thorns team. In the attack, Crystal Dunn, Jess McDonald and Debinha will have to continue to find space to shoot and create chances. The 12 goals allowed by Portland may be somewhat misleading as the team has shown that it can put together strong defensive performances in the last two games. So far the Courage have created a ton of chances and will need to make the most of them this week.
If it ain’t broke...
With not a lot coming out in the way of injury news from the team, it seems like a safe bet that the Courage will lineup with a squad that looks similar to what they put out against Orlando. Perhaps is Lynn Williams is ready to go, Dunn drops into midfield with Debinha or O’Sullivan heading to the bench.
How to watch
Kickoff 10:30PM EST - streaming on go90.com and on the go 90 app.