The Soccer Desk

NWSL: FC Kansas City vs. Portland Thorns FC Semi-Final Preview

Blues v Thorns

As the NWSL semi-finals get set to take place on Saturday, each team is looking for a performance that will take them to the finals, but only two will make it there. All season long, teams have been fighting to make the top four knowing that is where their playoff dreams begin. The first of the two match-ups on Saturday will take place in Overland Park, Kansas, as FC Kansas City host the Portland Thorns in what is sure to be an exciting match up.

Saturday, August 24

FC Kansas City v. Portland Thorns FC
Verizon Wireless Field
Overland Park, Kansas
Kickoff: 2:00pm ET
Broadcast: Fox Sports 1 and Fox Soccer 2 Go

The biggest question that could be asked even before the first kick in this game is; will Alex Morgan play? Thorns head coach Cindy Parlow-Cone stated in a teleconference call on Wednesday that, “We don’t know yet if she is going to be able to play in the game or not, she’s still day-to-day. Each day in training she is doing a little bit more, but obviously we are not going to sacrifice her health for the game. We are going to travel with her to Kansas City and she will be day-to-day once we get there as well.” With the possibility that Alex Morgan will not feature in this semi-final match-up, the focus will then shift to Christine Sinclair.

Sinclair is coming off probably her best performance all year against the Seattle Reign and is relishing a chance to play Kansas City once more this season. When asked if her role would change without Alex Morgan on the field, Sinclair simply stated, “Obviously any team is gonna miss Alex if she’s not able to play. For us, I think that the first thing you miss is that one ball in behind that no one can keep up with. But these past two games we’ve adapted, and I honestly think we’ve built up play better than we  have all season. Just because we haven’t been able to rely on that ball in behind.” Sinclair went on to say that, “We hope Alex can play and that we can combine both methods of  attack. That would be the ideal scenario, but for myself, I don’t think my role changes too much. It’s about doing whatever it takes to help this team win. Whether that’s playing up top and threatening the line or playing in midfield, I’m willing to do anything.”

The Midwestern heat and humidity could play a factor in Saturday’s afternoon game.  With temperatures expected to reach 90 degrees at kick off with humidity at 45%, the on field-temperature could be over 100 degrees. When asked if the heat and humidity could be a factor on Saturday, Parlow-Cone simply said, “Yeah, heat always plays a factor in the game because it affects fatigue for sure. I don’t know if it’s gonna affect us anymore than anyone else, but the hottest games that we have played in have actually been home games here in Portland. We’ve gone to the East coast to New York and to Boston and it was cooler there than it was at home. We’ve had some pretty hot home games here at home. I’m not really that concerned about the heat. Both teams are gonna have to deal with it and the humidity as well.”

FC Kansas City head coach Vlatko Andonovski is not concerned about his team’s recent dip in finishing form and is confident that they can regain their top form for Saturday’s match against the Thorns. Andonovski stated, “Soccer is an interesting game and goals can come at any point. Definitely there was a little lack of focus or a lack of mentality, and of course we have brought it up and have talked about it, and we are gonna keep working on it. Bottom line is as a team we believe that we’re a very good defensive team and we’ve proven that with out stats. We kept teams from scoring on us for 11 games, we can do it at least for another 90 minutes when it comes down to it.”

Blues midfielder Lauren Holiday has had a lot of success against this Portland Thorns team and when asked if she contributed to her success, Holiday simply stated, “Against Portland, I think that I just have to attribute that to my team. Obviously, they’ve created great opportunities for me. Every game against Portland [we’re] obviously playing against big names, our team is always really excited about that. We just come out a bit harder and I’m in the right place at the right time. I would say that all of my goals this season have been attributed to my team.”

All things aside, the match up has the makings of a rivalry that will go beyond geography alone. Both teams will be looking for the win in a grudge-match game that will see one team headed to the finals and the other one heading home for the season.

My prediction: This one is hard to call, but I truly believe that FC Kansas City pulls this one out and is headed to the finals.

 Photo: Michelle Morrison / The Soccer Desk