The Soccer Desk

NWSL Preview: Can the Thorns Remain Unbeaten in Week 6?

Thorns-6

As week 6 of the NWSL gets ready to begin, the lead at the top of the table seems to be growing for the Portland Thorns. Since their opening draw against FC Kansas City, the Thorns have won each of their next four games giving them 13 points and the top spot in the standings. Four of the eight teams will play two games this week, two of which will be played Thursday night in the Pacific Northwest. Here is a look at the week 6 action in the NWSL:

Thursday, May 16

Seattle Reign v. Washington Spirit

The Reign are returning to Starfire Stadium still searching for their first win of the season after a 0-2 defeat at Sky Blue on Saturday. Laura Harvey’s team will certainly be happy to be home in front of the home fans, but face a Washington team that has improved every week. The Spirit are coming off a hard fought draw against the Boston Breakers on Saturday, with captain Lori Lindsey striking in the 60th minute to bring them level.

It was Lindsey’s first goal of the year and it is already a goal of the year nominee. One of the keys to this game will be how Seattle deal with the Washington midfield, especially Diana Matheson and Lori Lindsey. Matheson has a team leading three goals this season and set up Lindsey for her first goal. The Spirit will need to keep a close eye on Reign captain Keelin Winters and Jessica Fishlock, if they are going to be able to secure the three points. Both Winters and Fishlock are dangerous if set free.

Prediction: I’ve been wrong more times than I can count so far this year, but I am going with my instinct and saying that the Spirit will pick up their first win of the year on the road.

Portland Thorns v. Sky Blue FC

This will be the first time that the two teams at the top of the table will meet this year. Portland is in first with 13 points, while Sky Blue is in second with 10 points. Both of these teams boast a dynamic attack with Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair for the Thorns and Danesha Adams and Lisa DeVanna for Sky Blue.

Both of these teams are more than their top players and the Thorns have been simply the best so far. Allie Long and Nikki Washington have proven to be great assets for Portland while Rachel Buehler is holding the backline together in front of Karina LeBlanc. Sky Blue may boast Adams and DeVanna up top, but let’s not forget about the dynamic Kelly O’Hara and Sophie Schmidt. Schmidt has scored three goals in five games for Sky Blue, so the Portland defense needs to keep track of her.

My prediction: This will be a tight affair, but I like the Thorns at home in JELD-WEN to come away with the three points.

Saturday, May 18

FC Kansas City v. Boston Breakers

The Blues travel home to host the Boston Breakers for the only scheduled game Saturday night. Kansas City is coming off its first loss of the season against the Flash last weekend, so look for them to pick up the pace in front of the home crowd. Boston played to a 1-1 draw against the Washington Spirit last weekend and will certainly be looking to keep pace with Portland and Sky Blue at the top of the standings.

Renae Cuellar was held off the score sheet Saturday in Rochester, but I expect her to get back on track this week. Boston had flashes of brilliance against Washington and they will need to find that again if they are to take the points home. Heather O’Reilly and Sydney Leroux need to be a constant threat to the Blues back line and test Nicole Barnhart every chance that they get.

My prediction: This will be a low scoring affair that will see each team walk away with a point.

Sunday, May 19

Portland Thorns v. Washington Spirit

Portland will have the comforts of home for the second straight game as they welcome the Washington Spirit to JELD-WEN. The last time that these two teams met it was a heated affair that ended with the Thorns taking the win. The tables could turn for the Spirit who stayed with the Thorns until the bitter end, but the Thorns will not want to lose in front of their home fans.

Ashlyn Harris will have to be at her best when facing the Thorns for the second time and Diana Matheson will have to create the problems that she has been creating all year for opposing defenses if the Spirit want the win. Both teams will have played on Thursday with Portland having the advantage of not having to travel. If the Spirit deploy the 4-4-2 that was successful against Boston, this game could be very close.

My prediction: With the steady improvement of the Spirit since their last meeting, I feel that this game will end in a draw.

 Seattle Reign v. Sky Blue FC

Seattle will have certainly not forgotten the loss that Sky Blue handed to them last weekend, and will be looking to right the ship. The Reign are desperate to prove that they deserve some respect, and they will be fighting again for that on Sunday. In their last meeting Sky Blue caused the backline numerous problems, but there were flashes of brilliance from the Reign. Now six weeks into the season, Harvey is going to have to figure out how to get this team to the next level.

The talent is certainly there for the Reign, but it has not manifested itself quite yet. If the team that is capable of winning in this league walks out onto the field on Sunday, then the Reign can certainly make a game of it, if not, then Sky Blue will happily take the points.

 My prediction: Sky Blue will travel home with the points and leave the Reign still searching for answers.