Preview: Sky Blue FC take on Portland Thorns FC

Photo Credit: Sky Blue FC

By MC Bousquette

If Sky Blue FC loses to the Portland Thorns FC tomorrow night, their playoff hopes vanish. The Thorns are in a precarious fifth place, and need the points to try and move back into playoff position.

The Competition:

Headed into the match Saturday, the Thorns boast what may well be their strongest offensive potential of the season. Allie Long is second on the NWSL leaderboard for goals scored this season, with nine. Alongside Long is Christine Sinclair, another perpetual force up top. Alex Morgan scored for the USWNT during a friendly on Wednesday, which marked her first time on the pitch since her post-World Cup knee surgery. She’s expected to play against Sky Blue. New to the side, Lianne Sanderson is able to give relief effectively to Jodie Taylor as she eases back from injury. 

While the Thorns very much have the pieces for a solid back line, they are generally inconsistent from match to match. Goalkeeper Michelle Betos will undoubtedly continue her strong play, for which she was rewarded the starting role over German WNT goalkeeper Nadine Angerer, but the rest of the defense’s performance remains to be seen. There is strong potential for the stacked Sky Blue attack to give the Thorns’ defense serious trouble.

Sky Blue:

It is absolutely possible for Sky Blue to take down the Thorns. When in sync, Sky Blue batters back lines and shuts down attacks.

The side’s attacking depth is almost an embarrassment of riches, whether it’s Kelley O’Hara finding Nadia Nadim, Sam Kerr charging straight into the final third, intense pressure from Sara Killion, Katy Freels, and Taylor Lytle, or a Caitlin Filigno second-half punch.

The defense, anchored by the experienced leadership of Christie Rampone and goalkeeper Brittany Cameron, boasts other young talent like Caitlin Foord, whose familiarity with Kerr in particular makes her useful not only in reinforcing the back line but also moving the ball upfield. If all moving parts work together tomorrow, Sky Blue could well keep their playoff hopes alive. 

The Bottom Line:

Ultimately, this is the make or break moment for Sky Blue’s 2015 season. Coach Jim Gabarra explained the importance of the match; “We have to approach this as if it is a playoff game. We have to win and get the three points, and then we can take a look at the other results around the league. We have our work cut out for us, but the only thing we can control is the performance that we put on the field on Saturday night. Portland is also fighting for the playoffs, so we have to do whatever it takes to make sure we get the win.” With Portland and Sky Blue in desperate need of three points, expect to see both sides leave nothing on the field.
Sky Blue FC takes on Portland Thorns FC on Saturday, August 22nd at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, NJ. (Watch it live here on Youtube)

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