Portland Thorns (12-6-5) at Western New York Flash (11-4-8), Saturday, August 31 at 8 p.m. (ET) on Fox Soccer 2
The Big Story
Well we may see the much hyped Alex Morgan vs Abby Wambach match-up on Saturday or we may not. Morgan has been nursing an injured knee for the past few weeks and missed the semifinals.
So do you think USWNT coach Tom Sermanni is in the ear of Thorns FC Head Coach Cindy Parlow Cone? The Abby vs Alex match-up is gold for NWSL and Fox Soccer Channel. But the U.S. team has a match three days from this final so…?
And if this was an ordinary match with a clear champion, the Alex Morgan story would be something to talk about. But the truth is, the 2013 NWSL Final has a lot going on, so that’s about all the space we’ll give it.
Everybody keeps harping on the fact that the Flash are on track to win their fourth title in four years, across four leagues (W-League, WPS, WPSL Elite and NWSL). But, I’m not sure how that’s relevant to this league, other than it establishes that the Flash have a longtime fan base with a successful ownership.
After all, the Flash have been playing in different leagues against different teams and with different rosters, so not really sure how it all fits together. But it does seem like a big bragging right for a team who has weathered three defunct leagues.
I think the big story is about two big market teams with stellar defenses and powerful offenses battling it out in an East vs. West showdown. Both sides have huge fan bases with heaps of talent that span across countries from U.S. to Spain and Mexico to Canada.
Flash vs. Thorns: Regular Season Head-to-Head
Portland and WNY only faced each other twice this season and both resulted in draws. On July 14 in front of a packed house at JELD-WEN Field, fans saw an evenly matched game ending in 1-1, with goals coming from Portland’s Meleana Shim and WNY’s Abby Wambach.
August 10 brought these two teams together at Sahlen’s Stadium, resulting in a 0-0 score. Both sides once again showed great defense and unfortunately for the fans, a resolve to keep the scoreless draw.
By what we know from these previous matches, the final should be a low-scoring event with great defense and wicked keeping on display. But it is soccer and it is a final, so you just never know.
Flash vs. Thorns FC: Final
It’s no secret that WNY are on an upswing right now. Their last loss came on July 11 in Seattle in a match that saw Wambach put away two goals and Reign midfielder Christine Nairn score the winning goal in the 83rd minute.
Portland on the other hand will be limping into this match. Tobin Heath suffered a foot injury during Saturday’s semifinal and, like Alex Morgan, is a game-time decision. But who doubts Tobin won’t be playing? Sermanni left off the talented attacking midfielder from the U.S. Women’s National Team roster for the September 3 match against Mexico, so expect her to play and play like she’s making a statement.
The Thorns are 2-0-1 without the injured Morgan, so no real urgency to get her on the pitch unless you want to appease the fans and the sponsors. Really, that’s the last we’ll speak of it.
Players to watch:
Western New York Flash
Samantha Kerr, Forward – The Aussie is one of those players you love if she’s on your team and absolutely hate if you’re playing against her. At 5-feet-8, she’s a dynamic player full of power, speed and super fun to watch.
Abby Wambach, Forward – Of course, everyone will have their eyes glued to the hometown hero and the all-time greatest goal scorer in the history of the women’s game. Is there anybody better playing women’s football today? Rochester fans think not.
Adriana, Forward – The longtime Spanish National Team striker is known all over the world in the women’s game, having played everywhere from Spanish Superliga, England’s FA WSL, as well as the WPSL Elite. As the top scorer for Superliga in 2007 and 2010, the 5-foot-9, 26-year old can pose a problem for the Thorns defense.
Carli Lloyd, Midfielder – The U.S. National Women’s team halfback knows how to play clutch. If the game is close look to Lloyd to come out of nowhere with a long, hard strike! Never fails!
Portland Thorns FC
Christine Sinclair, Forward – Maybe we should be hyping this match as Abby vs Christine. What you may not know is the Canadian Women’s National Team captain is currently ranked on the women’s all-time goal scoring list behind Abby Wambach and Mia Hamm.
Meleana Shim, Midfielder – An impacting player and mature presence on the pitch, makes it easy to forget that Mana is only 21-years old. The Honolulu native is currently the Thorns third highest scorer behind Sinclair and Morgan.
Tobin Heath, Midfielder – If she plays (and we know she will), Heath will have her game face on (as always). The danger that Heath presents to opponents comes from the fact that she can shoot or pass with dizzying skill, and from either foot. If she’s healthy, she changes the game.
Thorns FC Backfield – So much attention is given to the Portland forwards, that their tough-as-nails backfield gets overshadowed. But Nikki Marshall, Kat Williamson, Rachel Buehler, Marian Dougherty and Courtney Wetzel, along with keeper Karina LeBlanc are a force to be reckoned with.
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