While Sky Blue FC has already been eliminated from the playoffs, the Thorns are currently sitting in second place and have already clinched a home playoff game.
However, the Thorns will be looking to upset the home team in attempts of winning the 2016 NWSL Shield. With the Washington Spirit's 1-3 loss to the Chicago Red Stars last night, Portland could win the Shield for the first time ever with a win or draw in New Jersey.
Sky Blue will try to play spoiler to the Thorns' ambitions though, as they will undoubtedly be looking to close out the regular season strong on their home field.
"We are very excited to close out the season in front of our hometown fans in New Jersey," said Christy Holly, Sky Blue FC head coach. "We want to make sure that we put on a very entertaining and open-attacking game for them, which would also enable us to finish off what has been a very good season on a high note."
Portland poses a huge threat to those plans, though. The last time the two teams met was on July 2 in Portland, a game that ended in a 1-2 loss for Sky Blue. Tasha Kai struck first in the match, scoring off a Taylor Lytle-assist in the 29th minute. However, Sky Blue’s lead was a short one courtesy of Portland’s Dagny Brynjarsdottir who put the Thorns on the board just 10 minutes later. Although a second-half Nadia Nadim penalty kick ultimately decided the game, the two teams looked pretty evenly matched for much of the night.
That may have been because both teams were without many of their Olympians who had already reported for pre-Rio national team duty. That meant Sky Blue FC were without USWNT defender Kelley O’Hara, while Portland was without captain and Canadian international Christine Sinclair and USWNT stars Tobin Heath, Allie Long, Meghan Klingenberg, Lindsey Horan and Emily Sonnett.
Despite the availability of all of their national teamers Sunday night, both teams could be without some of their key players, especially on the New Jersey side. Sky Blue will be without Taylor Lytle, a staple of their midfield all season, who will once again be out with a left knee sprain. Leah Galton is also questionable for Sunday night’s match because of a concussion. Portland’s Mana Shim is doubtful for the match with a right elbow injury.
Sky Blue FC closes out the 2016 season on Sunday, September 25 at 7 p.m. EST. The game will be streamed online on the NWSL Soccer channel on YouTube and is available here.
Sky Blue FC Roster by Position
Goalkeepers (2): Caroline Casey, Caroline Stanley
Defenders (7): CoCo Goodson, Kristin Grubka, Maya Hayes, Kelley O’Hara, Christie Rampone (C), Erin Simon, Erica Skroski
Midfielders (6): Kelly Conheeney, Shawna Gordon, Sarah Killion, Domi Richardson, Raquel Rodriguez, Nikki Stanton
Forwards (4): Leah Galton, Tasha Kai, Sam Kerr, Danielle Schulmann