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Sky Blue FC v Portland Thorns: Match preview and how to watch

Can Sky Blue get their first win of the season against a World Cup-weakened Thorns?

Raquel Rodriguez will likely again be a key part of Sky Blue’s attack against Portland on Saturday.
Matt Ralph, The Brotherly Game

Sky Blue FC vs. Portland Thorns FC History

Sky Blue FC (0-4-2, 2 points) and Portland Thorns FC (2-1-2, 8 points) have faced off 17 times in the teams’ histories, and the dominant Thorns hold only a narrow margin over Sky Blue (7-6-4), although they’ve earned at least point against the New Jersey-based squad in seven of the teams’ last eight meetings. That one Sky Blue victory came on June 17, 2017 when a Sam Kerr brace led the visitors to a 3-1 win over the Thorns in Portland. The two teams have already faced off once this summer, a 2-2 draw at Yurcak Field on Sunday, April 28.

Last Week

Sky Blue FC

Last Sunday Sky Blue got off to an early start against Reign FC with Raquel Rodriguez putting the visitors on the board in the 10th minute off a Sarah Killion assist. Rookie attacker Julie James got the ball in the back of the net minutes later, but unfortunately for Sky Blue, it was the wrong net. James scored the own goal off a Reign corner kick when she misfired an attempt to clear the ball with her head and instead knocked it past Sky Blue goalkeeper Didi Haracic, getting her second start of the season while Kailen Sheridan is away on international duty. England-international Jodie Taylor then scored the game winner for the Reign in the 78th minute, earning the home side their first win of the 2019 season and sending Sky Blue home empty-handed.

Portland Thorns FC

If last week was bad for Sky Blue, it was even worse for the Portland Thorns, who fell 3-1 on the road against the Washington Spirit. Ashley Hatch put the Spirit on the board about a third of the way through the opening half, but neither side would find another goal until after the break. Unfortunately for the Thorns, they also suffered an own goal as Dagný Brynjarsdóttir accidentally knocked on past teammate Britt Eckerstrom to double the Spirit’s just minutes into the second half. Although Caitlin Foord was able to pull one back for the visitors, rookie Jordan DiBiasi scored an Olympico in the 71st minute to seal the home victory for the Spirit.

This Week

Injury Report

Sky Blue FC
OUT: Caprice Dydasco (right ankle) Mandy Freeman (right Achilles tendon repair), Julie James (excused absence)Madison Tiernan (left ACL/MCL sprain)
QUESTIONABLE: None
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Carli Lloyd (USA), Estelle Johnson (CMR), Kailen Sheridan (CAN)

Portland Thorns FC
OUT: None
QUESTIONABLE: Midge Purce (right hip)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Andressinha (BRA), Ellie Carpenter (AUS), Caitlin Foord (AUS), Adrianna Franch (USA), Tobin Heath (USA), Lindsey Horan (USA), Hayley Raso (AUS), Christine Sinclair (CAN), Emily Sonnett (USA)

What to Expect

Sky Blue has struggled at the start of 2019 and, as a result, are still hunting for their first win of the season. In most seasons, Portland has been the ultimate opponent, formidable on the field whether at home or away. But in a World Cup year, all bets are off, as proven by the Thorns 3-1 defeat by the Spirit last weekend. With a number of their starters away on international duty—even more than last week with the Aussies having reported to camp—the Thorns are the weakest they have been in recent years.

Sky Blue will, of course, also be without a number of their starters. Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, defender Estelle Johnson, and midfielder Carli Lloyd are all away on international duty with their respective national teams, while defender Caprice Dydasco is out with an ankle injury and rookie midfielder Julie James is away for an excused absence. The loss of Dydasco and Johnson especially leave the Sky Blue defense, tied for second in most goals allowed, much weaker, especially without Sheridan in net to run the defense.

However, Sky Blue recently announced the signing of Pennsylvania native Gina Lewandowski, who has been playing abroad for Bayern Munich for the past 12 years. If Lewandowski is on Sky Blue’s gameday roster, her veteran presence could not come at a better time for the home side. Lewandowski is not included in team’s projected starting XI, so it’s uncertain if she’s even been cleared to play yet.

James’s absence is a blow to the Sky Blue attack as, despite her snafu last weekend, the rookie has been a key component of the midfield and has largely impressed in her debut season. Head Coach Denise Reddy will no doubt lean more heavily on the likes of Imani Dorsey, Savannah McCaskill, Raquel Rodriguez, and Nahomi Kawasumi with both Lloyd and James gone.

Despite the weakened defense, Sky Blue’s attack is largely intact, and that could give them a major advantage to a Thorns side. However, midfielders Celeste Boureille and Brynjarsdóttir will be formidable opponents in the center of the field, and the Sky Blue attack will have to get around the two of them if they want to create solid opportunities on goal. Sky Blue will likely use Dorsey and Kawasumi to drive the ball out wide and into their final third to create as many opportunities on goal as possible.

Centrally, the attack will be funneled through Sarah Killion, and if she connects with Rodriguez like she did last weekend, it could result in

They’ll be up against a strong Portland back line that will still have three of its most veteran defenders still with the team; Meghan Klingenberg and Katherine Reynolds have started every game for the Thorns so far this season, and Emily Menges is poised to make her third consecutive start (and 101st NWSL appearance) for Portland on Saturday.

Although it could be easy to look at Portland’s loss last weekend and go ahead and give Sky Blue at least a point against them, the Thorns is a team that can never be counted out. Head Coach Mark Parsons will surely have used last weekend’s loss as motivation going into this weekend’s match, and a fired-up Thorns squad can be extremely dangerous, even without so many of their starters.

Even so, Saturday could be Sky Blue’s best opportunity to walk away with three points yet this season, and it would be an even bigger accomplishment in front of a home crowd.

How to Watch

What: Sky Blue FC vs Portland Thorns FC
Where: Yurcak Field at Rutgers University, Piscataway Township, N.J.
When: Saturday, May 25, 2019 at 6 p.m. ET
How to Watch: U.S fans can watch on the Yahoo! Sports website or Roku/Apple TV app; international fans can watch live on the NWSL website or app