The title-chasing Australian stars of Portland Thorns know there is simply no room for error this weekend in the National Women’s Soccer League.
Portland – with Hayley Raso, Caitlin Foord and Ellie Carpenter on board – currently sit atop the NWSL ladder and welcome last-place Sky Blue to Providence Park this Sunday afternoon (1.00pm AEST kick-off).
The Thorns underlined their title bid last time out in a 5-0 thrashing of Houston Dash, with Raso scoring twice, and earning huge praise from coach Mark Parsons.
“She’s playing with intelligence and good technique and providing us good technical work,” Parsons told Oregon Live this week.
“She’s playing like Raso. I don’t think there’s another player in the league that plays with the tenacity and energy that she has. It’s so important to our team. We missed that at the end of last season.”
Portland will miss Carpenter through an ankle injury, but despite entering as massive favourites, a slip up against Sky Blue could prove damaging as the club has two huge clashes with title-chasing duo Reign FC and North Carolina Courage to come next.
Raso, Foord and Carpenter will be hoping Australian teammates Chloe Logarzo, Amy Harrison and Elise Kellond-Knight can do them a favour and take points off North Carolina when Washington Spirit welcome the reigning double winners on Saturday morning (9am kick-off AEST).
Fourth-placed Washington returned to winning ways after three consecutive defeats after a 1-0 win over Sky Blue on July 25, and should be energised and motivated to put their name right back into the title race with a victory over North Carolina.
At the same time on Saturday morning, Houston Dash will be out to prove they’ve turned a corner against Reign FC.
Clare Polkinghorne and Kyah Simon’s Dash have regained their touch over the past three weeks, posting wins over Sky Blue and Washington Spirit, and could firmly cement themselves in the Final series race – and leapfrog their opponents – with another three points.
Reign, on the other end, are looking to bounce back from a crushing 4-0 defeat to Sam Kerr’s Chicago Red Stars on Monday morning. Australian vice-captain Steph Catley played 90 minutes for the Seattle-based club in that one.
Meanwhile, fresh from that huge win over Reign – in which she scored her 11th goal of the NWSL season – Kerr’s Chicago are in action on Sunday morning against Utah Royals (kick-off 10m AEST).