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The final showdown: Utah Royals FC vs. Portland Thorns FC match preview

Utah Royals FC return to the RioT to host Portland Thorns FC.

Cindy Lara | RSL Soapbox

Match Details

Utah Royals FC (8-6-3)
vs. Portland Thorns FC (10-3-6)

When: Friday, September 6 | 7:30 PM MT

Where: Rio Tinto Stadium | Sandy, UT

Weather: 90 degrees, sunny

Live Stream: Yahoo Sports app & KSL app

Radio: ESPN 700

I don’t know about you, but August 21st feels like forever ago. That was the last time we saw Utah Royals FC on the pitch versus the Washington Spirit, a game that ended in a 0-0 draw. After a three-game road stretch, a bye week and an international break, Utah Royals FC returns to the RioT to host the top team in the league, Portland Thorns FC for a Friday night lights showdown.

Utah vs. Portland Thorns FC 2019 meetings: 2
-June 21 @ Providence Park
Score: 0-0 Draw
-July 19 @ Rio Tinto Stadium
Score: 2-2 Draw

All-Time Series Record: 0-2-3

Back home, back in contention

In case you’ve somehow lost track, Utah is in fourth place in the NWSL standings, eight points away from their Friday night opponent Portland Thorns FC, one point from third place, and three points away from the second place spot. Utah is incredibly back in contention after a four-game unbeaten streak. Once counted out by many to miss the playoffs for the second year in a row, they have shown why they play the beautiful game.

Royals FC have fought their way back to remain in contention for the playoffs, but with six games remaining in the season, their fate will be decided in this final stretch. The schedule gets tougher with games against Portland, Houston (twice), Reign FC, North Carolina, and Chicago. Every point won and every point loss will indeed matter tremendously.

Up first, it’s the Portland Thorns, a team Utah has already faced twice this season. Friday’s match will be the third and final meeting between these two teams. So far, Royals FC and the Thorns have played to two draws, with a 0-0 tie in June and a 2-2 back-and-forth draw in July. URFC enters Friday’s game vs. Portland with a 0-2-3 (3 points) all-time record vs. the Thorns. Utah has yet to beat Portland Thorns FC.

URFC Stats

Clean Sheets: 9
Goals Conceded: 15
Goals Conceded (per game): 0.8
Total Shots: 176
Shots on Target: 87
Goals Scored: 19
Leading scorers: Amy Rodriguez - 8 goals; Christen Press - 6 goals

Keys to winning:

  • The attack has got to get going again. If you remember that game vs. Washington, it was a doozy. The offense produced seven shots, two of them on target. The game was a painful reminder of what happens when the Utah attack fails to get going. They might have been able to get past Washington playing like that, but they will certainly not against Portland. URFC will need to play with urgency and create chances to beat the Thorns.
  • Give the ball to Christen Press (more). I say this often, and I’ll say it again. Press knows how to score goals. She has six goals goals in eight games. But she’s also crafty on the ball and has the speed that can help her zoom by defenders if the ball is placed just right.

Utah Royals FC Injury Report

OUT: Brittany Ratcliffe (SEI-Left knee), Taylor Lytle (SEI-Left Foot), Becca Moros (Right Leg), Kelley O’Hara (Left Ankle), Mandy Laddish (Concussion)

So...what’s been happening with Portland Thorns FC?

Record: 10-3-6 (36 points, 1st place)
Head Coach: Mark Parsons
Clean Sheets: 6
Goals Conceded: 22
Goals Conceded (per game): 1.2
Total Shots: 192
Shots on Target: 96
Goals Scored: 39

Players to Watch: Christine Sinclair - 9 goals, 1 assist; Midge Purce - 8 goals, 1 assist;
Meghan Klingenberg - 4 assists
Adrianna Franch: 34 saves, 11 goals against, 3 clean sheets

Based on the standings, Portland Thorns FC is the best team in the NWSL. Since facing Utah in a 2-2 draw on July 19, Portland has recorded six wins, including against North Carolina, Chicago, Washington, and Houston and lost only once (against Reign FC on August 7). They come to Utah on a three-game winning streak, which helped them retain the top spot. The Thorns have a history of a physical style of play and will likely play that way against Utah to keep them at the top. The good news for Utah is that Portland tends to struggle a little on the road, bringing with them a 4-2-4 away record.

Portland Thorns FC Injury Report

OUT: Angela Salem (Left Knee), Celeste Boureille (Left Ankle), Andressinha (Right Knee), Gabby Seiler (Right Knee)

Prediction

Any game against Portland makes me nervous, especially because Utah has yet to win against the Thorns, but 2019 has been a good year for #UTAvPOR matchups, with neither team recording a win against the other. This is a big one for Utah to win, and a massive one if they were to lose. But because I like to stay on the positive, I think Utah can scrape by this one with a 1-0 victory. Just give the ball to Christen Press.