Thorns match has playoff implications

By Paul Danzer, Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter



PORTLAND — The Portland Thorns don’t want to run out of chances.

Which means they need to take advantage of Wednesday’s home match against Sky Blue FC. Portland and the New Jersey-based team share second place in the National Women’s Soccer League, though the Thorns have played one fewer match to earn their 31 points.

The top two teams in the final standings host playoff semifinals on Aug. 24. The Thorns have said they are intent on earning the top overall record so that they can host the semifinals, and if they make it, the NWSL championship match on Aug. 31.

“I came here to win. I came here to be part of a championship team,” Thorns midfielder Tobin Heath said. “I do have high expectations not just for myself, but for my teammates and for this organization.”

If Portland doesn’t finish first or second, time is running out for area fans to see the Thorns. Sunday is Portland’s final home match before three away games conclude the regular season. So there will be extra urgency today, especially after the Thorns saw a two-goal lead turn into a frustrating draw against Chicago on Sunday.

“We’ve got some work to do,” Christine Sinclair said after scoring twice against Chicago. “We’ve got a lot of games in a short amount of time, so it’s a matter of trying to save some legs, but at the same time getting results.”

Sky Blue FC also enters this match feeling some pressure. After scoring 25 goals in its first 15 games, SBFC has not scored in 286 minutes and has lost two matches in a row for the first time all season.

This is the third and final match between the Thorns and Sky Blue. Sky Blue won 1-0 on May 16 in Portland and the teams played to a scoreless draw on June 22 in New Jersey.

“We have to start peaking,” Heath said following Sunday’s draw. “We’re not just looking to get into the playoffs. We want to host. We want to finish first, and these were a critical three points (against Chicago) that we let slip.”