The National Women’s Soccer League kicks off the second half of its inaugural season on Saturday with a showdown between the two teams atop the standings.
Portland Thorns FC visits Piscataway, N.J., for a 4 p.m. clash with Sky Blue FC at Rutgers University. The teams have identical 8-2-1 records, but one of the Thorns’ two losses was a 1-0 setback to Sky Blue.
A live webstream will be available at www.portlandthorns.com.
In addition to starting the second half of the 22-game NWSL season, Saturday’s game marks the return of national team players to the league for the remainder of the season.
For Portland, that means Alex Morgan, Christine Sinclair and Rachel Buehler will be available. Sky Blue will have back U.S. national team players Christie Rampone, Kelley O’Hara and Jill Loyden along with Canada’s Sophie Schmidt.
Portland’s Morgan and Sky Blue’s Rampone, O’Hara and Loyden played for the USA in Thursday’s 5-0 win over South Korea, the match where Abby Wambach scored four first-half goals to pass Mia Hamm for the all-time career record for international goals.
Portland’s Sinclair and Sky Blue’s Schmidt both played for Canada in Wednesday’s friendly in Germany, won by the Germans 1-0.
Morgan leads the Thorns with five goals in nine games and Sinclair has four goals in nine NWSL matches. Schmidt and Lisa De Vanna each have five goals for Sky Blue.
In Sky Blue’s win at Portland on May 16, substitute Taylor Lytle scored the goal in the 80th minute. The match was one of two times the Thorns have been shut out, but the only shutout suffered with the Morgan and Sinclair in the lineup.
Thorns coach Cindy Parlow Cone said her team didn’t play its best in the May 16 loss. She said the Thorns need to better possess the ball in the rematch.
On Friday, the Thorns signed outside defender Casey Ramirez. The 23-year-old played college soccer for Syracuse and spent the 2012-13 season in Denmark’s top professional league.