Thorns plan to rally around Marshall

Defender will miss playoff game after tearing knee ligament

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

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PORTLAND — When the Portland Thorns take the field on Saturday in Kansas City, they will do so for the first time without defender Nikki Marshall.

Marshall suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee during Sunday's win over Seattle. So, after playing in the first 48 matches in Thorns history, she will not be available when Portland and FC Kansas City battle in the National Women's Soccer League semifinals.

But Marshall might still help the Thorns as they try to repeat their 2013 semifinal win at Kansas City, a match in which Marshall had an assist.

"Nikki will be missed and I think everybody's going to take a little bit of extra energy and intelligence onto the field," Thorns coach Paul Riley said, noting that his team can now use Marshall's absence as motivation.

The match kicks off at 10 a.m. Saturday and will be live on ESPN2. The winner advances to meet Seattle or Washington for the NWSL title.

Marshall, 26, crumpled to the Providence Park turf during the first half against Seattle. She is the third Thorns defensive player to suffer a season-ending injury, a list that includes Vancouver resident Kat Tarr.

Despite the injury, the Thorns turned in their most complete defensive effort of the season in shutting down a high-flying Seattle offense. Without Sunday's win, Portland would not be in the playoffs.

"It's always tough to lose a player like that, and a person like that," Rachel Van Hollebeke said. "But I think that we've got a really talented team and we adjusted well (on Sunday). We're just going have to stay tight and defend like we did against Seattle."

Van Hollebeke played her best match so far this season on Sunday, according to Riley. He noted that the veteran defender had a slow start to the season because of injury.

"I can see a change in her and I think she's ready to lead the team this weekend," Riley said.

The coach said he will not decide until Friday whether left back Steph Catley will play against Kansas City. Catley, who missed the Seattle match, participated in much of Wednesday's training session in Portland.

U.S. women beat Swiss — Three second-half goals and earned the U.S. women’s national team a 4-1 victory against Switzerland in front of a sold-out crowd of 9,992 in Cary, N.C.

Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, Christen Press and Abby Wambach had the goals. Lloyd’s 56th-minute penalty kick served as the game-winner, and Wambach’s second-half PK pushed her USA-record goal scoring total to 168.