Early season matchup for Thorns, Reign

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

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An early-season showdown is set for today at Providence Park, where the top two teams in the National Women’s Soccer League meet for the first time in 2014.

And the match between the Seattle Reign and Portland Thorns FC will happen three hours earlier than originally planned. To avoid conflict with the Portland Trail Blazers playoff game against San Antonio, kickoff for the match will be at 4 p.m. It will be streamed live at portlandthornsfc.com.

The Thorns will try to become the first team to find success this season against the Reign. Seattle has won all five of its games, and with 15 points is seven points ahead of second-place Portland. The Thorns have two wins and two draws for eight points, having played three of their first four matches away from home.

Thorns coach Paul Riley said this week that it is too early in the season for the match to decide anything. But it will provide an interesting test for a Portland side working to get comfortable in the first-year coach’s system.

Jessica McDonald, who had three goals in seven games with Seattle last season, has scored three in the last two games for Portland. McDonald came to Portland in an offseason trade for Danielle Foxhoven. Midfielder Allie Long has the other three goals for the Thorns this season.

Kim Little, the NWSL player of the month for April, has four of Seattle’s 12 goals. But the Reign have five players who have taken at least 10 shots, and midfielder Jessica Fishlock has two goals and three assists from the midfield.

Both Portland and Seattle have players making a quick turnaround after Thursday’s 1-1 exhibition draw between the Canadian and American national teams in Winnipeg. Thorns forward Christine Sinclair played the entire match for Canada, and midfielder Long made her first appearance with the U.S. women’s national team, entering in the 68th minute. Seattle goalkeeper Hope Solo and forward Sydney Leroux played the full match for the for the United States.