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Thorns cast eye toward playoffs

By Paul Danzer, Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter
Published: July 17, 2014, 12:00am

The Portland Thorns and Chicago Red Stars tangle for the third time in 14 days today as they fight for the upper hand in a late-season battle for a National Women’s Soccer League playoffs.

Kickoff is at 5 p.m. from Benedictine University in Lisle, Ill. A live webstream is available at portlandthornsfc.com.

Chicago and Portland tied 2-2 on July 4 and 1-1 on July 9, with the Red Stars scoring late in both of those games. The teams remain tied for fourth place in the league with seven wins, six losses and four ties.

Each club is coming off impressive weekend wins. On Sunday, the Thorns set three NWSL records in a 7-1 home win over second-place FC Kansas City. The seven goals were a single-game record for the second-year league. Eight total goals was a league mark, as was the six-goal victory margin.

On Saturday, Chicago handed Seattle its first loss of the season with Melissa Tancredi scoring her first NWSL goal and Karina LeBlanc making five saves for her fourth shutout of the season.

Thorns coach Paul Riley said Chicago is a difficult opponent, listing tough field conditions and the Red Stars speed up front among the challenges.

Thorns midfielder Veronica Boquete was named NWSL player of the week for the second time this season following her two goals and two assists in Sunday’s runaway win over Kansas City.

Riley said his team will need to play better than it did against Kansas City to get a critical win against the Red Stars.

In both of the previous meetings with Chicago, Portland held the lead for most of the match. Especially frustrating was the two late goals from Christen Press that earned the Red Stars a draw on July 4.

Thorns forward Alex Morgan, who took a knock to her ankle late in Sunday’s match, trained this week and is expected to play.

This is the fourth of seven July matches for the Thorns, a busy stretch of games that continues on Sunday, when Boston visits Portland for a 2 p.m. match at Providence Park that will air on ESPN2.

Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter