PORTLAND — Two of the biggest stars of women’s soccer will not be on the field Wednesday. But the absence of Alex Morgan and Hope Solo probably won’t dampen the enthusiasm or intensity when the Portland Thorns host the Seattle Reign at Providence Park.
A National Women’s Soccer League record crowd — possibly a sellout of 21,144 — is anticipated. The 7 p.m. match will be streamed live on FoxSportsGo.com and the Fox Sports Go app.
Morgan, a Thorns forward, and Solo, the Reign goalkeeper, will both miss the match because of knee injuries. But the field will still be dotted with players who were front and center during the World Cup.
For the Thorns, Tobin Heath (USA), Christine Sinclair (Canada), goalkeeper Nadine Angerer (Germany), Kaylyn Kyle (Canada) and Steph Catley (Australia) are expected to play. Defender Clare Polkinghorne (Australia) could make her Thorns debut. Defender Rhian Wilkinson (Canada) will not play because of a hamstring injury from the World Cup. Forward Jodie Taylor (England) is also nursing a World Cup injury. Her status is uncertain.
For the Reign, USA midfielder Megan Rapinoe is expected to play. The former University of Portland star rejoined the Reign on Monday. In Kim Little (Scotland) and Jessica Fishlock (Wales), Seattle also has two of the best attacking players who were not at the World Cup because their countries did not qualify.
“I think (Wednesday) will be a fun game to watch. I’d be shocked if there’s no goals with the two attacking teams on display,” Thorns coach Paul Riley said.
In the NWSL standings, this is a significant match for the Thorns, who sit seventh in the nine-team league at 3-4-4 with nine games left.
But more important than the Thorns championship aspirations will be the momentum the league — especially the other eight clubs — can build from the World Cup.
Riley called this a great moment, and said everyone from ownership to players has a role to play in building women’s soccer. Part of that is bringing top players from around the world to join the American, Canadian and Mexican national team players who are paid by their national soccer federations, Riley said.
“The field entertainment needs to be good, and when the World Cup players are here and the foreign players are here … I think when you get all that on the field they can entertain.”
Kyle, who appeared in three matches for Portland prior to the World Cup, is looking forward to the rest of the season. The Canadian midfielder played last season with Houston and in 2013 for Seattle. She said players have discussed the opportunity this post-World Cup period presents women’s soccer and the NWSL.
“I think we just want to give fans good soccer to watch and bring what started in the World Cup back to the NWSL,” Kyle said. “I think you can do that. We have numerous girls on this team that have tons of experience in World Cups and Olympics. Even the girls who haven’t played in them, even in training you see how technically sound they are.”
With a crowd in excess of 20,000 expected Wednesday, Kyle said the Thorns understand the stakes go beyond bolstering playoff hopes for 2015. Klye said they want to put together a performance that will “hopefully inspire a little girls or a little boy that someday wants to play here for the Timbers or for the Thorns.”
NOTES — On Monday Riley had Thorns players go into the north-end grandstand to see the field from the perspective of the Rose City Riveters supporters group. “I just showed the players what it means to (the supporters) to stand there for two hours and cheer for you, so don’t let them down,” Riley said.
• A pregame ceremony is planned to recognize members of the United States women’s national team on the Thorns and the Reign for the recent World Cup championship.