Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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NWSL Match Preview: Portland Thorns FC (3-0-2) at North Carolina Courage (2-3-0)

WakeMed Soccer Park | Cary, North Carolina – Saturday, May 6 at 7:00 PM ET

Players to watch:

On Saturday, North Carolina forward Tyler Lussi scored her first goal with the Courage, providing the winning margin in the team’s 1-0 win against Houston. Lussi’s team has won all six regular season matches in which she’s scored, including her first five goals, all with Portland. Teammate Kerolin leads the side in regular season scoring with two goals, both of which have come from the penalty spot. However, forward Mille Gejl is level on two goals with Kerolin across all competitions after scoring in the club’s midweek Challenge Cup contest.

Portland goalkeeper Bella Bixby rocked the league with her clever finish in front of goal to equalize against Angel City FC. She became the second goalkeeper to score a goal in NWSL history (joining Michelle Betos, who also scored for Portland) with a 97th-minute equalizer in a 3-3 thriller. The goal, which came at 96:20, was also the latest goal scored in regulation team history (all competitions). Portland is still led in scoring by forward Sophia Smith, who scored her four goals in the first two games of the season but has not scored in three for the side.

Match facts: The North Carolina Courage host the Portland Thorns at WakeMed Soccer Park in the third of four contests across the league on Saturday night. The Courage, who are coming off their second win of the season, will welcome a Portland side that has still yet to lose in five games (W3 D2) and are one of the highest-flying attacking sides in the league, averaging 2.8 goals per game.

In their last league match, the Courage scored a 1-0 win over the Dash in a weather-shortened match in Houston. Lussi scored in the 33rd minute as part of a wave of North Carolina attacks before the match was eventually halted in the 51st minute due to inclement weather, a point from which the game would not resume. The result means that North Carolina has kept a clean sheet in eight of their last 15 regular season games dating back to last season, with no other NWSL team having more than five shutouts since that run began on August 20.

The visiting Thorns are coming off a 3-3 draw with Angel City, the team’s 12th time scoring three or more goals in a league match since the beginning of last season. The only other NWSL team with more than six such games in that span is their opponent on Saturday, North Carolina (11 such games). This will also be just the second road contest of the year for Portland, who won their first match away from Providence Park, 4-1, in Kansas City against the Current.

The Courage have won seven of their 13 all-time regular season matches against the Thorns (D3 L3). North Carolina is the only NWSL team that has won more than half of its matches against Portland in regular season play.

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