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Five things we’d like to see when OL Reign face Portland Thorns

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After facing each other in preseason and twice already in the NWSL Challenge Cup, OL Reign is heading on the road to take on their rivals, Portland Thorns FC, yet again. The first regular-season Cascadia battle kicks off at 7:30 PM PT on Friday, May 13, and will air on CBS Sports Network. International viewers can watch all the action on Twitch.

(Note: Matches on CBS Sports Network do not stream simultaneously on Paramount+, so you’ll need a cable account, or YouTube or FuboTV account, to access this match.)

OL Reign are 0-1-1 to start the regular season, while Portland is 1-0-0 — they were gifted a bye last week after North Carolina, who they were set to play, advanced to the Challenge Cup final. In their two matches against the Thorns in the Challenge Cup, the Reign went 1-1-0, including a 1-0 win at Providence Park.

You might think that the players won’t be up for this match after facing the Thorns three times already this year. You’d be wrong.

“Whenever Portland and Seattle play each other, it just will always have some extra spice to it. I think if we played each other 20 times in a season, I think it would always be the same. It doesn’t matter how many times we play each other, it’s always going to be there,” head coach Laura Harvey said ahead of the match.

Here are five things we’d like to see in the Reign’s second trip to Portland this year.

Playing in Portland is an experience players in the league look forward to every year. For OL Reign players, part of the joy comes from scoring and having a hush fall over the hostile crowd. For this nationally televised game, over 250 traveling fans are also expected to be in attendance, which should help create an atmosphere akin to what we see for Cascadia clashes on the men’s side. Score early, score often, and demoralize the home fans while giving the away support an experience to remember. — Steve Voght

In their last two matches, OL Reign players have gotten themselves in some great scoring positions. Unfortunately, they seem to freeze in the box or make the wrong decision to shoot when a pass is open or pass when a shot is the better option. It’s something Harvey addressed after their last match against Louisville.

“When we’re in and around the areas where we need to show some real quality, there’s been some games where we just haven’t done that enough. And you know, when we do, we’re a threat. We always believe that we’re going to get into these positions, but now we’ve just got to really focus in on that little bit of quality in and around the box.”

The Thorns are a defensively sound team that isn’t going to give you many chances. The Reign need to be more decisive and smart when they get themselves into the final third. — Susie Rantz

Portland’s attack so far this year has been tied to their ability to get Sophia Smith on the ball. She’s been on fire for club and country. Smith can create separation on the dribble, shoot from ridiculous angles, shoulder off a challenge, and beat defenders to the ball in the box. She’s a real threat.

Preventing her chances starts with disrupting passes to the frontline. It also requires a backline that is unwilling to budge. In their last match-up, centerback Sam Hiatt was a ball-winning machine. She won a team-high four tackles and two aerial duels. After the match, Harvey praised the grit that she brought to the backline.

“I went up to her after the game and I told her, she was phenomenal tonight. She was phenomenal. I thought all the backline were excellent defensively. I thought they really, really were put under pressure at times, especially late when we scored, and I thought they all stood up.”

The Reign will need her and the entire backline to step up yet again. — Jacob Cristobal

One noticeable difference between the Thorns of 2021 and the Thorns of 2022 under new head coach Rhian Wilkinson is how much more the team sits back. Portland tries to clog things up in the middle rather than a relentless high press they deployed last season. It has made them hard to score against. In their last matchup, it meant the Reign had some trouble breaking into the final third until a moment of magic from Rose Lavelle.

It might be a bit of a chess match at the start, but OL Reign have figured out a number of ways to break down their opponents in Challenge Cup play. That should give them some confidence for this game.

“I think we learned in [the last game against Portland] that we can play against them in any way we want to really. As long as we do the things that we believe we need to do to get a result, we always have a chance of getting that,” Harvey said. — Susie

If our stats are correct, OL Reign’s Bethany Balcer and Veronica Latsko are set to make their 50th NWSL appearances on Friday if they feature in the match. There’s no better way to celebrate the milestone than a goal against your rival — and in your rival’s house. — Jacob


OL Reign

OUT: NONE!!!!!!

Portland Thorns

OUT: Crystal Dunn (maternity leave), Marissa Everett (right hip)


OL Reign kick off against the Portland Thorns at 7:30 PM PT on Friday, May 13. The match will air on CBS Sports Network, which means it won’t be available live on Paramount+. International viewers can follow the action on Twitch.



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Loons vs. NYCFC preview: Rematch at long last

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7 p.m. vs. New York City FC · BSN, 1500-AM

Preview: These two teams meet for the first time since April 2019, when the Loons opened new $250 million Allianz Field. Ozzie Alonso scored the stadium’s first goal in a 3-3 draw. This will be only the fourth time they have played competitively and the second at Allianz; each team is 1-1-1. … Wednesday’s 2-1 U.S. Open Cup loss to third-division Union Omaha knocked the Loons out of the all-comers tournament in the round of 16. Their last MLS game was Sunday’s 2-1 victory at FC Dallas. … NYCFC’s Open Cup victory over New England makes them 10 games undefeated in all competitions. Its last loss was in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinal against Seattle. Its last league loss was against Toronto in early April. … The Loons will play without yellow card-suspended Kervin Arriaga and Michael Boxall.

Injuries: The Loons’ Hassani Dotson and Patrick Weah are out for the season; goalkeeper Tyler Miller (abdominal) and defender Romain Metanire (thigh) are out, too. Leading scorer Robin Lod (thigh) is listed as questionable, as are midfielder Wil Trapp (ribs) and strikers Luis Amarilla (foot) and Abu Danladi (thigh). NYCFC lists Anton Tinnerholm (Achilles tendon) and Kevin O’Toole (head) as out and Chris Gloster, Tayvon Gray, Maxi Moralez and Malte Amundsen as questionable, all because of “lower body” injuries.



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Alex Roldán turned down call-up to El Salvador

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Alex Roldán was conspicuously left off El Salvador’s roster for some upcoming Concacaf Nations League matches. On Friday, El Salvador coach Hugo Perez explained why.

“To close this chapter I want to say that Roldán is not coming because he is not happy with what happened before the game against Canada,” he said in Spanish. “He prefers to take some more time to digest that. But that is the reason, there is no other. Those are things that don’t have to happen, but they did. But we can’t do anything anymore, we have to turn the page and move on.”

The incident in question happened in February, when the El Salvador players released a statement saying that they intended not to play a World Cup qualifier due to a dispute over bonuses. Although they eventually relented, some hard feelings apparently persisted.

The 2-0 loss to Canada effectively eliminated El Salvador from World Cup contention and Roldán was not part of the team during the final qualifying window, nor a friendly in April.

Although Roldán only made his El Salvador debut during last summer’s Gold Cup, he’s already made 15 appearances and established himself as a team captain.

In a Twitter post, Roldán didn’t offer a ton of elaboration but did say that he “didn’t want to come back with bad thoughts and ruin relationships” and left the door open for a return in the future.

El Salvador’s loss is the Sounders’ gain, however, as Roldán will now be available for the team’s June 14 match against the Vancouver Whitecaps.





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João Paulo undergoes ‘successful’ ACL surgery

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João Paulo underwent “successful” ACL surgery on Wednesday, the Seattle Sounders announced. The surgery was performed by Dr. Bert Mandelbaum in Santa Monica, Calif., the same doctor who did both of Jordan Morris’ ACL procedures. The injury occurred during the second leg of the Concacaf Champions League final on May 4.

Generally speaking, the recovery timeline for ACL surgeries is 6-9 months, which means the earliest João Paulo could return is sometime early next year, most likely in February or March. If the Club World Cup takes place in 2023, the thinking seems to be that it would likely happen in mid-February. The MLS regular season usually starts in late February or early March.

It took Morris about eight months to return from his most recent ACL surgery, but he was about five years younger than João Paulo is now. Jordy Delem needed almost a full year to recover from his ACL injury.



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