Updates during the week. Early this week I mentioned that Portland Thorns head coach Mark Parsons had been suspended for the match against Orlando. Later in the week, the league's Disciplinary Committee announced they were rescinding the second-match suspension, meaning that the coach will be back for today's match. And here's a recap of injuries and players away on International Duty from both clubs (data provided by NWSL):
Injured (Out for the match): Elizabeth Ball (left hamstring strain), Emily Menges (right tibia stress syndrome), Meg Morris (left hip pain)
Questionable: Tobin Heath (right minor ankle surgery)
International Duty: Andressinha (BRA), Ellie Carpenter (AUS), Caitlin Foord (AUS), Hayley Raso (AUS)
Injured (Out for the match): Camila (right knee surgery – D45)
Questionable: Rachel Hill (right quad strain)
International Duty: Alanna Kennedy (AUS), Marta (BRA), Monica (BRA), Poliana (BRA), Emily van Egmond (AUS)
I expect that Providence Park is going to be the same tough venue it has always been. This weekend marks the home opener for both of Portland's teams after some expansion and renovation work to the stadium. The last time Orlando visited Portland was for the semifinal playoff match in 2017, which the Thorns won by the score of 4 - 1. This time around, I am hoping that the Pride will be able to put more goals in the net this match, and it will be interesting to see how well the defense fares.
I'm going to predict a 4-3-3 lineup and I'm going to be a bit unconventional with my prediction. Perhaps the most dramatic change I am predicting is seeing Nadia Gomes get her first start for the Pride. She has played with her national team from Portugal and had a great season with BYU last year, recording four assists and five game-winning goals as a striker. With Rachel Hill's status being questionable, I'm predicting that Tom Sermanni will want to keep her on the bench and only play her if necessary. It's possible we could see a rare start for Danica Evans in the attacking line, but I think there's a bit of the "mad scientist" in Coach Sermanni that may make him toss out a player that the opposing side may not anticipate in the Starting XI to see if he can gain an advantage.
As for the final score, I am predicting a final of 3 - 3 with both teams lighting up the scoreboard. It's hard to bet against Portland at home, and the Pride have yet to win a match over the Thorns at home or on the road. However, with the depth of the Pride and the number of key players for both sides that are out with injuries or on International Duty, I think this could be an opportunity for the ladies to put a mild damper on the home opener for Portland.
What are you predicting for the match? Which of the players in my Starting XI selection surprise you the most? If there were any players in the lineup you would want to see changed, who would it be? Let me know in the comments below!