Thorns gathering momentum
The Portland Thorns want to build momentum as they play host to the Washington Spirit at 7 p.m. Saturday in National Women's Soccer League play.
Coming off last weekend's win over league-leading North Carolina, Portland takes on last-place Washington looking to post consecutive wins for only the second time this season.
The Thorns are 6-4-4, fourth in the NWSL. With 10 matches remaining, their 22 points are three behind second-place Chicago and one more than fifth-place Seattle. The top four finishers after 24 games make the league playoffs.
Washington is 3-7-3 (12 points) at the bottom of the 10-team league. The Spirit haven't won since a 1-0 home victory on June 24.
Saturday's match is the second of four road games in a row for Washington, 0-4-2 away from home.
But Mallory Pugh, probably the most hyped rookie in the history of women's professional soccer, makes the Spirit relevant. Six games into her professional career, the 19-year-old has scored three goals.
Pugh chose to turn pro instead of staying at UCLA, where she redshirted as a freshman to play in the Olympics with the United States. Had Pugh decided to turn pro a year ago, she likely would have ended up playing for the Thorns, who at the time owned the first spot in the NWSL allocation order.
Pugh is only the second American female soccer player to skip college soccer altogether. The first was Thorns midfielder Lindsey Horan, who went from high school to Paris Saint-Germain.
Portland remains without three players at the European Championships — Amandine Henry, Nadia Nadim and Dagny Brynjarsdottir.
Nadim's Denmark team is 1-1 and second in its group. Henry and France beat Brynjarsdottir's Iceland team 1-0 to open group play, and both teams play their second group stage match on Saturday.
The Thorns' injury list still includes Tobin Heath (back), Meg Morris (hip) and Mana Shim (concussion).