Portland vs Stanford – 10:00 PM
It’s the appetizer in a delicious weekend of women’s soccer in the Pacific Northwest. Less than twenty-four hours before the NWSL title is decided in Seattle, Portland will try to protect their house on Saturday night against a Stanford side that looked all the world like a College Cup team in their opening weekend sweep of North Carolina and Duke. Portland themselves were impressive in shaking off an opening night shutout defeat to Florida State to down their ACC brethren NC State, 2-1. Danica Evans delivered the goods, netting a brace, which has to be a relief for Garrett Smith and co. after the offense was pretty much shackled against the Noles a few days earlier. Stanford’s defense isn’t any less formidable, having not conceded in two games, so Portland’s going to have to have a good day at the office on the attack to penetrate the Card defense. Portland’s defense has bent more than they’ve broken thus far, but there’s room for improvement having conceded thirteen shots on goal on opening weekend. If the Pilots want a national seed in the NCAA Tournament, they’re going to need a marquee win, and the Card offer up the best chance for that before league play starts in October.
Stanford will be looking to slay another dragon away from Palo Alto on Saturday after that opening weekend sweep. The Card certainly haven’t shied away from early season challenges with this three match road trip before playing six in a row at home to close out non-conference play. The Card’s defense held Duke without a shot on goal on Sunday, a mighty impressive feat considering less than forty-eight hours earlier, the Blue Devils’ array of young talent had bludgeoned Ohio State’s defense (though they didn’t score). Stanford were more opportunistic than explosive against Duke, but a win’s a win, especially after being pushed to extra time on Friday night. Getting some goals from the likes of Lo’eau Labonta and Haley Rosen also had to be music to Paul Ratcliffe’s ears, showing the club isn’t going to totally be reliant on Chioma Ubogagu and Taylor Uhl for goals this season. If Stanford emerges here with the win, they’ll likely be 4-0-0 heading into a huge showdown with Notre Dame next Sunday. Impress against Portland, and Stanford may just make an argument for themselves as the #1 team in the nation after UCLA’s draw with North Carolina on Friday.