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Thorns want home field in playoffs

Coming down the home stretch of the season, it would take a fairly serious collapse for the Portland Thorns FC not to be one of four teams that make the National Women's Soccer League playoffs.

The Thorns (9-4-4, 31 points) are tied for second place with Sky Blue FC (9-5-4, 31 points).

FC Kansas City (10-4-5, 35 points) is in first place, and the Western New York Flash (7-4-6, 27 points) are fourth.

The Boston Breakers and the Chicago Red Stars both have 23 points and are on the outside looking in.

But the Thorns have a lot to play for in their remaining five regular-season matches, including Wednesday's 7:30 p.m. game against Sky Blue FC and Sunday's 5:30 p.m. game against Kansas City, both at Jeld-Wen Field.

The NWSL playoffs have a single-elimination format for both the semifinals and championship match. The club with the best 22-game regular-season record will have home-field advantage in both rounds.

“We want to host the playoffs,” Thorns striker Christine Sinclair says. “We want to host the championship game. Right now, we’re battling to come in first and to host. That’s our goal.”

 Portland has an opportunity to surge past both Sky Blue and Kansas City, but then will have to earn points away from home.

Portland will finish the season with three road matches, against the Boston Breakers (Aug. 7) Western New York (Aug. 10), and the Seattle Reign FC (Aug. 17).

“We’ve got some work to do,” Sinclair says. “We’ve got a lot of games in a short amount of time, so it’s a matter of trying to save some legs but at the same time getting some results.

"These next 10 days are going to dictate where we are in the season and what happens come playoff time.”

 Since joining the Thorns earlier this month, midfielder Tobin Heath has been everything and more that the Thorns could have asked her to be.

Heath brings quality to the midfield with her touch and ability to stay on the ball, and she links the back line to strikers Alex Morgan and Sinclair.

“Tobin is a world-class player,” Thorns coach Cindy Parlow Cone says. “She’s so technical and so clean and so composed on the ball. She helps us get the rhythm that we need in the game. She can make the final pass. She can finish as well. She’s an all-around great player.”

In her third match with Portland, against the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday, Heath assisted on two Sinclair goals and nearly scored a goal herself.

Heath says she is becoming comfortable in the Thorns' system and is pleased with the chemistry between herself, Sinclair and Morgan.

“I feel pretty good. I have a good understanding of my role and the players around me,” Heath says. “I’m really happy with the chemistry that’s happening between me and 'Sinc,’ because we had never played together before this. And (there is chemistry with Morgan because) Alex and I have played together (on the U.S. national team). But there’s still room to grow.”