(Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

The Portland Thorns will fight to stay alone at the top of the NWSL standings when they face No. 2 North Carolina Courage on Sunday.

For the first time in months, after the Tokyo Olympics and a string of injuries, the Thorns had a full week of training as a team. They will return to the field after their game against the Washington Spirit scheduled for last Saturday was postponed due to four positive COVID-19 cases on the Spirit.

In North Carolina on Sunday, Portland will look to avoid another loss to the Courage, who won 2-0 in the teams’ first meeting this season.

“It was really great for us having everyone back together and having a good training week,” said Thorns midfielder Natalia Kuikka. “I liked it, and I’m pretty sure everyone else did, too.”

While reuniting has been good for the team mentally and emotionally, head coach Mark Parsons believes readjusting to a full roster could be the Thorns’ biggest hurdle against the Courage.

“It’s the most challenging part of the year for a team that has such a true identity like us,” he said. “So, I think it’s important for us to know it’s not going to be perfect. We’re not going to be perfect on Sunday.”

He believes the goal is to keep getting better. So far, Portland has met that challenge.

“Since the last time we visited North Carolina, it’s scary how far we’ve come,” Parsons said.

Three of the Thorns’ four losses this season came in their first seven games. Since then, they’ve won six of 10 and haven’t lost a lead in the month of July. They’ve also played more games than most NWSL teams, having won the Women’s International Champions Cup in late August.

Getting in a full week of training “has been critical” for the Thorns, who have been in a cycle of recovery during their last couple of matches. The team had two days off after their 2-1 loss to OL Reign on Aug. 29 and just three days of training leading up to the postponed Spirit match.

North Carolina, meanwhile, is coming off two straight draws against Washington and last-place Kansas City.

While the Thorns have more points in fewer games played, their goal differential of 13 matches that of Courage. Parsons said earlier in the season that Portland’s first match with North Carolina was a test the Thorns needed.

“That was the first or one of the only times we felt we were matched in how we see the game and the things we value,” he said on Thursday, reflecting on the loss. “I think it was a very even game.”

North Carolina, however, had been a bigger threat in the 18-yard box.

“When we break that down we simplified it by one team being a bit more dangerous once they got into the right spots, and the other team wasn’t so dangerous,” Parsons said.

The Thorns and Courage will kick off Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network.