Photograph: Craig Mitchelldyer/USA Today Sports
The old meets the new Saturday night at Audi Field in Washington DC, which hosts the NWSL Championship Finals between two-time champions Portland Thorns and a current Kansas City team in their sophomore season.
Road to the capital paved with golazos and last minute shocks
Portland Thorns overcame Casey Stoney’s San Diego surge last Sunday with a marvelous stoppage time goal from Crystal Dunn to secure their third final appearance in the ninth edition of the Championship. Dunn’s 93rd-minute goal was the second stunning goal of the day, after the Costa Rican international Rocky Rodriguez’s volley to equalize in the first half.
In the finale, Thorns will meet an impeccably coached underdog who grows rapidly and represents the best of reinvention in an NWSL season marked by expansion club success. After finishing bottom of the table in their first year, Current finished fourth this season, then beat Houston Dash in the playoffs and made OL Reign, winner of the shield and Laura Harvey star, look without direction in the second. Sunday’s semifinal in Seattle. Field of light.
A ruthless attack meets a strong backline
Thorns forward Sophia Smith missed out on this year’s golden boot by two goals, handing the prize to USWNT legend Alex Morgan, who scored 16. Smith did, however, score the highest goal in play open. Two of them came from outside the penalty area and the other 12 are from inside the box, where Smith operates with deadly instinct.
Smith needs to score a goal and if she shoots at full capacity on Audi Field, Current could find herself in trouble. The problem is, when Smith enters her zone, she’ll find a formidable AD Franch waiting in the Kansas goal.
Franch made seven saves to keep the reign at bay, tying the NWSL record on his third playoff shutout and setting an NWSL record for most playoff saves. Current will rely heavily on her goalkeeper, who is one of the first to win the Goalkeeper of the Year award, but also has a formidable back line in front of her. Saturday’s battle will test both.
Portland experience vs. KC momentum
Portland Thorns aren’t just a team that’s been there before, they’re a club made up of a cast of veterans who’ve been there too, and many times. Whether it’s winning the NWSL, winning gold at the Olympics (Christine Sinclair, bow yours) or collecting multiple World Cups, Thorns has plenty of experienced players to guide the game. team throughout the game.
Beyond AD Franch and Canadian midfielder Desiree Scott, Kansas City Current isn’t equipped with as many veterans – not those who have been tested at the highest levels of global competition. But they have a cohesive team that plays with creativity, aggression and obvious joy. Coach of the Year Candidate Matt Potter has them playing to their strengths and they know how to handle a game against tough opponents. When AD Franch talks about the “one heart” of the team, it’s hard not to feel that the momentum is on his side.
Players to watch and predictions
There’s an exciting mix of veterans and rising stars to watch in this one. For the Thorns, I’m keeping tabs on Crystal Dunn as a late replacement and will be interested to see if Defender of the Year nominee Becky Sauerbrunn can help buck Kansas City’s early goal trend. Rookie of the Year nominee Sam Coffey was quietly effective for Thorns in midfield. I can’t wait to see her in the final. And I’ll be watching to see if MVP candidate Sophia Smith is equipped with the lenses.
For the current, I expect Franch to stand her ground again and can’t wait for Smith to test her. Hallie Mace has made brief recent appearances for the USWNT – including replacing Emily Fox at Wembley last month – and it will be interesting to see if she continues her vibrant club form through the playoffs.
The Current have made a habit of scoring early and I’ll see if they come out again, with an eye on Lo’eau Labonta, Cecelia Kizer and Kristen Hamilton to see if it comes from them.
It’s anyone’s game. I’m ready to be wrong, but even though I can see Current score that first goal, I predict that experience says so and the game ends 2-1 in favor of Portland Thorns.
The NWSL Championship starts at 8 p.m. ET in the United States Saturday October 29. You can watch the game on CBS live in the US or stream on Paramount+. International viewers can tune in through Twitch.
• The 2023 World Cup draw took place in New Zealand last Saturday, deciding the fate of 32 teams (with three pending play-off places). Hosts Australia and New Zealand will host eight groups of four teams next July in the new expanded tournament format.
• The first round of UEFA Women’s Champions League matches took place last week, with many close matches. Barcelona were once again an exception in their nine-goal rout of Benfica and the Arsenal side stunned defending UWCL champions Lyon with a 5-1 win in France.
• Caitlin Foord keeps scoring twice and several Matildas are in fine form six months from their home World Cup. Foord found two more goals against Lyon in the aforementioned Arsenal win, adding to his tally of two this month (with another to come against Denmark). A notable exception to the in-form Matildas family is Sam Kerr, although the Chelsea striker has plenty of time to find his goalscoring rhythm.
quote of the week
“EA Sports is at the epicenter of global football fandom, and we recognize the role we have in representing and elevating diversity and participation in sport” – Andrea Hopelain, Senior Vice President of brand at EA Sports. EA Sports has made some exciting announcements regarding last week’s women’s soccer summit in London, unveiling $11 million in its seed fund, UWCL representation in its video game, a broadcast partnership with Dazn, and more.
Five months after giving birth to her son, Marcel, USWNT and Thorns midfielder Crystal Dunn is back on the pitch and scored Portland’s goal in stoppage time to send the Thorns to the final . The only thing more remarkable than the goal could be the emotion in the reaction of the sold-out crowd.
Want even more?
Arsenal and Manchester United continue to win, while Everton continue to impress our writers in Talking Points of the weekend’s WSL action.
Matildas out of luck: Emma Kemp reflects on a World Cup draw that handed co-hosts Australia an uphill battle next year.
Suzanne Wrack takes a look at the eight groups for the big in New Zealand and Australia.
And here is his report on Arsenal’s momentous victory at Lyon.
Have a question for our editors or want to suggest a topic to cover? Contact us by emailing [email protected] or by posting BTL.