Returning to the NWSL playoffs after missing out in 2015, Portland Thorns FC will host an NWSL semi-final and hold the top seed for the first time in club history when the Western New York Flash come to Providence Park Sunday afternoon. Portland is looking to return to the NWSL Championship game for the first time since winning it in the inaugural 2013 NWSL season.
Thorns FC will host the Flash for the second time in three matches. The Flash were defeated 3-2 in a late thriller at Providence Park back on Sept. 11th. Goals from Nadia Nadim, Christine Sinclair and Dagny Brynjarsdottir looked to have locked up a comfortable win before Western New York rallied with two late goals, but were unable to complete the comeback.
Portland secured the 2016 NWSL Shield for best regular season record in their last match with a 3-1 win over Sky Blue FC. Allie Long scored twice, either side of a Lindsey Horan header after Sky Blue had taken the lead through Tasha Kai early on. The win marked the Thorns first win on the road against Sky Blue and fourth consecutive to close out the 2016 regular season.
Western New York enters the playoffs for the first time since 2013 following a 4-0 win over the Boston Breakers, which snapped a seven-game winless streak. The Flash will be without former Thorn Lianne Sanderson due to a torn right ACL. Sanderson was a second-half substitute in the last match against the Thorns..
Both sides will look to league-leading offensive threats to lead them to the championship match on Oct. 9. Portland midfielder Tobin Heath set an NWSL record in the regular season with 10 assists, while Flash forward Lynn Williams scored more goals than anyone else. The match also marks the first meeting between the two sides in the playoffs since Portland won the 2013 NWSL title 2-0.
Sunday's kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. (Pacific) and will be broadcast on FS1. The the winner will advance to the NWSL Championship game on Sunday, Oct. 9 at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston to face the Washington Spirit, who beat the Chicago Red Stars 2-1 on Friday.