The Thorns, over the course of the season, have transformed themselves into a team capable of hanging with the best. Will it be enough against a North Carolina Courage side that have broken the record for points per game in professional women’s soccer history? It all comes down to 90 minutes or more.
The Courage looked poor against the Chicago Red Stars but still ground out a victory. They’re playing on short rest, but the athleticism and endurance of this Courage team is legendary, and it may not even matter. The Thorns, meanwhile, are loose and ready to show their ability: they have a whole host of players who have done their jobs this season but not shown the world what they’re truly capable of. Players like Caitlin Foord, who Mark Parsons described as “just finishing her preseason now” after coming back from a long injury and the Thorns defense, so used to sitting on top of the world but having so little lineup consistency through the season. It’s impossible to escape the sense that this Thorns team is capable of a completely new level of play than any they’ve shown on the field so far.
“Everything hinges on the Thorns’ ability to break the first line of North Carolina pressure. Jasmyne Spencer did an effective job against Lindsay Horan for the first half of the semifinal, and Crystal Dunn is a better player than her. Dunn created the first goal against the Chicago Red Stars against the run of play when she picked Vanessa DiBernardo’s pocket high up the field. If the Thorns can escape the first traps set, they’ll be in a good position to great attacking opportunities from there. The Red Stars, despite outplaying the Courage for much of the game, blew the chances they had. The Thorns offense thrives off efficient opportunities, and will very much need to do so on Saturday, lest they find themselves behind to another Sam Mewis wonderstrike from nothing.
How to Watch
How to watch: Lifetime, NWSLSoccer.com for international viewers
Where: Providence Park, Portland, OR
When: Saturday, September 22, 1:30pm PT
Portland Thorns: 12-6-6, second in the NWSL, 2-1 win vs Seattle Reign
North Carolina Courage: 17-6-1, first in the NWSL, 2-0 win vs Chicago Red Stars