Both the NWSL and MLS seasons are reaching the sticky end, and the Portland Thorns and Portland Timbers are fighting for the postseason. With just a few games remaining for both sides, the Stumptown Footy crew took a shot at predicting where we think each team will finish when all of the dust has settled in a few weeks time.
Here’s our thoughts on where the STF team thinks the Thorns and Timbers will finish in the standings, and why:
Wilder: 1st in NWSL (Supporter’s Shield winners)
I’m an optimistic person when it comes to sports. Between 1st and 6th place there is only a difference of 4 points, and this leaves so much open to change in these last few weeks. The table is so close that really anything can happen, so I think that if the Thorns just focus on winning their last few games it’ll all work out.
Melina: 2nd in NWSL
After a period of testing what worked and what not, the Thorns started to prove all those saying they were not going to be a top team this year wrong. But finish first? That’s a totally different animal.
“Ye of little faith” you may say, but I think the club won’t claim the Shield this year like they did last season. Why? Well, many believe that faith is blind credulity, or is to believe what your heart says. But real faith is based on facts we have seen before and that give us the security to believe in an unseen outcome. And what facts do we have so far concerning Portland?
Well, they have broken some stats records this year, they have proved they can be a fun team to watch, that they can score many goals and a lot of positive things. The negative part? They’ve faltered when silverware was up for grabs.
In the Challenge Cup and at the International Champions Cup the team needed wins against weaker teams, and in both instances Portland couldn’t come up with the result it needed
In the NWSL too the Thorns haven’t gotten all the results they’ve needed. Top teams have been dropping points, but the Thorns haven’t necessarily made the most out of it— surely frustrating for fans and players alike.
So, given all those facts I don’t think the Thorns won’t finish first this year. This race has been reduced to four contenders: San Diego Wave FC, the Kansas City Current, the Houston Dash and the Thorns,—and the other three do have some advantages over the Thorns.
Those three other teams don’t have to deal with the off-field matters Portland has to, so I do think they have some kind of advantage, especially San Diego. I hope I’m wrong— but that’s where the evidence is pointing to.
A lot of love for this team ❤️ pic.twitter.com/dx53DZE7q6— Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) September 18, 2022
Alex: 1st in NWSL (Supporter’s Shield winners)
I expect the Thorns to take advantage of their remaining schedule and finish top of the pile. In addition to having a game in-hand on the teams above them, they play Racing Louisville and Gotham FC (who are currently the worst two teams in the league at 11th and 12th in the table) and the Chicago Red Stars at home sandwiched in between. Those are three very winnable games for the Thorns, and I fully expect them to take nine points out of nine on their way to the Shield and Championship double.
Sam: 2nd in NWSL
As much as I love the optimism from Wilder and Alex, I think I’m with Melina on this one. This Thorns team is good, but not perfect. After a scintillating summer goal-fest the boots have gone a bit cold for the Thorns, as they’ve only scored more than one goal just once in their past four league games. I do think the offensive prowess proves enough for them to safely host a playoff game, but the margins are so fine at the top and I think a dropped result is somewhere in the final three games (looks nervously at the game against Chicago).
Upside: I think the disappointment of getting pipped at the end for the Shield will fuel the Thorns in the playoffs, and they will make it back to the NWSL Championship Final this year.
Alex: 6th in the Western Conference
With two remaining games in their 2022 regular season, the Timbers find themselves at 5th in the Western Conference on 46 points. Nashville is just one point above them in 4th, Minnesota one point below them in 6th, and the LA Galaxy are three points below them in 7th (albeit with a game in-hand). Minnesota’s final two games being against San Jose and Vancouver all but gives them six points, and I think that it will take a miracle to beat the Supporter’s Shield-chasing LAFC when the Timbers return after the international break, and I don’t expect any points from that game, despite it being at home.
This means that for my prediction to come true the Timbers will need to beat RSL on the road in their final game of the season, and the Galaxy will need to drop at least one point in their final three games, which I think is about as close to a lock as you can get if you’ve followed the Galaxy for the last few seasons.
Sam: 4th in the Western Conference
Believe it or not, I’m going to be the optimistic one this time around. Despite the Supporter’s Shield “winners-in-waiting” having one of the most complete rosters in the league in paper, LAFC’s recent form hasn’t been great. They’ve won just twice in their last seven games, and haven’t won away from home in since the beginning of August. With a big game and big result needed, I throw my lot in with the Timbers getting it done yet again, and believe they will pull out the win against LAFC.
That win should be enough to snag Portland a playoff spot, and then the season ends with them just clinging to 4th place. The Galaxy dropping points against Houston on the last day of the season is a semi-tradition at this point, and with Minnesota’s poor form combined with Nashville losing to a pissed-off LAFC on Decision Day, just enough chaos reigns in the rest of the West to keep Portland in the top half and be able to host a playoff game.
However, I still have the Timbers losing to a desperate RSL on Decision Day, and there are real worries about Portland’s ability to, uh, score goals. While a top-half finish is feasible, I wouldn’t bet on another long MLS Cup Playoff run this Fall.
What do you think Rose City? Have any final standings predictions of your own? Let us know in the comments!