With only three more games to go to end the regular season, the Portland Thorns will host Racing Louisville tonight at 7 PM Pacific.
Racing hasn’t had an easy year. They had to deal with off-the-field matters and also with the loss of some good players like Ebony Salmon and CeCe Kizer. They’ve conceded 9 goals in two matches at the beginning of September, with Chicago beating them 4-0 and then North Carolina scoring five against them. Louisville has only 3 wins this season, with the latest being against Orlando last Friday. With 31 goals against and 19 scored, their second to last in the table with 17 points.
The only time Portland faced Racing this year, the Thorns ended up victorious with a 2-1 result. Sophia Smith and Hina Sugita scored the goals. And speaking of our number 9, she has been in a goal drought since the match against the Spirit on August 10 for the regular season. Will she be able to break the goalless streak in this match?
So far, Racing hasn’t been able to win against the Thorns, and the goal scored by Alex Chidiac in July is the only goal this team has scored against Portland in their short history.
Both teams have very different scenarios in front of them, with the hosts thinking about playoffs and the chance to host a game at home, and maybe the opportunity to win the Shield. And I say ‘maybe’ because it’s necessary to win their 3 remaining games of the season if they want to grab it. What are Rhian Wilkinson’s priorities at this point of the season? Are the players pressuring themselves to grab the one piece of silverware that seems the most reachable? We don’t know but we’ll soon find out.
In the case of the visitors, they don’t have a chance to qualify for the playoffs anymore, so they must be looking forward to finishing the season strong and causing some upsets and chaos down the line. So, why not start with Portland, one of the strongest teams in the league? If Louisville snatches a point tonight, that will leave Houston, Kansas and the Thorns all leveled on points.
The Thorns' path to the Shield could be easy at first sight, with the two bottom table teams on the horizon— leaving Chicago aside. Still, the truth is that those kinds of teams are the ones who have nothing to lose and therefore can complicate things because when they go out to play, they won’t be overthinking. They will just want to have some fun after a tough year.
So this end of the season is very tricky. Will the coach rotate against the “weakest” teams and put all in against Chicago, which still needs to secure its playoff spot? Or will she want to give the most minutes to the starters so they can get to the playoffs as a well-oiled machine?
Tune out tonight at 7 PM Pacific to start to answer these questions. The game will be streamed on Paramount+ for the US, Twitch for fans abroad, and SiriusXM FC.