The Portland Thorns’ 2019 playoff run kicks off this afternoon with a semifinal match up against Sam Kerr and the Chicago Red Stars in Bridgeview, Illinois.
Despite facing a road playoff game for the first time since a 2-0 defeat to FC Kansas City in 2014, the Thorns have every reason to feel confident in the Chicago suburbs. Portland has a 10-1-9 all-time record versus the Red Stars which includes a pair of 3-0 victories this season. The last meeting between the two teams in Chicago produced a crazy 4-4 draw which had everything from a Christine Sinclair hat-trick to a 90’ equalizer from Yuki Nagasato.
A factor that could potentially come into play this afternoon is recent form. Both team’s fortunes seemed to diverge in late August after the Thorns’ 3-0 victory over the Red Stars. Since that game, Chicago has gone undefeated while Portland has taken just four out of the 15 available points — scoring just one goal in the process.
Arin Wright is still out for the Red Stars due to illness, while the Thorns look to be completely healthy.
A lot will be on the line this afternoon for both teams. The Thorns haven’t won a road semifinal game since its inaugural season while the Red Stars have yet to make the NWSL championship game despite being a regular fixture in the playoffs. By the time the game kicks off we’ll know who the winners’ next opponent will be. (Will it be the North Carolina Courage for a fourth consecutive season or will the Reign pull the upset? If the Thorns make it past the Red Stars, their combined record against the Reign and Courage this season is 1-1-4.)
Nothing’s going to be easy, but as we know when it comes to the NWSL — and especially single-leg knockout tournaments — anything can happen. Besides, wasn’t it the Thorns that defeated the Courage 2-1 without scoring a single goal?
“Portland’s attitude ahead of the match has been positive despite recent scorelines. ‘We’re really excited, we’re in a good place, and we’re working hard for this semifinal,’ Lindsey Horan said, a sentiment that seems to mirror the atmosphere around the team.
Part of this optimism could be due to the match up: the Thorns have only lost to Chicago once in series history, with the single blemish back in the NWSL’s inaugural season. While the Red Stars’ recent record doesn’t inspire confidence in the minds of Portland supporters, Chicago’s last loss was to the Thorns — a decisive 3-0 scoreline when the sides met in August — and Portland holds the edge in the 2-0-1 record against the Red Stars this season. Additionally, Chicago have never won a playoff game.”
How to Watch
How to Watch: ESPN2; Check out your country’s ESPN listing on NWSLSoccer.com for international viewers
Where: SeatGeek Stadium, Bridgeview, Illinois
When: Sunday, October 20, 12:30 p.m (Pacific)
Portland Thorns: 11-7-6, third place in NWSL, drew 0-0 vs Washington Spirit
Chicago Red Stars: 14-2-8, second place in NWSL, won 2-1 vs Utah Royals FC