After a narrow 1-0 defeat against the Utah Royals, the Portland Thorns return home to host the North Carolina Courage in a clash that could have major playoff— and shield— implications.
Wednesday night’s showdown is the latest installment of a series between the two NWSL powerhouses. Back in 2016 the Courage, previously known as the Western New York Flash, defeated the Thorns 4-3 in a wild semi-final at Providence Park. Since the playoff defeat, the Thorns have a 3-1-5 record against the Courage. This season the Thorns have yet to drop points to North Carolina, fighting to a 1-1 draw in Cary and winning 2-1 at home a month ago despite not scoring any goals of their own.
The Thorns injury report hasn’t changed since last week, but the Courage will be without Hailey Harbison and Leah Pruitt who are both out with knee injuries. With the Courage just two points back of the Thorns and with two games in hand, Wednesday night’s winner will have a strong leg-up in the race for the NWSL shield as the season reaches its final stretch.
One of the lingering issues that Portland have been dealing with this year is persistently allowing teams to hang around by failing to clear in the defensive phase. It doesn’t happen very often but it’s happened enough that teams have snuck results and goals that they shouldn’t have. The urgency in the squad is certain to go up in this period: much depends on how high a level their defending can reach in midfield.
The midfield battle is always a high priority in this matchup: Sam Mewis has performed extremely strongly in their past matchups and she’s sure to put Horan and Brynjarsdottir under pressure in possession. The Thorns will be wanting to move quickly to escape their traps in midfield. The team has been at their best when they’ve been able to nail their one-touch passes and runs with precision, and now is an essential time to rediscover that precision.
How to Watch
How to watch: Yahoo Sports in the US; Check your local listing at NWSLSoccer.com for international viewers.
Where: Providence Park, Portland, Oregon
When: Wednesday, September 11, 7:30 p.m (Pacific)
Portland Thorns: 10-4-6, first place in NWSL, lost 1-0 vs Utah Royals
North Carolina Courage: 10-4-4, second place in NWSL, won 2-1 vs Sky Blue