In the first semifinal match of the 2017 NWSL playoffs, the Orlando Pride will face the Portland Thorns for the third time this season. The Thorns edged the Pride 2-0 in their first match but only managed to draw against them during their second bout. An improved Pride roster, that included Pride striker Alex Morgan returning from international play and five-time FIFA world player of the year Marta, most likely made the difference in the rematch.
Already, the Pride have made club history in their second NWSL season by berthing their first playoff appearance. After winning the NWSL shield in 2016, the Thorns are not looking to earn anything less than a championship. Both teams have given dominant performances in the final stretch of regular season play. The Pride finished the regular season on a nine-game undefeated streak while the Thorns have won seven consecutive home games, bringing their home record to 9-1-1 for 2017.
For the Pride, Marta, Alex Morgan, and Ali Krieger have been instrumental to the team’s success in 2017. Marta has lived up to the hype of her acquisition. The 2017 MVP nominee finished second on two NWSL leaderboards for goals (13) and assists (6). Alex Morgan was a major contributor in the 13 matches she played with the club this season, notching nine goals along with four assists. Defensively, Ali Krieger has been an anchor for the Pride. Her experience was on display in all 24 of the Pride’s regular season matches. Along with them, impact Midfielder Camila’s performance were instrumental to the team and will be missed. She sustained a season-ending injury by tearing her ACL as well as spraining her MCL.
With a powerful roster of their own, key players to watch for the upcoming match will be Megan Klingenberg, Christine Sinclair, and Allie Long. Thorns Defender, Klingenberg is also one to watch as she is 2nd on the assists (6) leaderboard in NWSL. Canadian National Team captain, Christine Sinclair, can be expected to use her skill set to score against the Pride when it counts. Sinclair scored against the Pride during their first match of the season from a pass delivered by Thorn all-time leading scorer, Allie Long. With 100 matches played for the Thorns, Long became the 3rd player in NWSL history to reach the century mark with one club.
Who moves on to play for the championship will be determined for these two teams on October 7th. Home field advantage will give the Thorns a great opportunity to continue their win streak at home.
“It would be so gratifying to win this trophy at the end of the year because it’s something that has been a bit elusive.” Klingenberg said, hoping to obtain redemption after losing in the semifinals of the Thorns 2016 season.
Fortunately for the Thorns, playing on the road is not a consistent strength for the Pride, ending the season 5-3-4 when playing away during the 2017 regular season. Momentum and chemistry could be just what the Pride need to find themselves in a championship match.
As Pride keeper Ashlyn Harris stated, “It’s going to be about defending and finishing. There probably won’t be very many opportunities. They have a great back-line. Same with us. Whoever puts their chances away will come out with three points.”