The NWSL resumes regular season play after the FIFA international break. With two weeks left, the Orlando Pride (10-6-6, 36 points, 4th place) and the Portland Thorns (13-5-4, 43 points, 2nd place) prepare for a matchup against one another that can shape the rest of their season.
Orlando has still yet to clinch a playoff spot, but a win against Portland would give them their first postseason trip as a club. Portland, with a win, can inch closer to winning the NWSL Shield for the second consecutive year, hoping that the North Carolina Courage lose this weekend as well.
It is an important game for both clubs that will be highlighted on Lifetime at 3:30 p.m. ET in the Game of the Week.
Thorns Seek the Shield
After a slow start this season, the Thorns have placed themselves in position to win their second consecutive Shield, the award for the best regular season record. However, the Courage, in first place, have the advantage over the Thorns. The Thorns must win against Orlando in order to stay in the race for the Shield.
Should Portland lose or draw and the Courage win, North Carolina will claim their first ever NWSL Shield. A win for Portland keeps them in the race to become the second club to win the Shield in back-to-back seasons. The Seattle Reign are the only club to win two consecutive Shields in 2014 and 2015.
Portland has also clinched a playoff spot, and they will host a semifinal game on October 7th at Providence Park.
Orlando Hope to Clinch a Playoff Spot
Two playoff spots are still yet to be decided. Orlando along with the Chicago Red Stars and the Seattle Reign are the three teams in contention. For Orlando, a win against Portland would secure them a spot in the postseason. Though a loss will not eliminate the Pride from reaching the playoffs just yet, a win would make the path easier.
The Pride can also clinch a playoff spot with a Seattle loss or draw to FC Kansas City.
Orlando vs Portland: The Matchup
This is the second meeting of the 2017 season between the two clubs. Orlando and Portland opened the regular season back in April with the Thorns gaining the 2-0 victory. In three previous meetings, Portland has won them all.
The Pride is a completely different team from the one that traveled to Portland on April 15th. Marta and Alex Morgan were not on that trip. The Brazilian international had just been signed to Orlando, and Morgan was playing in France. The Thorns will face an Orlando team that has the Marta-Morgan combination and a defense led by Ali Krieger and Steph Catley. Morgan is in top form with nine goals, and Marta has scored 12 goals for the season. The Pride also carry a seven-game unbeaten streak, scoring 18 goals and allowing six.
The Thorns come to Orlando as a strong team as well with a 5-1-0 record, winning four of those in a row. Christine Sinclair leads the team with eight goals and 24 shots on target, and goalkeeper Adrianna Franch is one of the best in the league to have at goal. Franch has 77 saves, and she made seven crucial saves against Orlando last April.
History has proven, though, that Portland always gives Orlando trouble, and whether the same narrative continues will be known in this crucial matchup at Orlando City Stadium.