Needing a win or draw to secure a home match in the NWSL semifinals, Seattle Reign FC (11–4–8, 41 points) travels south to renew its rivalry with Portland Thorns FC (11–6–6, 39 points). Seattle and Portland kick off at 7:00 p.m. PT on Friday, September 7 at Providence Park in Portland, Oregon. The Thorns have also clinched a spot in the playoffs and will host a semifinal match with a win over Seattle on Friday. The pivotal match will be broadcast as the Lifetime Game of the Week.
Seattle currently ranks second in the NWSL table, two points ahead of Portland for the crucial second spot. Reign FC has won or tied each of its last six matches, suffering their last loss on July 14 in Chicago. The unbeaten streak includes four shutouts and wins over Washington, Utah, and Houston. Knocking off Portland would finish a season sweep of Seattle’s rival and give the club a final record of 12–4–8 with 44 points, trailing only the shield-winning 2014 side (16–2–6, 54 points) for the best record in Reign FC history.
Reign FC will play its final regular season game without defender Yael Averbuch and forward Kiersten Dallstream, both of whom have been ruled out for the remainder of the year. Midfielders Allie Long and Bev Yanez are both questionable for the match with injuries, as is forward Megan Rapinoe. Forward Adriana Leon will be unavailable for the match due to an excused absence.
Friday wraps up the Seattle-Portland 2018 series and is the final regular season match for each club. In two previous meetings this season, Reign FC won both matches in thrilling fashion. On May 5 in Portland, Seattle won a back-and-forth match by a 3–2 final score. The team followed that up with a 1–0 win at home on June 30 when Jodie Taylor netted an 89th-minute goal to take three points from Portland.
Taylor is tied for fifth in the NWSL with nine goals. Three of those have been game winners for Seattle, including the instant classic against Portland on June 30. Taylor joins Megan Rapinoe as one of two Reign FC players to record a brace this season. With six assists on the year, Rapinoe is tied for second in the NWSL.
Seattle also features one of the strongest defenses in the NWSL. Heading into their final regular season match, Seattle has conceded just 16 goals over 23 matches, for a goals-against average of 0.69. The 2016 Portland Thorns hold the current record for fewest goals allowed in a season with 19, which occurred in a shorter, 20-game season. Seattle holds the record for all-time best GAA of 0.83 (20 goals over 24 games), which it achieved in its 2014 shield-winning season. Seattle can also set the record (13) for clean sheets in a season by shutting out Portland.
“We have lots of experienced players,” Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “Jess Fishlock steps up; she’s a natural leader. Lu Barnes has been a great leader for us. It hasn’t been easy, but we’ve figured out a way. The one thing that’s made the biggest difference is our mentality. Every day our players are coming to training with the mentality of, what can I do to improve myself? Every player on the team, whether they played one minute or the whole season, they have all improved.”
Portland sits in third place in the NWSL standings with the same number of wins (11) and goal differential (10) as Reign FC. The Thorns are unbeaten in their last four showings after wins against Washington, Sky Blue FC, and Orlando, along with a draw against Chicago. Three of the top eleven goal scorers in the league (Lindsey Horan, Christine Sinclair, and Tobin Heath) don the Thorns’ red and black.
“We’re very excited about having the chance to play Portland in Portland,” Andonovski said. “We know it’s going to be exciting and intense, but that’s what this game is all about. We’re looking forward to it.”
Thorns FC needs a win to host one of next weekend’s NWSL semifinal matches while Seattle can clinch a home playoff match with either a win or draw. The match pits Seattle’s historic defense against Portland’s dynamic offense, which is second in the league in goals scored (37). Four players from Portland’s roster (Adriana Franch, Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan, and Emily Sonnett), recently returned from the U.S. Women’s National Team’s pair of friendlies against Chile. Forwards Ana Crnogorčević and Christine Sinclair were also away playing for the Swiss and Canadian national teams, respectively.
Reign FC had several players represent their national teams during the NWSL break. Jodie Taylor helped England lock up a spot in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup with a 3–0 victory over Jess Fishlock and Wales, eliminating Wales from World Cup contention and winning UEFA Group 1 for the Lionesses. Danish defender Theresa Nielsen played in two qualifiers for Denmark, who have qualified for the four-team UEFA playoff to determine the final European side at the World Cup. Adriana Leon made her 50th career appearance for the Canadian national team in Canada’s friendly vs. Brazil on September 2. On the U-23 circuit, Reign FC players Morgan Andrews and Jaycie Johnson won the Nordic Tournament for the United States, beating out England, Norway, and Sweden for the crown. All national team players are expected to be available for selection on Friday at Providence Park.
Fans in the United States can watch Friday’s match on Lifetime, while international viewers can watch the match on the NWSL website. Fans can also follow the match through Reign FC’s official Twitter page, @ReignFC and can join the conversation by using the hashtag #PORvSEA.